Cold brew is a great pick-me-up if you’ve got a mid-afternoon slump or just need an extra jolt of caffeine. But can you heat up cold brew coffee without sacrificing flavor?
I hear you, coffee lovers. You’re like, “Cold is right there in the name. Surely, cold brew can’t be heated up!”
Well, my friend. Life is full of surprises. In fact, yes you can heat up cold brew coffee. It can be a great way to experience this tasty drink. Here’s how to do it without compromising the smooth flavor of the coffee.
What is cold brew?
Let’s first take a look at what cold brew is. Cold brew is coffee that’s usually steeped in water that’s no warmer than room temperature (and often colder) for hours, or even overnight.
Then the coffee grounds are strained and the coffee is chilled down to complete the brewing process. It can be served on ice or all by itself.
The lengthy steeping process gives the coffee rich, intense flavors. Add the cold brewing method adds extra caffeine to each cup compared with a similar cup of brewed hot coffee. That’s why you may feel a bit of an energy jolt after drinking it.
But the cold water doesn’t extract as much of the bitterness from the ground coffee. So you end up with a more mellow taste that some coffee drinkers prefer.
Cold brew vs cold brew concentrate
Both cold brew and cold brew concentrate are made using the same cold water steeping process. The main difference is that concentrate uses much less water.
While both are considered cold brews, concentrate produces a very intense coffee flavor and a higher caffeine content. So, it must be diluted with water or creamer before drinking.
Ok, so can you heat up cold brew coffee?
Since it’s supposed to be cold, you might think you shouldn’t warm up cold brew. But you absolutely can! However, the method you use will determine what effect heating up the cold brew may have on its flavor.
Keep reading to learn about some of the best ways to make your cold brew or cold brew coffee concentrate… hot.
Reheating cold brew coffee
Here are a few different ways for how to heat cold brew coffee.
Use hot water
A common method to make hot cold brew coffee is to simply add some hot water to it. While this will warm up your cold brew, it will also dilute it. So you’ll start to lose some of that intense flavor.
To keep this to a minimum, begin by gradually adding small amounts of boiling water to your cup of cold brew. Then taste it along the way until you reach your desired temperature without sacrificing the flavor too much.
To retain some of the original mellowness and mitigate the dilution of the cold brew, you could also add some hot milk or creamer along with the hot water.
Boil it directly on the stove
Another popular way of heating up cold brew coffee is on the stovetop. By using this method, you won’t run the risk of diluting the cold brew. But you could end up scorching or burning it if you’re not careful. This can result in a bitter, off-putting taste.
First, put the cold brew in a small saucepan, then place it over low heat on the stove. Keep heating until it just reaches a boiling point or until you get your optimal temperature.
Then simply pour it into a cup and enjoy!
Can cold brew coffee be heated in the microwave? Yes, the microwave is an easy way to warm up your cold brew. But like with the stovetop method, you want to be careful not to burn it.
Place your cold brew into a microwave-safe mug, then start heating it for about 30 seconds. If it’s still not hot enough, heat for 15-second increments until fully warmed up. Once it’s ready, make sure the mug handle isn’t too hot before you grab it out of the microwave oven.
How will heating up cold brew affect the taste?
When making regular hot brewed coffee, the heating process causes chemical reactions. They release flavors and colors which turn hot water into delicious dark brown coffee, in a process known as extraction. If the coffee is over-brewed, this can cause over-extraction and lend the coffee an unpleasant bitter taste.
Similarly, heating up cold brew too much or burning it can also result in unpleasant flavors. That’s why it’s best to use a gradual heating method.
The good news is the initial cold brew process slows down extraction and prevents the coffee from breaking down as quickly. That means it will be more forgiving when you heat it up. So it shouldn’t lead to the sort of bitter taste that over-brewed or reheated hot brew coffee can.
The difference between cold brew vs iced coffee
Is cold brew the same as iced coffee? Nope. While both will create delicious coffee drinks, the two use fundamentally different brewing methods. Whereas the cold brewing process uses cool water, iced coffee is made by first brewing a pot of hot coffee. Then you let the regular coffee cool to room temperature. From there, you can chill it in the fridge or add ice cubes to the cold coffee to create the iced coffee.
They also taste different. While cold brew offers a mellow, softer coffee taste, iced coffee is a bit harsher and more acidic.
Most cold brew is steeped between 18-24 hours in order to produce a rich, mellow coffee flavor. Anything beyond that and you might risk overworking the coffee grounds and extracting more bitter flavors from them.
While you can reuse coffee grounds to make a second batch of cold brew, it isn’t recommended. You’ll get a weaker taste and texture, and lower levels of caffeine. If you do reuse grounds, you’ll need to steep them for longer, around 24 hours, in order to get cold brew that isn’t too weak or bland. That said, your second batch still won’t be as strong or flavorful as your first one.
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