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Cold brew: What is cold brew coffee & what is nitro cold brew?

Cold brew coffee has been all the rage lately. This is for a good reason, cold brew coffee is innovative, delicious, smooth, free of acidity, fun, and fulfilling to make at home. For those interested in cold brew, you may have questions about this fantastic mode of cold coffee.

Cold brew coffee starbucks
Starbucks cold brew coffee

What is cold brew?

To begin, cold brew is a method of preparing coffee by swapping out the hot water for cold water and time instead. First, coffee beans are coarsely ground and immersed directly into the water in a bottle or jar. Then the whole mix is set to infuse in the fridge for 12-24 hours. After the desired time is up, the mixture is strained, resulting in a rich, smooth, silky, and completely acid-free coffee high in flavor and caffeine. One can brew cold brew, strong or mild depending on one’s water to grounds ratio. 

Cold-brew originated in the Netherlands during the 1700s when sailors devised a way to prepare and keep coffee for a long time on their round-the-world voyages. They developed cold-brew and introduced the technique to Japan, where it became refined and perfected. Ironically the method had been mostly forgotten in the Netherlands until the modern era, where it has become embraced globally. 

What is nitro cold brew?

Some coffee lovers may have been enamored lately with the distinctly beer-looking beverages that have been making a splash in the coffee world. But, no, this isn’t a Guinness-coffee cross-over of some sort a la Irish Coffee, but instead Nitro cold brew. 

What is Nitro cold brew? It is a cold brew infused with nitrogen to give the coffee a thicker, richer, creamier, and more innervating mouthfeel and palette, thanks to the tiny bubbles conjured up by the nitrogen gas. This is, of course, similar to the way beer is given its enticing dizziness, aka “the suds”! 

The addition of nitrogen gas also helps to preserve the cold brew for longer. Not only that, but it can be prepared at home with the handy help of nitrogen gas with your homemade cold brew.

How long does homemade cold brew last?

Cold-brew was developed by Dutch sailors to be enjoyed over their long periods at sea. But how long can cold-brew last exactly? If you properly store your cold brew, it can be enjoyed for up to two weeks. Some folks on the internet even claim up to three weeks, but two weeks is your safest bet, or your brew may start to degrade in taste and aroma quality. If you are using a concentrate, do not cut it with water or milk and then store it again, or you will cut your shelf life to 2-3 days!

Can I heat cold-brew?

While it may sound counterintuitive, cold brew can be enjoyed heated up, too! Your cold brew will still be rich, silky, smooth, and acidity-free. This is a great way to enjoy more naturally acidic beans like light roasts if you would like to give that a try to unlock some subtle flavors, hints, and notes that the acidic flavors may typically obscure. Good ways to heat cold brew include using hot water or microwaving your cold brew in a microwave-safe mug.

What should cold-brew taste like, and why does mine taste sour?

Cold-brew is a truly unique coffee flavor and aroma experience. It has a different taste and aroma palette from hot or typical iced coffee. This is all due to the cold water infusion instead of hot water. Hot water and cold water cause different chemical reactions in the beans. The flavors to expect with a cold brew tend to be chocolatey, slightly nutty, rich, silky, and void of acidity. 

But cold brew done incorrectly can come out bitter or even sour. Why does this happen? 

  • For brews coming out too bitter, the problem may be using too finely ground coffee beans or extracting for too long. In this case, either uses a slightly larger grind type or extract for a shorter period. 
  • If your cold brew is coming out too sour, the problem may be that your grinds are too coarse or have been immersed for too short of a period. 

So, too long equals bitter while too short equals sour. Too fine equals bitter, and too coarse equals sour. So, in this regard, a medium-coarse grind immersed for 20 hours or so may be a great median starting recipe.

Cold-brew is very cool

If you are interested in trying a new, creative, and delicious mode of coffee, why not give cold-brew a try? It is easy and fun to make at home and will become your new favorite morning pick-me-up!