Cold Brew 101: Choosing The Right Cold Brew Coffee Grounds

Cold Brew 101: Choosing The Right Cold Brew Coffee Grounds

Coffee, for many folks, is the driving force that gives us the power to get up in the morning and function like a productive human being. Coffee has the way of turning us from a grumpy shut in who doesn’t want to even look at their to-do list into a social butterfly who can tackle that list with energy to spare.

Most people who drink this brown liquid from the Gods are happy enough with what we can make at home in our coffee makers.

Coffee and coffee grounds.

However, if you want to step up your game and try something better, we have three words for you.

Cold. Brew. Coffee.

What Is Cold Brew Coffee?

In case you’re not on the latest trends in the coffee world, you may be wondering what, exactly, is cold brew coffee. One may think it would just taste like iced coffee, right? Wrong!

To make iced coffee, you will brew your coffee with hot water, let it cool, and then pour it over ice. At least, that’s how some people believe iced coffee is made. If you want true iced coffee, you’ll want to do it using the Japanese method, which is you use a pour-over coffee set up to let the fresh coffee drip over ice cubes.

This method instantly cools the coffee and preserves the robust flavor and aroma you want. Oh, and it’s not going to be super watered down, either.

Cold brew coffee, however, never comes in contact with hot water. To brew this coffee, you’re going to steep cold brew coffee grounds in water that can be between 70 to 35 degrees Fahrenheit (water that is closer to room temperature will give you a better flavor) from anywhere from 2 hours (for those who need a coffee fix ASAP) and up to 24 hours.

The coffee grounds are then filtered out and your coffee is sediment free.

When you brew your coffee this way, you’re going to get a very smooth flavor that is full bodied and very robust, but without the acidity that sometimes wreaks havoc on a sensitive stomach.

What Kind Of Coffee To Use For Cold Brew?

People tend to be very particular about their coffee. Some like Folgers. Some like Chock Full of Nuts. Others like expensive brands like Kopi Luwak or Coffee Yauco Selecto AA. Word to the wise, your favorite coffee is probably not going to work well for making cold brew. We’re just going to put that out there.

Cold brew coffee.

Coffee, as you may well know, is incredibly complex – some would say it is more complex than a fine wine. There are many variables that are attributed to those complexities such as:

  • Variety of bean
  • Where it is grown
  • The elevation at which it is grown
  • How the bean was picked
  • How it was processed
  • How it was roasted
  • How you store the coffee
  • ...and so much more.

Cold brewing, fortunately, is very forgiving so those variables aren’t going to be quite as important as if you were making a drip coffee. Since the water is going to be cooler than traditional methods of making coffee, you are going to have to extend the brewing time, but also the coarseness of the grind.

By making these adjustments, you will be able to get better flavor extraction and a fuller body.

The Roast Factor

When you’re trying to choose the best coffee for cold brew, may be wondering what roast should you opt for; light, medium, or dark roast. The truth of the matter is, it is all really based on personal preference because there isn’t a “best coffee type for cold brew.”

With that said, many people swear by using a dark roast when they want to make cold brew, and there’s good reasons for that.

Dark roast coffee is going to give you dark and rich flavors that have can be chocolaty, earthy, nutty or even a little syrupy. Even if you can extract floral notes from the grounds, it will be those robust flavors that’ll win out in the end.

Another reason why people tend to go for the dark roasts is because they are more affordable. Those light roasted, single origin varieties will have a floral or fruity flavor, but they are going to cost you a considerable amount more than the coffee you can get at your local grocery store.

And since you can bring out those floral and fruity flavors with cold brewing, there’s no real reason to waste your money on them. But, to each their own. Just keep in mind that if you do go for a lighter roast, you will want to plan for a longer extraction time to get the flavors you’re looking for.

The Grind: The Ultimate Variable?

While it is important to find the best coffee beans for cold brew, you also have to take into consideration the size of the grind. You could have found the perfect coffee beans, but if the grind is all wrong, those poor little beans aren’t going to be fully appreciated.

Coffee grinder.

So, what is the best cold brew coffee grounds? A course grind is going to feel very gritty when you rub it between your fingers and it feels a lot like beach sand. This is the optimal grind size for a variety of reasons. For one thing, the coarse grind is going to be the fastest to begin dripping. A fine grind will be too dense and the water won’t flow as easily.

This results in the water being trapped above the bed of fine coffee grinds. Also, with fine grinds, you can sometimes get a harsh bitter flavor because the grinds were over extracted.

With a coarse grind, the water can drip easily and it’ll be able to full extract the sweet flavors cold brew drinkers come to love and appreciate.

The Age Of The Bean

There are some soluble elements in coffee that goes unextracted during the cold brewing process, this means that freshness isn’t going to be very important when looking for your coffee beans.

You can make perfectly find cold brew coffee grounds that will provide a sweet and caffeinated beverage by using beans that are more than a few weeks old. The cold brewing method doesn’t extract all the aromatics, so it won’t matter that those aromatics have faded as the bean aged.

Should You Grind Own Cold Brew Coffee Grinds Or Buy Pre-Ground?

When it comes to coffee, you are either for or against using pre-ground beans (we aren’t even going to go into the abomination that is instant coffee. Yuck!). The whole idea of coffee is to get all that coffee deliciousness that is inside the bean, out.

People used to boil the entire roasted coffee bean in hot water while stirring it. This would result in a very bitter, very caffeinated beverage that isn’t very palatable.

Through the times, the way coffee is made has changed significantly and we are able to get all the desirable flavors out and having a palatable drink that some of us need to get us going. When the bean is ground, there is more surface area for the water to interact with and the extraction is going to be more thorough and the brewing time is significantly reduced.

Ground coffee.

Now, in terms of grinding your own coffee or having it pre-ground, that’s where some arguments will come about. There are benefits and draw backs to both:

Pre-Ground Coffee Pros

One of the most notable benefits of using pre-ground coffee is that it is incredibly convenient. This is the best option for people who don’t have the time to mess with a coffee grinder and just want to pop some coffee grounds in a coffee maker and be done with it.

Also, with pre-ground coffee, you can buy those large cans of grounds and have it on hand whenever you want or need it. With that said, we recommend that if you do go this route, you only buy a small amount of coffee grounds (preferably a week’s worth) so that you can get the most flavor from your beans.

Pre-Ground Coffee Cons

As convenient as ground coffee may be, there are quite a few drawbacks. One of the biggest drawbacks is that you aren’t going to get the freshest cup of coffee possible. Why, did you know that once the beans have been ground, they lose about 60 percent of their aroma within 15 minutes?

The oils in coffee beans are extremely delicate and they can take on the odors near them, and not in a good way. Not only do the oils take on flavors from things around them (if they aren’t stored properly, that is), the CO2 that is created during the roasting process is lost.

It is the CO2 that is responsible for getting the essential oils from the ground coffee into the beverage once they have been released.

With ground coffee, another thing you have to worry about is moisture. The oils in coffee are water soluble, which is a great thing for making coffee, but if there is any moisture in the air where the coffee is being stored, it immediately begins to dilute those precious oils, resulting in subpar coffee.

Pros For Grinding Your Own Beans

Grinding your own coffee is going to give you the most bang for your buck in the flavor department. Of course, not only should you grind your own coffee, you’ll want to make sure you use the right coffee grinder. Your coffee grinder should give you consistent and even grounds so that you can extract the desired flavor from your beans.

In terms of which grinder to use, a burr grinder or a mill grinder are the best options. They’ll provide you with an even consistency every time – blade grinders are going to leave you with uneven grinds that aren’t the best for coffee making.

Grinding coffee.

Also, make sure the grinder you do choose gives you the option of choosing grind size. Cold brew coffee grounds need to be medium to coarse. A fine grind is going to result in too much oil being extracted and that can be a bitter flavor. If the grind is ultra-coarse, your drink is going to be weak and underdeveloped.

Cons From Grinding Your Own Beans

People who drink a lot of coffee will tell you that it can be an expensive habit – even if you don’t go to the coffee shop and order elaborately expensive drinks! Sadly, expense is one of the downsides of grinding your own coffee. Whole beans are going to cost more than ground coffee.

Why? Because those whole beans are going to come from better stock. With a whole bean, it’s impossible to hide poor qualities beans and when the customer takes the beans home and grinds them, they will notice the nuances, whether they are good or bad.

Another drawback of grinding your own coffee is that you need to use the beans quickly. Fresh roasted beans only stay fresh for two to three weeks at most. You have to consume it within that time to enjoy the full flavor. That is another component in why whole beans are more expensive than ground beans.

Another reason why grinding your own beans may not be a good choice is because it can be messy and time consuming. Not only do you have to clean the grinder once you’ve ground your coffee, you can only grind a little bit at a time. You don’t want to grind your coffee for the week – you want to grind it as you need it so the flavors and aromas are at their peak.

So, Which Is The Best Coffee?

The choice between making your own cold press coffee grounds or the pre-ground stuff is up to you. If convenience is important to you, then perhaps the pre-ground is your best option. However, making cold brew coffee isn’t a quick process to begin with, so why not add another step and grind your own beans to get the maximum flavor?

Tips For Cold Brew Coffee

If you want to have the best cold brew you can get, take these tips into consideration:

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    Use coarse beans. Always start with a coarsely ground bean. If you find your coffee doesn’t have the flavor you want, slowly work your way down to a finer grind until you reach the flavor profile you enjoy.
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    Use filtered water. Filtered water is going to give your coffee a cleaner flavor than if you were to use regular tap water. Also, it may even make the coffee just a touch sweeter, too.
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    Steep the grounds for at least 12 hours. Your coffee grounds are going to need a long time to infuse the water with all that coffee flavor and the coarser the grind, the longer it will need to steep. Some say that you can over steep your grounds and it’ll be come bitter. Depending on the strength of your beans and the grind size, you can adjust the time as you see fit.
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    Make coffee ice cubes. You’ve gone through all the trouble of making cold brew, you don’t want to dilute that flavor with water! To keep your drink cold and robust, make coffee ice cubes and toss in your drink.

How To Make Cold Brew

Now that we’ve gone over the finer details about cold brew and how to choose cold brew coffee grounds, let’s take a look at your basic recipe for making cold brew coffee.

  • Step 1: Coarsely grind your favorite coffee beans. Grind 1 cup of your beans on the highest setting on the grinder. If it doesn’t have a coarse setting, you can use quick, 1-second pulses on a spice grinder. Ideally, your grounds should look like cornmeal, not cocoa powder. This will result in slightly less than a cup of coffee grounds.
  • Step 2: Combine cold brew coffee grounds with water. Next you will want to pour your coffee grounds into a container and pour in 4 cups of filtered, room temperature water on top of the grounds. You’ll want to use a long wooden spoon to ensure the grounds are thoroughly saturated. Cover the container.
  • Step 3: Steep. With the lid on top of the container, all you have to do is wait. Leave the jar on the counter for about 12 hours. You can put it in the refrigerator, but we don’t really recommend this because it will result in a weaker coffee.
  • Step 4: Strain coffee. Once the 12 hours has passed, you will want to use a small strainer that’s been lined with flour sack cloth or cheesecloth. Place the strainer over a bowl and pout the coffee through the lined strainer. You can do this twice if you want to make sure there are absolutely no sediments in your coffee.
  • Step 5: Transfer coffee. Transfer your coffee in an small bottle or mason jar and keep in the refrigerator up to a week.

To serve your coffee, you can dilute your cold brew with milk or water if you’d like. You can get a little fancy by adding other ingredients:

Maple Vanilla Cold Brew

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup cold brew
  • 1/2 milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions: 

Pour ingredients into a mason jar with a lid, or a cocktail shaker. Shake well to combine ingredients and then pour over ice.

Mocha Cold Brew

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1/2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure maple syrup
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup cold brew

Directions: 

Add hot water, cocoa powder, syrup, cinnamon and salt to a cocktail shaker or mason jar with lid. Shake until all ingredients are combined and the cocoa powder has been dissolved.

Add milk and cold brew to the mixture and shake. Then pour over ice.

Cold Brew Affogato

Ingredients:

  • 3 small scoops of vanilla bean ice cream (1/2 cup ice cream)
  • 1/4 cup cold brew concentrate

Directions:

Scoop vanilla ice cream into a dish and pour the cold brew over top. You can add additional toppings such as chocolate chips, sprinkles, or whipped cream for example.

Conclusion

Coffee aficionados are always on top of the latest trends in the coffee world; whether it’s drinking expensive coffee made from coffee beans that have been digested by a civet cat,  infusing coffee beans in wine, falling for whatever sugary concoction popular coffee chains whip up.

One coffee trend that doesn’t make us cringe at the sheer strangeness is cold brew coffee. The best part of this trend is that you don’t have to go to some expensive coffee shop to get it. You can make cold brew coffee at home with cold brew coffee grounds and a little (or... a lot) of patience.

Cold brew coffee.

When you are making your own cold brew at home, you will want to remember to choose a coarse grind with a medium roast. For the best flavor, you should grind it yourself, or at the very least purchase a week’s worth of pre-ground coffee at a time. Also, always use filtered water!

If coffee is your life’s blood, then cold brew is certainly a great option. Leave us a comment below and tell us what is your favorite kind of coffee!

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