Cold Brew Experiments

One of the winning coffees at the coffee festival last fall had cold brew to taste, and it was surprisingly good. It’s easy to cold brew. I’ve been curious how our coffee would taste cold brewed. But I procrastinated. I like hot coffee, so I wasn’t motivated. Finally, I did it. The plan was to use the same recipe/technique once with the medium roast and once with the medium-dark roast. Mistakes were made, and I ended up with multiple experiments.

I read up a bit about cold brewing. It’s not iced coffee, or regular brewed coffee, chilled. You brew or extract the coffee by letting it sit in cold or room temperature water for many hours, maybe 12-24 hours. It’s less acidic than a fast hot brew and different flavors can be coaxed out.

I started with this link, and explored around other sites for a bit. The recipe I decided on was a 8:1 water to coffee ratio. 16 oz. of water, 2 oz. of medium-coarse grind. I chose to do a hot bloom, like the start of a pour-over. You boil the water, let it calm down & cool a bit, then pour enough over the grounds to wet them and let the carbon dioxide release for about 30 seconds to a minute. I used 1/3 of the water, 5 oz., for the hot bloom, then added the remaining 11 oz. of room temperature water. I gently stirred the coffee, let it come to room temperature, then I put the lid on. I left it for 18 hours. I gently stirred it once during that time. After that, I poured it through our Hario pour over filter. Then I refrigerated the result. Ta da!!

Then the plan was to do the same thing with the medium-dark roast. This is where things went wrong. I ground the coffee, but forgot to change from the finer grind that I use for a pour-over. OK, that became a different experiment, call it #2. I didn’t use the hot bloom. I weighed what I ground and added 8x the amount of water & closed the lid. I ended up filtering #2 after 10 hours because I figured a finer ground would extract faster.

In another jar, #3, I added the medium-coarse grind and did the hot bloom method. Then I realized I was doing this at 9:15AM. 18 hours would be 3:15AM! #3 got filtered after 13 hours. As I was waiting, I decided to save some of the brew & filter it longer, for a total of 24 hours. So #4 brewed longer, and was also more concentrated since it was no longer a 8:1 water to coffee ratio.

Then I thought I should make a normal pour-over (17:1 ratio, or 12 oz: 0.75 oz coffee) and chill it and compare it to the others. So that was #5.

Five different cold brew experiments in jars.
The five different potions.

How do they taste? I’m not a cupper, so I don’t have the fine palate or vocabulary. They do each taste differently. I found the cold brew more fruity and a bit sweeter than the chilled pour-over. I preferred the medium roast cold brew to the other four experiments where I used medium-dark. (I also prefer our medium roast over medium-dark roast in hot coffee.) For #2 and #3 which were the same except for grind size, I found the coarser grind to taste sweeter, with a dark chocolate flavor. Experiment #4, the longest brewed, was the most fruity, but was the most bitter of all five.

I thought it’d be interesting to heat up my favorite cold brew and compare it to a normal pour-over. I’d also be interested in cold brewing a completely different coffee, maybe African. But, I think I’m done with the cold brew experimentation. I realized that for 16 oz of cold brew, I used almost 4x the coffee I use for a 12 oz. pour-over. And I prefer hot coffee.

Are you now curious to try some kind of coffee experiment?

Addendum: I conducted a blind tasting with my husband. He found #1 (medium, 18 hr) to, by far, be the best (mocha, smooth, fruity). His next favorite was the medium-dark, coarse grind, 12 hour (#3). After that, the chilled pour-over (#5). His least favorite was the 24 hr, med-dark (#4) — he mentioned bitterness & it was the only one he didn’t mention fruity. He also wasn’t fond of #2, the med-dark, fine grind, 12 hour, finding it more bitter and less flavorful than the others.

Addendum #2: I did try heating up the medium-roast cold brew to see how it tasted. My husband and I both found it to taste very different than a hot brew. We were more fond of it as a cold brew than as a hot drink. We also diluted it after a few sips. Maybe our taste buds are too accustomed to a certain taste when it’s hot coffee …

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