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What is Cold Brew Concentrate and How do You Make it?

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Cold brew concentrate is a densely caffeinated cold coffee extract using a large amount of coffee beans, water, and time. Ever wondered how it's made exactly, or maybe its origins?

If that's what you are after, then we've certainly got you covered. Keep reading to learn more about cold brew coffee concentrate, and the world's new fascination with the subject.

A Commodity in High Demand

Did you know that Americans drink up to 400 million cups of coffee a day? You can imagine what those numbers look like weekly. 

Coffee has been prepared hot and cold, pressed, burnt, ground, black and sweetened, but one thing has remained the same; people love to drink coffee in all its forms. 

Coffee, as we enjoy it today, has been a commodity for centuries. History has provided us with many ways to prepare the drink: from full beans to grounds, from French press to percolator. 

Through all these centuries, man has come up with dozens of ways to enjoy their favorite drink. Nowadays, however, people are flocking to the cold brew craze and brewing cold brew concentrate batches at home.

Cold brew coffee concentrate, like other coffee trends, has started popping up all over the place. You'll find rows and shelves of bottled cold brew concentrate at your local store mixed in with various cold brew coffee kits.

Cold brew coffee is clearly, in high demand. Let's look more into the origins of cold brew next, and then look at how to make cold brew concentrate at home.

Origins of Cold-Brew Coffee Concentrate

Where does cold-brew coffee concentrate originate from? You may be surprised to learn that the cold-brew coffee sensation isn't entirely new – it's been a Japanese staple for centuries, brought over from Dutch traders, and only recently making a splash in the US.

Back in the 1600's, Dutch traders would bring cold brew coffee concentrate with them over long sea voyages, so that they would always have some on board. Can you blame them?

When the Dutch traded with the far east, the Japanese tea-prevalent society took to it quickly and families were soon brewing their own concentrates to add hot water to later on. It seemed such an easy way to prepare coffee that wouldn't oxidize, and share it any time throughout the day.

It's popularity increased further as the Japanese created a cool drip brewing method known today as "Kyoto Coffee." Centuries later, demand would rise again as cold brew returns to the mainstream.

Cold Brew is Back in Style, but it isn't Iced Coffee

Cold brew recipes have finally become mainstream as well, primarily thanks to Starbucks. When Starbucks announced that it would be selling it in stores around the United States and Canada, the cold brew craze launched to commercial popularity, seemingly overnight!

While cold brew coffee is, basically, just extracted coffee essence over time without heat, it is not your standard iced coffee. There are significant differences between the two.

To put it simply, iced coffee is just hot coffee served over ice. It is generally brewed the same as coffee served warm, then cooled and diluted with milk or sweetener in most cases.

Here is where the significant difference is with the cold brew varieties.

We make cold brew coffee by brewing it at cold or room temperature water over 12 to 18 hours. The temperature never changes drastically, but remains cool throughout the entire brewing process, giving it a unique taste.

Some feel like this may make the coffee less caffeinated because you get less caffeine from the beans when brewing cold. Of course, like all other recipes, a lot is left purely up to taste, meaning that there are many different results when making cold brew coffee.

The most common cold brew coffee recipes involve the use of cold brew concentrate.

cold brew coffe concentrate

What is Cold Brew Concentrate?

What sets cold brew and cold brew concentrate apart from other coffee is the ratio of water to coffee grounds, and the steeping duration. We'll go over ratios a little more in-depth for cold brew concentrate further down in this article.

Cold Brew Concentrate vs Cold Brew

You may see recipes calling for cold brew concentrate and wonder what the difference is between cold brew vs cold brew concentrate. The difference is in how many coffee beans you use when steeping your cold brew.

The more beans you use, the stronger the brew. So if you see a concentrated cold brew recipe, you'll know that either another ingredient will dilute it, or your recipe will have a stronger caffeine content.

You can also adjust the time in which your coffee beans steep to make it bolder or lighter in flavor, but ultimately, the longer the beans steep, the more concentrated the brew becomes.

Is Concentrated Coffee Bad for You?

Anything can be considered bad for you when consumed in high dosages. Concentrated coffee is meant to be diluted. We do not recommend ever drinking a cold brew coffee concentrate without first diluting it. This includes nitro recipes. Ensure you always enjoy your caffeine in moderation, and listen to your body.

At cold brew hub, we enjoy making cold brew concentrate over other coffee brewing methods due to the flavor notes that are largely missing with hot extraction. In other words, we soak our cold brew coffee concentrate for many long hours before straining. But the main reason we do this is because it is easier to dilute a concentrate than it is to make a beverage more concentrated.

No matter how you brew it, how much you brew, or how long(within reason), you are sure to enjoy the result. Try cutting you concentrate with flavor additives once you become comfortable with the brewing process. There is so much to explore in the cold brew coffee world, so like the Dutch, be sure to prepare some for your journey within it.

A Common Misunderstanding Regarding Cold Brew Concentrate

A common misnomer regarding cold brew concentrate is the term "cold" when referencing it. When making a cold brew coffee concentrate, your best bet is to use room temperature water, instead of what one might typically refer to as cold. 

However, when cutting the concentrate with milk or water after brewing, you will want it to be much colder than when you made the concentrate initially. See the difference? 

Now that we understand what cold brew concentrate is and how it differs from cold brew, let's start making some shall we?

How to make Cold Brew Concentrate

There are several ways to make cold brew coffee concentrate. You can make it with just about any coffee pot, including a French Press. 

Note: A French Press filter may not catch all your cold brew grounds.

No matter which device you use to make your cold brew concentrate, make sure the filter you use is fine enough to catch all the grounds. Otherwise, you'll have leftover coffee sludge getting into your storage vessel when you strain it. We want a smooth tasting cold brew concentrate, not a gritty, chewy mess.

Cold Brew Coffee Grounds to Water Ratio

When deciding to make your cold brew coffee, you'll need to first understand what makes a cold brew coffee a concentrate. We determine its strength by deciding on the pre-brew grounds to water ratio.

I'll refer to this stage as pre-brew ratio because you'll use a different ratio to decide how strong the cup you drink will be. To avoid confusion, I'll refer to that step as the post-brew ratio. Let's first look at pre-brew ratios.

Pre-Brew Ratio

Depending on how strong you want it or what you plan to do with it later, you'll either choose a weak ratio or strong ratio. Take a look at the chart below to help determine which strength is best for your application.

Like we went over above, your cold brew grounds to water ratio is as simple as deciding how strong or weak you want your finished batch to be. Still, there are other ratios you might read about online. Know that when recipes call for using cold brew concentrate, they may not tell you how strong it should be, nor how to properly dilute it for mixing into recipes.

Post-Brew Ratio

If you make a cold brew concentrate, you will need to know how much water, milk, or ice to cut it with later to dilute the concentration. We call this a "post-brew ratio." 

How do you choose this ratio? Simple.

If you prefer strong coffee, go with half cold brew concentrate to half water or milk. This is a 1:1 post-brew ratio.

Most standard cold brew iced coffee recipes call for a 1:2 post-brew ratio(though they may not clearly state this), with 1 part cold brew concentrate to 2 parts water/milk.

However, as mentioned above, there are several different recipes available online with varying ratios of coffee to water. What it all comes down to is the taste you prefer.

Get on the Grind

One crucial part of getting cold brew concentrate right is to use the correct grind size for your application.

Note: Finer grind results in more surface area and deeper extraction.

For most applications, it is best to use coarse ground coffee beans when making your cold brew concentrate, especially when using the common metal filters found in your common French Press. Depending on the grind size, metal filters may not capture all the grounds.

For best results, choose coarsely ground coffee beans or a finer mesh strainer like a coffee sock to avoid coffee sludge in your cold brew batch.

Now that we've got the grind right and the amount of beans, we are close to being ready to make that perfect batch of cold brew coffee concentrate. The last factor is the water you choose to steep your grounds in.

What about Water Quality?

When making cold brew, you'll notice a huge difference in your final extraction based on the type of water you choose to brew with. Below I've ranked my preferred water sources from worst to best.

  • Distilled Water (Least Enjoyable)
  • Tap Water (Variable Quality)
  • Bottled Water (Acidic & Poor Quality)
  • Filtered Water (Great Choice)
  • Natural Spring Water (Best Tasting)
  • PH-Balanced Water (Least Acidic)

When I make cold brew with a weak or standard brew ratio, I prefer to use filtered water or natural spring water

I prefer using pH balanced filtered water when brewing concentrates, but that is because I prefer my coffee concentrates to have as little acidic content as possible. 

There are ups and downs to choosing a more alkaline water source, since coffee sits on the acidic part of the pH scale.

I've found that the more alkaline the water source, the longer you need to steep the grounds to extract the subtle nuances from the beans. 


COLD BREW COFFEE CONCENTRATE

You could always go out and buy something from one of the common cold brew coffee brands, or you could follow the instructions below.

We'll help you turn coffee beans into a cold brew coffee concentrate that you will love. Hopefully, you will always have some cold brew coffee on hand and ready to enjoy solo or with friends. Imagine the time and money saved by not having to go to expensive coffee houses or shopping markets to get your fix.

Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate 3:1

Yield

  • 3 cups of concentrate 
  • 6 to 9 cups regular coffee

Pre-Brew Ingredients

  • 1 Oz coarsely ground coffee beans 
  • 3 cups of cold or room temperature water
  •  Coffee Sock or Filter
  • 4 cup brewing vessel
  • 4 cup storage vessel

Prep Information

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Brew Style: Immersion
  • Brew time: 12 to 18 hours

BREW INSTRUCTIONS:

  1.  Grind your coffee beans, remembering not to grind them too fine.
  2. Add your coffee grounds to a large pitcher or jar that can hold at least 4 cups and has an airtight lid.
  3. Pour the filtered water over the grounds within your brewing vessel. (Dry grounds may puff up)
  4. Stir the coffee grounds and water together to properly saturate them.
  5. Place the lid on the pitcher and store it in your kitchen out of direct sunlight. You can leave this at room temperature or in a refrigerator. Steeping at room temperature results in deeper extraction.
  6. Allow your cold brew coffee blend to sit for 12 to 24 hours, depending on the strength that you would prefer.
  7. Use a coffee sock, paper filter, or synthetic fiber fine mesh strainer to strain the grounds as you pour the coffee concentrate into a coffee carafe or storage vessel.
  8. Discard your grounds or save them to use in another application.
  9. Place your cold brew in the refrigerator until you want to use it.

Your cold brew coffee concentrate should keep in the refrigerator for up to 14 days. You can also infuse additional flavors into your coffee at this stage of the brewing process.

Common Additions to Your Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate 

You can add all sorts of natural flavorings and syrups after completing your brew. Here are some of the more common additions:

  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Vanilla beans
  • Nutmeg
  • Pumpkin Spice
  • Bergamot
  • Peppermint
  • Flavor Syrups (etc)

Keep in mind that each additive you put into your coffee will decrease the shelf-life of your concentrate. It is best to brew without any additives and add them in a later step just before you want to consume your beverage.

Note:  If you are ever in doubt, throw it out.

If you do add too much too soon, you may find funky stuff growing in your brew. Don't ignore this most crucial step in the process.

Be sure to check your concentrate weekly to ensure it is still good, and freeze it after week 2.


How to Make a Delicious Iced Coffee with Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate

Regular Strength Iced Coffee 1:1

Yield

  • 2 Cups Regular Iced Coffee

Post-Brew Ingredients

  • 20 Oz glass
  • 1 Cup Cold Brew Concentrate
  • 1 Cup Milk, Water, or Creamer
  • Ice Cubed, Crushed, or Shredded
  • Flavorings or Sweeteners as desired
  • (optional)Top with Whipped Foam

Prep Information

  • Prep time: 2 minutes

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1.  Pour 1 Cup of Cold Brew Concentrate (3:1 Ratio) into your drinking glass.
  2. Add 1 Cup of Water, Milk, or Creamer
  3. Add Crushed, Cubed, or Shredded Ice to fill
  4. Top beverage with Coffee Syrup, Sugar, or Whipped Foam
  5. Enjoy

That is how you make a cold brew coffee concentrate. You can do this in the comfort of your own home for your family and friends.


Cold Brew Coffee Benefits

So you've finally made your first cold brew coffee concentrate. Great job! I bet it's delicious. Did you notice how smooth the flavor was when compared to iced coffee? That's a benefit for sure, but did you know there are other benefits to cold brew coffee that having nothing to do with taste? Let's have a look at some now.

Did you know that drinking black coffee may decrease your chances of heart disease and type 2 diabetes? Most people add sugar to their coffee because it's too bitter, but cold brew coffee doesn't require sugar to have a smooth texture. You'll be less inclined to use sugar, and more inclined to receive the benefits!

Gastrointestinal issues are a huge problem in America these days. You might be surprised to learn that cold brew coffee has up to 60% less acid levels than hot brew. Since having too much acid in your stomach can result in acid reflux and pain from ulcers, choose a healthier morning beverage and keep your tummy feeling soothed.

Now that you've read up on some of the benefits you can get from it, what's stopping you from going out there and making your cold brew concentrate now? Nothing could be easier, as we've shown you here. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Now that you are familiar with cold brew and know the difference between cold brew and cold brew coffee concentrate, why would you choose hot coffee ever again? Are there added benefits to cold brew that are hiding just underneath that mellow, chill exterior? 

We think so.

We are curious to learn what you think. Have you tried making your cold brew concentrate at home? What did you like about it? Did you make something fancy with or something simple. We want to know!


About the author

My name is Brandon and I love cold-brew coffee. If you're a fan of everything homebrew, then we'll get along just fine. I also enjoy riding my Onewheel around town, and going on adventures with my future wife! As an online work-from-home advocate, it's important that I stay connected to the world while being able to maintain a healthy work/life balance.

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  1. I really like your writing style, great information, appreciate it for posting :D. “You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have roses.” by Ziggy.

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