Cold brew coffee is hardly a recent invention, but it has become a fixture in coffee shops as well as in households in the United States. The concept is simple: coffee grounds are steeped in cold water overnight or for an entire day instead of using hot water to brew the coffee. As a result, the flavor is considerably less acidic and bitter than hot brewed coffee. Cold brew coffee is one of the hottest trends in the U.S. coffee market. The total size of this market stood at around 166 million U.S. dollars in 2017. By 2025, this figure is forecast to increase to around 944.16 million U.S. dollars.
The big dilemma in the industry is, are you really getting "cold brew" coffee. Different shops use different methods of brewing but still advertise their product as "cold brew". So what are the differences?
Hot brewing a pot of coffee then refrigerating it, or adding ice, produces an "iced" coffee. Hot brewing coffee, using a pour over method, onto a bed of ice is what is known as "flash brewed" coffee. Finally, adding ground coffee to a pot of cold water (the grounds never touch hot water) produces "cold brew" coffee. Each method produces a different tasting coffee.
Both iced coffee and flash brewed coffee will contain more acidity, bitterness, and aromas because hot water releases coffee oils. True cold brew coffee will have a lighter body and smooth taste. Unfortunately, due to its popularity, many coffee shops advertise their cold coffee as "cold brew" while in fact they are using a hot brewed method. Hot brewing takes minutes, cold brewing takes at least 14 hours, if not more. Generally, if you taste bitterness in your drink, it is highly likely it was hot brewed.