For some reason, it is often assumed that making cold brew coffee means being able to settle for lower-quality beans. This is due to the longer and slower extraction process, but you really don’t need the best coffee beans in the world to make great cold brew coffee.
But is there any truth to this, or does quality matter just as much as with any other types of coffee?
The answer...as is often the case...lies somewhere down the middle.
Brewing cold brew coffee involves submerging roasted coffee beans in water for up to 24 hours, during which the beans’ solubles are gradually dissolved and released into the liquid. Given that the water the beans are submerged in is cold, not all of the acids and other compounds in the beans are released, resulting in coffee with a lower acidity level.
Consequently, a coffee type that would normally be fairly sharp and acidic can come out surprisingly smooth and palatable with cold brew. Precisely why so many genuinely believe that you really do not need to use the best coffee beans in the world when brewing cold.
In terms of keeping acidity levels low, they’re technically correct...in a way.
But when it comes to the overall quality and enjoyment of the resulting cup, quality matters just as much with cold brew coffee as it does with any other coffee. If you are serious about making the best cold brew you have ever tasted, the whole thing begins and ends with the cold .
While it may be true to say that cold brew naturally has a lower acidity level and can be beautifully palatable, this doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to settle for low-grade beans.
Appreciating the Subtleties
There is one important reason why quality matters in a big way when brewing cold brew coffee. When coffee beans are brewed hot, the complexity of a cup can become overwhelming when the acidity level is high. When this acidity level is reduced, it becomes much easier to pick out the individual flavors and subtleties in the mix.
Much of the joy of experimenting with gourmet coffee lies in picking out and appreciating the various different flavors that hit the tongue and linger on the palate. Due to the cold brewing process and the fact that the resulting coffee is enjoyed cold, cold brew can actually be one of the best ways to get the most out of the best coffee beans in the world.
Plus, it’s worth remembering that a drink that starts out as cold brew coffee does not necessarily have to stay cold. The cold brewing method can be used to make a potent yet wonderfully smooth coffee concentrate, which can then be used as the basis for any number of warm coffees. All delivering a completely different experience than a comparable hot brewed coffee, with almost all of the acidity and bitterness removed.
In a nutshell, therefore, the answer is yes – you can technically get away without the best coffee beans in the world, when brewing cold. But at the same time, you will only ever get out what you put in – low-grade beans will give you low-grade coffee.
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