Can You Heat Up Cold Brew Coffee? What Is The Best Way?

With so many brewing methods for hot brewed coffee, including French press, pour-over, drip coffee, and espresso, the question of whether you can drink cold brew coffee hot may seem unnecessary. However, is that really the case, or does heating up cold brew coffee offer something other brewing methods can’t?

This guide will examine those questions, looking at why you might want to heat cold brew coffee and the best ways to do it.

Why Do You Heat Cold Brew Coffee?

To Enjoy Coffee With Lower Acidity

One of the main reasons to consider heating cold brew coffee is that cold brew is lower in acidity and sweeter than other brewing methods. So, it’s a good option if you desire those qualities but prefer a hot drink.

Cold brew coffee is renowned for its smooth flavor. That’s because you need to steep the grounds in either cold or room temperature water for 12 hours or longer.

brew-in-fridge

Cooler brewing temperatures make a significant difference in the chemistry of your coffee. When coffee grounds interact with water, elements of the coffee beans that influence flavors, such as acids, caffeine, and sugars, are pulled into the water.

So, when using hot water for brewing, most coffee compounds are extracted easily because of the temperature. That’s because hot water has more energy than cold water, so chemical reactions accelerate as elements dissolve more easily.

Cold brew effectively trades temperature for time. This means you can neither extract the precise compounds of brewing with hot water, nor at the same levels. Therefore, it takes far longer to extract the necessary flavor.

Some acidic, bitter plant molecules take longer to extract or require a higher brewing temperature, which explains why many people find cold brew smoother and less bitter or acidic than hot brewed coffee. This makes it a firm favorite with many coffee enthusiasts.

Cold brew is generally fine in hotter weather when a cup of cold brewed coffee is refreshing. However, in cooler weather, you’re more likely to prefer a hotter coffee drink.

You Can Make A Big Batch Of Coffee

Another reason is convenience. After all, not many people have the time and patience to make freshly brewed coffee every morning. With cold brew, you can brew it in big batches, and it’ll last for up to two weeks.

Make A Big Batch Of Coffee In Mason Jars

Water temperature influences how quickly some molecules break down or degrade after brewing. If hot coffee sits for too long, the flavor will change (and not in a good way) because compounds react with the oxygen in the water and air.

Heat speeds up that process, which is why coffee that sits on a hot plate for several hours is not nearly as palatable as freshly brewed hot coffee. Cold brew goes stale over time too, but without heat, it takes far longer. You will need to store your cold brew concentrate in an airtight container, though.

You can get delicious iced coffee drinks by diluting the concentrate with either water, milk, or ice cubes, which only takes a few seconds. However, if you want to drink it hot, you will have to find a way to warm it up.

So, Can You Heat Up Cold Brew Coffee?

The simple answer is yes! After all, cold brew is a brewing method, not a type of drink. It’s essentially the reverse of brewing hot coffee and adding ice cubes. So, if you like those signature smooth, rich flavors of cold brew but prefer a hot cup of coffee, you can drink it at the temperature you desire.

Different heating methods contribute to the flavor. So, heated cold brew coffee will have lower acidity than regular hot coffee brewed with the same beans.

Cold Brew, Cold Brew Concentrate And Iced Coffee

So, how does cold brew coffee differ from iced coffee? It’s important to emphasize that not all cold coffees are cold brewed. Iced coffee is regular coffee cooled with ice cubes. Not surprisingly, this retains the flavor profile of hot coffee. Japanese iced coffee (Recipe here) is one of the best ways to brew hot coffee over ice that keep the original flavor of your beans. However, this is a different brewing method to the one discussed in this guide, which concentrates on heating cold brew coffee.

You can make cold brew either ready-to-drink (e.g. using Hario cold brew) or as a concentrate (e.g. using a mason jar). The primary difference is the ratio of coffee to water. The next section of the article discusses each separately.

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Cold Brew Concentrate

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Ready-to-drink Cold Brew Coffee

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Japanese Iced Coffee (Brew over ice)

What’s The Best Way To Heat Cold Brew Coffee?

Dilute Cold Brew Concentrate With Hot Water

A popular way to make cold brew concentrate is to use a 1:3 to 1:5 ratio of coffee to water. Meanwhile, whether you drink it hot or cold, you’ll need to dilute the concentrate. Therefore, the easiest way to make heated cold brew coffee is by adding boiling water to your concentrate. Here are the steps you’ll need:

  1. Heat the water either on a stove or in an electric kettle.
  2. Preheat your cup with boiling water.
  3. Pour one part of cold brew concentrate into the cup.
  4. Add two parts of hot water to the concentrate.
  5. Stir it and enjoy your hot cold brew coffee.

We consider this the best way to heat your cold brew coffee. Of course, it won’t be quite as hot as hot brewed coffee. However, it will be hot enough to satisfy you in colder weather while retaining the rich, smooth flavor of regular cold brew.

Microwave – Best For Ready-To-Drink Cold Brew Coffee

If you have a ready-to-drink cold brew rather than concentrate, you can use a microwave to heat the coffee in around a minute. However, be careful not to heat it for too long, as this can negatively affect the flavor.

The primary benefit of using a microwave to heat coffee is it’s quick. However, many people prefer to avoid microwaving anything, where possible, as they believe it will ruin the food or drink’s nutrients. There are many studies on the effects of microwaving on nutrients [1], but that is beyond the scope of this article.

However, we can say that thanks to our testing, getting the right temperature using a microwave will leave the subtle flavors of the heated cold brew coffee intact, meaning it retains the smooth, rich flavor of the original cold brew.

Nevertheless, we only recommend using a microwave to heat the ready-to-drink cold brew, not the concentrate. For the concentrate, follow the instructions we outlined earlier.

Other Ways To Warm Cold Brew Coffee

Heat The Coffee On A Stove

Simply pour your cold brew coffee into a pan and heat it to between 158F (70C) to 167F (75C). That way, the coffee won’t burn but will still be very hot. One big drawback of this method is it takes too long and is cumbersome, particularly if you don’t have a thermometer. It’s not the best way to make your morning cup of coffee.

Froth The Cold Brew Coffee

If you have an espresso maker with a steam wand, you can froth the cold brew the same way you would milk.

Place the steam wand’s tip into the surface of the coffee. Doing this will add air to the cold brew and create bubbles. You can steam it using this method if you want a crema-like foam on the top.

The bubbles won’t last long if you use the steam you want. However, if you want to avoid bubbles entirely, insert the steam wand deeper into the coffee.

If you heat the coffee with a steam wand, it will dilute the coffee slightly as the steam gets into the coffee and becomes a hot liquid.

While using the steam wand to heat your cold brew may sound sophisticated, we don’t recommend it because both the steam’s high temperature and any residual water or milk from the wand will likely cause an unpleasant flavor.

Does Heating Cold Brew Coffee Make It Acidic?

As we explained earlier, the cold brewing process leads to lower acidity. So, does the coffee become more acidic if it’s heated?

Heating cold brew ensures the coffee reacts with oxygen more quickly, which can rapidly degrade the flavor. However, it’s still a better idea to make a large batch of cold brew coffee, diluting it with hot water when you need it, rather than making more cups of regular hot brewed coffee than you need and reheating it.

A final element to be aware of is that heating cold brew doesn’t require adding any more coffee grounds. Therefore, the acidity won’t significantly change if you serve it hot.

Conclusion

The concept of heating cold brew may seem unnecessary considering the prevalence of hot coffee brewing methods. However, it is well worth considering if you prefer your hot coffee to have the low acidity and rich, smooth taste of cold brew.

Not only that, but if you regularly struggle to find the time to make freshly brewed hot coffee in the morning, heating either cold brew concentrate or ready-to-drink cold brew is a quick, easy way to enjoy delicious coffee.

There are one or two pitfalls, such as the possible unpleasant taste that might occur from heating cold brew with a steam wand or letting the cold brew heat too long in a microwave.

However, with a little experimentation, you should soon be able to enjoy the benefits of cold brew as a hot drink – perfect in the colder months, and proof that cold brew coffee needn’t just be a fairweather friend.

Reference:

[1] Does microwaving food destroy its nutritional content? – By Kenny Lomas – https://www.sciencefocus.com/science/does-microwaving-food-destroy-its-nutritional-content/