Most people can’t start their day without a good ol’ cup of joe. Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world. And cold brewing is one of the most delicious ways (in my opinion) to enjoy coffee. But there’s many other benefits of cold brew coffee.
Coffee is quite a diverse drink. There’s so many varieties available. And so many ways to brew it, prepare it and drink it. All of these factors have an impact of the health benefits your coffee brings to the table. So before looking at the cold brew coffee benefits, I want to touch on some background and other factors that go into your cup of coffee.
All coffee beans are not created equal
Pre-ground or whole bean?
Walking through the coffee aisle at the grocery store can be overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re looking for. One thing you’ll want to avoid is getting pre-ground coffee. It’s usually the most inexpensive option.
But recent tests have shown some producers put non coffee fillers in the pre-ground stuff. Corn, barley, wheat, soybeans, rice, beans, acai seed, brown sugar, starch syrup wood, twigs, sticks, parchment, husks, whole coffee berries and dirt have all been found. Ew. Not in my coffee.
So first and foremost, go with the whole bean coffee to avoid all of that nonsense that could be in the pre-ground varieties. You’ll also get a fresher taste when you grind the beans at home.
Go for the organic
Not only is coffee one of the most popular drinks on earth but it can also be one of the most pesticide ridden. You always want to choose a USDA certified organic variety if you can. “Organically grown” or coffees that just say “organic certified” without the USDA symbol is something to look out for. Although they may grow and produce their coffees organically, there’s no way to confirm that without the USDA organic stamp on the package.
Is direct trade fairer than fair trade?
Fair trade is a term you’ve probably heard in relation to coffee. But what does that really mean?
Back in the day when global trade was growing, so was the demand for coffee. (Did I mention it’s one of the most popular drinks on earth?) So in order to keep up with the demand, some players in the coffee industry started using some shady practices to keep costs down. This ultimately hurt the coffee farmers a lot. And many farmers were barely able to make ends meet.
A bunch of coffee industry folks finally got together and started fair trade practices that are checked by third parties. This ensures the farms are paid a fair price for their coffee and that the means to get the coffee farmed, packaged and shipped to your house are all on the up and up.
This puts a premium on the coffee in good faith that all practices involved in getting the coffee into your mug are sustainable and fair. Even if the farming methods are more difficult or costly.
Nowadays, some people think the fair trade has gotten even a little too convoluted. They say although the commission means well, some of the certification processes end up costing and hurting the farmers in other ways. So you may see that some coffee is now “direct trade”. As the name states, the trading is done directly with the farmers for more transparency as opposed to meeting a certification standard.
The bottom line is that you have to do your research when choosing a coffee bean. Organic, fair trade, direct trade are all done in good faith and are generally the best choices. If you have access to a local coffee brand, it’s much easier to get the background info on a local producer. But there’s no shortage of reputable coffee available on the internet too.
Brew method – does it matter?
Any coffee aficionado will answer that question with a resounding HELL YEAH! But at the same time, they’ll disagree on the method to get the best brewed coffee.
While I love my coffee, I’m more concerned with making sure I’m using a clean living method of brewing so as to not add toxic chemicals to my coffee.
Drip coffee makers (ie the overwhelmingly popular Mr. Coffee makers) are one of the biggest offenders of this. They are made almost entirely of plastic. And heated up plastic can leach BPA and other toxins into whatever they come in contact with.
So… you can do your homework and find the most wholesome organic, fair trade/direct trade, local coffee imaginable. But then all that goodness gets ruined with plastic toxins and other garbage from your coffee maker. Womp womp.
However, alternative brewing methods are on the rise. And most, if not all of these methods include coffee brewing hardware that can be (and usually is) made of clean materials. There are BPA free drip models if that’s your go to brewing method though.
Homegrounds.co has a great infographic to give you a brief overview of some of these other popular brewing methods.
Benefits of cold brew coffee vs benefits of hot coffee
One important distinction to make is that cold brew coffee is NOT iced coffee necessarily. It can be though. Cold brew specifically refers to brewing while COLD. Iced coffee could have been brewed hot and then cooled off after.
Coffee is chock full o’ necessary minerals and antioxidants. Whether you enjoy hot coffee or cold brew coffee, the health benefits are, for the most part, the same.
One slight benefit of cold brew coffee is less of an acidic taste. Some coffee makers cause the taste to come out acidic and bitter if the maker’s temperature gets too hot. So if you’re not into that, cold brew is the way to go.
A key benefit of cold brew coffee is that low temperature cold brewing also ensures that BPA leaching won’t occur. But if you do want to heat up your cold brew once it’s ready, make sure to do it in a clean material that’s BPA free or not plastic.
If you like milk in your coffee, an overly hot brew can destroy beneficial nutrients and enzymes of some milks added. This is especially true for raw milk drinkers. So with cold brew, that’s not something you’ll have to worry about.
The biggest drawback of cold brew is the wait time! The coffee needs to steep in the cold water anywhere from 12-24 hours. So if you need coffee NOW, you’ll have to brew it hot or make a Starbucks run.
How to make cold brew coffee
I’m going to walk you through a cold brew. It’s just as easy as making drip coffee. Maybe even easier! I have a Takeya cold brew iced coffee maker and it’s BPA free.
The coffee maker is basically a carafe in itself, so once the coffee is done steeping, you can pour right from the coffee maker which is pretty handy.
There are three pieces, the pitcher, the filter and the top.
You can see the coffee filter is a very fine mesh. Regardless, you’ll want to make a rather coarse grind with your coffee beans. In my experience, even with coarsely ground beans, a bit of tiny grounds get into the brew itself. Coarsely grinding is a way to limit that as much as possible. The bits that get through will be so small, you won’t even notice while drinking.
You’ll need a fair amount of grounds to fill up the filter. It took me 2 grinder fulls of beans to fill it half way. So it would’ve taken me at least 4 grinder fulls to fill it up completely.
I only filled up the filter halfway which will of course make a brew on the weaker side. But I wanted to demonstrate an important point that I learned the hard way…
Until the grounds are a little wet, they’re pretty hydrophobic and will resist soaking up water at first. Once all of your grounds are in the filter, put the filter into the carafe and pour the water over the beans and through the middle of the filter like this:
The first time I attempted this, I did not read any instructions. I was just so pumped to make some cold brew I just winged it.
First, I filled the filter all the way to the top with the coffee grounds. Then I filled the carafe all the way up with water. And then I plunged the filter right into the pitcher. Boy was that a mistake…
Because of the initial hydrophobic nature of the beans, the grounds were pushed up and out by the water through the top of the filter. I basically got a coffee ground volcano eruption all over my kitchen.
See how the grounds rise to the top even after pouring water through them? Be careful not to be a messy clutz like me!
So once you’re done making the grounds and pouring the water in, it’s just a waiting game. Put it in the fridge for 12-24 hours (or more) for a delicious cold brew.
Going back to the coffee grounds for a sec. This is what you’re going to get in your cold brew even with a coarsely ground bean. I personally don’t even notice it other than seeing it at the bottom of my glass. The bits that get through are so fine, you don’t feel them while drinking. Very similar to chocolate milk when the chocolate settles to the bottom.
How much brew can a cold brewer brew?
Now, both Takeya and some other cold brewers indicate that this makes a “cold brew concentrate” and recommend diluting the brew before you drink it. If you don’t like your coffee too strong, then by all means!
I’ve never done that though. I like a strong, robust coffee so I’ve never found myself diluting it with anything other than the milk I add. This little detail makes me wish I had bought the larger pitcher. Since my husband also likes a strong coffee, we each only get about 1.5 glasses out of each brew before having to make another batch.
The filter is relatively large and holds a lot of grounds, so it’s not very cost effective to make a full filtered batch every day. We find ourselves usually making hot brew for weekday mornings and the cold brew is more of a treat on weekends just because we don’t want to go through our beans too fast.
But once you’re finished with your cold brew, the whole thing is quite easy to clean. You just chuck out (or compost) the grounds, rinse out the filter and carafe and throw it in the dishwasher. Easy!
Alternative cold brew methods
You don’t need to buy a dedicated cold brewer to make a great cold brew. You can do it with items you already have in your kitchen!
All you need is a good container for the coffee, a fine mesh strainer and (duh!) the coffee. And there you have your DIY cold brewer!
There are a few companies that also make cold brew coffee bags. Like a tea bag, you throw it in your water for 12-24 hours and boom! Your cold brew is done. No grinding or strainers required.
This method will give you a super easy clean up. That’s a definite benefit of cold brew coffee!
Brandless has a great dark roast coffee bag for cold brewing.
Bottom line: are the benefits of cold brew coffee worth it?
If you haven’t tried it before, I absolutely recommend you take advantage of the benefits of cold brew coffee. It’s just so tasty and easy to make! Even if you’re not much of an iced coffee fan, you can heat up your cold brew when it’s done for a smoother hot coffee. What’s not to love?!