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What is the Difference Between Cold Brew Coffee and Hot Coffee?

Cold brew is a cold coffee drink while hot coffee is brewed and served hot. These are clear differences between these two coffees. However, many coffee lovers hardly know any other differences between cold brew coffee and regular hot coffee. There is much more that makes them different apart from their brewing temperatures.

cold brew vs hot coffee

So what is the difference between cold brew coffee and hot coffee? In this article, we will compare cold brew vs hot brew in detail to help you understand their differences.


What is Cold Brew Coffee?

Cold brew is increasingly becoming more popular among coffee lovers globally. Today, you can find cold brew coffee on sale in most coffee shops across the U.S. Initially, many people thought that cold brew is hot coffee that is left to cool down on its own or by adding ice. However, this is not the case. If you cool down hot coffee with ice, you are simply making iced coffee rather than cold brew.

Cold brew coffee is a type of coffee brewed by steeping medium to coarse ground coffee in cold water or water at room temperature for at least 24 hours. The brewing process is very simple and only requires sufficient time to get it ready. Thus, you should brew it several hours before the time you want to drink it. You can easily make it at home in large batches and refrigerate it for up to two weeks.


What is Hot Coffee?

Hot coffee refers to any type of coffee prepared by extracting coffee compounds from ground coffee with hot water. There are many brewing methods used in making hot coffee including drip machines, pour-over coffee, French press, and Espresso machine among others. Brewing hot coffee requires very little time, making it ideal when you need a quick caffeine fix in the morning to help you wake up.


What is the Difference Between Cold Brew Coffee and Hot Coffee?

Brewing coffee with cold water vs hot water results in brews that differ in several ways. You can notice some of the differences upon taking the first sip of both drinks. Here are their most noticeable differences.

    1. Cold Brew Coffee is Less Acidic and Less Bitter

Brewing coffee with cold water vs brewing with hot water results in noticeable changes. One of the differences you can notice is that cold brew has less acidity than hot coffee. Also, cold brew is less bitter than hot coffee.

But why the difference? It is all about the science of extraction. During extraction, water pulls out certain coffee compounds from the ground coffee. These compounds include sugars, oils, and acids among others.

Different brewing temperatures extract different coffee compounds at different rates. For instance, hot coffee is best brewed at a temperature of between 195 – 205 degrees Fahrenheit. If you brew with a higher temperature, you are likely to get a bitter brew due to over-extraction. Super-hot water results in coffee acids decaying into very bitter compounds.

On the other hand, if you brew hot coffee at a lower temperature, your brew may taste sour due to under-extraction. The reason is that when the water is not hot enough, it fails to dissolve sufficient non-acidic coffee compounds that balance the flavor.

Cold brewing is different. Extraction with cold want slows down the extraction of essential coffee compounds. In the process, cold water does not extract acids that become bitter in hot brewing. Also, the acids that add sharpness to hot coffee do not oxidize in cold brewing, making cold brew less acidic. With cold brew, you get coffee with a smooth and refreshing taste. Tests show that cold brew has about 66 percent less acidity and bitterness than hot coffee.

    2. Hot Coffee has Richer Aromas and More Rounded Flavors

Oxidation occurs more slowly when brewing with cold water than with hot water. That is why cold brew is less bitter with lower acidity than hot coffee. Similarly, the brewing temperature affects coffee aromas and flavors in cold brew and hot coffee.

Hot coffee has gentle sweetness, satisfying aroma, rounded flavor, hints of bitter notes, and crisp acidity. On the other hand, cold brew has rich sweetness, gentle hints of acidity, no noticeable bitterness, and a smooth flavor.

In terms of aroma, hot coffee has richer aromas than hot brewed coffee. The reason is that coffee oils in hot coffee become volatile and evaporate quickly, thereby making the aroma in coffee oils more noticeable. On the other hand, coffee oils in cold coffee remain cold during brewing such that they fail to evaporate. They remain in the cold brew instead of flying away, thereby making the aroma in cold coffee less noticeable.

    3. Cold Brew Coffee is More Versatile

Hot coffee offers a satisfying feeling. However, you can only mix it with a few drinks. It is not very versatile. On the other hand, you can make very many drinks out of cold brew. In fact, the process of making cold brew does not result in a ready-to-drink coffee. You get a cold brew concentrate that you mix with water to make drinkable cold brew coffee.

You can also use the cold brew concentrate to make other drinks such as:

  • Hot coffee- Mix hot water with the cold brew concentrate.
  • Iced coffee- Mix the concentrate with ice and cold water.
  • Iced cold brew latte- You get it by mixing the concentrate with ice and cold milk.
  • Cold brew soda- Simply mix the concentrate with soda water, ice, and sugar.
  • Cold brew cocktails- Mix the concentrate with sugar, a spirit, and other ingredients.


Is Cold Brew Coffee Stronger Than Hot Coffee?

The amount of caffeine in cold brew vs hot coffee depends on the ratio of coffee to water. Sometimes, cold brew coffee may have higher caffeine than hot coffee. Also, some varieties of hot coffee such as drip coffee and espresso may have more caffeine content than cold brew coffee depending on the coffee-to-water ratio used.


Final Words

What is the difference between cold brew coffee and hot coffee? These drinks differ in many ways including the brewing temperature, flavor, aroma, acidity, and bitterness. However, their caffeine content may differ depending on the ratio of coffee to water used. If you are only used to hot coffee, it is time to try cold brew coffee and enjoy its different taste.


Related article:

What is the Difference Between Cold Brew and Iced Coffee?