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Monday, August 26, 2013

Why Cold Brew Coffee Tastes Better

(Gregory Povey/Flickr)

(Gregory Povey/Flickr)

Cold brewed coffee has become a popular alternative to traditional iced coffee, which is brewed hot and then poured over ice.

Cold brewing is a coffee preparation method that can take up to a day, but Boston-area baristas Sal Persico and San Bellino say the results are better.

San’s ‘Hot Bloom’ Cold Brew

San Bellino (left) and Sal Persico. (Robin Lubbock/Here and Now).

San Bellino (left) and Sal Persico. (Robin Lubbock/Here and Now).

1 cup hot water (around 205 degrees)
7 cups cool water
1 lb of coffee, coarsely ground

Coarsely grind whole bean coffee and place the grounds in a large container. Heat up a cup of water until it’s about 205 degrees.

Pour the hot water into the coffee, and stir to saturate the grounds. Leave to bloom for 90 seconds.

Pour the remaining cool water over the grounds, seal tightly and refrigerate for 24 hours. Filter the coffee through a cloth or paper filter.

Because you’ll brew a concentrate, you can vary the strength, but it is recommended you dilute one part coffee with 2 parts water.

Sal’s Traditional Cold Brew

1 lb of coffee, coarsely ground
8 cups of cool water

Coarsely grind your whole bean coffee and place the grounds in a large container. Pour the cool water over the grounds, seal tightly and refrigerate for 22 hours. Filter the coffee through a cloth or paper filter.

Because you’ll brew a concentrate, you can vary the strength, but it is recommended you dilute one part coffee with 2 parts water.

Tips For Cold Brewing

  1. Use coffee that is fresh—the fresher your coffee, the better your cold brew. This is true for any drip method of coffee preparation.
  2. Use light roast coffees. Their flavors are more transparent.
  3. Use a coarse to medium grind.
  4. Steep your coffee in a sealed container to reduce oxidation.
  5. Although a refrigerated steep takes longer, it produces cleaner flavors.
  6. Use a paper or cloth filter when you filter your coffee. It will get all the sediment out and give you cleaner flavors.




All right. Well, enough about that. Let's cool things down now and talk about an increasingly popular alternative to iced coffee this summer. It's called cold-brewed coffee. And here to explain are two baristas who are going to take us on a little cold-brewed tasting tour. San Bellino is the owner and operator of The Coffee Trike, a mobile espresso bar in Boston. He's originally from Brisbane, Australia. And Sal Persico is a trainer at George Howell Coffee in Acton, Massachusetts, and a barista at Ride Studio Cafe in Lexington, Massachusetts. Welcome guys.

SAN BELLINO: Thank you for having us.

SAL PERSICO: Yeah. Thank you.


BELLINO: Or me and Sal, I'm sorry.

PERSICO: Well, thank you as well.


HOBSON: Well, it's good to have both of you. Let's start at the beginning. What is the difference, first of all, between cold-brewed coffee and iced coffee?

BELLINO: Do you want to hit this, Sal?

PERSICO: Sure. So cold-brewed coffee is steeped - it's coffee steeped in cold or room-temperature water for anywhere from 12 to 24 hours traditionally. And it tends to lack a little bit of the acidity that hot brewing will give it just because of the chemical reaction that happens when you brew it with hot water. Iced coffee that you would normally get would be brewed hot as you would a normal hot cup of coffee but diluted with ice.

HOBSON: How does it taste different than iced coffee?

BELLINO: Traditional iced coffee, I think, where you're brewing hot and pouring it over ice tends to sort of taste old. You don't get a lot of the characteristics because it's sort of been brewed already and then just poured over ice.

PERSICO: I think the advantages of cold-brewed coffee would be that it's a user-friendly brew method. So you can grind coffee and doesn't really have to - generally you use a coarse grind, but you can sort of eyeball it, and it's pretty forgiving too, and it's also very shelf stable.

BELLINO: A lot of people love the famously like, low acid, sort of low-acidic yield. It's very flavorful. You can - also with a concentrate, you can vary intensity, so that's what people like. They - a lot of people enjoy that it can be sort of - yeah, you get a more intense sort of flavor profile of the coffee when you cold-brew.

HOBSON: OK. Well, in front of us now, we have a number of different cups of cold coffee. I won't say iced coffee because most of it is not. But I want to first start out with just a cup that I made from the kitchen here at the studio of some coffee. Let's try this. Yeah, it's just as bad cold as it is hot.


HOBSON: Yeah. I'm not afraid to say. But - OK. Let's get to some of the stuff that you brought in here. Let's start on my left. What do we have here?

BELLINO: So on your left and on our left we have a cold-brewed Ethiopian coffee called the Borboya, which is roasted by the George Howell Coffee Company. This was a hot bloom, so I basically poured like 205-degree water over the grounds for a minute and a half, and then I poured the rest of the cool water over it.

HOBSON: So it does have hot water just at the beginning.

BELLINO: This one does.

HOBSON: All right.

BELLINO: I just have been messing with that recently. So we did a hot bloom and then cold-brewed it for 12 hours unrefrigerated. This is the first one.

HOBSON: Wow. It's much stronger than what you would normally get with coffee - with iced coffee.

BELLINO: Mm-hmm.

HOBSON: And I feel like I can taste the cocoa a little bit more.


PERSICO: Yeah. Cold brewing definitely brings out more, I would say, mids and basses...

BELLINO: Totally.

PERSICO: ...whereas it lacks in aromatic and acidity.

BELLINO: Are you getting that sort - there's something sort of tart about it, slightly sort of more, just like a little livelier than I'm sure your before-brewed cup.

HOBSON: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. It's almost got a fruitiness to it.

PERSICO: Mm-hmm.

BELLINO: Totally.

HOBSON: Mm-hmm. All right. So let's move to the middle here. What do we have here?

BELLINO: Once again, I've been messing with this sort of hot bloom thing. So this was, once again, a hot bloom for a minute and a half and then 24-hour refrigerated steep.

HOBSON: Steep just means it's sitting there.

BELLINO: Just sitting there. Just sitting there.

HOBSON: OK. I'll try this. I feel like I should have a bucket or something, like a wine tasting where I can spit it out.

PERSICO: Right. Right.

HOBSON: So this one feels much closer to the coffee beans, perhaps, than the other one did in my view.

BELLINO: Are you saying it's more sort of vegetal?

HOBSON: Is that a word?


BELLINO: Vegetal is a word. With my accent, maybe it doesn't sound like a word, but I'm sure vegetal is a word.

PERSICO: Forgive the Australian.

HOBSON: Yeah, OK. So, well, tell me what you think of this one? What do you find that's different about this?

BELLINO: I think it's a little more acidic. It's like - yeah, not an astringent way but it's a little more lively on my palate.

HOBSON: Mm-hmm. This tastes like a coffee that you would have certainly in the morning and not in the evening, not even maybe - well, you could have it in the afternoon. But this does not feel like the end of a wedding when they bring the cake around, you have cold-brew coffee. No. This is definitely - you're getting ready to go to work. You're serious. This is serious business.

PERSICO: Yup. Yup, it's very strong. This is quite strong...

BELLINO: Slightly more lively than the first one.

PERSICO: I think this is a better expression of the coffee that you used...

BELLINO: That coffee, the Borboya, I've had it as espresso and brewed cups. It is a very sort of - for me, it's like - it has like honey notes and sort of this juicy peach and like dried apricot.

PERSICO: Yeah. And I think that that is coming out a little bit more in the second.

HOBSON: You're really allowing the coffee to be itself, let known its true colors.

BELLINO: Yeah. Yeah.


HOBSON: OK. All right. Let's go with the third one here. This is the darkest, I think, just by color of the three.


HOBSON: Is that fair to say? OK. Let's try this one.

BELLINO: Yes. I agree.

HOBSON: Oh, this is completely different. I don't even know what to say about this one. It's just - it's totally different than the last two. What do you - what's different about this?

PERSICO: So - right. So this one is - there's no hot water added whatsoever, and it's a 22-hour steep time in a refrigerator.


BELLINO: Yeah, and this tastes more like the - as this sort of like sourness. It's a little more sour.

HOBSON: It is a little more sour, like it's gone bad.


HOBSON: Maybe. I don't know.

PERSICO: It tastes a little oxidized.

BELLINO: Yeah, which is sort of perplexing because I - as far as I know, oxidization happens faster at higher temperatures.

HOBSON: And can people make this on their own, or do they have to go to a coffee house to get it?

BELLINO: No. They can certainly make it on their own. It's really easy to do. You can essentially ground coffee, pour water over it, leave it in a fridge. The next day, you can bring it out, and then you can have cold brew for a couple of days in a row.

HOBSON: Mm-hmm. Well, listeners, try it at home. We'll put some tips up on our website, hereandnow.org. San Bellino, owner and operator of The Coffee Trike here in Boston, and Sal Persico, barista and trainer at George Howell Coffee in Acton. Thanks to both of you guys.

PERSICO: Thanks so much.

BELLINO: My pleasure. Thanks a lot.

HOBSON: And I think I'm ready to do, like, five shows right now. Let's go.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing) You know, I'm a fiend for that bean of caffeine.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing) Caffeine.


Five shows right now?


HOBSON: Yeah, let's do it. Let's do it, five shows, or at least, you know, can I get some cookies or cake or something to go with the coffee?

CHAKRABARTI: With cakes, yeah. Fortunately, we're down with this one show at least. We got four more to go.

HOBSON: From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Jeremy Hobson.

CHAKRABARTI: I'm Meghna Chakrabarti, in for Robin Young. This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Mj Borrelli

    been doing this for 3 summers…what I really want is for US to embrace flat white!

    • Chris Bernardi

      There’s quite a few places in Boston (including the Coffee Trike) and in Brooklyn that serve flat whites. Its not always on the menus, so you just have to ask :)

    • San

      Come to the trike and I can certainly make you one!

    • Randy

      Pardon the lack of information, but what is a “flat white?”

  • Rob

    Can anyone give some ratios for smallter batches? For example – dry tablespoons of coffee per ounces of water. One pound of coffee and 8 cups is quite a lot!

    • shelton410

      I usually use 1 cup of coffee to 3.5 cups water in a mason jar. The result is concentrated, so I generally mix 1 part water to 1 part cold brew, and we go through 2 jars per week. We’ve been drinking this all summer and it’s lovely!

    • dave

      you could do a multiple of 1/4 cup coffee to 1 cup water ratio in a French Press overnight, cut 1:1 when you’re done.

    • Johan Corby

      I do 1# ground coffee per gallon, yielding a 1:1 coffee to water/milk ratio. So one ounce (by weight) coffee to 8oz water.

  • Another Dave

    What about cold brewing then heating it to drink hot? (Or is this blasphemy?!)

  • Maggie

    The Swiss cold-brewing Toddy system has been around for decades, and as someone who lives in Texas, I have been using the concentrate to make iced (and hot) coffee for years. But I originally learned that you mix the concentrate with water (hot or cold) to make ‘coffee’. Are these guys talking about drinking their resulting concentrate undiluted? I know my coffee isn’t strong enough for many, but, wow, the concentrate alone seems way up there.
    Two tips – the concentrate freezes beautifully, if necessary, and it makes great cafe au lait using milk instead of water to add to the concentrate (if it is being diluted).

    • Dana W

      That is exactly what we do.

  • Curtis Blake

    This may sound funny, but can you cold brew it, then heat it up and drink it hot, or is it just better to brew it regularly of you want hot coffee. Thanks for this clip, I can’t wait to try the cold version.

  • weetiger3

    I have to make a clarification here: Iced coffee is not hot coffee poured over ice, which results in a watery luke-warm mess. (I’m an admitted coffee snob and it makes me crazy when I go somewhere and order Iced Coffee and that’s what they try to give me.) It SHOULD be brewed, (preferably double-strength) coffee that has been chilled, THEN poured over ice.

    • Dan

      Well, technically, pouring hot coffee over ice is a poor attempt at Japanese style iced coffee. You use 4 tbsp freshly ground coffee, fine to medium-fine, to every 6 oz cold water, heat to just under boiling, then brew directly over ice, preferably using a pour over cone. The technique is known to “shock” the coffee because of the cold ice meeting the hot coffee, resulting in an altered flavor profile and aroma, similar to tea. However, this is very hard to execute correctly, even when following all the steps.

      • weetiger3

        Agreed, it is hard to execute all of the steps for Japanese style, but that’s not what the teenager behind the counter who doesn’t understand the concept of Iced coffee to begin with, is attempting as he pours straight from the pot he’s just taken off the burner.

  • David Saleeba

    I tried it after hearing the piece, but did it with a French Press. It turned out even better than when I try to use it conventionally! I don’t think it will be an every day switch, but it was a neat thing to try.

  • Christopher Hill

    Sal, I need to roast some fresh beans and then I am going to give it a shot!

  • Sus@n

    I put coffee ground into a cheesecloth and cover with water, let that sit at room temperature for 24 hours. Then strain and refrigerate. Add simple syrup and milk and amazingly good stuff! About twice a week I brew and have ice coffee everyday. Oh, make a decaf pot too, that way in the evenings you can enjoy too

  • Ed

    I found out many years ago that brewing coffee in cold water does not extract the caffeine out of the beans.

    Caffeine is a bitter alkaloid. I still have a one pound jar of it in my lab I use for various tests and experiments. I also have used a caffeine mixture to spray my tomato plants if and when the tomato horn worm makes its presence. Nicotine based sprays also work.

    Caffeine’s Solubility in water: 2.17 g/100 ml (25 degrees C), 18.0 g/100 ml (80 degrees C) and 67.0 g/100 ml (100 degrees C) – See more at:

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