Can Cold Brew Coffee Be Heated Up? 3 Things To Consider

  • Date: April 14, 2021

If you are a coffee fan, you would have come across cold brew coffee. The beverage may be something that you have often seen on the menu at cafes or a drink you have tried a few times before. And whether cold brew coffee can be heated up or not maybe a thought that crossed your mind at some point in time.

To answer that question very thoroughly, you can heat up cold brew coffee, and in fact, it can be done quite merely and requires just a little bit of effort. After reading this article, it could even possibly be the new approach you go for when preparing your regular steamy cup of joe!

How do you heat up cold brew?  

Many are mistakenly under the impression that just because it’s called cold brew, it should be served cold, but in reality, cold brew coffee can be enjoyed as a hot beverage as well. The traditional way to heat cold brew coffee is to warm it up on the stove. This method avoids diluting the concentration. However, it does require the investment of some effort and a bit of time. It is also the go-to method to use when needing to heat a lot of cold brew.

To warm up the brew on the stove, pour the cold brew into a kettle or a pot and warm it up on low heat. You must do it with caution to avoid ending up with burnt coffee that can taste undesirable. You can use a thermometer to keep the temperature in check. Heating it on low heat would mean that there would be no need to hover over the pot if the coffee may overheat. However, it does mean some amount of patience is required.

On the other hand, the simplest and most popular way to heat up cold brew is by adding some boiling water. If the cold brew being used has been taken right out of the refrigerator, it would be a good idea to first pre-heat the cup by leaving in some boiling water for a minute or so. If not, there is no need for this step to be carried out. After discarding the water, fill up half of the cup with the cold brew concentrate and the other half with boiling water and voilà! 

The result would be a cup of hot coffee that is smooth and at the right temperature. Some do opt to go for a 1:2 cold brew concentrate to hot water ratio as well. A downside to using hot water to reheat it is that it somewhat waters down the brew’s concentration. Those with the most sensitive taste buds may notice a slight change in flavor while it’ll make no difference to the rest.

Can I microwave cold brew? 

Some people tend to resort to microwaving cold brew when making themselves a cup of hot coffee, whilst others advise to steer clear of this method as much as possible. The latter firmly go against it as they believe microwaving cold brew alters its flavor and causes the taste to become bitter.

Microwaves use electromagnetic radiation that polarizes molecules in the brew and causes micro-agitation, which heats up the coffee. The shift in taste occurs when the composition of compounds like acids within the coffee is altered. As heating up cold brew by microwaving takes some time, it may favor many alterations of the compounds to take place and hence, causes the coffee to taste sour.

Also, if the cold brew is heated for too long, the coffee can overheat and turn into a burnt liquid which would be a downer. Those who opt to microwave cold brew first dilute the concentrate whilst others throw the cup of cold brew in the microwave and heat it up right away. So, although microwaving cold brew may sound tempting due to convenience factors, it is advised to consider it the last resort. 

Does heating cold brew make it more acidic? 

Traditional coffee is made by passing hot water through coffee beans, whereas, on the contrary, cold brew coffee is made by submerging coffee grounds in water which is at room temperature for about 12-24 hours. This long and cold extraction process prevents all of the acidic compounds and oils from the coffee from being pulled during brewing.

As heat during brewing is the reason for the oils and acidic compounds to pass through from the coffee grounds during traditional extraction, cold brew coffee made by steeping coffee beans in water for hours has a different make-up is, therefore, much less acidic. Cold brew is 67% less acidic than traditional brew. For this reason, those with a sensitive stomach, heartburn, or acid reflux issues prefer cold brew for the gentler experience. 

Once the coffee is steeped and strained into a concentrate, whatever is done to it would not alter its preserved make-up. Therefore, heating the diluted cold brew concentrate would not necessarily make it more acidic. Heating the cold brew coffee would just be heating up what was initially extracted.

Final thoughts 

If you’re in a hurry to prep your cup of joe and would like it to be just hot enough to warm your insides, heating a cold brew coffee is the way to go. It is quick, convenient, and gentler on the stomach than the traditional cup of coffee. The brew would offer you the experience coffee lovers yearn for on a chilly day.

If you have a packed day ahead of you, I would recommend prepping the cold brew coffee overnight and heating it with some boiling water in the morning, as it is the most time-efficient and convenient method to opt for. And if you have never tried it before, it is worth a shot to give it a go!

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