For anyone who has embarked on the cold brew process, you will know two things for certain. First, that it is a time intensive (but rewarding!) process, and second, that you end up making a lot of coffee! Both these things lead to the question: now that you have all your carefully brewed cold brew coffee concentrate, where should you store it and how should you store it?
Well, as the very name might suggest, the best place to store your cold brew is somewhere it will stay nice and cold. The best place for your cold brew is in the fridge, where it will taste better and keep longer. As most cold brew enthusiasts make enough cold brew to last for up to a week at a time, the proper storage is crucial!
I’ve broken down everything you need to know about storing your cold brew, including where you should keep it during the brewing process, where you should keep it after the brewing process, and even the best bottles and vessels to store it in!
Where can I store my cold brew during the brewing process?
When it comes to the cold brewing process, the only hard and fast rule you really need to stick to is that you don’t use hot water. The process of cold brewing is a very particular one – you are aiming for certain flavors and notes in your coffee that can only be obtained when coffee beans are steeped for long periods of time in cold or cool water.
As such, it is perfectly acceptable to store your cold brew at either room temperature or in the fridge during the brewing process. Both methods will have the same effect, with the only real difference between the two being the time it takes to reach the desired extraction or concentration level.
Coffee is extracted from coffee beans more quickly when the water being used in the brewing process is hotter. This is why it only takes seconds to extract an espresso shot, but hours to make a batch of cold brew.
This principle applies when it comes to brewing at room temperature vs. in the fridge. If you are brewing in the fridge, you will need to add an extra few hours onto your brew time, typically anywhere up to 24 hours. Cold brew made at room temperature, however, could be considered done in as little as 12 hours.
If it’s your first time making cold brew at room temperature, you can expect to take anywhere between 3 and 5 hours off your usual fridge brewing time. Experiment to see what works best for you.
Some cold brewers prefer to brew at room temperature to save these additional hours, and some just prefer brewing at room temperature in order to save room in their fridge! Whatever your reason, it is perfectly acceptable to store your cold brew in the fridge or on your kitchen bench during the brewing process.
Should I dilute my cold brew concentrate before storing it?
Once your cold brew has finished brewing, and you have filtered out all the coarse coffee grinds, you will be left with a cold brew concentrate. Unless you really have the stomach for it, this concentrate will need to be diluted with milk or water in a 1:1 ratio before you can drink it.
So is it possible to dilute your entire batch of cold brew concentrate and have it ready to go at a moment’s notice? Well, it is certainly possible, although it is not necessarily recommended. This is for a few reasons as I’ve outlined below.
Firstly, as the typical dilution ratio for cold brew concentrate is 1:1, you are going to double the volume of your coffee if you choose to dilute it before storing. This will require a great deal more storage space and could become quite cumbersome, doing away with any advantages of convenience that you might have been aiming for.
Secondly, one of the beauties of having cold brew concentrate rather than cold brew coffee is that you can make a new drink every time! Cold brew concentrate is hugely versatile. Whether you serve it straight up over ice, with a touch of cream or milk, or even in a cocktail or two, there are many different ways to take your cold brew.
By diluting all of your coffee concentrate in one go, you won’t be able to enjoy these many fun and fabulous ways of drinking your cold brew!
Thirdly, if you like to dilute your cold brew with milk or cream, there is a very real chance your coffee could expire before its time. On its own, cold brew concentrate can last for up to a week in your fridge without losing its flavor or quality. With milk or cream added, you can reduce this life expectancy to mere days!
For these reasons, it’s always best to leave your cold brew concentrate as is, and store it in its purest form.
Where can I store my cold brew concentrate?
So now that you have all this cold brew concentrate, where can you keep it? Luckily, the answer is pretty straightforward, but you’re going to want to clear up some space in your fridge!
Storing your cold brew in the fridge
It almost goes without saying that the best place to keep your cold brew concentrate is somewhere it can stay cold. In other words, the best place to keep your cold brew concentrate is the fridge.
The distinctive mellow flavors and rich notes of your cold brew will really shine when it has been kept cold. This is also why cold brew is often served over ice, or diluted with cold, filtered water.
Keeping your cold brew at lower temperatures also helps preserve some of those flavors for longer. This is one of the reasons that cold brew lends itself so well to big batches. As we’ve already discussed, cold brew can last for up to a week in your fridge without suffering any ill effects.
This means that if you make up a batch of cold brew on the weekend, it can easily last you throughout the working week. Cold brew really is the coffee where taste and convenience collide!
Storing your cold brew in the freezer
While it might seem logical that cold brew could be even better if kept in the freezer, unfortunately this is not the case.
Due to the high percentage of water that makes up cold brew, it will freeze when placed into the freezer. This will cause ice crystals to form in your cold brew, ultimately degrading its taste and flavor profiles, and muting those rich, aromatic notes that cold brew enthusiasts know and love.
That being said, cold brew is the type of coffee that lends itself best to being frozen, and if you find yourself with excess cold brew, freezing it can be a good option.
For example, freezing your excess cold brew into ice cubes can be a great way to use up leftover cold brew and prevent waste. By freezing smaller volumes of your cold brew, you can limit the number and size of ice crystals that form during the freezing process and retain some of the distinctive taste of your cold brew.
These cold brew ice cubes can be used up in a number of ways. Whether you use them to chill your next glass of cold brew, make a modern iced coffee by putting them in a glass of milk, or even by blending them into a smoothie, the options are endless!
It should be noted that the taste of your cold brew ice cubes will begin to deteriorate after a couple of weeks, so try and use them up as quickly as possible.
Storing your cold brew at room temperature
Although it’s possible to brew your cold brew at room temperature, you definitely shouldn’t store it at room temperature. It can be tempting, especially if your fridge space is limited, but there are a couple of key reasons why you shouldn’t do this.
Cold brew coffee derives much of its flavor from being cold, and a lukewarm cold brew concentrate that has been kept at room temperature will not deliver the depth of flavor and aroma that you are looking for.
Also, given that you will have made your cold brew in a fairly large batch, it’s pretty likely that most of the coffee concentrate will have gone bad before you can drink it if it is stored at room temperature.
While cold brew might not go bad in the way that most food and beverage does, your concentrate will likely develop a sharp, acidic taste pretty quickly if you have left it at room temperature for too long.
By keeping your cold brew at room temperature, you are robbing yourself of the fullness and richness of this amazing coffee. So, as full as your fridge might be, don’t do it!
The best bottles for storing your cold brew
Whether you have made your cold brew in a fancy toddy, or simply used the tried and true method of a mason jar and filter paper, you will be faced with the same dilemma at the end of the brewing process: what bottles should you use for storing your cold brew?
Well, as long as your bottle has a lid on it, it shouldn’t really matter what you store it in. If you used a mason jar in the brewing process and want to save on washing up, there is no reason why you can’t use the same jar to store your cold brew concentrate.
On the other hand, if you want to maximize your fridge space, you can always purchase milk or juice bottles and keep your cold brew stored away neatly and tidily.
By using bottles with lids, you will prevent any excess oxidation from occurring within your cold brew. This could lend a sharp or bitter edge to your coffee that can taste unpleasant. The lid will also save your cold brew from taking on any flavors or aromas from other foods that might also be stored in your fridge.
My cold brew has gone bad – what can I do with it?
If for some reason your cold brew has gone bad, this can be good news for your garden or houseplants!
Plants thrive on nitrogen, and leftover coffee can provide a hefty dose of this when used to water plants. Coffee can also have a fertilizing effect on some plants, and help promote strong growth.
If you do use your leftover cold brew to help your houseplants, make sure you keep an eye on them. If your plant’s leaves begin to yellow around the edges, your coffee might be delivering too much acid to the soil and compromising your plant’s health. At the very most, you should only be watering your plants with leftover coffee once a week.
The final verdict: cold brew storage
Brewing up a batch of cold brew is a convenient, tasty way to ensure you get a regular caffeine hit all week long. For this to happen, however, you must keep your cold brew refrigerated in an airtight bottle or container.
The unique flavors, notes, and aromas that make cold brew coffee so special can only really be achieved when your cold brew concentrate is kept at the right temperature and served cold.
Although it might be tempting to store your cold brew concentrate on the kitchen bench, especially if you tend to brew at room temperature, you will end up with a flat tasting coffee that will very quickly go bad.
Freezing your cold brew is only really an option if you have too much cold brew on your hands. Cold brew can last quite well in the freezer, but only for a limited time, so your best bet is to always drink up!
Ultimately, cold brew is meant to be kept cold. Although you may have a bit more room for movement when it comes to storing your cold brew during the brewing process, you will have very little leeway with storing your finished cold brew concentrate. The fridge it is!