If you are new to cold brew coffee, knowing a bit of science can save a lot of time and help you avoid terrible mistakes. Even when you have purchased the best quality coffee beans and proper equipment, wrong timing may ruin your efforts. So how long should you steep cold brew coffee? Read on the find the answer.
What You'll Learn Today
How long to steep cold brew coffee?
It is best to steep cold brew coffee between 8 and 24 hours. This seems to be a wide range because of many variables. The exact duration can vary, depending on many factors like temperatures, type of coffee beans, grind size, and your desired flavour. You should try out different options and pick out a suitable solution for your drinking preference.
Each person prefers a different level of strength in their cold brew coffee. And the steeping process plays an important role in determining the taste. The longer you brew, the more substances are extracted. This leads to more bitterness and acidity.
During the first 8 hours, caffeine is fully extracted from the coffee beans. However, the special chocolate or fruity notes and flavours only come out after this period.
So, if you are in favour of dark coffee, 8 hours might be enough to complete steeping your cold brew coffee. Otherwise, let it sit for an additional 4 to 8 hours to enjoy more variations.
If you steep less than 8 hours, it can lead to under extraction. This means that flavours are not fully extracted out of your coffee, resulting in salty, acidic, or sour tastes.
If the steeping time is more than 24 hours, however, it can lead to over-extraction. This is when too much flavour is extracted, including bitter agents like chlorogenic. As a result, the coffee becomes unpleasant and bitter with woody and earthy undertones.
The 8 to 12-hour steeping approach
If you have a hectic schedule and do not have much time for your coffee routine, steeping cold brew coffee for 8 to 12 hours can be the ultimate solution. Though this is a bit less than the recommended duration, it can still create a good flavour profile.
There are some factors you need to take into account when choosing this approach. If you use a drip system to brew, it would extract more from the grounds than a standard immersion method due to the friction caused by dripping water.
Depending on the type of coffee beans you choose, you can extract a little more flavour with this method than hot brewing. Nevertheless, it will not be as robust or rich in flavour in comparison with a longer steeping duration.
Many people tend to cold brew their coffee 12 hours because it creates the best flavour profile. More importantly, this approach gives them the flexibility to prepare coffee the previous evening, so that it is ready in the next morning for them to enjoy before leaving for work.
Overall, the 8 to 12-hour method can be a good solution for busy individuals. It works best for a cold drip system as well because immersion brews tend to require a bit longer to release the right amount of caffeine and flavours your coffee beans.
The 18-hour steeping approach
Most coffee experts recommend around 18 hours to steep cold brew. This is the ideal duration for coffee beans to release the desired flavour.
In general, immersing the grounds for less than 12 hours will not allow the coffee to be as robust and round as you expect, particularly when you are using a mason jar or similar immersion brew systems.
After 18 hours, you can experience the subtle notes of the beans. The level of acidity and bitterness are also significantly reduced. In fact, many people prefer cold brew coffee than hot brew types because it is easier to digest and has gentler effects on their stomach.
In addition to a low acidic content, this approach can also create subtler flavours without the bitterness of solubles. This difference is particularly important when you choose a dark roast, which is infamous for acidic notes and harsh flavours that would seep through when steeped in an extended period or hot.
As more and more coffee lovers interest in cold brew, many companies have now introduced rapid-brew devices. They are able to steep cold brew coffee within a few minutes or hours. This seems to be a great solution to the busy schedule in our modern life.
However, speed is achieved at the cost of finesse. These machines cannot create subtle flavours and tastes when you steep for a long duration. So, if you are an enthusiast and have time, it is better to choose the slower options.
Steeping at room temperature versus in the fridge
You can either steep your cold brew coffee either in the fridge or at room temperature. Both options are fine. However, many people choose the latter option because it takes less time.
When the temperatures are lower, the process of extraction can take a longer time. Therefore, you might need from 12 up to 24 hours to achieve the desired flavours. The same figure for leaving it on the counter is around 8 to 18 hours.
If you steep in a fridge, caffeine will be ready after 8 hours. After that, you need to wait more time for the beans to release the flavours. It is this process that increases the total duration.
If you steep on the counter, on the other hand, caffeine can be ready much faster, around 4 to 6 hours. More importantly, you will need less time to achieve the full flavour. This mostly depends on the type of coffee bean you chose. Some would contain more caffeine than others.
For instance, Robusta varieties can release as twice the amount of caffeine as Arabica beans do.
The bottom line
A perfect cup of cold brew coffee requires a combination of many factors. The type and grinding of coffee beans are important; nevertheless, the right timing is also critical in creating the desired taste and flavour.
Different recipes need different timings. The most important thing to remember is that the longer you steep, the stronger the coffee will be. Try out all options and choose the best one for your preferences.