Grind

Daniel Suh Teaches the Science of Hot and Cold Brewed Coffee

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However, another issue many people see with cold brew is that the beans have the ability to get stale, which means you won't be able to get as much flavor out of it. As with any food, exposure to air causes it to oxidize and stale or rot. When you grind coffee beans, you increase the surface area that is exposed to air, therefore speeding up oxidization.

The issue some hot brew purists see here is that the coffee, when cold brewed, is essentially getting stale before it has time to brew fully, since most cold brew times are pinned at 24 hours. However, Suh says 24 hours after grinding is typically about the time when you begin to lose flavor.

However, if you've ever sniffed a cup of cold brew (don't act like you haven't), you've probably noticed that you don't get that intense coffee aroma that you would with a hot cup of joe. Suh says this is because those "volatile aromatics" are brewed better in hot temperatures, and, since they are volatile, they go away quickly.

But, again, if you prefer richer, smoother coffee, cold brew is the way to go. Plus, cold brew is 15% less acidic than hot brewed coffees typically, which is better for people prone to heartburn.

"Have I had really great cold brews? Yes. Have I had really bad cold brews? Yes," Suh says.

In order to capture both the brightness of hot brews and the smoothness of cold brews, hybrid brewing methods are becoming more popular. Typically, that means blooming coffee in hot water and then quenching it to stop the reactions with cooler water, then refrigerating. However, the Japanese style of hot brewing in a Chemex that brews directly onto ice, could also be considered hybrid.

Pulling the many acids, sugars, and other flavor components out of coffee is as much of an art in the craft of a well-trained barista as it is a science to be studied for Suh. Even the way that we taste hotter and colder temperatures of food and beverages in general plays a role in how you'll taste coffee, with hotter being perceived as more acidic and colder being perceived as more bitter.

"Our most valuable sensory tools is our palate," Suh says. "Its really what separates an okay barista from a great barista."

Suh says, in reality, the closer coffee gets to body temperature, the more flavor elements you'll be able to taste. Not that you should rush out to get lukewarm coffee or anything, but that's just how your tastebuds work. So whether you drink hot or cold coffee really just depends on what flavor experience you're looking to get from coffee.

"At the bottom line, if it tastes good, you just kind of know."

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Heather Hoch is a music, food, and arts writer based in Tucson. She enjoys soup, scotch, Electric Light Orchestra, and walking her dog, Frodo.
Contact: Heather Hoch