Can You Heat Cold Brew Coffee? (Would it Still Taste Good?)

Can You Heat Cold Brew Coffee

If you love your coffee, you might wonder about all the different ways to enjoy coffee – a cappuccino, an espresso, a latte, iced coffee, and even cold brew coffee.

But what happens if you were to warm up cold brew coffee? Would it still taste good or are you best sticking to it cold? In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about heating cold brew coffee. 

For those with not much time to spare, the quick answer is yes. Cold brew coffee is ok to be heated – but you should really stick around to discover the best way to do it!

What Is Cold Brew?

A lot of people enjoy hot coffee all year round, but for some, the summer months mean a delicious, iced coffee or cold brew. Unlike iced coffee, which is typically made hot then cooled with ice, cold brew is never heated. 

Hot cold brew coffee can be really nice if heated the right way.

To make cold brew, coffee grounds are steeped in cold water for between 12 and 18 hours, or longer.

After brewing, the grounds are strained, and the coffee is chilled before serving or ice is added. It can also be diluted with more cold water.

Cold brew coffee is often preferred for its less acidic and smoother flavor, and so it appeals to people who like a milder coffee.

As it’s brewed in water at room temperature, the coffee doesn’t undergo the chemical changes that hot water causes and so it is not as bitter.

Iced Coffee vs Cold Brew.

With its longer brewing time, many people might question why people prefer cold brew coffee at all. However, when compared to iced coffee, cold brew doesn’t lose any of its flavor.

When you add ice to hot coffee, it dilutes the coffee flavor. You can counteract this by doubling the strength of the coffee for iced coffee, but this also doubles the bitterness and acidity.

With cold brew, you get the deliciousness of cold coffee without bitterness and acidity.

How to Make Cold Brew.

You can make cold brew at home quite easily. All you need is some freshly ground coffee, something to brew it in, and a way of filtering it afterward. If you already have a French press pot or coffee filter paper, you’re good to go. 

In terms of rations, you need to put between 4-10 parts cold water to one part coffee (in weight), cover the pot, and let it steep for between 12 and 18 hours. After brewing, strain it, chill it, then serve.

Hot cold brew can be as nice or even better than regular hot brewed coffee.

Many people prefer to make up a cold brew concentrate that needs to be diluted to its desired strength. This means it takes up less space and you can make more per batch. 

Can You Heat Cold Brew Coffee?

So, back to our original question. Can you heat up cold brew coffee?

If you ask a coffee snob, they’ll tell you absolutely no way should you be heating cold brew coffee. But they’re wrong. It is possible and if done correctly, it tastes great. 

How to Heat Cold Brew Coffee.

How you warm up your cold brew depends on if it’s a concentrate or not. If you’ve made a concentrate that needs diluting with water, then the simple thing to do is to boil some water and dilute the cold brew with hot water instead of cold water.

Typically, if you dilute on a 1:5 ratio, maintain that ratio with hot water. Diluting your concentrate in this way will produce a cup that’s at perfect drinking temperature already.

Dilute Cold Brew Concentrate with Heated Milk.

If you like a latte, you can use hot milk to mix with your cold brew concentrate.

Bear in mind, though, that milk tends to dilute the flavor of coffee compared to adding water so you might want to add more cold brew concentrate to the brew. 

Heating up Cold Brew. (not Concentrate)

If you’ve made a ready-to-drink cold brew, you’ll need to heat it up another way. If you have a microwave, that’s one way to do it. Or you can simply put it into a saucepan and heat it up on the stove.

Using a Microwave to Heat up Cold Brew Coffee.

Microwaves don’t heat things up evenly, so you need to be cautious when heating up cold brew coffee in this way.

You should use your microwave to heat it up in short bursts, then stir in between to even out the heat.

Make sure you heat up your cold brew coffee slowly in short 15 second bursts.

For example, heat it for fifteen seconds, stir it, heat it for a further fifteen seconds, stir it again, and keep going until it has been heated for around one minute.

Don’t forget though, that metal and microwaves don’t mix, so make sure you remove the spoon whenever you’re stirring your coffee!

Using the Stove to Heat up Cold Brew Coffee.

The best way is probably on the stove. You should pour the cold brew into a saucepan and warm it on the lowest heat possible.

With a non-metallic spoon, stir the brew continuously to ensure that no parts are overheated. 

When you use a saucepan, the heat distribution is much better than in a microwave and as long as you’re watchful, you can’t overcook or overheat it. 

You should make sure that you only heat your cold brew to a perfect drinking temperature – never allow it to boil! Once ready, just pour into a mug and enjoy. 

Are There Any Disadvantages to Heating Cold Brew Coffee?

If cold brew is all you have and you really want a hot coffee, there’s no disadvantage to warming it up. However, if you could just make a fresh coffee, it’s arguably better to do so.

Drinking a heated cup of cold brew is more like for emergency coffee situations rather than something you’d choose to do regularly. 

For a start, cold brew coffee takes a long time to brew and so by heating it, you’re wasting all that brewing time when you could just make a fresh coffee!

If I Heat Cold Brew, Will It Become Acidic Like Fresh Hot Coffee?

No. The acidity of a coffee comes from the process of it brewing. After the cold brew has been brewed and filtered, it’s impossible for it to become acidic as the grounds are no longer present.

It can, however, start to taste stale or bitter as it reacts with oxygen in the air, but this will happen over a few days and not immediately. 

Another thing to note about heating cold brew is that you can ruin its flavor and taste by heating it too quickly. It’s always best to slowly heat cold brew to avoid this. 

Does Heated Cold Brew Taste Different from Fresh Coffee?

When you heat cold brew, you don’t get the acidic flavor of hot coffee so it will taste different. It will also have a different taste compared to being served cold too.

This is because heating it speeds up the oxidization process, which causes bitterness. This is why it’s important to heat the cold brew slowly.  

This phenomenon is not limited to heating cold brew. There’s a reason why coffee experts say that the best temperature for brewing hot coffee is between 195˚F and 205˚ (90.5˚C to 96˚C).

Anything over this range will produce bitter coffee. Brewing below this range and the water will struggle to extract the flavor and you’ll have an underdeveloped coffee that might be sour tasting.

Final Thoughts.

If you’re in desperate need of hot coffee but only have cold brew, by all means, heat it following the methods in this article.

However, if you have the means to brew a fresh cup of hot coffee, it’s always the best thing to do.

Heating cold brewed coffee isn’t a sustainable way to make coffee at all, but if you like the smoothness and reduced acidity of cold brew then look for some coffee grounds that offer this experience with a hot cup!

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