Can You Heat Up Cold Brew Coffee?

Cold brew coffee is widely popular nowadays, with plenty of coffee lovers preferring to use cold brewing as opposed to hot brewing whenever possible for a better coffee drinking experience. As cold brew coffee brings a unique taste to the table after a fairly convenient brewing process, there is no surprise that it is preferred by many.

Since cold brew coffee is inherently cold due to being brewed cold, it’s mostly enjoyed as a cold beverage. While a cold cup of coffee is something that we definitely enjoy on a summer day, it doesn’t translate well to the cold days where we would rather have a hot beverage instead.

That being said, what makes cold brew special is the unique flavor profile it brings rather than the fact that it’s a cold coffee drink, which is why you may be wondering whether you can use your cold brew to make a warm cup of coffee that you can enjoy on a cold day. If we can make iced coffee from coffee that is brewed hot, we should be able to make hot coffee from cold brew, right?

The quick answer is yes. You can indeed heat your cold brew and enjoy it warm. The heating process will affect your cold brew to a certain level where you may notice a slight difference in taste, but there is no harm in doing so.

To begin with, let’s do a quick recap on what cold brew is, as this will help us better understand the effects of heating it.

What is Cold Brew?

Unlike regular brewing methods that use hot water, cold brewing is a unique brewing method where cold water is used for the brewing process instead. As cold brewing makes it possible to extract coffee grounds in a very optimal way where the end product is quite rich in coffee flavor and low in acidity and bitterness, it quickly became one of the most preferred ways of brewing coffee.

While cold brewing is fairly convenient as all it requires is for coffee grounds to steep in water, it comes with a small downside of requiring a lot of time. As you know, hot brewing requires the water temperature to be roughly 95 degrees Celsius for optimal extraction, and cold water doesn’t come anywhere close to this.

For this reason, the brewing time needs to be increased to ensure that coffee grounds are optimally extracted. The time required for the cold brew to be ready can take anywhere between 12 and 18 hours, meaning that you will most likely have to prepare it a day before for it to be ready for drinking.

The end product of the cold brewing process is a very strong coffee extract, which is why water or milk is added to it to get it ready for drinking. It’s important that you only add water to the extract you will be drinking and save the rest without diluting it to ensure maximum shelf life.

Cold brew can stay in the refrigerator for a week or two before it goes bad, allowing you to make larger batches if you wish to, as having to wait hours every time you would like to have a cup of cold brew can be quite inconvenient.

With that, let’s get down to whether you should be heating your cold brew up or not. 

Should You Heat Your Cold Brew Coffee Up?

While we have mentioned that there is no harm in heating your cold brew earlier, you may be wondering whether the rich flavor that is gained by the cold brewing process is lost by heating it or not. After all, it would be pointless to wait such a long time for your cold brew to be ready if all will be lost when it’s heated.

Even though there are misconceptions about how heating your cold brew ruins it, this is quite far from the truth. The reason why cold brew coffee tastes as it does isn’t caused by serving it cold but brewing it cold. The brewing process is where how your coffee will turn out is largely determined, which is why it doesn’t matter whether it’s served hot or cold.

For this reason, heating the cold brew after the brewing process is over won’t heavily impact the taste of your drink other than the slight taste difference caused by the increase in temperature. While heat indeed speeds the oxidation process up to a certain level and causes your coffee to lose its flavor more quickly, it would be completely wrong to say that heating your cold brew makes it no different from hot brewed coffee.

In fact, you most likely won’t even notice the difference in taste due to how minimal it is, so feel free to warm your cold brew and enjoy it. That being said, optimally heating your cold brew is important to ensure a good coffee experience, which is why we will be talking about it next.

How to Heat Cold Brew Coffee Up?

Here are a few different methods you can use to warm your cold brew.

With Hot Water

We recommend following this method as it is the most foolproof way of heating your cold brew.

  1. Start with warming water on the stovetop or in an electric kettle.
  2. When your water is ready, pour some hot water into your cup and let it stay there for a few seconds. This process will pre-warm your cup so that your coffee doesn’t rapidly drop in temperature.
  3. Get rid of the water, and add the cold brew extract to your cup.
  4. Add hot water on top of the cold brew extract.
  5. Enjoy!

On the Stove

  1. Start with adding your cold brew extract and some water to a stovetop kettle.
  2. Adjust your stove to low-medium heat, and place your kettle over the stovetop.
  3. Wait until your coffee reaches the desired temperature. A kitchen thermometer can prove to be useful to ensure that your coffee doesn’t end up too cold or too hot. If you don’t have a kitchen thermometer, make sure to frequently check the temperature as you don’t want the water to reach the boiling point.
  4. Pre-warm your cup by pouring some hot water into it and letting it stay there for a few seconds.
  5. Remove the water and pour the coffee into your cup.
  6. Enjoy!

Microwave

As this method may not produce the best results, we can only recommend using it as a last resort.

  1. Start with adding cold brew extract into the cup.
  2. Add room temperature water to the cup to dilute the extract.
  3. Place your cup in the microwave and heat it for roughly a minute. Since the time required depends on your microwave setting, you might have to adjust the time accordingly.
  4. Enjoy!

Does Heating Up Cold Brew Make It More Acidic?

One of the big reasons why cold brew is preferred is its low acidity compared to coffee that is brewed hot. For this reason, it’s only natural to wonder whether heating your cold brew will increase acidity.

Since acidity mainly comes from the extraction of coffee grounds, there is no source for more acidity to be released after the brewing process is over. No matter how much you warm your cold brew, you won’t make it more acidic as long as it’s not in contact with the coffee grounds anymore.

You can feel free to warm your cold brew without having to worry about increasing its acidity.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Does cold brew go bad if not refrigerated?

Yes, your cold brew will most likely not last more than a day if not refrigerated. On top of losing all of its flavors, keeping your cold brew unrefrigerated will cause it to grow harmful bacteria and mold. 

For this reason, it’s important to refrigerate your cold brew as soon as the brewing process is over. A sealed container of cold brew that is kept in the refrigerator can stay relatively fresh for up to two weeks.

Do you need special coffee for cold brew?

No, you can use any type of coffee beans for your cold brew. 

The only things that matter are the freshness of your beans and grind size. As long as you ensure that you are using fresh coffee beans and coarse grind size, your cold brew will turn out just fine.

What happens if you brew your cold brew for too long?

Letting your cold brew steep for too long will cause your coffee to be over-extracted, meaning that the bitter components of coffee grounds that aren’t supposed to be extracted with this method will make their way into the cold brew.

To get the full benefits of using the cold brew method, make sure that you conclude the brewing process after a maximum of 18 hours.

Conclusion

While there are a lot of misconceptions revolving around the effects of heating your cold brew, it’s completely safe to do it without having to worry about ruining its taste or increasing its acidity.

If you’re looking to enjoy your cold brew served hot, go ahead and give it a try!

Have a great day, and enjoy your coffee!