Cold-brew coffee offers many benefits over hot brew coffee, including it is less acidic; therefore, it has a smoother, sweeter taste and is gentler on the stomach, which causes many people to prefer it over traditional coffee.
It can also be heated for a steamy, hot cup of Joe any time you want like traditional hot brew coffee; however, since it is the cold brew process that contributes to its various benefits over hot brewed coffee, which is prepared using hot water, it may cause you to wonder does heating cold brew coffee make it acidic like traditional coffee.
What Makes Coffee Acidic?
The acidity of coffee depends on various factors, including the soil in which the coffee plant is grown, as well as the elevation, or height, at which it is grown, which contributes to the overall pH level.
For instance, some coffee plants are grown in volcanic soil, which can be highly acidic, and thus also increase the acidity of the plant. Coffee is grown in higher, harder-to-reach altitudes also tend to be more acidic, as higher altitudes produce harder beans with more concentrated qualities.
Meanwhile, the coffee beans themselves also contain a wide range of acids, such as chlorogenic acids (CGAs), which are the main acids responsible for coffee’s acidic taste. However, they also contain some of the same acids also found in citrus fruits, which lend to the coffee’s fruity undertones.
Which acids are more pronounced in the coffee, will depend on the roasting process, as to how long the coffee beans are roasted or heated, will determine how acidic they are, as well as how much the unique flavor profile shines through. As a general rule, the darker the roast, or the more you roast the beans, the less acidic the coffee will be.
Exposing the coffee beans to hot water also makes the coffee more acidic because it releases the oils and acidic compounds that give coffee its acidity.
Not brewing coffee long enough can also increase its acidity. Brewing coffee helps release its sugars, which gives the coffee a sweeter taste. Therefore, the longer you brew it, the more it allows the sugars to be released from the beans for a better-tasting coffee.
However, if you don’t brew coffee long enough, it prevents the sugars from being fully extracted from the beans, which can result in a more acidic cup of coffee. But be careful not to brew coffee for too long because it can make it taste sour.
If your coffee grounds are too coarse, it can also prevent the flavor of the coffee from being released, which can also result in a more acidic cup of coffee.
Related Article: Does Milk Make Coffee Less Acidic? 5 Key Benefits
What Makes Cold Brew Coffee Less Acidic?
Cold brew coffee is made using the same beans used to make hot brew coffee; however, it is the process by which cold brew coffee is made that makes it less acidic than hot brew coffee.
To make cold brew coffee, coffee grounds are steeped in cool or room temperature water for at least 12 hours and then strained through a fine mesh, coffee filter, layered cheesecloth, sieve, or French press, which then provides a coffee-infused water that is up to 60% lower in acids than traditional coffee, so it won’t harm your stomach.
With the majority of acid removed from cold brew coffee, it also enables more of the coffee’s sweeter notes to be detected, such as fruits and chocolate, for a more flavorful coffee as opposed to the acidic or burnt taste often associated with the hot brew.
And since the coffee grounds have never been exposed to heat, it means the chemistry of the cold brew coffee won’t change once it has been prepared. This means, rather you use the coffee concentrate to prepare iced coffee, or you simply add it to your favorite drink, the flavor is locked in, so the coffee’s qualities will remain the same.
You might also find our alkaline coffee explainer helpful.
Why Does Heating Cold Brew Coffee Not Make It Acidic?
When you heat coffee grounds, it is the hot water that releases the oils and acidic compounds in coffee, which makes hot brew coffee more acidic. However, since cold brew coffee is prepared using cool or room temperature water to steep the beans, it means fewer oils and acidic compounds are released during the process, resulting in a less acidic coffee.
Once cold brew coffee has been steeped, strained, and made into a concentrate, it means the coffee’s make-up is preserved. Therefore, whatever you choose to do with it next, won’t alter its contents.
However, the same is not true for hot brew coffee. In fact, from the moment the hot brewing process starts, it begins to activate the acid compounds in coffee and only continues to release them once the coffee has been brewed. As the coffee continues to sit, the acids undergo certain chemical reactions that change the level of acidity in the coffee; hence, coffee that has been sitting for a while is usually highly acidic.
Ultimately, since with cold brew coffee, the beans have never been hot, it eliminates the change in temperature, so the flavor is locked in, and its chemistry remains the same, providing a more stable solution, no matter how long it sits. Because the chemistry remains the same, it also means you won’t require the use of new beans to make the coffee, so the fewer oils and acidic compounds extracted during the cold brew process that makes the coffee less acidic in the first place, are also still absent, so even when you heat cold brew coffee, its acidic content won’t change.
How To Heat Cold Brew Coffee
To heat cold brew coffee, begin by diluting the coffee concentrate with a two to one, or one to one ratio of water and coffee. The diluted mixture can then be heated using one of the various heating methods, including poured into a pot and then warmed on the stove over medium-high heat until the concoction reaches the preferred temperature. You can also simply add the cold brew coffee to a cup or mug and then add boiling water to the cup to heat the coffee.
Does Serving Hot Brew Coffee Cold Make it Less Acidic?
Since the hot brew coffee process exposes the coffee beans to heat, which releases the acids and oils in them, once you hot brew the coffee, the acids are there. This means, no matter how you choose to serve the hot brew coffee once it is brewed, it will not change its chemistry.
However, serving hot brew coffee cold or over ice may help soothe your digestive system because it is cold, so it is less likely to upset your stomach as much.
Are There Any Ways to Make Hot Brew Coffee Less Acidic?
The best way to ensure hot brew coffee is less acidic is to cold-brew it then heat it. However, it is possible to make hot brew coffee itself less acidic, though it may not be as low acid as cold brew coffee. Choosing a darker roasted coffee can also help make hot brew coffee less acidic, as lighter roast coffees have a higher acidity.
Choosing a coffee comprised of 100% Arabica beans will also help ensure the coffee has a low acidity level, as Arabica beans are naturally low in acid. Coffee grown in lower altitudes and in non-volcanic soil also tend to have a lower acidity level, so stick to coffee grown in these regions, such as Sumatra and Brazil, whose coffee is lower in acid.
If you increase the brew time of your hot brew coffee, but not too much, and stick with coarse coffee grounds over finer ones, it will also help reduce the acid level. Lastly, adding milk to your hot brew coffee may also help lower the acidity level.
Does Hot Cold Brew Coffee Offer the Same Benefits as Hot Brew Coffee?
Since cold brew coffee is derived from the same coffee beans as hot brew coffee, it offers many of the same benefits as hot brew coffee, sans the high acidity level, due to the cold brew process. Hot brew coffee also has a higher antioxidant content, which is believed to be due to the presence of titratable acids, which is the total acid concentration in coffee and other foods.
Otherwise, some other benefits of coffee include improved focus and energy level, and it has also been shown to help lower the chance of developing type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, depression, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s Disease.