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In The Family
What Makes Cold Brew Different From Regular Iced Coffee?

And why is it the darling of the specialty coffee world?

Ten years ago, iced coffee carried no ambiguity. It was coffee. Cold. With ice. But today’s iced coffee options are legion: Beyond the standard, made from hot coffee chilled with ice, there’s Japanese iced coffee, brewed hot with double the normal quantity of beans and directly over ice for an instant cold cup. And there’s cold brew: a fat portion of grounds steeped overnight in minimal cold water to produce a sludgy concentrate of caffeinated rocket fuel. Strain and dilute with fresh water for a cup of coffee so easy you never had to boil water. But cold brew fans love the method for more than mere convenience.

Compared to standard iced coffee, cold brews tend to be sweeter and less bitter, often with a thicker, more velvety body. That’s because certain tannins and acids in coffee beans—the compounds that give coffee its bitterness and astringency—don’t get extracted at low temperatures. The downside of this method is an iced coffee that reveals less of the bean’s full character. But if you have a sensitive stomach or just prefer your coffee on the sweeter side, it’s just the thing.

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Max Falkowitz

Max Falkowitz is a food and travel writer for The New York Times, Saveur, GQ, New York magazine’s Grub Street, and other outlets. He’s also the coauthor of The Dumpling Galaxy Cookbook with Helen You.