How Long Should You Steep Cold Brew?

Christopher C.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Updated July 05, 2022

While cold brew coffee knows no season, it is now legally cold brew season! If your coffee doesn’t have ice in it, we will find you and offer you ice. It’s way too hot out not to take your caffeine on the rocks. Like always, we’re looking out for you, bud. We’ve been putting our office Asobu Cold Brewer to work—thing’s gonna have massive biceps by the time we’re done making cold brew. (tbh, we’ll never be done.)

And since we’re making so much, naturally, we’ve been messing around with steep times. R&D all day, every day. So, what is the difference between a coffee cold brewed for 10 hours as opposed to 24 hours, and the hours in between and beyond?

Does steep time affect a cold brew’s flavor?

Absolutely! At its extremes, a coffee steeped for 10 hours is going to taste wildly different than a coffee steeped for 24 hours. Anything short of 10 hours won’t have had the time to develop much of a flavor profile. Think of it as the La Croix of coffee—a hint of hint of coffee. Anything beyond 24 hours is going to be over-extracted and bitter, tasting of wood. Not necessarily the tasting notes you’re looking for.

Luckily, cold brew is much more forgiving than its hot counterpart. With hot coffee, you’ve got to be in the moment, pouring at the correct time, dosing the proper amount, etc. With cold brew, you literally have an entire day to get it right. All you need to focus on is approximations: about this much coffee, about this much water, about this much time. While there’s still a method to cold brew, you can likely still make a delicious batch by accident, or with minimal effort. That’s part of what makes it great!

What does cold brew coffee taste like at different steep times?

So, let’s get down to the flavor profile that develops as the coffee steeps. We’ll cold brew Fog Kicker as an example. Our new FRC Cold Brew Blend was formulated for cold brew, so using it for this would feel like kind of a copout. On with Fog Kicker, a true OG.

10 hours: A shorter steep time, like a high elevation growing environment, is great for bringing out the fruity, floral flavors of a coffee, with mild acidity. At 10 hours, Fog Kicker’s mild cherry flavors will be apparent. As we let it steep, that delicate flavor will take on a Maillard underscore. Maillard flavors are those browned and sweet notes (chocolate, toasted almond, caramel) that the roasting process adds to or helps highlight in the beans.

15 hours: This is an hour past the Toddy Consumer’s minimum steep time. The coffee will still be relatively bright and fruity, but the cherry flavor will have a mild caramel accompaniment. Here’s where cold brewing starts to make a coffee shine. Coffees that are naturally more wine-like and floral (like African coffee) do best cold-brewed between 15 – 20 hours.

20 hours: By this time, Fog Kicker’s caramel notes will be fully present, with a clean finish. The cherry notes will have lightened up a bit but stayed front and center. Really, you could remove the grounds, dilute your concentrate, and enjoy it now, but we’ll take it a little bit further. For educational purposes.

24 hours: The rule for cold brew is the longer you steep, the stronger your brew. Maxing out the steep time on this coffee will yield a bold, caramel-forward brew. The cherry flavors will still be around, but it’ll be a little trickier to find them. If you plan on adding creamer, sweetener, or syrup to your cup, this steep time is ideal. Not only do Maillard (browned and sweet) flavors shine at the tail end of a cold brew, your favorite mix-ins will actually benefit the cup by adding back in some of the flavors that may have gotten lost along the way, such as vanilla or blueberry. Your additions will also help smooth out any unwanted flavors in your cup.

Why is cold brew so popular?

Cold brew might just be the easiest way to enjoy coffee. It requires minimal effort, and you get a huge return. Finance bros call it “ROI.” Really, whether you’re a coffee pro or an average Joe, cold brew is the way to go. (Oooh, nice rhyme.) It’s delicious, refreshing, infinitely customizable, and easy to make at home, so go brew a batch.

How do you make cold brew?

Our new FRC Cold Brew Filter Packs are a great introduction to the cold brew life. Each bag contains 6 pairs of filter packs, enough to brew up to 1 ½ gallons of cold brew concentrate! And that’s just concentrate. If you don’t want to be a jittery mess sipping on straight concentrate, you can make a heck of a lot more than 1 ½ gallons. Each filter pack pair will yield approximately 32 oz. of concentrate.

Here’s how to make cold brew with FRC Filter Packs.

  1. Place 2 filter packs in a large, sealable container and saturate with 4 cups of fresh, filtered water. Stir gently.
  2. Let it sit for 14 – 20 hours at room temp or in the fridge.
  3. Carefully remove the filter packs and add 3 - 4 cups of water to your concentrate.
  4. Stir well and serve however you like.

And if you’re looking into a cold brewer, here’s how to brew in the Asobu Cold Brew Maker.

  1. Coarsely grind about 78g (2.75 oz.) of Fresh Roasted Coffee (Cold Brew Blend is a great place to start, but any coffee will do!)
  2. Add your coffee to the mesh cone filter. Shake to level out the grounds.
  3. Slowly saturate with 946g (about 1 liter) of fresh, cold water.
  4. Screw the top on and make sure the rubber stopper is closed.
  5. Let it brew for 20 – 24 hours. The waiting is the hardest part.
  6. Open the rubber stopper, hit the switch to decant your brew, dilute to your taste, and enjoy!

FYI, cold brew makes a great centerpiece. Everyone at the function will adore you. We promise.

1 Comment

  • F
    flatflo

    I love the sciencing of food & drink! How does fridging the brewing stage affect taste or optimal time? How about grind? When you say “coarse” do you mean 10 on my conical burr grinder where 1 is powder and 10 reminds me of aquarium pebbles? Thank you!

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    Team FRC

    Letting your cold brew steep in the fridge will actually result in a lighter-tasting coffee. Because heat helps with extraction, your kitchen countertop is the best place to steep your cold brew. Make sure you refrigerate it after, though! By coarse, we mean 10 on your grinder. Hope this helps!

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