Can I Heat Up Cold Brew Coffee? (yes, here’s how!)

I love cold brew coffee. It’s strong in flavor but low in acidity. But I’ve wondered can I heat up cold brew coffee?

Here’s what I learned:

Yes, you can heat up cold brew coffee! While it might affect the taste slightly, there is no risk of heating a cold brew and drinking it hot. Adding hot water to the cold brew keeps the acidity lower than heating the coffee itself.

But there’s a lot more to know about heating cold brew than just sticking it in a microwave. So let’s keep going!

Rocket fuel, Joe, Java, Bean juice ‒ whatever you want to call it, there is no better way to start your day. However, before you start heating your cold brews, there are a few heating techniques that you will want to know about.

In this article, we’ll review cold brew in general. But we’ll also look at how it differs from traditional iced coffee. More importantly, we’ll answer the question of “can I heat up cold brew coffee?” And we’ll review the best ways of doing that.

Let’s dive in!

What is the difference between cold brew and iced coffee?

The primary difference between cold brew and iced coffee is the way they’re brewed.

Cold brew coffee is brewed with either cold or room temperature water. The ground beans are soaked in the water for anywhere between twelve and forty-eight hours.

What you end up with is a much more concentrated coffee that is perfect for pouring over ice. Even as the ice cubes melt, your coffee won’t taste watered down.

It may even taste a bit too strong at first. Cold brew coffee is known for being slightly sweeter and milder in flavor. It is also known to pack a more intense buzz, as well.

And because the coffee and water sit in unison for more time, the caffeine concentration of cold brew is higher. On average, you can expect a cup of cold brew to have about ten to twenty more milligrams of caffeine than an iced coffee.

On the other hand, you brew iced coffee like any hot coffee. It is your typical hot coffee that is cooled down (time-permitting) and then poured over ice.

One of the main benefits of iced coffee is convenience. For most people, it only takes about ten minutes to brew, or even just the touch of a button for those of us with machines.

Of course, you will also need to take the cooldown time into account. However, the cooldown time differs depending on many different factors.

As for the flavor, iced coffee is known for having a bolder flavor profile than that of cold brew coffee.

You can add some taste to both types of coffee with milk, cream, sugar, flavored syrups, cinnamon, or any other condiments that you enjoy.

How do you heat cold brew coffee?

This may seem like a silly question to some. But there are quite a few ways to heat cold brew coffee. And some of those are better than others. Something to remember here is that cold brew coffee is more concentrated than your traditional cup of joe.

For this reason, the most popular way to warm up this drink is by adding boiling water.

You should first warm up your coffee cup by filling it with boiling water and then dumping it out. The effect is similar to when you’re at a restaurant, and your crisp salad comes in a cold bowl.

From here, you will fill the coffee cup halfway with cold brew and then finish it off with boiling water. This method results in a cup of coffee that is hot enough to warm your insides, but not hot enough to burn your throat.

Another way that you can heat the cold brew is by bringing it to a boil on the stove.

If you’re looking for a way to drink it warm without watering it down, this would be a better option for you. One thing to be cautious of is not to let it sit on the burner for too long, as this can result in burnt coffee.

Using a microwave is also an option, but it should be your last resort if you want to preserve the flavor.

Note: With all of these slow-heat methods, the rising temperature of the cold brew does give the coffee more time to oxidize, which can slightly change the flavor.

What happens when you heat cold brew coffee?

There’s no need to pull out the science safety gear.

Heating your cold brew coffee will only bring about a few chemical compound composition changes; it’s nothing that you can’t handle.

You probably won’t even notice it; only those with a delicate palate are likely to discern the subtle changes.

Although there are over thirty types of acid in one cup of coffee, only two come into play as you heat your cold brew: chlorogenic acid and quinic acid.

As these acids are heated up, their compositions are slowly altered, releasing what is commonly referred to as a “sour” taste.

The other acids are much less affected by the heating process and lend themselves to the boldness and rounded flavors that we find in our favorite cups.

An excellent example of a time that you may have tasted coffee that was affected by these chemicals is:

  • At the airport
  • Fast food restaurants
  • A hotel breakfast
  • Or a greasy spoon diner

These places will often make a large batch of coffee and leave it sitting on a hot burner, sometimes for hours.

The upside of a large, long-burning batch is that you don’t need to wait for more than two seconds for your coffee. The downside is that it’s not fresh and may taste acidic or sour.

One way to get great flavor for your hot coffee, even if you plan to later turn it into iced coffee, it to brew it as hot as possible.

In a recent article, I break down which coffee makers make the hottest coffee. What really surprised me was just how much they vary in temperature compared to the temperatures coffee shops like Starbucks use.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Does heating cold brew coffee increase acidity?

The acidity content of the coffee depends on how you heat it. As mentioned, the best way to heat the cold brew is to add hot water to it.

When you take on a different heating method, the science we mentioned earlier comes into play and can change the flavor of the beverage. When coffee is heated (and reheated), compounds like chlorogenic and quinic acid are released.

These acids are naturally occurring compounds in every coffee, but increasing the levels of them gives the coffee a more acidic flavor.

For this reason, heating the water instead of the coffee and adding it to the cold brew is much less likely to result in an acidic flavor.

Aside from using great coffee beans, another way to get the best flavor for your coffee, hot or iced, is by using a French Press.

The detractors say it’s time-consuming and doesn’t make big enough batches. But the purists swear by them and won’t use anything else. In a recent article, I break down both sides and examine whether or not a French Press is worth it.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Is it okay to heat an iced coffee – and is that different than heating a cold brew?

Yes, it is okay to heat iced coffee.

Honestly, you are just returning it to its original state before you added the ice. The difference here is that hot-brewed coffee (the base of iced coffee) is not concentrated like cold brew coffee is.

What that means is that the recommended way to heat your cold brew coffee will not work as well for heating iced coffee. Unless you are looking for an incredibly weak cup of coffee, you will not want to add any excess water to your iced coffee.

The best way to heat iced coffee is either on the stove or in the microwave.

The stove on a low-heat setting is your best bet. However, you do run the risk of burning it, so you will need to be attentive.

Did I cover all you wanted to know about heating up cold brew coffee?

In this article, we took an in-depth look into the world of cold brew coffee.

We explored how it differs from iced coffee, and answered the question can I heat up cold brew coffee? But we also explored the best ways to heat up cold brew while keeping the flavor and acidity intact.

What’s your favorite way to drink coffee?

If anyone is on the keto diet, you might be surprised to learn that you can drink cold brew, iced coffee, and even lattes from your favorite coffee shop and not blow your ketosis.

The key, which I break down in a recent article, is in knowing exactly how to order your drinks. Just click that link to read my complete guide on my site.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff was a leader for Whole Foods Market for over 2 decades and is now a recovering foodie. When he's not spending time in the kitchen, he can usually be found with his wife & 3 daughters, he can usually be found practicing martial arts, making music, or blogging on his other sites. Click to learn more about me

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