Is Cold Brew Coffee Fermented?

Cold brew coffee has brought happiness to our daily lives, especially during summer, when we need a coffee drink to help us cool down or reenergize. There are only a few more satisfying things than a cool, caffeinated sip of cold brew coffee. Known for being smooth, mild, with low acidity and minimal bitterness, cold brewing is ideal for bringing out a coffee bean’s most subtle flavors. Today, we are going to tackle a fascinating topic—Is Cold Brew Coffee fermented?

Cold brewing is not fermenting, the fermentation that is sometimes related to coffee happens much earlier in the coffee-making process. Fermenting is bacteria and/or yeast eating sugar starches, while cold coffee is sitting in water thus the coffee flavor leeches out of the beans and into water.

Photo by Blake Wisz on Unsplash

What Is Fermentation And How Does It Apply to Coffee Making?

The word “ferment” originated from the Latin verb, “fervere,” which means to boil. People have used fermentation to produce foodstuffs and beverages since the Neolithic age. Fermentation is any metabolic process by which a microorganism’s activity creates a desirable change in food and beverage, where it’s increasing flavor, preserving foodstuffs, providing health benefits, and more. Cold brewing does not involve any boiling; thus, there is no fermentation involved.

Do not be confused. While cold brew coffee is not fermented, fermented coffee is, in layman’s term, coffee put through the fermentation process. Fermented coffee refers to fermented coffee not right after the harvest when it is still in cherry form, but after it has been pulped and the husk has been removed before the roast.

What is Cold-Brew Coffee

There are different ways to make iced coffee at home, but the most used is the cold brew method. To better know which beans make the best cold brew, it is imperative that we first understand cold brew. Cold brew coffee is made without any heat at all. Most often, ground coffee beans will be steeped in cold-filtered water for a long time to extract the flavor of the beans.

Cold-brew is simple; you need to mix ground coffee with cool water and steeping the mixture in the fridge overnight. Come the next day, strain the mixture, which will leave you with a strong concentrate that can be either served immediately or stored to a maximum of two weeks.

Below are some cool facts about cold brew coffee:

  • You can actually heat a cold-brew and drink it hot
  • Cold-brew is less acidic compared to regular drip coffee or espresso
  • Cold-brew takes a longer time to make compared to drip coffee
  • Cold-brew can be strong, which is affected by factors including beans used, steeping time, and dilution
  • Use the coffee variety you enjoy to make cold brew coffee

While both cold brew and French press are both unfiltered brewing methods, they are different from each other but can be enjoyed nonetheless. If you would like to know more about their differences, we have our Cold Brew vs. French Press: What’s the Difference article which takes a deeper dive to both brewing method.

The Impact of Temperature on Cold Brew Coffee’s Taste

Hot coffee is commonly extracted anywhere around 195 to 205-degree Fahrenheit (91 to 96 degrees Celsius), while the cold brew is extracted between 2 to 21 degrees Celsius. The absence of heat from the brewing process provides cold brew coffee its compelling and unique taste; however, it also means that it will require twice as many grounds and longer hours of brewing time compared to hot coffee.

One thing to note is that many of the acids and soluble responsible for light and floral notes in a coffee are solely extracted above certain temperatures. Because of this reason, cold brew coffee is ideal for people who have acidity problems since it is easy on the stomach. Remember to choose the best beans to ensure that your cold brew coffee will turn out smooth and flavorful.  

How To Make Cold Brew Coffee

Cold brew coffee is actually easy to make, and you can do it yourself at the convenience of your home. Homemade cold brew coffee is more affordable than buying it at a coffee shop and is super refreshing.

If you usually have your coffee ground when you buy it, ask it to be ground on a coarse setting. You will need 4 ounces or a scant cup for this recipe. The preparation is easy, which is around 10 minutes; the steeping time is 12 hours and will yield about 3 cups. You will need 1 cup of whole coffee beans and 4 cups of water.

A step-by-step process of making cold brew coffee:

  • Coarsely grind the coffee—the grounds should look like coarse cornmeal, not a fine powder.
  • Combine coffee and water—remember to stir gently and make sure the grounds are thoroughly saturated with water.
  • Steep overnight—make sure to cover the jar and let the coffee steep for around 12 hours.
  • Strain the coffee—line a small strainer with cheesecloth or flour sackcloth and pour the coffee through the strainer
  • Store the coffee—Transfer the coffee to a small bottle or jar and store it in your fridge for up to a week
  • Serve—dilute the coffee with as much water or milk as you like. You can either serve it over ice or warm. 

These are the 3 essential steps to craft better cold brew coffee at home:

  • Strain slowly.
  • Use a higher ratio of coffee to water.
  • Get the right grind as cold brew requires a specific grind, which keeps the brew from getting bitter overnight.

While there are a lot of coffee types available on the market today, nothing compares to a specialty coffee. If you want to know what the difference between commercial and specialty is, click here to be redirected to our article about it.

Cold Brew Coffee Variants

Cold-brew coffee can be enjoyed in a number of ways. As a twist, you can experiment by using the different ingredients and preparations below.

Maple Vanilla Cold Brew


  • 1/4 cup cold brew
  • 1/2 milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Procedure: Pour ingredients into a mason jar with a lid or a cocktail shaker. Shake it well to combine the ingredients and then pour over ice.

Mocha Cold Brew


  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1/2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure maple syrup
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup cold brew

Procedure: Add hot water, cocoa powder, syrup, cinnamon, and salt to a cocktail shaker or Mason jar with a lid. Shake until all the ingredients are combined, and the cocoa powder has been dissolved. Add milk and cold brew to the mixture and shake, then pour over ice.

Cold Brew Affogato


  • 3 small scoops of vanilla bean ice cream (1/2 cup ice cream)
  • 1/4 cup cold brew concentrate

Procedure: Scoop vanilla ice cream into a dish and pour the cold brew over top. You can add additional toppings such as chocolate chips, sprinkles, or whipped cream for example.

 Final Thoughts

By this time, you know that the fact that cold brew is not fermented. There is no perfect cold brew coffee that will work for everyone. The best cold brew is the one that tastes the best for you—do not be afraid to try different stuff and experiment. From dark or light roast, milk or cream, and even slow drip or infusion; these are all personal preferences that will influence the overall taste of a cold brew coffee.

We at The Specialty Coffee Beans aim to provide our readers with the most informative and up-to-date articles so that you will be able to stay updated. If you would like to know more about the complex and compelling coffee world, kindly click here to be redirected to our website.

Charlie McFarlane

Specialty Coffee Enthusiast. Hungry for knowledge in the art and science behind specialty coffee and decided to document my journey, sharing it with the public. +10 baristas interviewed. +20 farms toured across 5 countries. +75 Coffee Shops throughout 10 countries.

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