Coffee, one the world’s most popular drinks is a contentious topic in health circles.
In the blue corner there are a number of studies which have shown that the magnesium, chromium and antioxidants in coffee can help to reduce the risk of everything from diabetes to heart disease, certain cancers, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and strokes and a cup of coffee pre-workout has been proven to improve lean muscle growth.
On the other hand, critics argue that caffeine is a stimulant and taxes the adrenals, which for most of us are already dangerously over-stressed, as well as irritating the our insides and in some cases causing stomach ulcers. In most of the studies, the positive effects were only seen after consuming four cups or above daily. While everyone has a different level of caffeine sensitivity but four or five cups is still far more caffeine than most of us can handle given that coffee’s half-life (i.e. the amount of time your body takes to process the caffeine) of coffee is between five and seven hours. Proponents of an alkaline lifestyle (check out Honestly Healthy for more details on why alkalinity is so important for optimum health) also eschew coffee for its acidic properties.
Personally we have a love hate relationship with coffee. We go through phases without it but would be lying if we said we didn’t love a creamy (non-dairy) latte but at the moment we try to limit our consumption to one cup first thing and never later than lunchtime to avoid any negative impact on our sleep.
So while the debate continues to rage, all you coffee-lovers can rejoice as we’re here to tell you why oh-so trendy ‘cold-pressed’ coffee is actually a much healthier option than your normal Starbucks and let you into a little secret - that it’s incredibly easy to make at home!
First off, terminology is key here - to clarify cold-brew coffee is not to be confused with ‘iced coffee’ - i.e. coffee brewed with hot water poured over ice to cool. So here’s the science bit. During the normal coffee brewing process, hot water passes through the coffee particles and dissolves the various compounds. However, the heat exposure forces certain chemical reactions which ‘cook’ the particles and release oils which are full of acidic compounds and which give coffee its bitter flavour and create that archetypal ‘coffee’ aroma.
In contrast, cold- brewing eschews hot water altogether which means those acidic oils don’t dissolve which means that the chemical profile of the compounds that leach from the coffee particles is totally different. Experts estimate cold-brew coffee contains between 67 - 69% less acid than a conventional cup which is cause to celebrate for everyone striving for an alkaline balance as well as being much kinder to our digestive tracts. The result is a much smoother brew, thanks to the low-acid content aficionados claim that cold-brewing exposes all of the subtle flavours and undertones in the coffee normally lost. The lack of bitterness also means the coffee tastes naturally sweeter - most people only add sugar to coffee to counteract the bitterness.
The even better news, we feel like we are letting you in to some kind of secret club here, is that cold-brew coffee is incredibly simple to make at home! While you can buy all sorts of expensive cold-brew kit, you really don’t need it - check out our faithful, idiot-proof method below.
- Depending on how strong you like your brew, combine one cup of coarsely ground beans with between three and four cups of room temperature water and decant into a vessel with a lid (a large mason jar is ideal!).
- Stir and leave to work its magic. Leave your mixture to sit for between 12 and 20 hours. Ideally, we tend to leave ours for around 18 hours but if we’re in a hurry we’ll just leave it overnight . If you pass the jar give it a little shake every now and then although this isn’t essential.
- Post-soaking stain your mixture through a a coffee filter, or a fine mesh sieve layered with some cheesecloth. A nut milk bag would also do the trick. Voila, you have yourself the perfect cold-brew coffee concentrate that will stay good for around 10 days in the fridge.
The resulting concentrate is super versatile. Again, depending on your preference, dilute the concentrate with between one and three parts water or milk. You can even add hot liquids for a warm drink without affecting the chemical profile (i.e. low acidity) of the coffee! On hot days we’ll drink it cool but we love to whizz some up with homemade almond milk in our Vitamix for a delicious warm frothy latte. Given the lack of bitterness, the concentrate is also perfect for using in cooking or baking.
For those of you who are even lazier and don’t mind if a few grinds slip through, you can even use a French press / cafetiere, simply mix the ground coffee and water in there instead and when it’s time to filter just press down your filter.
You can even play with adding additional flavours into your mix - we love a vanilla bean scraped in to the mix and are looking forward to trying out a Cardamom twist.
With all the money you’re saving on your daily coffee habit you can afford to invest in some quality beans. Try and buy organic wherever possible as coffee tends to have a high pesticide residue and opt for fair-trade wherever possible.