It’s not complicated to make the world’s favorite drink. Take coffee, water, brew, give it a swish, and you’re done. But a great cup of coffee, now, that’s a different thing altogether, And the perfect cup of coffee, if there is such a thing, is in a league of its own. There are many methods of brewing coffee, but cold brewing has gained popularity in recent years. Several factors contribute to brewing characteristics, but generally cold brewing results in less bitterness, a smoother texture, and subtle flavors.
Determining the ideal coffee ratio is the most important part of cold brewing and has the greatest impact on the coffee in the cup. There is lots to know, and lots to discover.
What is the coffee ratio?
The concept of the coffee ratio is pretty simple. It is the ratio of ground coffee to water. It is the formula you apply to get the ideal strength, viscosity, and flavor.
Think about good old drip coffee. The number of” scoops” of ground coffee you put in the filter determines whether the coffee is strong or weak. But how big is a scoop? How much water to use. It’s all imprecise, but it does make a difference. The ideal characteristics of cold brew, demands careful attention to coffee ratio. You need to find the perfect balance between consistent brewing and ideal flavor.
Why cold brew coffee ratio matters?
You’ve decided to use the cold brewing method for one reason; you like the flavor it produces. Many specialty coffee retailers will offer beans that are ideal for cold brew. Most people prefer a darker roast because the rich flavor profile makes for a better cup of coffee, and cold brewing can highlight the chocolate, nutty, caramel, and spice tones. For cold brew, the coffee ratio is essential because the extraction time is much longer, and the coarse grinds expose less of the beans themselves.
Here's the big difference between cold brew and other coffee brewing methods. You are not brewing regular coffee you are making a concentrate. Because the extraction is happening over a much longer period creating a coffee concentrate is possible. The coffee ratio for a concentrate is more complex because the extraction is happening at a lower temperature.
What variables impact the coffee ratio?
With cold brew, there are considerably more variables impacting coffee ratio than any other brewing method. That makes sense because the extraction takes place over hours rather than minutes. You have less control over the actual extraction and more to consider upfront. But the more variables you have, the more precision, and that’s a good thing.
Here are the variables influencing your cold brew coffee ratio:
· The coarseness of the grind
· The amount of coffee per liter of water
· The water temperature and environment
· The desired level of coffee concentration
· The length of time for the extraction
One other thing to keep in mind is the beans themselves are another huge variable. The perfect ratio for one blend may not be ideal for other beans. Drawing out nuanced flavors may require an entirely different ratio.
How to determine the ideal ratio?
Traditional brewing with hot water uses a ratio of 1 gram of coffee to 15-18 milliliters of water. This ratio is written as 1:15, 1:16, and so on. The ratio used affects flavor. Generally, most people agree to the following guidelines:
· 1:15 tastes concentrated and bright
· 1:16 tastes smooth and bright
· 1:17 tastes smooth and rounded
· 1:18 tastes lighter and rounded
Remember, these are the general guidelines for brewing coffee with hot water.
Now, let’s look at ratios for cold brew. The extraction is taking place over many hours enabling greater coffee concentration and then diluting later. For cold brew, you will want to use a ratio between 1:10 and 1:14. The majority of people tend to use 1:12 as their preferred ratio.
When you change the coffee ratio, cold brew, by the process itself, makes monitoring the impact difficult. If you think of making an espresso, you adjust the ratio and taste a shot. But cold brew takes much longer, up to sixteen hours, to extract. Only After waiting out that time and then diluting the concentration, will you taste the difference made by the adjustment. By the way, to dilute your cold brew to a 1:10 ratio, you need to mix 1 part concentrate and 4 parts water.
Where to start?
There are a lot of recipes online for making cold brew. But recipes are based on one person’s experience and taste preference. At least in the beginning you should determine for yourself what you like and what you don’t. What you are wanting in the cup is a personal preference, and if you’re a coffee aficionado, you’re going to want to play around anyway.
Let’s look at where you should start in determining your perfect cold brew ratio. You can adjust as you go along, but here is the best way to start.
It may go without saying, grinding beans yourself immediately before starting an extraction goes a long way to getting the most flavor out of the bean. Grinding beans right before brewing ensures freshness. and releases the oils at the best time possible. Oxygen levels negatively impact coffee flavor so the longer you can keep the beans whole helps prevent degradation. Don't go out and buy an expensive grinder. For cold brew, the size of the grind is not a critical factor. All you need is a grind with a texture similar to kosher sea salt. You can try different grind sizes, but this mostly impacts the required extraction time.
Start with a 1 gram to 12 milliliters of water ratio. In other words, you’re going to use a 1:12 ratio. For cold brew, the recommended range is 1:10 to 1:14, so this puts you safely in the middle. After your first extraction, if the coffee lacks flavor, try using a 1:10 ratio. If the flavors are too pronounced, change the ratio to 1:14. Be careful here, less water will increase concentration and shorter extraction time, making it harder for the beans to give up all their goodness.
Cold brew extraction ranges from twelve to twenty-four hours. Too short an extraction results in a sour taste, while too long an extraction makes the concentrate bitter. For the first time, extract for sixteen hours. This should give you a pretty good idea of the expected concentration of the coffee. If you want to conserve a bit of time, you can stop at twelve hours for your first go.
Remember, cold brew creates a coffee concentrate. The rich, beautiful liquid is expected to be diluted before it is served. This may not be the case depending on the equipment used. If you have bought a cold brew device, check themanufacture's recommendation
Once you have extracted your first cold brew try diluting by using 1 part concentrate and four parts water. Getting this right is the easiest part of the process. After such a long wait for the extraction, you can find the dilution that works best for you. Friends and family may like a different dilution ratio, so keep that in mind. The majority of cold brew drinkers will put ice in the coffee. As the ice melts, the dilution increases. So, try it with ice as well. If you're new to cold brew, don't confuse it with iced coffee. For iced coffee, a traditional hot water brew is chilled and ice is added. Cold brew, on the other hand, has been extracted slowly at low temperatures. Taste the two separately. You will never confuse them again.
The coffee ratio is a personal choice.
There are no hard and fast rules for the cold brew coffee ratio. In this post, some basics have been explained along with some general guidelines to get you started. But, at the end of the day, it comes right down to your idea of the perfect cup of coffee.
When you try and follow chemistry to make cold brew coffee, the result can't hope to be satisfying. If it were this simple, every cup of cold brew from every coffee shop would taste the same. Coffee would become nothing more than a drink and cold brew nothing more than a brewing method. How sad would that be?
Experimenting with cold brew coffee ratios is a lot of fun. The whole process of making cold brew is engaging. For many hours you'll have the steeping pot on the kitchen counter, and that along with sparks a lot of questions from family and friends. You can wax on about it for just as long as the extraction itself.
Finally, you've found that elusive perfect cup of coffee. At least for now.