Can You Heat Up Cold Brew Coffee? Yes, Here’s How

Are you one of the many people thinking of microwaving their day-old cup of cold brew? 

If so, you’re probably dying to know, can you heat up cold brew coffee – or are you about to ruin a perfectly good cup of Joe. 

The short answer is that yes, you can indeed heat up cold brew coffee. 

The longer answer, however, is that it will change the flavor profile. 

If you heat up your cold brew, depending on how you go about it, you can wind up making it more or less acidic. 

Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about heating up cold brew. 

Keep reading to find out more!

First Things First: What the Heck is Cold Brew Coffee?

Even though you probably think cold brew is as new as The Weeknd’s latest album, it’s actually been around for hundreds of years. The first records of coffee date back to the 1600s in Japan. Back then, cold brew was used as a way for people to brew and serve lots of coffee at once. 

Cold brew got another honorable mention around the same time when in France, people began brewing a sweetened cold brew coffee. By the 1800s, the coffee was becoming a staple for soldiers and sailors who needed something with a long shelf life. 

Now, even though cold brew has been around for centuries, that’s not to say it hasn’t changed at all. The cold brew we enjoy today was invented in the last century when the Toddy was invented. 

This new brew method gave us a way to create cold brew quickly, efficiently, and most importantly, flavorfully!

The Difference Between Cold Brew and Iced Coffee

Many people get confused between cold brew and iced coffee. However, if you order one instead of the other you’ll have a bit of a shock when you take your first sip. That’s because the two have some key differences that make for very different flavors. 

Cold brewed coffee is made differently than iced coffee. That’s where the main difference lies. To make cold brew, you leave the beans to brew in cold water for somewhere between ten and sixteen hours. 

On the other hand, iced coffee is brewed hot and then cooled down with ice. Iced coffee tends to be much more acidic than cold brew, which is richer yet sweeter. 

Why Heat Up Cold Brew, Anyway?

If you’re not one of the coffee-microwavers  in the scenario I mentioned earlier, you’re probably wondering “why would anyone want to heat up cold brew?” After all, just because you can heat up cold brew doesn’t mean that you should.

For the most part, the reason why people heat up cold brew is to help speed up their prep time. Since they can use a cold brew concentrate to make a cup of hot coffee, it can save them time. That’s because they can skip the brewing process for their hot coffee. 

Another reason why people choose to heat up cold brew coffee is that they’re looking for a specific flavor. Heating up cold brew can make for a really smooth cup of coffee, which is some people’s cup of tea (er, I mean coffee).

Benefits of Heating Up Cold Brew

cold brew in a glass jar

Okay, so you can see a bit of value in heating up cold brew. But what are the major advantages of heating up cold brew coffee? 

After all, can’t you just get the same taste by brewing a fresh pot?

Well, the truth is that heating up your favorite cold brew concentrate comes with a couple of perks, including:

  • It can save time
  • It doesn’t dilute your coffee too much
  • It’s affordable

Let’s take a look at these benefits in a bit more detail.

Saves Time

Probably the biggest benefit of heating up cold brew is that it’s a quick way to get your caffeine fix. You can keep cold brew concentrate in your fridge and just add a tad of hot water when you’re ready to use it.

It takes a lot less time to heat up your hot water and brew your cold brew than, say, to make a pot of French press. As a result, you can save yourself time on your coffee fix when you’re in a rush.

Avoids Dilution

Another great reason to heat up your coffee is that you have a quick way to make a cup of coffee without diluting the flavor. 

If you add warm water to a cup of drip coffee to warm it up, for instance, you dilute the flavor. Suddenly your coveted cup of coffee tastes more like flavored water than a hearty cup of Joe.

In contrast, cold brew coffee is strong enough that when you add hot water, you won’t dilute the flavor significantly. Instead, you can enjoy a cup of hot cold brew coffee that still tastes rich and full-bodied.

Affordable

Reheating cold brew coffee is actually pretty affordable, too. You can buy bulk cold brew coffee concentrate and then stretch it out over several days or even a week!

The reason why this works is because of how concentrated cold brew is. You only need a little bit of the concentrate to create a great cup of coffee, making your concentrate last longer.

Just remember, you’ll still need to use your cold brew before the expiry date. If you let the coffee sit out too long, it will go bad, making your money-saving scheme backfire.

Is Heated Cold Brew More Acidic?

So, you’ve decided to heat up your cold brew. 

There’s just one concern on your mind: won’t heating up your cold brew make it more acidic?

Contrary to popular customer opinion, cold brew is actually less acidic than some other brew methods. This is due to the way the coffee gets brewed. 

However, when you warm up your cup of cold brew, it reacts with the oxygen in the room quickly. In turn, that can cause a degradation of flavor. 

This can lead to a bit of flavor degradation and added acidity. Still, it actually makes for a less acidic cup of coffee than if you made a standard drip cup and reheated it.

Also, since you don’t need to add extra coffee grounds to your cold brew, the acidity shouldn’t change drastically. In other words, your reheated cold brew won’t really be any more acidic than its cold counterpart. 

The Best 4 Ways to Heat Up Your Cold Brew

coffee mug in a microwave

With all the finer details out of the way, let’s talk about how to actually heat up your cold brew. There are a couple of different ways to do this, although generally heating cold brew with hot water is the best way to heat cold brew.

Still, that’s a personal preference, and everyone has their favorite way to heat the coffee. 

To give you a chance to make your own judgment, let’s check out a few different ways to heat cold brew.

Heating With Hot Water

To heat up your cold brew using hot water, you’ll want to mix somewhere between a 1:3 and 1:5 ratio of coffee to hot water. If this sounds scary, just remember that you dilute cold brew to drink it normally. In this case, you’re just doing so with hot water instead of cold. 

For this method, start by heating up your hot water. Then, pour one part cold brew into your cup and top with your desired amount of water. For a stronger cup, add three parts water. For a weaker cup you can add five parts water.

Microwave

Not everyone has a microwave. But, if you’re one of the lucky folks who do, you can heat your cold brew in the microwave. Just make sure to zap it quickly or you can alter the flavor of your coffee. 

For this method, simply mix up your cold brew concentrate with cold water and place it in a microwavable mug. Or, if you have a leftover cup of cold brew from a coffee shop, you can simply put it in a microwave safe cup.

Now, microwave the coffee for about 30 seconds. Stir your coffee and enjoy! 

Pro Tip: It’s best to use a ready-to-drink cold brew for this method. That’s because diluting your concentrate first often makes for a more acidic and oxidized cup of coffee. 

Stovetop

For those of us peasants without a microwave, you can warm your cold brew on the stovetop. 

For this method, you’ll need to add your cold brew to a pot. Arm it up to about 160ºF. 

You don’t want to let the coffee heat up to more than 167ºF, as this will negatively affect the flavor. Keep a thermometer handy so you can make sure it doesn’t get too hot. 

Once again, I recommend using ready-to-drink cold brew instead of concentrate.

This is our least favorite way to heat up your cold brew. 

Why? 

This method takes quite a bit of time, taking away from the convenience of warming up cold brew.

Steam

If you have an espresso machine or steam wand, you can use this device to warm your cold brew. 

You’ll do it by pouring your cold brew into your steaming cup and treating it just like a cup of milk!

Place the wand’s tip just about a centimeter under the surface of the liquid. Then, steam the coffee until it forms a creamy foam!

Just note that the steam wand method will dilute your coffee a bit since the steam evaporates and becomes water. Also, the bubbles will burst pretty quickly, making your crema last just a minute or two. 

So, Can You Heat Up Cold Brew? Absolutely!

As you can see, the answer to the question “can you heat up cold brew coffee” is a resounding yes! 

Even though it might seem a bit unconventional, it’s actually a great way to get that ideal cup of coffee in the morning. 

If you’re a coffee lover looking for some more answers to your quirky questions, I’ve got you covered. 

Check out this guide on making a Starbucks-worthy cold foam cold brew that will make your local barista jealous!

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Jessica Ruth Lee Fleming
Jessica is a seasoned caffeine-addict who spent 3 years behind the bar. Her early coffee days took her from the commercial Starbucks scene in urban DC all the way to helping launch a craft coffee shop in California. Today she prefers sharing her years of coffee capers through media, although you’ll find she does it with a trusty cup of coffee by her side.