For many coffee drinkers, summer doesn’t end until it feels chilly enough to make the switch from iced to hot.
They’ll stick it out through mid-autumn, insisting it’s still summer while carrying an iced coffee around an apple orchard, before finally conceding their hands are cold and a steaming hot coffee looks more appealing.
But when they switch over to hot coffee, they’re missing out on some health — and taste — benefits.
That’s right, your seemingly insane friend who drinks iced coffee through snowstorms and polar vortexes may actually be onto something.
But only certain iced coffees have benefits.
While it’s annoying to hear a coffee snob highlight the varieties of brewing, it actually does make a difference if you’re looking for a healthier coffee.
Iced coffees are made in a variety of ways, but essentially they come down to two formats. First, you can make hot coffee the way you normally would and then cool it by letting it drip directly into ice.
The second format is a cold-brew. With this method, as the name indicates, the coffee is never hot. You put grounds in cold water and let it steep there for hours before drinking.
Cold-brew coffee is better for your stomach.
When coffee beans are heated up, they release acidic oils. According to testing using the Toddy system, the acid levels in cold-brew coffee are about a third of the levels in hot coffee.
Vicki Edgson, a nutritionist, told Daily Mail:
There are definitely benefits to cold-brewed coffee because it’s more alkaline. The body functions best when in a relatively alkaline state.
A more alkaline drink helps your digestive system, which explains why your stomach flips with hot coffee but stays stable with a cold-brew.
Edgson also suggests when coffee beans get burned in the course of making hot coffee, it reduces coffee’s proven health benefits .
Cold-brew iced coffee tastes better.
The acid within hot coffee doesn’t just matter to your stomach — it matters to your tongue.
Hot-brew coffee tastes bitter because the acids and oils in hot temperatures create a sour taste.
Alice Phung at the UCLA Division of Life Sciences and Department of Integrative Biology & Physiology’s Science and Food blog explained the science:
The oils in coffee solubles can oxidize more quickly at elevated temperatures, causing coffee to taste sour. Acids also degrade, the most notable of which is chlorogenic acid into quinic and caffeic acid, causing coffee to taste bitter.
The acidity and bitterness of hot coffee are “just about absent” in cold-brews, Phung said.
Cold-brews are, scientifically and anecdotally, sweeter. Wearing extra-fuzzy gloves to comfortably carry an iced coffee in the winter doesn’t seem so bad now, does it?
Cold-brew coffee is super easy to make.
Cold-brew may sound fancy, but in reality it’s very simple and perfect for people who are bad at mornings.
If you’re one of those people, like me, who has to prepare everything the night before because your brain doesn’t function in the morning, cold-brew coffee is an awesome idea.
All you have to do is put coffee grounds in a jar or bowl with water and leave it overnight. In the morning, strain the mix through a coffee filter or cheesecloth and add it to a glass or travel thermos over ice.
You can also use a French press by putting the mix in the press with the plunger up overnight. In the morning, plunge it and, voilà: iced coffee! (I use a travel French press mug to avoid having to pour anything while my brain’s still on sleep mode.)
So the next time you see that friend sipping on an iced coffee while shivering in the cold, remember he or she gets the last laugh and the tastier coffee.