Why You Should Never Let Your Cold Brew Coffee Steep Over 24 Hours

Some days when the alarm clock goes off in the morning, you bounce right out of bed. Other days, however, are a slog, and on those mornings you may be reaching for a cup of coffee before you can do anything else.

Americans' desire for coffee took off in the late 18th century, per PBS, and as time went on, the inventiveness of coffee beverages evolved. Cold brew coffee entered the mainstream zeitgeist around 2007, according to The New York Times, and it has continued to be popular since. It seems fair to say that a big reason people find it so desirable is the fact that it's less acidic and less bitter than regular drip coffee, or French press coffee, per Java Presse.

While there are many pre-bottled brands of cold brew on the market, you may opt for brewing your own at home. There is some debate about how long you should steep your cold brew, but you definitely don't want to go overboard.

Timing matters

Because cold brew coffee is steeped in cold water slowly, it's different from hot drip coffee in a few key ways. The cold brewing process keeps the coffee from having an acidic and bitter quality for a period of time. But if you let it go too long, that bitterness can creep back in. According to Home Grounds, letting your cold brew steep for longer than 24 hours will not only bring back that bitter taste but will also make your coffee taste dusty or woody. But there's a related consideration.

While many people might prefer cold brew for its smooth flavor and low acidity, the proverbial warm morning coffee aroma is not present. Per Java Presse, the more rapid oxidation that occurs when coffee grounds meet hot water doesn't occur when making cold brew. The tradeoff, though, is that it would taste like "a truckload of vibrant floral flavors." But a cold brew steeped too long has added bitterness without the aromatic experience some people look for in the morning to drag their tired eyes open.

If cold brew is your smooth jam, and you make it yourself, be sure to keep it in that safety window of 12-24 hours so you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.