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How does cold brew packaging preserve flavour?

When brewing hot coffee, there are many variables at play to help ensure optimum extraction, regardless of the method used. With espresso, for example, these variables include grind size, water temperature and quality, as well as extraction time and recipe ratio. In filter coffee, the variables are similar. 

Essentially, when brewing specialty coffee, there is a focus on the three ‘T’s’: turbulence, time, and temperature. When brewing with cold water, there are similar variables at play, but with slight variations. 

To learn more about the specific nuances of this beverage, and how cold brew packaging materials work to preserve them, I spoke to Dr. Dirk Lachenmeier, a food chemist and toxicologist at CVUA Karlsruhe

The keys to cold brew: Roast profile

Brewing coffee with cold water will not extract the same compounds or flavours as hot water will. As it involves a longer extraction time and lower temperatures, cold brew coffee often highlights more nuanced flavours that hot water cannot extract. 

Dr. Lachenmeier has years of experience assessing various products within the German market. He explains that the coffee gets a “different sensorial and flavour profile” through brewing at a lower temperature. 

Therefore, one of the first considerations when creating cold brew will be the roast profile of the coffee. Professionals within the industry know that typically, lighter roasts are more dense and less soluble. It’s important to remember that the cold water process uses less energy to trigger extraction, so lighter roasts may struggle to get optimum extraction. Additionally, using a lighter roast can make it difficult to get a balance between the bitter and acidic compounds. 

Darker roasts are more soluble, which is likely to result in a stronger flavour. However this may also compromise the complex flavours that many tend to enjoy in coffee. Therefore, Dr. Lachenmeier encourages brands to experiment with the roasting process and find different ways to bring out a flavour that customers will enjoy. 

Another consideration will be the quality of the coffee. Using higher quality coffees and optimising extraction can help brands curate offerings that compete with other non-alcoholic beverages, such as mocktails. 

How water quality affects the flavour of cold brew coffee

“What I like about cold brewing is that there are so many options,” Dr. Lachenmeier says. “You can really experiment with what beans you are purchasing or processing and create a blend that results in good flavours and extraction.”

Water quality is also a critical factor when creating cold brew. Several studies have explored the significance of water quality in coffee. The quality of water can impact not only brewing equipment but also the extraction rate of the coffee. 

Beyond this, low quality water affects the acidity, mouthfeel, and body of the volatile compounds, and can influence the perception of the flavour compounds themselves. A variety of equipment can provide an exact recipe for water and measure the impact on extraction. However, Dr. Lachenmeier recommends that brands keep it simple. 

“I’ve found it’s easiest to use tap water and work the roast profile around it,” he says. “You also get some form of regionality into your coffee, as it is unlikely to taste the same everywhere because of the different water qualities.”

“Perhaps it’s better that not everything is uniform all over the world. It means we have some variability and consumers can choose what they like better,” he adds. Dr. Lachenmeier suggests that brands brew the same coffee using different water to understand just how much the element can influence the taste of the brew. 

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Temperature and cold brew coffee

In a review alongside other experts, Dr. Lachenmeier has established that the ‘cold’ in cold brew refers to any temperature below body temperature, which is 37°C (98.6°F). Essentially, it is not to brew something hot and then cool it with ice, as this will extract a different flavour. 

The most traditional brewing method is to steep coffee grinds in cold water for a period until they reach optimum extraction. Notably, together with other researchers, Dr. Lachenmeier discovered maximum saturation is usually reached within a few hours of brewing. Beyond this, people are often over extracting, which can lead to unpleasant flavours. 

He also notes that people can fall into the trap of fighting for efficiency by using a dark roasted coffee, with a low dose, high yield, and an extremely long brewing time. Particularly when brewing for a concentrate which will then be diluted. 

“Do you want maximum extraction? Or do you want to have a pleasant product? If it’s the latter, you’ll probably need more coffee powder, less water and a shorter extraction at a lower temperature. You’re likely to get a higher quality product, but of course it will be more expensive,” Dr. Lachenmeier adds. 

According to the National Coffee Association (NCA), cold brew is now the third most popular way of preparing coffee in the US, after drip coffee and single serve options. Cold brew often loses acidity and bitterness, and has sweeter, more mellow flavours than its heated counterpart.

Market trends are shaping to make 2024 an exhilarating year for cold brew and ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee. Driven by younger consumers looking for health-conscious alternatives to sugary beverages, the cold brew coffee market is emerging as a place of experimentation, discovery, and craftsmanship.

As the popularity of cold brew continues to grow, brands are finding innovative and sustainable ways to package it. Common structures include recyclable aluminium cans, glass bottles, cardboard cartons, and flexible cold brew pouches. 

Spouted pouches for cold brew coffee are likely to increase in popularity in the next few years. These hygienic spouted pouches can be premade for easy entry into the market and are 100% customisable, making them an ideal packaging solution for cold brew brands. 

Cold brew pouches can be made using sustainable materials, such as recyclable low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and compostable polylactic acid (PLA). These eco-friendly materials not only lower the carbon footprint of your cold brew, but also perfectly preserve its flavour. 

At Cold Brew Pak, our cold brew coffee pouches redefine convenience. Available in single-serve sachets, grab-and-go sizes, and larger multi-serve variants, they promise adaptability and shelf stability.

Fully customisable and user-centric, our recyclable cold brew pouches are the ideal shape and size for innovative branding techniques. Plus, the easy-open feature, paired with a built-in handle, ensures portability and convenience.

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About the author

Esther has been in the specialty coffee industry for 14 years working as a Q Grader, SCA Trainer and ESTA trainer. She’s also offers her services as a coffee consultant through Hope Espresso. Her passion for writing comes from her love of sharing stories about the industry and ensuring knowledge is accessible to all.