We all know that wasting good coffee is a no-no—it's practically written in the coffee lover's code of ethics.
And we also all know that it’s possible to reuse coffee grounds for a myriad of purposes (mostly ones that don’t involve making more coffee).
So when you find yourself with a surplus of spent coffee grounds and an empty container of cold brew concentrate, you might be tempted to just mix the two together and call it a day.
But before you start infusing those pre-used coffee grounds into perfectly good water, there are a few things you should know, so you’re not too let down when that cold brew is ready to drink finally.
Let's Talk About Flavor
For starters, spent coffee grounds can actually make your cold brew more bitter than un-spent grounds. This is because they’ve already gone through extraction once.
And as you might guess, the flavor of a batch of cold brew made with coffee grounds that have already been used once is going to be quite a bit weaker from a batch made with freshly ground beans.
You might not mind the difference in flavor or “flavor strength,” but it's worth mentioning that your cold brew will taste very different if you use spent coffee grounds instead of fresh grounds. I’m talking weak—and bitter.
Sure, it works for Steve Buscemi, but it’s not a great combination when it comes to coffee.
The second batch (let’s call it “the bad batch”) will also be much weaker in terms of caffeine content than the first batch.
So if what you’re after is really strong coffee, using spent coffee grounds is probably not the way to go. Trust me, they don't get any stronger the second time around.
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Longer Brewing Time
Finally, it's important to note that making passable cold brew with spent coffee grounds could take longer than making cold brew with unspent grounds. This is because the flavor is weaker, so you’ll want to extract more of it. So if you're in a hurry (or if you like your cold brew to taste good) you might want to stick to using fresh grounds only.
Spent coffee grounds can also make your cold brew more murky and sediment-filled. If you like your cold brew smooth and creamy, using spent coffee grounds is probably not the way to go.
There are ways to mitigate this hazard I suppose—you could use an extra fine/paper filter, for example—but it's something to keep in mind. And if you're doing this for environmental reasons in the first place, using a paper filter kind of defeats the purpose.
You Can Reuse Coffee Grounds for Cold Brew. But Should You?
In short, there's no harm in using spent coffee grounds for cold brew, but you might not be happy with the results. Reusing coffee grounds will significantly decrease the concentration of your cold brew, meaning you end up with a weaker cup of coffee. The cold brew will also probably be more bitter, and it could take longer to brew.
So, while you can technically reuse coffee grounds for cold brew, I wouldn't recommend it. If you want to make the best cold brew possible, it's worth taking the extra time (and spending a few extra dollars) to start from scratch. Trust me, your tastebuds will show their appreciation.
The bottom line: can you reuse coffee grounds for cold brew? Yes. Should you? Absolutely not.
Your cold brew (and your taste buds) deserve better.
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