Can This Cold Brew Machine Really Make Healthier Coffee?

cold-brewed-coffeeDelicious? Yes. Healthful? Maybe.

Cold brew coffee is having a bit of a moment. Starbucks just announced it’s adding the mellow brew to its summer lineup in 2,800 stores across the Northeast and Midwest. And Trader Joe’s could barely keep its bottled cold brew coffee on shelves last summer.

Apart from its tastiness, cold brew might be healthier than traditional hot coffee. Because you don’t apply heat to the beans during cold brewing (you simply steep coffee grounds in cool water), the chemical reactions that cause acidity in hot coffee don’t happen. Cold brew is therefore much lower in acid. As such, it’s the recommended coffee for anyone who has chronic heartburn or gastoesophegeal reflux disease. Neace also touts his product as being less likely to raise cholesterol levels than traditional brewing methods, like French press and espresso.

But here’s the thing: DIY cold brewing has traditionally been a giant pain. Nearly every food site on the Internet has run some sort of tutorial about how to make cold brew coffee at home, but most of these DIYs involve at least two containers, a sock or cheesecloth, and a bit of MacGyvering. And if you’ve ever tried to MacGyver while un-caffeinated, you know it’s not fun.

Bob Neace, the founder of BodyBrew, remembers his grandfather’s ad hoc cold brew setup. “He brewed it for like 40 years in this old bucket with cheesecloth, but I loved the taste,” he says. When Neace went looking online for a good, fabricated, cold brew setup, he couldn’t find anything. Everything was either really complex or really expensive. (Williams Sonoma, for example, sells a laboratory looking setup for $265.)

Cold Brew Machine
BodyBrew’s system comes in four different design schemes. From left to right: Sky, Shadow, Stealth, and Snow. Photo: BodyBrew
So Neace left his job in the insurance industry to start BodyBrew, a cold brew maker that produces coffee that he claims is healthier. The device produces 24oz. of coffee extract, over the course of a 12-to-24-hour steeping period, that is good for ten-to-12 cups of coffee. (The most basic BodyBrew setup is $59.)

He might be onto something. According to Michael Klag, MD, MPH, when beans are heated they release oils called terpenes, which can raise a person’s cholesterol levels—especially the LDL or bad cholesterol levels. Dr. Klag is the Dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and he’s studied the relationship between coffee and cholesterol for years. He says that, in theory, cold brew would be better for someone with high cholesterol than a method that requires heating the beans extensively.

“It’s the amount of heat and the duration of the heat which really matters,” Klag says, adding that Scandinavian methods of boiling coffee would likely be most problematic. However, he’s quick to point out that there’s another easy solution to dealing with the terpenes in coffee that doesn’t involve buying a new coffeemaker: simply use a paper filter. “The paper seems to remove these little molecules, the terpenes.”Bottom line: Neace’s BodyBrew system is a safe bet for those who must have cold brew and want an easy way to make it. But if you simply want to avoid hiking your cholesterol levels, just use a paper filter.

BodyBrew’s machine is going through production now, with pre-orders shipping this fall.

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