Cold brew coffee, made by steeping coffee grounds in cool or cold water for several hours, can be dangerous due to its smooth taste and potential for growth of bacteria. Researchers at the University of Georgia’s Center for Food Safety have found that cold brew coffee can contain four common pathogens in food-borne illnesses: E. coli, salmonella, Bacillus cereus, and Listeria monocytogenes. The study focuses on the safety of cold brew, the quality of ingredients, temperature control, and conditions that allow for the growth of these pathogens.
Hot coffee is mildly acidic, making it popular among java lovers who want to avoid heartburn. However, the acid and applied heat in hot coffee kill off potentially harmful pathogens. The lack of temperature control and low acidity found in cold brew allow for the potential growth or survival of these bacteria.
However, bacteria in cold brew do not emerge on their own, only when they are introduced artificially. During survival studies, no bacteria have grown in cold brew, but pathogens have all survived within the coffee for nine to 12 days. The study suggests that contamination prevention is simple, and that when preparing cold brew at home, use clean hands and equipment and refrigerate the brewed coffee.
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