~ Cold Brew - the caffeinated buzz of the warmer months. So what's all the hype about? ~
What is it? Great question. There are several different ways to make cold coffee, and "cold brew," "iced coffee," and "toddy" are commonly interchanged in everyday cafe lingo. First, let's define our terms.
Iced coffee is brewed hot and then chilled, usually right away by brewing via pourover into a container filled with ice. Also referenced as "Japanese iced coffee," the extraction occurs as with hot brewing, and the dilution of hot-coffee-meets-ice is solved by brewing with a slightly higher coffee to water ratio.
This method removes heat from the equation, and therefore requires more extraction time. Commonly synonymous with Toddy, a cold brew full immersion method combines a large amount of coarsely ground coffee with cold water, letting it extract for 12-18 hours. This process produces a low-acidity concentrate that is generally "cut" or diluted with water or ice for a more balanced beverage.
What real difference does it make? Taste. Iced coffee, when brewed well, will provide more clarity of flavor and that sparkling acidity, fruitiness and pizazz you look for in a good single origin pourover. Cold brew, as mentioned, has a lower acidity and will taste more chocolatey - it's a good choice if acidic brews aren't your thing.
Another popular cold brew method is the Kyoto - a Japanese style brewing system that allows ice and water to drip slowly into a bed of coffee grounds, which become saturated and produces a concentrated brew over a period of several hours, depending on the brewer's size.
Kyoto has a mysterious way of turning "boozy" in flavor, and (if you're a nerdy barista or wanna-be) you can really play around with drip time, coffee to water ratio and aging to get some awesome, funky, bourbon-esque flavors out of your Kyoto brews. Next time you're in Kansas City, head over to About the Coffee and they'll show you what I mean.
Another fun trend in the world of iced coffee is Nitro Cold Brew - the infusion of nitrogen gas into cold coffee, creating a foamy, Guinness-like "head" and a smooth mouthfeel. This creation is popping up more and more in cafes around the country - pours served up by Chocolate Fish Coffee Roaster's at Caffeine Crawl Sacramento 2014 really whet our tastebuds, and if you haven't tried it, you should - it's delicious.
There's plenty of fun things to do with cold coffee at home, including making it yourself. For starters, all you need is a Mason jar, coffee, and this recipe from Serious Eats. Sipped on the front porch over ice or turned into a refreshing mocktail like this tonic + orange creation from The Mud House, the possibilities are endless. There are also plenty of cold brewers available for easy home use, including Toddy, Bruer, Filtron and more.
If you're curious, Prima Coffee, Rohs Street Cafe & Peter Guiliano's blog, Pax Coffea, have the scoop on the scientific side of cold coffee brewing - there's plenty to learn about solubility, volatility and oxidation. Hit up your favorite local coffee shop for their take on iced coffee/cold brew, and tell us your favorite method below!
(Top photo: Conscious Coffee's cold brew at The Kitchen, Caffeine Crawl Fort Collins 2014)
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