Ok coffee nerds and nerdettes, we aren’t there yet, but it’s coming soooon. We, here in Winnipeg, have the great misfortune of having highly unpredictable ups and downs in weather during the early spring months. Yesterday I was walking into a driving icy snow, and today it was mild and I completely regretted my decision to take the bus instead of ride my bike. Just ask me about the people I encountered on the bus today, this day, the 8th day of April in the year of our Lord, 2015.
So wait?! What is coming? Warmer weather? Yes. But that is not all. Every year there comes a day when we can no longer legitimately deny our customers an icy, caffeinated treat. I mean, at some point saying “Sorry, our ice machine has been turned off for the season,” just becomes a ridiculous sentence. In fact it’s not even true anymore! Our ice machine is ON! We are producing hundreds of icy little blocks that we can put into drinks that will smack against your teeth, and numb your lips, and contribute to a thirst quenching caffeinated bevy that will deliver the necessary pick-me-up feelings into your system just that much quicker.
Ok, let me clarify: We have ice, and we can make you an Iced Latté. At present writing, this the 8th day of April in the year of our Lord, 2015, that is the only cold drink we are offering. But, rest assured, Cold Brewed Coffee is just around the corner!!! I anticipate that by the weekend we will have enough people asking for this delectable coffee treat that we would be remiss, indeed cruel, to refuse it. Don’t quote me on that though … ok, well I guess I’ve written it, but we want to see this stuff make it’s annual appearance too!
So, “What is it?” you ask, and “why would I want to drink cold coffee?” I am here to tell you! Cold Brew coffee is blowing up in cafes and roasteries across the world! Trust me, or just take googles word for it. If you didn’t click on that link, or you did and didn’t happen to notice, there were just under 4.2 million pages that popped up when I typed in “cold” + “brew” into the google machine. Magic!
If you’ve read this far and said, “Meh, No thanks. I hate Iced coffee,” I would say to you, “Yup. I get it. I agree, but I do love cold brew!” They are different! And also, it’s not entirely fair to iced coffee …. you can achieve some decent results, but there is a difficult chemical process at play.
Iced Coffee is often also referred to as the “Japanese iced method,” and begins by brewing coffee as you normally would, with water heated to the appropriate temperature for full extraction, usually between 195ºF and 205ºF. The ratios change a bit to compensate for the mass of the ice used. The ice sits at the bottom of the server and the coffee is brewed directly onto it, cooling it. I have had iced coffee brewed this way, and it works to preserve some of the distinct floral, citrusy, and bright flavours that are often lost when brewed via the “cold brew” method. In case you didn’t click on the link in that last sentence, it was a video of coffee legend, and Counter Culture coffee member, Peter Giuliano brewing up a a cup of ice coffee Japanese style.
Finally, COLD BREW — This is the method that coffee god, P. Giuliano dislikes and he has even written about why we should dislike it from a technical, chemical standpoint, referring to oxidation, solubility, and volatility. Blah, blah, blah, blah blah, blah …. I say it’s time to become irreverent, Dionysian even, and drink what we want to! I love me some science, but I also love me some aesthetic. They aren’t mutually exclusive, ya know. It’s just often easier to articulate and comprehend the chemical processes than it is the sensory aesthetic experience.
Cold brewed coffee does not require electricity, or fire. Even the dumbest caveman/cavewoman could make cold brew (if they were given roasted coffee of course). At Parlour Coffee we brew our Cold Brew at room temperature for 12-14 hours and we’ve found a blend of coffees that make for a particularly delectable treat. As it turns out, Cold Brewers are equally capable of ad hominem attacks and arguments from authority by using sciency words like “ketons, esters and amids.” The general characteristics that present in a cold brewed coffee, when done correctly, are notes of chocolate and caramel, the result of which is something smooth and creamy. Milk adders rejoice!!! Adding milk to Iced Coffee often ends up being … well, gross. Howevvvvver, adding milk, and maybe even some simple syrup, to cold brew is, dare I say, glorious, refreshing, smooth, uplifting, good for the soul. There are all kinds of technical reasons why one ought to drink cold brew, and there are as many for why one ought to drink iced coffee (not to mention those who laugh off both). In the end it will ultimately come down to the difficult aspect of the subjectivity of taste. Don’t get me started on that though, because it’s used as a poor excuse to not taste things way too often. “Taste on!” I say. We like cold brew, we brew cold brew, and we serve cold brew, ‘cause hey, we’re the brews!’
Here is more reading for nerds — this is just the tip of the iceberg:
— Prima Cafe on cold brew and iced coffee
— Peter Giuliano’s blog
— Even TIME Magazine is getting into the fray - this one appears to only have been written 7 hours ago, the 8th of April, in the this, the year of our Lord 2015.
— Also just google it … it’s overwhelming. Cold Brew is making its way onto grocery store shelves and comes in cartons, cool apothecary looking bottles, old style beer bottles, and so much more. Gimmick? Sometimes, but often delicious.