Imagine. You are a specialty coffee drinker, and you buy a 250gr bag for 10 euros.
How would you make this coffee? Would you use 40 grams, wait for 24 hours, and have a concentrate that is enought to make 2-3 cups, or you would make a V60 from 15gr of coffee? Which will give you 220gr of prescious caffeinated liquid in the very next 4 minutes? 🙂
Has it ever happened to you: you are tasting a coffee, and thinking immediately “Tastes nice, but that would be so freakin better as a cold brew!”?
Has it ever happened to you? No? Neither with me.
And if you think about it, it is kinda strange.
Sometimes you have a certain coffee in espresso, and then strive to taste it in filter. Or you cup a coffee, and immediately consider how you are going to brew it. V60? Aeropress? Espresso? You are asking yourself those infinite, but so dear to the heart of every coffee lover questions: “What do I want to enchance? The velvetiness of the body? The fruitiness? The delicacy? How do I see this coffee showcasing its full potential?”
But it kinda never happens that in that line of brewing methods to choose from you have a cold brew.
And if a cold brew is just a method of coffee preparation, it is pretty unjust.
But… What if it is something else?
Let’s dive into the subject for a second.
And, actually, at that time I stopped writing, and went to make 2 different cold brews. Because I understood that I can be prejudiced, for various reasons. So I went and tried 2 recipes, 2 different origins, Honduras and Burundi, prepared as a cold brew. I wanted to verify that the things I was about to say about acidity and body are gonna be true.
So here I am now, drinking the cold brew in the night, and continuing with the topic.
When I say “cold brew” in this article, I am referring to the immersion cold brew, which is by far the most popular method of cold brew preparation.
There is also so called Kyoto-style cold brew, where the brewing is done in the special glass “tower” and consists in water slowly dripping through the coffee bed, literally drop by drop.
Kyoto-style cold brew, as probably most of the Japanese devices, is more an art than anything else, and the visual side of it is simply spectacular!
It is also pretty costy device, at the same time not yielding so much liquid, therefore not very often used for producing cold brew in quantities. Although, for the home coffee drinkers there are options that cost around 25 euros, making Kyoto-style cold brew pretty affordable option.
The most popular method of cold brew preparation is considered immersion. It consists in mixing medium-corse ground coffee with cold or room temperature water, and then letting it sit for some time. As with any recipe, you are free to experiment with the brewing times, grind size and ratio. The most popular ratios are 6:1, or 7:1 water to coffee, and letting it sit in the room temperature.
After 18-24 hours of steeping, you filter the cold brew concentrate, and store it. And then you are free to be doing anything with it, depends on how much you want to dilute it.
Cold brew concentrate gives you huge freedom in mixing and making the final drink, that can be literally anything, cold or hot coffee, coffee on ice, coffee with milk, coffee-based cocktails etc.
From this point of view, cold brewed coffee is extremely versatile.
So let’s now come back to what I started with.
Why cold brew is not standing in the line with all the other ones, like espresso, V60, Chemex, etc?
The main question is the following one: is cold brew a separate independent coffee brewing method, or is it simply a tool?
I will not make any crazy conclusions, but just gonna with you through the strong and weak points of cold brew.
+ CB is extremely versatile and can be a base for many coffee drinks and cocktails
– cold brew does not have such an intense “coffee taste” as espresso, therefore has a tendency to “get lost” in cocktails
+ when serving cold drinks, working with CB is easier than with classical filter coffee on ice, because you don’t need to calculate ice melting, and because concentrate you use is already cold
– although you don’t have to calculate ice melting when making a cold brew, it would be better to be using the refractometer at least when creating the recipe – to achieve desirable TDS, and know how the cold brew you are creating behaves with ice and milk when being served
+ can be made in advance, stored in the refrigerator and served easily throughout the week
– Making one batch of cold brew requires 18-24 hours. Comparing to the usual 2-4 minutes to make a filter, and experiment with the grind size, 24 hours seems like lots of time to wait and to find out in the end that you’ve done something wrong. And, if you are out of cold brew – you are out of it. It will really take some time to make more.
+ generally has a soft, easy-to-drink profile without pronounced acidity or bitterness, which makes it easy to sell to people who don’t like coffee with strong personality, and prefer something more delicate
– a sideback of a cold brew being soft is exactly what for some people is a positive side of cold brew – the drink turns out bland and lacking character, compared to the same coffee brewed in a different way
– High ratios. You have to use hella lots of coffee, and not very efficiently. So if you are not owning a roastery, or getting coffee for free, making cold brew turns out to be pretty expensive
+ Positive side of that is that cold brew is often used by the roasteries to “move” their coffee, and give it a second life.
– Low control of the extraction. You basically choose the ratio, grind size and duration of steeping accordingly – and wait to check what turns out from it. You cannot control much, especially if the place where you are steeping it is subject to temperature and humidity fluctuations.
To put everything together, cold brew is the best thing you can do if you want to use some extra coffee you have, that is already on the limit, and will not be drank in time, and is getting old. It is a cool way to be making coffee “in advance”, and storing, or even freezing it – and eventually saving up some time on coffee making. It is a great thing you can do if you like soft and mild black coffee.
And summer. Summer is a cold brew time 🙂