Summer’s here, and for many people, that means it’s too hot for coffee. While some are happy with an Iced Latte, many find the spiky taste of chilled espresso to be be less than inspiring.
If it is time to step up your Iced Coffee game, then Cold Brew Coffee might be just the thing your summer menu has been looking for. In this guide we take a look at what it is, what you’ll need, and how to get started.
By now, you’ve likely heard of cold brew coffee. In recent years, It’s become common in Australian Cafes in recent years due to our hot climate and love for all things cold. The modern version of this low-tech brewing method was first made popular in USA when a man named Todd Simpson invented the creatively-named “Toddy” brewer back in 1964.
Okay, so let’s get down to business. If you just need the basic recipe, click the link below:
If you’ve already mastered the basics, take a look at our list of 7 Cold Brew Coffee Recipes to take it to the next level
Brewing coffee with cold water… Really?
Hot water may be the most efficient way to extract, but cold water will get the job done quite nicely if left long enough to brew – usually overnight (12-24 hours). Cold brewing has a pronounced effect on the flavour of the coffee, reducing the perceived acidity and producing a distinct chocolaty flavour profile.
Another benefit, compared to chilling hot coffee, is that the brew remains stable for longer in the fridge. Chilled espresso will start to turn funky in a matter of minutes, however, in an airtight container, cold brew can still be tasty up a week after brewing.
Decisions: Concentrate or ready-to-drink?
The classic way to cold brew is to make a concentrated ‘liquor’ that you can then dilute (with water, milk or other liquids) to make the finished product. For those playing along at home, this is usually around 1 part coffee to 5 parts water (or 200g per litre). This method has the advantage of being versatile, you can dilute it with milk, mineral water, coconut water, etc. The concentrate can also be used as an ingredient in a host of other recipes. Such as espresso martini, frappes and even in baking.
While this versatility is great, it comes with a couple of downsides:
- The intense, almost ‘boozy’ taste tends to mask the subtle flavours of high-quality, single-origin coffees.
- The extraction yield is low – i.e. you don’t get much liquid out of a kilo of coffee. This makes it more expensive compared to other methods.
The alternate method is to make a ready-to-drink product straight out of the brewer – 1 part coffee to 17 parts water (around 60g per litre). The finished brew using this method has similarities to filter coffee in taste and texture, highlighting more of the nuances found in high-quality coffees. Some people find the body (mouthfeel) too light for their tastes when using this method.
In short, if you’re planning to serve cold brew black or with small amounts of milk, then the ready-to-drink method is preferable, however if you are primarily planning to use it as a mixer, then the classic concentrate method may be better suited.
Equipment: what you’ll need
To do it well, you’ll need a grinder that can handle a coarser grind size than a standard espresso grinder. If you already have a retail grinder, like a Ditting KR805 or a Mahlkonig EK43 then you’re all set. If not, we think the Baratza Forte is a good choice – compared to other commercial grinders it’s relatively affordable, it doesn’t take up much space and has scales built right in.
There are literally dozens of cold brewers available for the coffee professional, from simple devices to elaborate hand-blown glass towers. The easiest way to get started is the classic toddy brewer (the recipe below is based on this device), it’s cheap, functional and difficult to break. Having said that, if you’re more of a DIY kind of person, you can get great results brewing in a stainless-steel stock pot and filtering with both a sieve & paper filters.
Yes, water quality makes a massive difference. Our resident water Sensei, Matt Brown has explored this in his article on the science of finding the perfect water for coffee. Suffice to say, water straight out of the tap is unlikely to give great results. If you can use the water that has been filtered for your espresso machine, that’s a better place to start.
Coffee: yes, it matters
To some extent, the variety of coffee best suited will depend on how you use it. An espresso blend can work well when brewing a concentrate, however a lighter roast, single-origin coffee is usually better for serving straight up.
When choosing which coffee to cold brew, Sam, who manages the espresso bar at Seven Miles Manly Vale says “I recommend filter-roasted naturals, because of how interesting the sweetness and ferment-y flavours can make the brew, especially when adding outside products. This doesn’t mean a washed Kenyan won’t make a fantastic brew, it’ll just be lighter and more aromatic”.
Serving: By the glass, Bottles, On tap
The unique nature of cold brewed coffee allows some different opportunities to present to customers:
The basic method is simply a chilled glass, ice & cold brew – a whiskey-like ‘shot’ if using a concentrate or a ⅔ full glass if brewing the ready-to-drink method. Milk can be added directly to the glass or served on the side.
If using the ready-to-drink style, another option is to bottle the brew (we sourced ours here). This way, you can prep a whole batch ahead of time. When the rush comes, customers can just grab and go – oh, and it looks cool too…
For cafes that are really into cold brew, it’s also possible to serve it on-tap using a home brew setup. This method allows serving either flat (no bubbles) or with nitrous oxide (bubbles!), to give a Guinness-like head. In my opinion, you really need to be moving a lot of cold brew for this to be a desirable setup. After all, fresh is best…
Recipe Time: Let’s get brewing
Here’s our printable guide to brewing using the toddy brewer. The ratios for coffee and water will work for most cold brew devices, however the method here is specifically written for the standard Toddy cold brew system.
For more on cold brew, or coffee in general, get in touch here – we love to talk coffee.