From the Lab, News

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

It's Hot Let's Talk Cold [Brew]

While the popularity of cold brew in the United States and Europe has skyrocketed in the past several years, it’s far from a new brewing method. The first recorded use of the cold brew method can be traced to Kyoto, Japan in the 1600s. Historians speculate that cold brew was made and consumed before then, but are unable to find documentation of this, so we’ll stick to the 1600s as the first recorded use. 

The Long and Storied History of Cold Brew 

This early cold brew method was called Kyoto-style coffee due to its popularity in Kyoto. It is thought that the Japanese may have learned the style from Dutch traders who created cold brew to have a concentrate they could bring on their ships. We’ll talk more about the specifics of Kyoto-style cold brew and other cold brew methods later on. 

Some of the earliest documented instances of using cold brew were as army rations. Cold coffee concentrates were created and distributed to troops. Traditionally, these concentrates were then heated with additional water to create makeshift hot coffee. However, in 1840, French Foreign Legion troops outside the Mazagran fortress in Algiers mixed concentrate with sugar and cold water to make the first recorded cold cold brew. When the soldiers returned to France, they brought the drink, named Mazagran after the fortress where they first drank it, back to their home country and popularized it. 

“Camp Coffee,” a brand of coffee concentrate created in the 19th century and popularized in Britain in the 20th century, was marketed to the public as a form of cheap, easy and tasty coffee. 

Cold Brew in the Modern Age  

Cold brew took the next step into modern times in the 1960s when Todd Simpson, owner of a garden nursery and possessing a degree in chemical engineering, was on a plant-gathering trip in Guatemala or Peru (accounts vary) and tasted coffee concentrate for the first time. Enamored with the drink, Simpson create the Toddy cold brew coffee system, an immersion-method brewer still in use today. 

Another step forward came less than a decade later in 1969 when Tadao Ueshima, founder of UCC Coffee, saw the popularity of flavored milks and decided to flip the script on canned coffee-flavored milk (milk with a little coffee) and created a canned coffee drink with a little milk. 

The explosive popularity of Ueshima’s canned coffee drink demonstrated the ability of marketing and product development to change consumer tastes and create a market for a completely new product: canned (and bottled) coffee. 

Brewing Methods  

There are a variety of ways to make cold brew. Depending on the beans you start with and your desired outcome, choosing the best cold brew method for you may require a little research and experimentation. Here’s a quick overview of a few different methods. 

Immersion Brewing 

Immersion brewing is probably the most well-known cold brew method. It’s simple and can be done with very little special equipment. You simply mix coffee grounds and cold water and let the mixture sit at room temperature or in a refrigerator for a few hours before straining. Immersion brewing produces a balanced coffee with sweetness and a low acidity. 

The Toddy method is a slightly easier form of immersion brewing with a filter to make removing the grounds cleaner and faster. 

Some brewers report making immersion brewed coffee more brighter and more acidic by beginning with a hot water bloom and then immersing in an ice bath for the rest of brewing. 

Japanese Iced Coffee 

Japanese Iced Coffee is a bit unique as it is neither truly cold brew nor iced coffee. This method involves brewing coffee hot directly over ice (with total liquid divided between hot water and ice cubes). Due to the use of hot water, the acids are extracted, creating bright and crisp flavors. 

Ice Drip Brewing (Kyoto ice drip or Dutch ice drip) 

Ice drip brewing is the method first documented in the 1600s in Kyoto, Japan (hence one of its names). It involves dripping cool water over coffee grounds extremely slowly, drop by drop. It can take over 24 hours to produce one pot of ice drip coffee. 

This method creates an extremely clean coffee. Because the sugars are extracted but not muddled by a long immersion process, the coffee emphasizes floral and fruit notes. Lipids (fats) are also extracted, giving a mouthfeel closer to Japanese iced coffee than to immersion brewed cold brew.