As the summer heats up again, coffee drinkers are seeing more and more cold brews as invigorating and refreshing coffee options in their local cafes and grocery stores. With our Fazenda cold brews available at many of our customers’ cafes and restaurants, maybe you’ll want to give one a shot after reading this post. In this first in a series of iced coffee drinks, we’re exploring the basics (and a little beyond) about cold brew coffee.
What is a cold brew coffee?
Essentially, unlike iced coffees made in a hot drip pot and then chilled, cold brew coffee is created through a slow extraction process, as the coffee grinds steep in room-temperature to cold water from 12 to 24 hours. Afterwards, the coffee grinds are strained out. The result is usually a coffee concentrate you can then do with as desired, like adding some water or your preferred milk/cream to taste.
A cold brew coffee concentrate should have a significantly higher amount of caffeine than a typical hot brewed coffee because it is made with a greater amount of grinds, but the caffeine content will come down with dilution.
What kinds of beans are used in cold brews?
What beans make the best cold brew really depends on who you talk to, or more importantly, what you, the drinker, enjoy.
When it comes to the beans themselves, many specialty coffee roasters, like we here at Fazenda, will create their own blends, while others will use single origin instead. But no matter what, coffee roasters are looking for bean flavors they feel come out best during the cold brew process.
What kind of a roast is best?
The preferred roast of the beans for cold brew is not any more straightforward. You’ll experience different flavors depending on the level of the roast, which are carefully developed by specialty roasters. Generally speaking though, the medium to darker roasts are used in cold brews as they will produce a richer flavor profile. But it will all come down to what the individual roasters find they like best. Hence, there are cold brews across the roasting spectrum in the market. If you’re cold brewing at home, you can experiment with your favorite roasted beans and find what you like best, too.
How does the grind factor into the cold brew equation?
Like the beans and the roast levels, again, the ideal grind is somewhat subjective, but less so. The finer the grind, the more extraction you’ll get in a short amount of time. On the other hand, with a coarser grind, the extraction rate decreases. Since a slow process is generally desired, a somewhat coarser grind thus makes more sense, as the flavors have time to develop. But how coarse? Somewhere between a medium (used in drip machines) and medium-coarse grind (used in French presses) is where most roasters start to create the ideal cold brew.
How does the temperature of the water factor into cold brew? Is it really brewing in cold water?
Once again, great coffee makers are also still experimenting with temperature along with the roast and the grind. Our cold brew is made with cold, filtered water, but some other roasters use room temperature water.
In general, the warmer the water, the quicker the extraction. If using colder water (or keeping it refrigerated), it will likely take longer for a fuller extraction than if using room-temperature water.
How long does a cold brew normally steep for? Why?
The advised range is anywhere from 12 to 24 hours; Fazenda’s cold brews are steeped for 16 to 20 hours. The long time frame allows for a slow extraction process of the solubles, though as hinted at earlier, a slightly finer grind and room temperature water will take a somewhat shorter steep time.
What does cold brew taste like?
Cold brew fans love it because the flavors that bloom during the steeping process are sweeter, mellower, often with chocolate notes than the typical hot brewed coffee. Cold brew is also much less acidic than hot brewed coffee, which makes it a delicious alternative for folks who need to reduce their acid intake.
What is cold brew on tap?
Cold brew on tap, becoming available at many great cafes, is simply cold brew put in a refrigerated keg, which is then drawn out on tap. You might see it advertised as “served still.” A little nitrogen is used to push the cold brew out, but unlike nitro cold brew, that nitrogen is not adding any extra elements to the drink itself. Cold brew on tap is often served on the rocks.
What is nitro cold brew?
What makes nitro cold brew different from cold brew on tap is that the cold brew is infused with the nitrogen at a higher pressure in the keg, and then it’s also agitated when pulled from the special nitro tap. What you get is a drink that looks and feels more like a Guinness, complete with a frothy head, thanks to the infused nitrogen. The creamy mouthfeel removes any need for cream or sugar, and it’s served just like a Guinness.
How does nitro cold brew in a can work?
Cans of nitro cold brew have nitrogen-loaded widgets that release the gas into the cold brew when the tab is opened. The pressure of the gas release against the inside walls of the can develops that same creamy, bubbly mouthfeel as from the stout tap. Guinness has been using and improving on this technology since 1989.
When my cold brew bottle label says ready-to-drink, how is that different than concentrate?
Bottled cold brews are usually labeled as ready-to-drink, meaning that you can just open and enjoy them. You may also find cold brews labeled as concentrate; in this case, the cold brew will need to be diluted, whether with some water or milk as it’ll be extremely potent otherwise. Fazenda sells cold brew concentrate to our cafes and restaurants and also sells ready to drink bottles.
What is Vietnamese-style cold brew?
Vietnamese-style cold brew has sweetened condensed milk added to the cold brew, similar to how Vietnamese iced coffee is traditionally served. Fazenda’s version uses our own cold brew with a organic sweetened condensed milk, and it’s sold at many of our customers’ cafes.
Have you tried a cold brew yet? Comment here on the blog about your cold brew experience.