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As the cool, breezy days of Spring fade into early May, we approach the dreaded warm months of Summer. In Arizona, that means unbearable triple digit days for the next 6 months or so. To combat the heat, most folks are switching from a morning drip, French Press, or pourover brew of hot coffee to some sort of cold coffee beverage that will simultaneously invigorate and refresh. You can certainly reach for an iced latte or perhaps a sweet, creamy coffee milkshake, but we think that coffee can be just as delicious as a standalone cold drink.
Almost every coffee shop offers some form of iced coffee, whether that be the newer and extremely popular version called Cold Brew or the classic hot coffee over ice style. While they might seem interchangeable, both methods can be equally flavorful, but they are certainly beasts of different natures. Let’s dig into what makes them unique and then find out how easy it is for you to do at home with a few simple recipes.
Cold Brew is the new *cool* kid on the block. New wave coffee shops have been brewing this seemingly addictive substance for the past several years and it’s become such a popular trend people everywhere are hooked on the stuff. What makes this different from the iced coffee you grew up with? It’s all in the way it’s brewed. See, coffee is basically water that has coffee flavor pulled out of coffee beans. We usually do this by using hot water to really quickly get out as much of the good stuff as we can. Typically, the hotter the water, the better it is at doing this.
Hot coffee is generally brewed in a handful of minutes, right? By using cold water to brew, it takes exponentially longer to extract the same amount of coffee flavor as you otherwise would, since brewing is a function of temperature and time. So, by grinding the coffee relatively coarse and brewing at cooler temperature, it takes 12 – 24 hours to extract the same amount of coffee you usually would in minutes. Organic acids in coffee can be really great to taste the nuance and elegance of different coffees, but these acids require heat to be extracted. Ultimately, this means that cold brew has only a fraction of the acids as hot coffee (great for people who have a hard time with acidic foods) and the end product is generally full bodied with a chocolaty and caramelly flavor profile. Since you get all of those tasty and rich notes of chocolate and caramel, we recommend using coffees from Central or South America for cold brew, as these coffees are the perfect profile for this brew method. This makes cold brewed coffee a thirst quenching cold coffee drink and, even quite good with a little sugar or cream added. There’s enough coffee flavor and mouthfeel to hold up to these ingredients and in the end, they can work together well, without one overpowering the other.
Iced coffee is the more classic version of cold coffee, and one that all of our parents and grandparents likely drank during the hot summer months. Traditionally, iced coffee was made by brewing coffee hot and after it got cold, you’d pour it over ice to chill it and make a cold coffee drink. Unfortunately, this method isn’t that great. As the coffee sits, it begins to oxidize, so by the time it’s poured over ice, the iced coffee is usually a bitter mess than screams for milk and sugar, but by the time you add them, you can’t taste any coffee flavor. By brewing the coffee directly over ice, we’re able to capture and preserve those wonderful nuances found in hot brewed coffee, but in a clean, sweet iced coffee, ideal for slow sipping. We find that brighter and more nuanced coffees work really well for this, so grab your favorite coffee from Guatemala, El Salvador, Ethiopia or Kenya, and it’s sure to taste fantastic as a Flash Chilled Iced coffee, with vibrant acidity and a delicate mouthfeel.
Cold Brew is great on its own or with cream and sugar, and perfect for coffee drinkers who want delicious, easy drinking iced coffee all summer long. Flash Chilled Iced Coffee is better suited for the pour over purists who love tasting the vibrant nuances each coffee has to offer, but wants a refreshing cold drink as well.
One of the best parts of Cold Brew is how easy it is to make. You can make Cold Brew in almost any device out there – and there are a TON of gadgets specifically for making Cold Brew, like the Bruer, the Toddy brewer or the Hario Cold Brew system.
Here are two methods we like to use to make cold brew, the super basic Cold Brew method and the Hot Bloom / Cold Brew method that is our personal favorite. For both recipes we like to do the full immersion method – kind of like a french press – put it in the fridge for 24 hours, let it work its magic and, voila, tasty cold brew coffee.
The Hot Bloom method is our favorite way to make cold brew since it’s the best of both worlds of hot and cold brewing. You’re able to pull out some interesting flavors, aromas, nuance, and sweetness from the quick hot blooming, then the low and slow method of cold brewing for 24 hours.
The method we prefer to make really tasty and nuanced iced coffee is called Flash Chilled Iced Coffee. This method brews the hot coffee directly over the ice to instantly chill the brewed coffee. This helps to capture and preserve the interesting flavors, aromas, and characteristics you might normally taste in drip coffee or a pour over. The end result is a balanced, clean and sweet iced coffee with a light mouthfeel. We recommend drinking this without any additives for optimal enjoyment. This recipe makes enough for 2 cups of the best damn iced coffee you’ve ever had.
What you’ll need
Whether you are a die hard Cold Brew lover or a Flash Chilled Iced Coffee fanatic, these recipes are sure to keep your thirst quenched all summer long. Try them out and let me know what your favorite kind of iced coffee is in the comments below!