Friday, March 27, 2015

How I Want to Brew Iced Coffee

Being in Arizona, I have finally admitted to myself that I need to provide a cold option to customers or my sales will dip WAY too far in the summer months. So, I have officially done an unofficial taste test and made my decision how I want to do it.

Now, in order to have this discussion we need to make sure we set a few basic assumptions. The coffee we are referring too needs to be the same. Let’s say we are discussing the brewing of very high quality, specialty grade Coffee that rivals all of the top roasters. Let’s call that coffee, Muertos Coffee (see what I did there;). The hot brew is also perfectly brewed (not under or over extracted).

The most popular option is cold brew, or Toddy. To reasons for cold brew that I have heard is that it is smoother, because it does not pull out the acids, and that it has more caffeine.

Acids (in coffee) have become something that people want to get away from. Maybe it hurts their stomach, maybe they watched a Tony Robins video, I don’t know the reason. Acidity gives us bright, clean, citrus and other flavors. For some people the acids are a physical problem. I think they are the minority. In my opinion, cold brew falls flat and syrupy because it lacks proper acidity.

The part about cold brew having more caffeine has some validity. Blue Bottle uses 454g of coffee to 2000g of water ( That is a 1:4.5 ration. Hot coffee is brewed with a 16:1 ratio. Caffeine is water-soluble so it will be one of the first things to go. Therefore, cold brew will have more caffeine.

This brings up an inventory issue that I have with cold brew. It takes approximately 4x the amount of coffee to make cold brew. That is a lot of coffee to go through for a micro-company. So, sure you are getting more caffeine, but (if all other factors are equal) your $2 cup of hot coffee should translate to an $8 cup of cold brew or you’re losing money. That just doesn't make sense to me.

Now we come to the second option for iced coffee, Japanese style (hot brew directly onto ice). This is how I am going to do my iced coffee. The reason I like this method is that hot brew extracts everything that is good and the ice holds it in. Hot coffee loses some volatile flavor compounds due to the heat (aroma). When the hot coffee hits the ice it stops the process, resulting in more over all flavor compounds being in the cup. That makes sense in my brain, but I don’t know if it is scientifically true. I do know that taste is not flat and has all the fullness hot coffee does, just cold.

Additionally, I will remain operationally consistent. It will require the same amount of coffee, filters, cups, everything. Because I will be starting with a cart, I don’t have a lot of room for different processes. I need everything on the cart to be laser focused. This will also help with pricing. I won’t need different calculations for the hot or cold coffee. I can price everything the same and just add $.50 to ice coffee to compensate for the ice.

Please let me know your thoughts and recommendations in the comments.