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In the time since Tea and Coffee published my article Cold Comfort in May 2011, which told the story of cold coffee beverages, a controversy over Iced coffee has been percolating. Our friends at Oren’s Daily Roast in New York, and George Howell’s in Boston each eschew the opportunity to offer Cold Brew Coffee blends. And they make some good arguments in support of their ideas. In Oren Bloostein’s words, “it misses all the subtle brightness and nuance extracted when water of the proper temperature is used to dissolve the coffee oils that are so carefully developed in the craft roasting process leaving a dull shadow of what might have been.” In other words the coffee tastes duller than if brewed with hot water. In less subtle terms, George Howell says, I have always brewed hot coffee and then let it cool before adding ice. Never again; the aromatics and special fruit qualities of fine coffee are long gone. I have learned that the secret to making a great iced coffee is all in the FRESHNESS OF THE BREW. It must be captured then and there. The key is to brew a concentrated coffee beverage of exactly the right strength and extraction directly over ice. Some of you who try this may never go back to hot coffee.”

Historically ground roast coffee is brewed hot. The contact time of coffee and water varies from seconds to minutes depending on the brewing method. Hot water hastens the brewing process, while cold water retards it. Cold brewing stretches the time that coffee particles and water are together to many hours.

Cold brewing extracts appealing flavors from coffee except not all of the acids, natural oils and caffeine that add flavor complexity in a heat brewed beverage, and are unfortunate when found en masse in a beverage meant to be served below 40°F (4.4°C).

I do not seek the same flavors in iced as I do in a hot coffee. In part this is so because I often prefer my hot coffee black, and my iced coffee with cream and sugar. In part it is because I indulge in Iced coffee, as a refreshment, aware that the icing obscures the palates ability to define subtleties of flavors that bloom on the palate with a warmer beverage. And, unlike many of my countrymen, I generally prefer iced coffee to other available summertime thirst quenchers.

I talked about the idea of brewing a 25% stronger brew to be poured over ice with Marion Burros for her July 20,1988 New York Times article De Gustibus; Making Coffee-er Iced Coffee. In 1988 I was less educated , by a quarter-century, about cold brew Iced coffee than I am today. Oren’s is using a similar method today to that in Ms. Burros’ Times story, “The new method…uses more coffee to make a smaller batch and then add ice…. The ice melts and the iced coffee is ready to be served immediately.” An alternate to this idea is proposed by George Howell who asks that we brew directly over ice. This method of direct brew iced coffee has been dubbed ”Ice Brewed” by Oliver Strand, in his piece, Ristretto/ I Know What You Did Last Summer appearing in the New York Times June 6, 2012, and is similar also to Ms. Burros’ recipe.

This month (March 2015) Gillies Coffee has introduced Gillies Coffee On-Tap at The International Restaurant & Foodservice Show in New York where it won an innovative product award. Available in several blends in both “Still” and “Stout” styles I have hopes that it will find favor among our city’s chef restaurateurs, baristas, and food & beverage managers.

Because the jury is still out on the great Iced coffee question, hot brew or cold brew, rather than tell you the only right way to make iced coffee I offer you a little history, a little culture, a little lore, in Cold Comfort, some products of which I am proud, and I leave it to you to experiment and decide on your personal perfect recipe for Iced coffee to share with your customers. – DNS


You can find Ms. Burros the New York Times article here;

You can find Mr. Strand’s article here;

You can find another good iced coffee article Secret To Smoothest Iced Coffee: Cold Brewing here, written by Jenny Hu, San Francisco Chronicle, July 13, 2010.;

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