What the popularity of cold brew coffee really means.

Many years ago, in the late 60's and early 70's, coffee consumption was declining in America. It had been declining for some time in fact. The coffee industry had come up with several reasons for the decline: the rise in popularity of soft drinks, the perception that coffee was an old person's drink, increased interest in healthy foods and beverages, and so on. The International Coffee Organization performed an annual "Winter Drinking Study" to analyze the trends of coffee drinkers and for years consumption had been on the decline. Moreover, those who were drinking coffee were using more sweeteners and "whitening" agents. This was the era of mass marketed RPG coffee driven primarily by couponing. Coffee brands were largely indistinguishable as each attempted to be cheaper than their competitors. Flavor had denigrated to a thin, soury, insipid brew.

Into this arena arrived an apt solution for dealing with such low quality coffee: cold brewing via the Toddy Maker. The Toddy Maker allowed users to soak cheap grocery coffee grounds overnight in the fridge and the thick filter extracted out the soury acids that dominated the taste in regular brew. Since it soaked for a number of hours, the resulting solution would have some semblance of body, making the coffee more palatable. Naturally, there was no aroma to the resulting solution since it was merely soaked and not brewed with hot water. This was no loss since the coffee was stale anyway and had long ago lost any aroma. So, all in all, it was an excellent way to make poor coffee drinkable. 

We have come a long way from those days of little choice in the grocery store aisles. These days one can find any number of small, craft, quality-focused coffee roasters in most any town. Along with the rise in these roasters has been the drastic improvement in brewing technology. Programmable, pulse-controlled coffee brewers are capable of producing outstandingly flavorful coffee, with brewing profiles to bring out the best aroma and taste. These brewers can be set up to make excellent iced coffee as well, retaining all the delicious aromas and flavor in an iced version. With all these technical innovations and access to fresh roasted coffee one would think that there would be a corresponding improvement in coffee flavor. Sadly, I would argue, that we have gone backwards. Somehow it has become fashionable to only offer thin, soury coffee made from manual pour-over brewers.

It comes with little surprise then that there has been a resurgence in cold brew coffee with hip new roasters extolling the virtues of cold brew. Some are even bottling said cold brew coffee for the ready-to-drink market. Compared to regular brewed coffee they promote cold brew's smoothness and rich body. It's the latest thing. And like so much in our modern coffee industry, nostalgia and novelty trumps critical observation. The simple fact remains, if your coffee improves through cold brewing it is an indictment of the coffee, not a validation of the brew. As stated earlier, the great thing about cold brewing is it makes poor coffee drinkable. The downside is that it makes great coffee merely drinkable. 

Cold brewing is an oxymoron, there is no "brewing" of coffee in cold water. One only soaks the grounds in cold water. Brewing, and brewing at the correct temperature and timing, releases the aromas of the coffee and extracts the flavors. That is why there is no aroma to cold brew, only a swamp gas smell from the grounds soaking overlong. It saddens me to see enthusiastic coffee people preaching this over-hyped method. The popularity of cold brew says a lot about the current state of coffee quality. The tide of quality seems to be going out with the third wave.

At this rate, the next big thing to come along in third-wave coffee will be the "discovery" of instant coffee.


Mark Hacker said...

Great comments as always Mark (as I sip my delicious morning Rwanda and think about my afternoon Bolivia Caranavi). When will we see you on Broadway?

Darrin The Pizza Chap said...

Very insightful. I've yet to try cold brew. I'm assuming it's safe to say that Dunkin's new Cold Brew is but a mere shadow of what you can get in the smaller independent shops?

Richard Dixon said...

Hey Mark. Just read your another superb piece of content. I was always curious about what cold brew coffee really means. You made my concept pretty clear on this topic. By the way can I share it as a reference in my blog: Kitchenfolks.com

Mark Overly said...

Richard: you are welcomed to share my blog on yours, thanks!

generousmedium said...

"Artisan" instant is already here. Saw an ad for it the other day.

generousmedium said...

"Artisan" instant is already here. Saw an ad for it the other day.

صاحب صاحبى said...

نقل اثاث مع الفك والتغليف والتركيب بالدمام لدينا فريق متخصص فى مجال نقل الاثاث اهم مايميز شركة نقل اثاث انه يحافظ على الاثاث اثناء نقله يعمل فريقنا دائما على الحفاظ على فرش المنزل والاثاث من التكسير اخى الكريم اعلم انه عند نقل الاثاث يوجد صعوبه بالغه فى عملية نقل الاثاث بالمدينة المنورة لان هذا الموضوع
نقل اثاث بالمدينه المنوره
يتطلب دقه عاليه بحيث يشمل فك الاثاث عند فك الاثاث نعمل على الحفاظ على الاثاث واثناء نقل اثاث بالمدينة المنورة من مكان لاخر يتطلب مهاره عاليه بحيث لايحدث كسر اثناء نقل أثاث او كسر فى الزجاج لذلك تعمل شركة نقل اثاث بالمدينة المنورة على ان كل شئ يعمل بالطريقه السليمه فكن مطمئن شركات نقل اثاث لديها اخصائين فى مجال تخزين اثاث لاتقلق سيتم نقل اثاث منزلك بطريقه امنه وسليمه
نقل اثاث بالمدينة المنورة
اما بخصوص نوع الاثاث شركه نقل اثاث تقوم بنقل الاثاث بجميع انواعه نقوم بتجهيز سيارات نقل الاثاث ونذهب الى المكان المراد الذهاب اليه ننقل الاثاث على السيارات بطريقه امنه ومضمونه نهب الى المكان المطلوب نقل الاثاث فيه وتقوم تغليف اثاث بانزال الاثاث بطريقه سليمه جدا وتتم بعد ذلك عملية تركيب الاثاث لدينا فروع فى جميع انحاء المنطقه الغربية
شركة نقل اثاث بالمدينة المنورة
ليس فقط تخصصنا بل لدي نقل اثاث بالمدينة المنورة فريق متخصص فى غسيل الخزانات وفريق متخصص فى مكافحة الحشرات وفريق متخصص فى غسيل السجاد وغسيل الكنب مكافحة النمل الابيض .خدمة شركة نقل اثاث بالمدينة المنورة من الخدمات التي تحتاج الي امكانيات ومهارة كبيرة وتحتاج الي الجهد البدني ايضا وهذا ماسوف تجده متوفر لدي نقل اثاث بالمدينه المنورهلاننا نقدم افضل اساليب نقل الاثاث الحديث علي الاطلاق ،فتستخدم شركة نقل اثاث حاملات تقوم برفع الاثاث من خلالها من خلال طرفي الحبل يقوم بحمله عمال نقل اثاث فطرق النقل القديمة والتقليدية قد انتهت فهذه الطرق القديمة
تركيب غرف نوم بالمدينة المنورة
التي كانت تستخدم في النقل كانت تتسبب في خدش الاثاث وتلفه نتيجة حكه المستمر في الحوائط والجدران وكان عند وصوله الي المكان الاخر يكون قد انكسر او تعرض للخدش والحك الكبير.

annisa maulida said...

Nice to read with Drink The Coffee

Brooke said...

Thanks for the post Mark and explaining cold brew coffee. Really appreciate the post. Coming from one coffee fanatic to another, I saw some intriguing coffee sayings that I wanted to share with you and your readers here if you don't mind: Coffee Slogans

Robrt said...

nice post

Unknown said...

A Dutch cold coffee contraption, where a slow drip of ice water seeps through coarse grounds and drips (optionally through a pigtail tube for effect) into a flask below produces incredible coffee, when allowed to mature for 24 hours. The coffee does matter - I like a smokey far roast mixed with a brighter light roast to give chocolately caramel notes with some complexity.

The soaking-the-grinds-for-24-hours-in-a-big-tub method produces muddy dishwater, just like it looks.

The former is a cold "brew", with the best features highlighted of that roast...the latter is a room temp soak, and just as sexy as it sounds.

Charles C Hagaman said...

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