Summer is finally settled into the UK, in a month when most of us will enjoy two extra days-off from work too! Just because the sun is coming out more often, that doesn’t mean that you can’t still enjoy a tasty cup of freshly brewed coffee. In fact, speciality coffee can taste great as a cold beverage either on its own or as part of a recipe. In this article, we’ll explain why the best coffee can be so good when served cold and we’ll also give you three recipes to try for yourself at home or at work.
Hot or cold? Why speciality coffee can do both
Coffee has been consumed using a myriad of methods since its humble origins to present day. Some coffees lend themselves better to certain methods such as robusta beans that are added to enrich Italian style espressos or mocha shots with more venom, or lightly roasted single origin Kenyan beans that work wonders with an Aeropress filter. Of the many methods we know and love, most will result in a nice hot cup of coffee, which most of us will enjoy 3.2 times per day (NCA).
If I mention cold coffee to you, you may flashback to a time when you took a sip from a cup that you’d forgotten you’d made, and needless to say it wasn’t very nice. Cold and bitter, maybe the milk had separated from the coffee, or the coffee had sunk to the bottom. I can appreciate why you may have read this title with one eyebrow raised.
But like all things worth enjoying, coffee rides the waves of trends that are often started by truly passionate and creative people who never accept the status quo, in this case that cold coffee can’t taste amazing. To those people, we are grateful because we’re currently going through an exciting time where two rising movements are coinciding; a curiosity for speciality coffee, and as a result, awesome cold brews.
What is it about speciality coffee that makes it good cold?
To answer this question, we need to get a little technical but bear with me. Our tongues are incredible tools for tasting flavours, picking up sensations like textures and temperature, and working work with our noses to eek out aromas. When we drink coffee, our tongues can pick up different aspect of all of these things as its temperature changes. When we drink better coffee, like speciality beans, these flavours are more advanced at each stage.
When hot coffee is brewed at 92 ℃, our tongues can’t really taste much, so a lot of the actual flavours are disguised. At the same time you can pick up the most aromas through your nose. Some coffees may seem more intense in bitterness, smell, and mouthfeel, but overall, piping hot coffee will taste like piping hot coffee.
As the temperature drops to around 70 ℃, the aromas may become less intense because there isn’t that heat to fire them out now. It is also easier to distinguish sweetness, bitterness and acidity. This is where it gets interesting!
Coffees that are of really good quality, like speciality beans, will generally have a good balance of sweetness, acidity and bitterness. They’ll also display more complex flavours and aromas thanks to their natural sweetness and often lower caffeine levels. External factors like climate, terroir and processing methods will also play a massive role on the final flavour. Coffee is a lot like wine in that sense, the more you can pick up on the nose and the tongue, the better the quality is likely to be.
You’ll probably find with coffees of a lower quality are exposed at temperatures below 75 ℃, the balance of flavours may not be quite right or there aren’t many distinguishable flavours. This is why we are more likely to add some sugar to dark roasted or lower quality beans, to reset try to reset the balance. As this coffee gets cooler the only thing you’ll probably pick up is more and more bitterness.
Some speciality coffees will taste delicious at even lower temperatures, and again, it’s all really to do with sweetness and acidity. These coffees can be delicate and floral at higher temperatures, and they’re also perfect for cold brews. Kenyan single origins with their floral notes and Guatemalan beans for their higher acidity are great options.
Hopefully, you now understand why speciality coffees can make amazing cold beverages. So let’s take a look at three amazing recipes that you can try at home or show off at work. Each can deliver a deliciously refreshing alternative for a hot sunny day, while you can still get your caffeine kick!
Basic Cold Brew Recipe
All of these drinks require cold brew coffee as the staple ingredient and there is no reason why you can’t easily make your own at home. You just need:
- Good speciality coffee (coarsely ground as if for a french press)
- Fine strainer or muslin cloth
- Filtered cold water
- A container for your brew, like a Kilner jar
The coffee you choose to use may depend on the recipe you make, or of course you can brew a few different ones to sample. Broadly speaking, here are some of the best options to try to start your cold brew coffee journey.
Central and South American regions like Guatemala, Colombia are Peru are renowned for their good levels of citrus acidity, which make them excellent options for a refreshing drink. They also tend to have milk chocolate notes which is conducive to sweetness. For something more fruity and floral, Kenya is the place to be. Rwandan speciality beans can offer rich fruity juiciness like blackcurrant which is obviously very tasty!
A good all-rounder would probably be from Brazil, as speciality coffees from this region tend to have a good balance of zesty acidity with sweet chocolate notes. Which ever coffees you try for your cold brew, you’ll probably want them to be light to medium roasts as anything darker might be too bitter.
We use a ratio of 1:10 of ground coffee to water when we make our own cold brew. For example, you could use 50g of ground coffee for a 500g cold brew drink, or 100g for 1 litre and so on. We prefer to use filtered cold water as it reduces the risk of anything else in the water affecting the outcome of your brew. If you want to make your brew stronger, adjust the ratio to add more coffee to water.
To brew, place your filter (fine strainer, cheesecloth… or even tights) in your container, with the top of the filter overlapping the outside of the lip. You want the container to be big enough for the amount you want to brew and you need to be able to leave the filter in overnight. Pop your coffee in, making sure none of the grounds escape the filter or end up in the jar. Lastly, add your cold water and leave in the fridge for up to 24 hours to brew – 12 hours is really fine for small batches.
The next day, remove the filter with the coffee inside, making sure none of the grounds drop into the cold brew.