I thought this would be an interesting topic for discussion: Cold-brewing coffee. I know there are a few people in town that make coffee this way. What do you think?

If you are unfamiliar with the process, or even just want to read a good article on the topic, visit the NY Daily News site.

Candace Gibson, who manages the city’s sole outlet, in the Penn Plaza Borders, takes 5 pounds of coarsely ground coffee beans, pours them in a giant filter in a big white plastic barrel, and lets them soak in 14 quarts of filtered water for 18 to 24 hours at room temperature.

Then, she lets the coffee slowly filter out the bottom through a spigot into a pitcher for pouring drinks. This brew, says Gibson, “is actually a concentrate”: thick, slightly syrupy and very strong, meant to be cut in half with water before it’s poured over ice.

The resulting drink ($1.70 for a small) is rich and flavorful with a creamy feel, minus any of that bitter bite you’d expect in cold coffee served up straight.

In fact, Jason Scherr, a cold-brewing advocate who owns Think Coffee in Greenwich Village and the Verb Cafe in Williamsburg, recommends his version without milk or sugar – “because we think our iced coffee is smooth enough.”

Scherr, who’s been cold-brewing for six years, thinks the method makes better-tasting iced coffee for two reasons.

First, he says, you’re not “going back and forth between extreme temperatures,” leading to a “bitter and over-extracted taste.” And the long, slow, cold brewing process means he’s “being as gentle with the bean as possible,” resulting in that velvety feel.

There’s science at work, too, claims Brett Holmes, a partner in Toddy, the Texas beverage company that makes the low-tech cold coffee brewers for coffee shops and regular Joes.

A smaller, home Toddy is $29.99 at Seattle’s Best, although MacGyver types could always rig up their own filter system.

Cold water extracts 67% less acid from beans than hot, says Holmes, meaning less bitterness and less trouble for those with tender tummies. Still, while 9,500 coffee shops nationwide use Toddy as “their little secret,” says Holmes, it’s been mostly under the radar in New York until now.

Beyond Think, Verb and Seattle’s Best, the only two Toddy shops he knows are Full City Coffee on the lower East Side and Ciao for Now in the East Village.

Scherr has a good idea of why it hasn’t yet caught on commercially: The buckets take up space, each filter costs $1, and you use more coffee per cup than brewing it hot.

“But if you ever had it,” he says, “you would definitely understand why we do it.”

Of course, there are caveats, say coffee geeks, who’ve long posted reviews of cold-brewing on sites like www.coffeegeek.com. Like any food, coffee is a subjective thing, meaning some like it smoother and creamy – the Seattle’s Best style – while others like bite sometimes associated with Starbucks.

But however you like it, iced coffee is definitely hot now.

Read the rest of the article here.

Arizona Coffee

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  1. you said it, thomas, seattle espresso has the best toddy i’ve had in the valley – and it’s WAY better than iced coffee.

    michael t – you are right, too! hot coffee needs the acid to taste delicious, but iced coffees will taste bitter if first brewed hot.

    my conclusion: cold brew the iced coffees and hot brew the hot stuff. simple, eh?

    being that we’ve now consistently hit 3 digit heat, i’ve found that the 45 minute commute to seattle espresso in the morning is well worth the drive for toddy.

    tip for seattle espresso drinkers: save your plastic cup after you get off work, stop by and ask for a refill of your toddy for like 59 cents (i think).

  2. I’m pretty sure that the 67% less “acid” that toddy extracts is a huge part of the flavor profile in hot coffee. If you want to miss out on that, be my guest.

    That said, if you make your iced coffee improperly, yes, it will taste bitter and nasty.

  3. Todd

    I have a Toddy coffee maker at home and I really like it. I don’t know that I agree with the less acidity claims made here, but it does result in a smoother, sweeter concentrate that I find is excellent over ice – especially in this hot Phoenix summer weather.

  4. Jerrid

    I have a new found respect for Ice-Blended coffee drinks due in part to cold-brewed coffee. I do agree that acidity plays a huge part in the flavor profile of hot coffee and espresso beverages, but I personally find it an unpleasant nuance in cold coffee drinks, especially blended ones. With the use of Toddy you get the smooth flavor of the coffee and all the caffeine but with a whole new twist that actually makes iced coffee enjoyable for me. I have begun my own personal quest this summer to find the best Ice-Blended coffee drink in Phoenix and so far my favorites are the ones made with cold-brewed coffee.

  5. mikeftrevino

    Michael, have you ever had a toddy? It’s an excellent drink; one of the summer time favorites.
    I hate the term acidic. The layman doesn’t know and use it in the same sense the pro or knowledgeable coffee drinker uses it. What they are referring to are the tannins extracted during the brewing process. The cold process extracts much less than a hot and produces a smoother cup. It is fairly obvious that is what they are referring to.

    “Tannins are naturally occurring complex polyphenolics found in many plants, particularly those with a woody habit. Their main function in nature seems to be one of protection; animals are deterred from eating plants high in tannins because of the bitter, astringent taste.”

  6. Thomas Reynolds

    I have a Toddy system at home and am willing to drive 30 minutes to get Toddy at Seattle Espresso in Tempe. It’s the only way to go, plus more caffeine.

  7. Larry

    Cabin Coffee @ 67th & Happy Valley

    Coffee Shark Cafe’ @ McQueen & Ray

    If you are in Tucson…

    The Coffee Vein @ Stone & Drachman

    are a few places that serve an excellent “Cold-Steeped” coffee as the base for their iced drinks.

    I’m sure their are others I’ve unintentionally left out.

  8. Fellow Mike – I’ve had a Toddy or two. Tasted like cold, smooth coffee. Maybe I haven’t had enough, but it was a simple flavor, unlike the more complex flavors I’ve tasted from hot coffee. Also, I suspect that tea is a much bigger tannin villain than coffee is.

    Ditto on the Coffee Shark toddy endorsement…

  9. steve kessler

    Toddy all the way for me!! I generally make mine with Ethiopian Yirgacheffe.

  10. I’ve not yet tried Toddy coffee, but I’m under the impression I wouldn’t much care for it.

    Of course, I could be wrong.

  11. EJ

    Toddy coffee is the best for summertime cool drinks, much better than “cooled” hot brewed coffee. If you haven’t found a Toddy “flavor” you like, try different types of coffee. Also, the notion that Toddy contains more caffeine is false, it actually contains about 20 mg less caffeine per 100 g of coffee than traditional hot brew. Also, home brewers should be sure to use Arabica beans for best results and not Robusto…personally I haven’t tried using Robusto, why waste 12 hours to get a bad result when the experts say don’t do it! I took a coffee class a Phoenix Cooks last year and have been a Toddy convert ever since.

  12. mikeftrevino

    Caffeine content is not static. It can surely have more than a equivalent drip brew. It depends on the steep time. We typically go 24hrs and dose heavily on the coffee in ours and it has significantly more caffeine.

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