Ever picked up your forgotten morning brew, taken a sip, and instantly regretted it? Most folks would agree that a forgotten cup of coffee that has gotten cold is one of their least favorite ways to get their caffeine in for the day, but what about coffee that’s meant to be enjoyed cold? There seems to be no shortage of brewing methods for iced coffee, but what do they all mean?
The easiest, but least preferable way to make iced coffee is simply to pour hot coffee over ice. This experience is upgraded by using coffee ice cubes, but it will generally result in a weaker, watery brew. Plus, who has leftover coffee for ice cubes?!
Another method is to brew a strong coffee, cool it off to room temperature, and refrigerate. Once it’s cold, you can pour it over ice. This will give you a stronger, better tasting brew; however, because the coffee is exposed to oxygen for long periods of time during the process, you will experience a change in the flavors of the coffee, due to oxidation. This can give the coffee a stale taste, as it changes the chemical composition of the coffee as the oils degrade as they are exposed to oxygen.
One of the newer players on the iced coffee field is cold brew. This has been a trendy method in recent years for both coffee shops and home brewers. The cold brewing method is one of the easiest ways to produce iced coffee, but it is also the longest from start to finish. When cold brewing, coarse to medium ground coffee is submerged in room temperature water for an average of 12 hours. Then, the grounds are strained out and the remaining liquid is refrigerated. Many proponents of this method claim the acidity is much lower due to high heat being left out of the brewing process. However, like the previous method, oxidation is a concern because the cold brew is often left out for an extended period of time and degradation of the oils and acids can occur. The lack of heat in the brewing process can also lead to under extraction, resulting in an underwhelming taste in the final product.
The last method we will cover is often referred to as the Japanese Iced Coffee method or flash brewing. This technique consists of brewing your coffee hot, but instead of being left to cool slowly, it is instantly cooled by ice cubes. By brewing the coffee hot, you ensure that the full flavor of the coffee beans are extracted into the final product. When the hot coffee hits the ice, the flavors and the aromas are trapped in the final product, creating a smooth, full flavor iced coffee.
So, most importantly, what are you drinking? At PCJ, we used a tried and true method in which we brewed a strong coffee and gradually cooled it before refrigerating and serving. However, we were experimenting behind the scenes in our cupping lab to figure out how we could take something that tasted good, like our iced coffee blend, and make it even better! We started off with small batches in our Chemex brewer and experimented constantly with our large brewer to recreate the perfect batch. This year, we finally got it right and we now exclusively serve Japanese style iced coffee in our cafes. The final product is so smooth and enjoyable, you may find yourself drinking it with less sugar and cream! If you haven’t already, swing by your favorite cafe and try a cup!