67 was the Summer of Love. 2007 was the Summer of Crocs. 2016 was the summer LaCroix first made a splash. So what about 2017? What trends will take off this summer? Don’t quote me on this, but we may look back upon these warm days and call it them the Summer of Cold Brew.
Summer poses a problem for coffee enthusiasts. There is still the same need for coffee, yet warm temperatures make a hot beverage unappealing to many. “Just add ice,” you may retort, but alas satisfying an connoisseur’s palate isn’t that simple. When ice is added to a hot beverage, the melting cubes dilute the coffee. When dealing with a bitter dark roast, this is not an issue, and in many cases actually improves the cup of coffee. With top-shelf beans, however, melting ice becomes a liability in the same way adding water to a fine wine or craft beer is a liability.
Cold brew is the answer to this dilemma. A 12+ hour brewing process creates concentrated coffee. When ice is added to this concentrate, it melts yielding a delightfully balanced cup of cold, refreshing coffee. Insert this cup of coffee into any hot summer setting, and you have a recipe for a great time.
Today cold brew is everywhere and seems to be on everybody’s mind. Last week I was Demitasse, a coffee shop in Santa Monica sippin’ on some cold brew and couldn’t help but notice how many people were also ordering cold brew. I decided to count. Over the course of the next 20 minutes, seven costumers came in and ordered cold brew. To be clear, these people did not come in and order “iced coffee.” They came in and specified that they wanted cold brew.
This cold brew frenzy is a relatively new phenomenon. To illustrate this, lets hop into a time machine and turn the dial to 2007. Step out and find a coffee shop.
“What can I get you?” asks the circa 2007 barista, sporting a snazzy new pair of Crocs.
“A small cold brew please,” you respond. “And make it to go. My time machine is parked in the red.”
The circa 2007 barista looks at you confused. He is puzzled not because you have a time machine and are wearing something other than Crocs on your feet. He is puzzled because it is 2007 and cold brew was not really a thing then. There were some fringe craft coffee establishments scattered throughout cities here and there offering cold brew, but until recently, iced coffee was simply coffee with ice. And people seemed okay with this. As the craft coffee scene began to expand, however, people began to realize their summer coffee game could be taken to a whole new level with cold brew.
And this brings us to the Summer of Cold Brew (i.e. this summer). From the bougiest of coffee shops to the dingiest of convince stores, cold brew is always within an arm’s reach. I will not get into the where/what of cold brew in Los Angeles in the light of keeping this a blog post, not a long read. With that being said, however, if you want the ultimate cold brew experience, head to Demitasse. With two locations in L.A. (Santa Monica and Little Tokyo), Demitasse has perfected the Kyoto drip cold brew system. Again, not going to get into the specifics about Kyoto drip, but you can read this blog post I wrote a few years ago if you have nothing better to do.
Demitasse is obviously not the only place that serves great cold brew. There are probably thousands of coffee shops throughout the world that make a great cold brew. Whether charging their costumers Dollars, Pesos, Francs, or Yen, what all these places have in common is that they take coffee seriously. More specifically, they all use quality beans.
Places like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts may tout the drinkability of their cold brew, but what they are not touting is that they are using sub-par beans. As a result, their cold brew is bitter. Copious amounts of milk and sugar may mask the bitterness in the same way they mask the diluted nature of normal iced coffee. But soon people will wake up the fact that the cold brew they are drinking at places using yucky beans is no better (and simply more expensive) than the normal iced coffee they had been drinking all along.
This does not mean that there is not a future for cold brew. Places like Demitasse that really care about the taste will continue serve it and look for ways to make it better. I do not think, however, that in ten years from now I will be able to walk into a gas station in Hastings, Nebraska and find an assortment of bottled cold brews to choose from. If I am wrong, contact me and I’ll buy you a cold brew.