Cold Brew & Beyond: 5 Coffee Trends to Look for This Summer
Whether you rely on a big chain or a neighborhood cafe for your daily dose of caffeine, by now you've noticed that cold brewed coffee is getting a lot of attention — and for good reason. Unlike traditional iced coffee, which is made by brewing hot coffee at double strength and pouring it over ice, cold brew is steeped for a long time — up to 14 hours, if you wish — at room temperature. The result? A balanced and distinctively smooth cup of joe that's both chocolatey and low in acidity.
Recently, this barista-approved method has inspired a number of innovative and experimental renditions of summer's quintessential pick-me-up, like coffee-flavored sodas and beers, and plenty of regional twists on the basic cold brew recipe of ground coffee plus cold water. So the next time a caffeine craving strikes, reach for one of these five trendy takes on the thirst-quenching beverage.
This NOLA specialty is prepared by steeping freshly roasted coffee and chicory in water overnight, then filtering out the grounds. What's left? A bold, velvety-smooth liquid concentrate with deep, dark flavor imparted by the herbaceous chicory root. You can find New Orleans-style cold brew at coffee shops across the nation, including Sweetleaf, a New York City chain, and Blue Bottle Coffee, available online with store locations in New York, Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Look for Grady's Cold Brew, too, a nationally distributed New Orleans-style cold brew available in stores across the U.S.
As Southeast Asian cuisine becomes more mainstream across the U.S., so do the region's beverages. And with the recent popularity of Thai iced coffee (and tea), it makes sense that Vietnamese-style cold brew would follow as the next caffeinator on our radar. Strong, cold and extra sweet, this is far from your average iced coffee. It starts with a spoonful of sweetened condensed milk layered at the bottom of the glass and is finished with a generous splash of cold brew. If you order this sweet treat at a Vietnamese restaurant, remember to stir the mixture around enough to incorporate the thick condensed milk into the coffee. Pro tip: Skip the straw and drink it straight from the glass for a balanced taste of java and sweetened milk.
Nitrogen-infused cold brew, or "Nitro," is slightly effervescent, ice-cold coffee on tap. It's treated with nitrogen under high pressure, then chilled in a keg and served on draft with a foamy head, similar to a stout beer, but without the alcohol. Rich and velvety, the addition of tiny nitrogen bubbles is thought to produce a sweeter and even less acidic product than regular cold brewed coffee. Portland, Ore.-based Stumptown famously introduced Nitro Cold Brew to its cafes in June 2013, and the creamy beverage is now available in aluminum pop-top cans. This year Austin-based Cuvee Coffee caught on to the trend; its Black & Blue brand has been a huge success, so much so that it's rapidly expanding in capacity, just to keep up with the demand. Brooklyn Roasting Company's product has also received recent praise. A full cup of its Nitro Cold Brew, which is served over ice or straight up, looks less like a conventional cold coffee and more like a glass of Guinness. Equal parts chocolatey and silky smooth, this is one summer-ready cold coffee to get excited about.
Speaking of Guinness: If you're looking for a stronger buzz, you may want to go one step beyond cold brew on tap and opt for a coffee-flavored beer. Combining beer with coffee isn't exactly a new concept, but it's something you can plan to see more of this summer, as a growing number of breweries partner with roasters to create boozy, coffee-flavored brews. Chicago-based roaster Intelligentsia and Stumptown recently partnered with well-known breweries like Goose Island and Six Point to create coffee-beers, and just last summer, Counter Culture teamed up with Sierra Nevada on a limited-edition IPA made with cold brewed coffee. Although the first coffee-beers were largely stouts and porters — darker beers with a strong roast character — many other styles (like IPAs, brown ales and ambers) have pushed coffee flavors into unexpected places as the science of brewing with coffee advances. You may even notice the trend at your local watering hole, as smaller breweries start to collaborate with nearby roasters to develop a variety of seasonal and limited-batch coffee-beers.
High-end coffee shops have long served espresso with a shot of sparkling water, but now they're blending the two together. Italian espresso brand illy is promoting a fan-developed recipe for Espressoda: a fizzy blend of illy espresso, club soda and vanilla syrup served in a latte glass. Though the jury is still out on this one, coffee-sodas aren't going anywhere. Last fall, cold brew's bubbly cousin burst onto the U.S. scene in the form of Coffer, the Austin-based producer of the world’s first naturally carbonated cold brew coffee. While other producers either force-carbonate coffee or simply mix coffee with soda water, Coffer’s aging process involves all-natural ingredients for a silkier carbonation. Go on, give it a try.
While specialty drinks make worthwhile indulgences, remember there are other delicious — and simple — ways to enjoy rich coffee flavor at home. Exhibit A: Coffee Chocolate Chunk Cookies (pictured below).