Coffee on its own has come along way over the past ten or 15 years and so too has cold brew. Right in the heart of summer (and yes, London is actually having a summer this year) Cold brew is not only coffee-of-the-moment, but it might actually be here to stay. Here’s why: it’s refreshing, portable and delicious (providing it’s made well)!
I remember about 8 years ago when I was working at Flatwhite (one of London’s original artisan cafés in Soho who paved the way for the industry) bought a delicate Hario slow dripper. It was placed on a high shelf that no one could reach nor did anyone dare to touch it for fear of breaking such a beautiful but “complicated” piece of equipment. There was zero room to move in the cafe as it was. But the cold brew wasn’t very popular and it was never really encouraged either, because no one knew anything about cold brew.
Fast forward to now, and there are so many cold brews available. Take it to the gym or to a picnic, or mix it in a cocktail... Some cafes make their own very tasty cold brew and sell it at their individual shops and some have expanded it on a larger scale as a new line of product offering. I'm going to tell you which ones of these are consistently good.
If you are to know anything about cold brew, you must know that it actually takes quite some time to prepare. Brewing coffee in cold or room-temperature water gives a different quality to the flavour because it is less soluble than brewing in hot water. So by increasing the time at which you are “extracting” or “brewing”, you can maximise the solubility of the coffee grounds.
When you extract coffee using hot water, it oxidises and degrades much more and faster. So when using a cold brew method, which is slow, you’ll often find that acidity and bitterness is also very low.
There are two main methods people usually use. One is the “Toddy” System, where coffee is steeped in water for a long period of time. But if left too long, it reminds me of leaving a teabag in the water for ages and sometimes you can get that dry, tannin taste in your mouth. But as long as it’s filtered well it can be really delicious. Sandows London Cold Brew has an excellent, effective (but secret) filtration system. There’s an art to that too! (An interview with them at the top of this page or via thegirlinthecafe.co.uk). Sandows London has just released a canned nitro cold brew which is debuting today at Netil Market so get out, work up a sweat and go check it out!
In my experience of making it professionally for over 4 years in cafes, slow drip coffee tastes really delicate with many filtering processes and you can have quite a bit of control over the strength through dose and brew time. I had a beautiful bespoke cold drip coffee maker made for me, which I love, however generally slow drip cold brew is time consuming and the problem is that you don’t get a high enough yield to make it scalable, unless you have multiple devices going at the same time (like San Francisco’s Bluebottle Cafes).
For variety here are FOUR interesting and reliable cold brews you can buy ready-made I would recommend;
SANDOWS COLD BREW
Sandows were the first in the UK to really get cold brew on the map. When cafes were starting to produce cold brew in small amounts, Sandows was the first to really scale it up – with the help of an unprecedented large crowd-funded backing. Their bottle, branding and ethos is sleek and their product is always high quality and consistently tasty. Not only available in indie cafes, but also now at M&S – Making high-quality, fresh cold brew truly accessible. It's great in a G&T too...
Sandows also have a nitro version in selected cafés around London (Grind cafes) where Nitrogen is pumped into the cold brew replacing oxygen making it look more like a Guinness beer, than a glass of coffee. This has probably been the most innovative and dynamic addition to the cold brew and coffee market so far!
Around £3 per 200ml bottle (they also do a cool give box with two bottles which ships worldwide now). www.sandows.com
HER CONCENTRATED COLD BREW
For something stronger I’ve been drinking HER Concentrated cold brew. The ratio is 1 part coffee to 2 parts water, which can be hot or cold. This is novel and probably for the ultra efficient (read lazy), people on-the-go, or even offices and I love it. I’ve been using it in my baking, trying it with Ugly drinks (naturally flavoured sparkling water), or over ice or over ice cream - my favourite! It’s a perfect little surprise for after dinner desert or a hot day treat. For an affogato you need a very concentrated brew for it to mimic that of an espresso, and this works well. Plus I really like the dark, medicinal look of the glass bottle – if you like your fridge to look like an Aesop counter, this is for you. Another little trick I like to do is freeze them in cubes and add them to my Negroni... bring on summer! They're available from HER Haggerston and now Selfridges!
120ml (makes approx. 2 coffees) £4.50
480ml (makes approx. 8 coffees) £12.00
For a longer lasting shelf life cold-brew by Minor Figures is great. It means you can always have a couple in the fridge like I do for spontaneous picnic days, or one to grab and stash it in your gym bag. They’re presented in a Tetra Pak not glass, so they’re compact and light. I love the colours in their packaging. There’s a good selection of flavours that aren’t only black. They have just released their own canned cold brew nitro that is very good and for non-coffee drinkers new organic masala chai sounds OH YEAH...! "Don't make coffee"... Let them do it!
Available from many specialty coffee shops and health food shops like Planet Organic.
250ml around £2.50
BOLD-BREW COLD BREW
Bold-brew cold brew is made from green beans that have been aged in a bourbon barrel. Taking on the subtle flavours of the barrel-aged cask, the beans are then roasted specifically by The Roastery Department, to be made into cold brew. It’s really quite incredible and lives up to it's BOLD name. The smell and the taste is intoxicating, but rest assured, its non-alcoholic! This should be a regular Friday morning treat to get the office teams going!
Stay tuned for their new coffee liqueur coming out soon called Hundred Fifty Lbs - I'll report back here soon soon!
Available exclusively at the Department of Coffee & Social Affairs cafés around London and the UK.
£12.50 750ml Glass Bottles.