History Of Cold Brew Coffee | THE NIBBLE Blog - Adventures In The World Of Fine Food TIP OF THE DAY: Cold-Brew Coffee – THE NIBBLE Blog – Adventures In The World Of Fine Food
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TIP OF THE DAY: Cold-Brew Coffee

If you’ve been anywhere near an upscale coffee shop lately—Caribou, Peet’s, Starbucks and many others, you know that the latest trend is cold-brew coffee.

Rather than brewing ground coffee the traditional way, cold-brew creates a coffee concentrate by steeping the coffee grounds in cold or room temperature water, for 12 hours and up to twice that if you like strong coffee. Starbucks steeps their cold-brew for 20 hours.

For this reason, cold-brew is pricier than a regular brew. But it’s easy to steep at home. The benefits:

  • You enjoy a smoother cup of coffee. Because the water is never heated so it doesn’t precipitate as much acid or bitterness. The Toddy Cold Brew System produces coffee with 67% less acid than hot brew methods.
  • Make a cup of iced or hot coffee simply by mixing some of the concentrate with cold or hot water.
  • Like caffeine? Cold-brew has more of it.
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    But cold-brew isn’t a new invention. We’ve been making it for 20 years with a Coffee Toddy. We keep the concentrate in the fridge, ready to create iced coffee with water and ice cubes. Producing hot coffee is just as delicious, and an easy way to prepare coffee for a group.

    For those who prefer convenience, bottles of cold-brew coffee concentrate ready to turn into hot or iced coffee, as well as individual ready-to-drink bottles of cold-brew, are sold at better stores from coast to coast.
     
    THE HISTORY OF COLD BREW COFFEE

    In the late 1960s, a garden nursery owner and chemist named Todd Simpson was on a plant-gathering trip to Guatemala, when he was served a delicious cup of coffee made from concentrate. Impressed, he developed the Toddy cold-brew coffee maker in his garage (source).
     
    Kyoto-Style Japanese Coffee

    But wait: While doing research, we discovered Kyoto-style Japanese coffee, a cold brew that originated in the 1600s. Thus, according to Daily Coffee News, cold brew coffee originated in Japan four centuries before Todd Simpson came across it in Guatemala.

    Coffee in Japan in the 1600s?

    It turns out that Dutch traders needed their coffee. Back in the 1600s, there was no electricity; coffee was brewed by dripping hot water through the grounds.

    Cold-dripped or hot-dripped coffee concentrate—“coffee essence”—would have been a means of transporting prepared coffee to be heated and consumed on-board. The traders brought the technique to Japan, where it became known as Dutch coffee.

    Japanese artisans created elegant, tall glass brewing towers that were popularized at shops in Kyoto, Japan, the earliest record of cold-brew coffee.

    Over the centuries, Kyoto-style brews have become highly artistic. Instead of submerging grounds for hours, the coffee is brewed drop by drop. A single bead of water is let down through the coffee grounds at a time, creating a process that takes just as much time as using a Toddy, and beautiful to watch.

    As the Japanese were cold-brewing tea at that time, the process was in place to cold-brew coffee (source).

    How extensively was the technique used beyond Japan? The record is not clear; but in days before electricity, when tending fires and boiling water was a lot of work, cold-brewing may have been a method used in coffee-drinking elsewhere.

       
    Takeya Cold Brew Coffee

    Takeya Cold Brew Coffee

    Toddy Cold Brew Coffee

    [1] Toddy, the original cold brew system (photo courtesy Toddy). [2, 3, 4] The Takeya Cold Brew Iced Coffee Maker is less expensive and smaller but produces less coffee concentrate (photos courtesy Takeya).

     

    Kyoto-Style Coffee Brewer

    The First Canned Coffee

    Cold Brew Concentrate
    [1] This three-tiered Kyoto-style cold-drip brewer is more than two feet tall (photo courtesy Yama Glass). There are versions that are even larger and more elaborate. [2] The first canned coffee with an English-language label (photo courtesy AsianFoodGrocer). [3] Straight from the supermarket: a bottle of cold brew concentrate (photo courtesy Seaworth Coffee).

     

     
    MORE COLD-BREW HISTORY

    According to an extensive article in The Guardian, there are indications that cold-brew coffee might have first been made in Peru, Guatemala or Java. But the documentation is sparse.

    Some of the earliest documented coffee concentrates originated as military rations.

    The Americans, the French and the Brits all simmered down a coffee concentrate for soldiers to reconstitute in the field.

  • The French provide the earliest example of a coffee concentrate served cold, along the lines of today’s iced coffee today. This was the original Mazagran, consumed by French Foreign Legion solders at the Mazagran fortress in Algiers: coffee concentrate sweetened and mixed with cold water. Versions spread internationally after the soldiers returned to France and introduced the concept to cafés (source “All About Coffee,” William H. Ukers, 1922).
  • The Americans: In the book “Civil War Recipes: Receipts from the Pages of Godey’s Lady’s Book,” which compiled recipes from the popular 19th-century women’s magazine, has a recipe for “coffee syrup,” a sugary concentrate with the consistency of treacle (golden syrup).
  • The Brits: In the mid-20th-century, British manufacturers successfully bottled a crossover version called Camp Coffee, advertising that “There’s no comparison for economy, flavor, and quickness.” It’s still available.
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    Why did it take centuries for coffee concentrate to become widely popular, at coffee shops and the shelf-stable, ready-to-drink brewed coffee and concentrates in stores?

    The breakthrough, according to The Guardian, happened in Japan in the late 1960s.

    At that time, canned flavored milk, including coffee-flavored milk, was popular in Japan at that time. Businessman Ueshima Tadao thought to flip the ingredient ratio into a can of coffee with just a small amount of milk and sugar. He subsequently created a black coffee version.

    Thus, the final chapter of cold-coffee history was made by Ueshima Coffee Co., Ltd.; although it took a decade for UCC Coffee With Milk to really catch on.

    Shortly thereafter, in the 1970s, Italian coffee giant Illy introduced ready-to-drink black coffee in a can. The concept continued to expand until…well…check out the bottled coffees and concentrates on the shelves of the nearest market.
     
     
    MORE ABOUT COFFEE

  • Coffee terms and the different types of coffee.
  • The history of coffee.
  • Espresso and the different types of espresso drinks.
  • The history of espresso.
  • The Toddy Cold Brew System.
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