June 26, 2024

What's The Deal with Cold Brew Coffee?

By Vantage Coffee Roasters
What's The Deal with Cold Brew Coffee?

Cold brew has taken the world by storm since its inception, and even in the USA it has increased by 300% from 2016 to 2023 according to Food & Beverage Insider! At Higher Ground, we started selling cold brew the same year that we opened in 2007, and in 2015 we moved the cold brew production to our Vantage Coffee Roastery in Union City. Around this same time we also began to serve nitro[genated] cold brew! Initially, cold brew wasn’t well known and we were only selling 2-3 gallons a week, but now we sell anywhere from 100-120 gallons a week between four separate stores. What may come as a surprise to some is that cold brew has actually been around since at least the 1600! It’s historically been associated with the Dutch and Kyoto, Japan known as Kyoto-style coffee, but is for sure founded in Kyoto as sort of the genesis of this style of coffee. Cold brew has been around for many centuries but really is a kind of recent phenomenon in terms of how the world has traditionally consumed coffee. So, the rise of cold brew over the last decade raises questions that many people want to know such as: What is cold brew? How is it made? Why is it suddenly so popular and on demand?

Typically when we think of coffee we think about a hot beverage that has some bitterness, has some flavor, is surprisingly aromatic, and older people drink it. If your childhood was anything like mine, then you recall that there was always a pot of coffee that was especially brewed in the morning which immediately told you that your parents were up, and maybe you shouldn’t bother them until they’ve finished their cup (or three) of coffee. Personally, I never learned this lesson and was always taught the hard way to not be too loud or rambunctious after getting up myself. However, for me that was some twenty years ago and coffee has gone through quite the journey since then. I mean, all I knew growing up was Folgers and Maxwell, and by no means am I meaning to knock them down a peg since that’s what people like and they played a significant role in getting coffee where it is now. But I never understood the allure of these bitter, almost burnt tasting beverages. Heck, if I ever got my own cup it was more often like I was adding coffee to my sugar and creamer rather than the reverse! So, this leads us to explaining what cold brew is.

 Right off the bat, let's discern what the difference is between cold brew and iced coffee. Iced coffee involves making a hot brew and pouring it over ice or refrigerating it whereas cold brew is brewed with room temperature water and is steeped with coarse grounds anywhere from 8-24 hours. Now, the most obvious characteristic of cold brew is the fact that it is cold. For some people, this is a total affront to their experience with coffee. It’s cold!? The audacity! Let's not even get started on the fact that nitro cold brew is a thing now! And, yet, for others cold brew is the only kind of coffee they’ll take nowadays, and the reason is because cold brew is not bitter, and has only a little acidity to it because the cold brew process leaves behind the bitter acids giving us the positive aspects of coffee that people enjoy.

Now, coffee made its way into western Europe in the early 1500s thanks to the Turks, and then in the 1600s it became a legitimate beverage to drink due to Pope Clement Vlll baptizing some coffee beans. This acceptance for coffee definitely served to push the beverage deeper into western Europe despite tea still being the predominant source of caffeine for some areas such as Britain. Coffee was also introduced in the 1600s to the New World and its consumption became one of the primary forms of rebellion during the Revolution which is seen through their resistance to tea such as with the Boston Tea Party (some could say they were a little over-caffeinated and zealous). Coffee has made headways throughout history and has been at the center of some major political and philosophical events that have shaped what we know now, and it would seem it continues that same kind of feistiness and rebellion in different ways now such as with cold brew!

Cold brew first got here in the 1930s thanks to Cuba, however, it took a few decades before it picked up in popularity beginning with shops like Blue Bottle and Stumptown Coffee Roasters with its heyday really beginning in the 2010s due to Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts using it in their stores. It’s because of the ingenuity of people thinking outside the box that we have cold brew now, and it continues to set the pace for innovations in the coffee world that will continue to break and establish norms. So, whether it’s a soothing hot cup of joe or a refreshing cold brew, let's sit back and enjoy the history of coffee one sip at a time!


This blog was written by Jeremiah Whiteman.