As college students, coffee runs through our veins. But as the weather heats up, some may opt for cold coffee over a hot one. Usually, we think of a cold coffee being brewed hot and poured over ice, but an alternative brewing method will make you see the world of roasted coffee in a new perspective.
The method is known as cold brew coffee. While the technique isn’t necessarily new, it’s starting to pop up around the country as a new trend for coffee enthusiasts.
Nadav Mer is the owner of Morning Bell Coffee Roasters, a local coffee micro-roaster along Grand Avenue who has been serving Phoenix for a little over a year.
He specializes in cold brew coffee that is available for sale by the bottle for $5 in the store and in places around town such as the Saturday Open Air Market, Thirdspace, Grindhouse Coffee, Grand Avenue Pizza Company and The Lost Leaf.
While the process normally starts out the same way, every roaster approaches the process differently to make it unique to them. Typically, the ground coffee is brewed with cold water in a French press to chill in the refrigerator from anywhere between 12 to 24 hours, Mer says.
“Some cold brew taste very bright and acidic and have a lot of interesting flavor in them. Others are mellower, more chocolaty and nutty. There are a lot of different ways that you can make cold brew,” Mer says.
Morning Bell focuses on accentuating the flavor by brewing the coffee when it’s at its freshest and letting it brew longer for higher caffeine content.
“The difference with ours is that I brew it to strength so it’s not diluted at all. As compared to most toddy’s that are actually brewed in a very strong concentrate and then cut with water, maybe on a 50/50 basis,” Mer says.
As a roaster, Mer prefers the 24-hour brewing method. As soon as the coffee is done roasting, he processes it within an hour.
“Even if I let it sit a day or two, the flavors really change. For me to try to make the mellowest, smoothest, clearest coffee that I can, I’ve really learned that it’s gotta be fresh out of the coffee roasters and, trust me, it makes a huge difference.”
A few characteristics set cold brew apart from other styles of coffee. First off, it is less acidic than regular hot brewed coffee.
“The industry buzzword is 30 percent. This has 30 percent of the acid of coffee that is brewed hot. I think that the acidity thing is really good for people who have acid problems, like for people that normally can’t drink coffee. Whatever gastrointestinal issue they have, cold brew is a really nice way to drink coffee for those who have those kinds of issues,” Mer says.
Second, it has two-to-three times more caffeine because of the conditions under which it is created. Due to how long the coffee brews in the cold water, the caffeine levels are increased without ruining the flavor through a process called extraction, Mer says.
“Cold brew extracts. Imagine if you make coffee and you’re using hot water, you’re extracting all sorts of flavor, all sorts of intensity out of whatever it is, as opposed to cold. Even if you let it sit a long time, you’re not going to get that same level of extraction,” Mer says.
The longer brewing time plays a role in giving the cold brew its distinct taste. The difference is that the longer brewing time using cold water allows the grounds to slowly bring out flavors as opposed to the rapid brewing from the hot process.
“When you take [hot]brewed coffee and brew it down, you’re extracting a lot of that process. You’re bringing out a lot of things in that blend that aren’t necessarily good.”
Cold brew extracts so little from the grounds that some people are even able to reuse their grounds multiple times, Mer says.
“With cold brew it’s just really a story of that extraction, to extract as much as we can flavor-wise and caffeine-wise,” he says.
Cold brew can be served in a variety of ways, including with milk or even straight black. But one thing remains the same; it can be enjoyed by every type of coffee lover.
“Cold brew is very trendy. That’s something to kind of make note of. We have these huge trends right now towards cold brew all over the country. It’s a different way to take coffee,” Mer says.
Coffee has consistently been popular throughout its existence, and places like Morning Bell Coffee Roasters are giving customers a reason to indulge in this original type of brew.
“It’s a good kind of gateway drug to all the rest of the interesting things happening to coffee. There’s a lot of innovation going on, and obviously in Phoenix it’s nice to be able to sell a cold beverage,” Mer says.