While hot coffee has been widely accepted in the U.S. for centuries, the notion of cold coffee — deliberately cold, that is — “iced coffee”—is a fairly recent phenomenon from a consumer standpoint. It’s a mystery that the trend has taken so long to gain a foothold—given the popularity of a tall glass of iced coffee on a hot summer day.
Something for Everyone
As Americans have slowly upgraded their standards for hot coffee, and have created a sophisticated “coffee culture,” the iced coffee market quickly became more exciting (and more accessible) as well. Iced Americanos (espresso and cold water), iced mochas (espresso, milk and chocolate) and frozen cappuccinos, are becoming better quality choices, and are easier to find. People are getting more savvy in terms of knowing the importance of choosing 100% Arabica beans in their iced coffee, are ordering iced coffees when dining out, and are making them at home. Every possible permutation in terms of flavor and preparation when creating an iced coffee drink are available. We are now living in the Golden Age of Coffee—and Iced Coffee!
Alternate Brewing Methods And The Advent of Cold Press Coffee
One recent breakthrough on the chilled coffee front—cold press coffee—revolutionized the way we think about iced coffee, by embracing the temperature shift from the very beginning of the brewing process. Before cold press, iced coffee meant nothing more than brewing a pitcher of hot coffee, placing it in a refrigerator for a few hours, then serving it over ice. (Which is, in its own right—amazing and delicious!) But are several drawbacks to this. First, adding ice to coffee is the equivalent of adding water to it slowly, and a leisurely coffee drinker often found herself with little better than coffee-flavored water by the time she reached the bottom of her glass. (Coffee shops that choose to brew their iced coffee with boiling water will often double the amount of beans for just this reason.
Second, brewing experts discovered that the process of brewing coffee in cold water, while much more time-consuming than the traditional approach, actually released many fewer bitter acids from the grounds. Some also claim that cold-brewed coffee contains less caffeine due to its lower brewing temperature, but others actually say just the opposite, arguing that the longer brewing time required for cold press coffee eventually extracts even more of the stimulant from the beans. Today, a good coffee shop will often carry cold press, which traditionalists maintain is the only authentic brewing method for creating real iced coffee.
While iced coffee is not everyone’s, ahem—cup of tea, some coffee purists might choose cold coffee over hot — even in the dead of winter. Few improvements to the culinary universe are as simple as just adding ice, but coffee has once again proved itself to be that most chameleon-like of beverages.