In Depth

Cold-brew coffee: the next big trend

Espresso too bitter for you? Try a cold-brew coffee, which is said to be sweeter and smoother

After making its debut last summer, cold-brew coffee is set to be this year's caffeine craze. But what is it, and why would you want to drink it?

What is cold-brew coffee?

Cold-brew coffee is, as the name suggests, coffee brewed with unheated water. Coffee grounds are steeped in water at room temperature for up to 24 hours. This results in a highly concentrated liquid, which is diluted with water and served chilled. Although relatively new to the western world, cold-brew coffee has been a staple in Japan, where it is known as Kyoto coffee, since the 1600s.

Is it worth a 24-hour wait?

Coffee enthusiasts certainly seem to think so. The process of making espresso, they suggest, effectively forces the coffee flavour from the beans, whereas cold-brew drinks are allowed to infuse over many hours. The result is that the bitterness of espresso is replaced by a smoother and more velvety taste.

Isn't cold-brew coffee essentially the same as iced coffee?

No. Iced coffee is an espresso-based drink which is brewed in the usual way, with almost boiling water, and then cooled with ice. Cold-brew coffee doesn't have to be served cold, and can be heated after brewing if you wish.

Where can I try it?

Cold-brew coffee is mostly the preserve of independent and artisan coffee shops, but Starbucks has announced plans to offer the drink this summer. Other coffee chains have yet to confirm whether they will produce their own batches.

If you can't stomach Starbucks and can't find an independent coffee shop, there is still hope for your cold-brew aspirations. A number of small-scale producers are now making bottles or cartons of cold-brew coffee for sale in shops and delicatessens. Sandows of London even has a postal delivery service for those who are out of reach of the nearest cold-brew coffee producer.

Can I make it at home?

There are a number of ways to make cold-brew coffee at home with some more complex than others. If you don't want to buy a load of new kit, simply put your ground coffee in a bowl of water at a ratio of 1:5 (so 200g of coffee would need one litre of water) and leave in the fridge overnight. Drain using a fine mesh sieve layered with a muslin cloth and enjoy. The brew can be kept for up to a month. 

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