The Cold Brew Revolution
The following article originally appeared in the October / November 2018 issue of CoffeeTalk Magazine.
54 Years of Cold Brew Coffee Toddy Simpson was a creative entrepreneur who seemed to have a stream of new business ideas constantly brewing in his mind. As his son, I looked up to him figuratively and literally - he was a grand man at six and a half feet tall. Even though he was busy, he loved to sit and visit with anyone who would enjoy a hot cup of coffee with him. Unfortunately, his wife Betty was not able to enjoy this coffee ritual without her stomach becoming irritated. My father started to pursue a smoother, less acidic cup of coffee using skills he learned from Cornell’s College of Chemical Engineering. He discovered that brewing at high temperatures extracts a large percentage of undesirable acids and oils which led him to start experimenting with cold brew. He found that cold brewing produced a cup of joe that had 66% less acid and oil than the hot brew alternative. In 1964, he launched a coffee revolution with his patent of the first cold brew coffee maker.
Some Like It Hot Cold brew coffee is naturally a delightful iced beverage, but it was originally created to be enjoyed hot. Unlike a traditional cup of coffee that becomes undrinkable at room temperature, cold brew remains ultra smooth as it cools. This advantage of cold brew particularly appeals to today’s busy coffee aficionados who want a hot cup in the morning but don’t have the time to finish it before it reaches room temperature. I have been involved in many extensive tests comparing cold-brewed hot coffee to hot-brewed hot coffee, and the results are clear: cold-brewed hot coffee overwhelmingly comes out on top. In a 2013 McDonald’s focus group test, 84% of the consumers preferred the cold brew served hot rather than traditional hot coffee. Since cold brew has less oil and acid, it is much easier to distinguish the attributes of single-origin coffees such as a Guatemalan (nutty and chocolate notes) or Ethiopian (blueberry or other fruity flavors). What’s the use of paying more for high-quality coffee if you won’t be able to taste the subtle characteristics that make it special?
Brewing New Ventures My parents transformed their garage into a workspace and individually assembled and packaged every cold brew coffee maker before hand-delivering it to the post office. In the ‘70s and early ‘80s, there were very few coffee shops, and the majority of the cold brewers were sold through kitchen and hardware stores. In 1987, my wife Mary Frances and I took on the family business. We rebranded the packaging and started promoting the cold brewing method as a way to make delicious iced coffee beverages at home or in gourmet kitchens. We traveled the country pitching cold-brewed ice lattes at specialty food shows. If we could get someone to taste our cold brew, we made the sale! Iced coffee beverages were still an odd concept to most people back then. Slowly but surely, folks caught on. In the late 1980s, we added a small chain called Starbucks (perhaps you’ve heard of it?) to our customer list. Many coffee shops and chains soon started buying our cold brewer to produce their signature iced coffee drinks behind the counter. In 1988, we started producing cold-brewed coffee and tea concentrates so that companies could make their own unique beverages quickly without having to utilize a cold brewing system. Before we ultimately sold the company, we developed and produced concentrates for major chains such as Seattle’s Best, Peet’s, Honest Tea, Arizona, Caribou Coffee, and many others. In 2015, I started a new cold brew adventure. My developmental company, Brew N Bottle, formed an alliance with a large, SQF-certified manufacturing facility to produce custom cold brew coffee and tea products that taste as if they were brewed fresh at a local coffee shop. Many beverages on the market deteriorate very quickly and become sour. Our revolutionary process slows down the pH drift that is common in many of the products that are on the shelf today. Our facility has the ability to fill totes or drums with bulk concentrates as well as plastic and glass bottles, bag in box, for ready to drink beverages. Several decades ago, cold brew coffee existed exclusively to be served hot. I’m not sure my father could have imagined that people would be flocking to coffee shops for cold brew in dozens of forms, including ready-to-drink cans, iced lattes, and the latest nitrogen-infused cold brew served from a tap. It has been quite the journey, and I am looking forward to what is on the horizon for the cold brew revolution. Strother Simpson, Brewnbottle.com, 432-413-1804