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Iced Coffee vs. Cold Brew

           It’s hot outside. Humid too.  It’s that time of year in which the idea of hot coffee mixed with the afternoon sun can sound unpleasant. Many people opt for iced coffee, and others go for the somewhat lesser known cold brew. But what’s the difference between the two? Some interviews with baristas at Greenstreet provided an explanation.

         Iced coffee (sometimes referred to as Japanese Iced Coffee) is brewed hot over ice, and requires careful attention to dividing the water ratio into two separate parts. One part consists of the hot water needed for extracting the favorable solids. The other part is the ice that quickly cools those solids at their peak to lock-in the delicate aromas and acidity that are indicative of hot brewed coffee. This separation is rare in most coffee shops. More commonly, they simply double the batch brew recipe and chill the coffee to serve later over ice. Iced coffee can be light and refreshing if done right, but because of the precision needed to accurately extract coffee with half the water, there is plenty of room for error.

          A single misstep in technique could lead to revealing the unfavorable compounds buried in every bean, like an under-extracted peanut skin taste, or bitter over-extracted acidic flavors. Both have thin and lifeless bodies. Incorrectly brewed iced coffee can be reminiscent of day-old hot coffee kept in the fridge overnight, and severed on ice. This tactic is often justified with short-sighted assumptions such as, “Iced coffee drinkers don’t like coffee anyway.”  This unfortunate form will taste harsh, and dirt-like with a watery and sometimes oily body.

            Cold brewed coffee is the result of extracting the favorable qualities of coffee by steeping freshly ground coffee for several hours in cool, or room-temperature water. The cold brew method reveals coffee’s true flavors, and limits the opportunity for bitter and over-extracted flavors from creeping into the cup. Generally, cold brewed coffee is a less acidic, sweeter, and more syrupy version of its hot brewed self. Too good to be true? Nope! But there is one downside to the cold brewed method. Some of the complexities in coffee can be lost by not extracting at a high water temperature. What is lost in complexity is made up for with the syrupy elixir we enjoy called: Cold Brew.

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Greenstreet cold brew photo provided by Cait (Production Assistant) 

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