Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee

An interesting article in The New York Times about the difference between cold brew coffee vs. iced coffee.

Both drinks are made from the same pair of magical, everyday ingredients — they’re just combined at different temperatures. Water heated to around 200 degrees Fahrenheit (about 93 degrees Celsius) and poured over the grounds will extract all of coffee’s most pleasurable essences in a matter of minutes. When cooled and poured over ice, you have a standard iced coffee. If the brewing water is room temperature, it must canoodle with the coffee grounds for much longer, anywhere from 12 to 24 hours, to produce a cup of joe worth sipping, but the resulting beverage contains coffee’s most sought after qualities — flavor and caffeine — without the bitterness found in one brewed hot.

Does cold brew coffee have more caffeine than hot coffee or iced coffee? The answer seems to be: it depends:

Wading through the world of cold brew coffee can be a brutal game of trial and error. Thanks to the wide range of brewing methods, the difference in caffeine content among cold brews is considerably harder to predict than the amount of acid. After brewing for 20 hours, 16 ounces of cold brew at Starbucks contains 200 milligrams of caffeine (12 milligrams per ounce). While that’s about 20 percent higher than their iced coffee, which clocks in at 165 milligrams (10 milligrams per ounce), it’s considerably lower than the same amount of hot coffee, which has 310 milligrams (20 milligrams per ounce). Coffee from Dunkin’ reports similar numbers, with 10.8 milligrams in every ounce of cold brew.

But when you wade into more specialty waters, especially among prepackaged brands, the caffeine content is far from predictable. Canned cold brew brands Rise and High Brew have nearly identical packaging, but grabbing the wrong one could cost you. Rise’s original flavor contains 180 milligrams in its 7-ounce can (25 milligrams per ounce), which is anywhere from 30-50 milligrams more caffeine than what’s found in High Brew’s 8-ounce can. Stumptown, a roaster based in Portland, Ore., sells cold brew in 10.5-ounce bottles that contain a whopping 29.4 milligrams of caffeine per ounce.

Read the entire New York Times piece here.

Inside the World of Specialty Coffee

As part of its Annals of Obsession series, earlier this year The New Yorker profiled (article and video) people associated with high-end coffee (specialty coffee).

Watch the ~7 minute video below. The video begins with a highlight of the Elida Estate coffee from Panama, which sells for $29 per cup at Sey Coffee in Brooklyn, NY:

Hard-core aficionados and casual coffee-lovers have formed a new culture of specialty-coffee appreciation. In this flourishing industry, caffeinated connoisseurs form close relationships with the farmers who produce the beans, and educate their customers on why and how to make the best brews.

To say these people are coffee connoisseurs would be an understatement; one person featured in the video, David Wong, has tasted more than 600 coffee bean varieties; another man featured in the video admits to having worked more than 200 hours on his coffee grinder.

Overall, the video does a great job highlighting the specialty coffee culture (from coffee enthusiasts to specialty coffee competitions).

And from the accompanying article at The New Yorker:

“Coffee-geek culture—there’s a lot of us,” Aida Batlle, “a fifth-generation coffee farmer and a first-generation coffee celebrity,” says. “We’re just crazy, passionate nerds.” Hana Kaneshige, an educator at the Durham roasting company Counter Culture Coffee, illustrates an American history of mass coffee consumption, beginning around the turn of the twentieth century. The first wave, commodity coffee, included instant coffee, coffee tinned by the pound, diner coffee, Postum. The second wave heralded the specialty era (the cognoscenti credit Starbucks for its rise), which placed the focus on brewing technique and taste. For the owners of the Bushwick café Sey, the evidence of third-wave coffee is in the gram scales, micro-lots, extractions, varietals from the same single grower; the concern is sourcing, quality, and a technocratic attention to craft. A fourth wave may involve perfect home brews, ready-to-drink beverages, or some even more radical agenda.

The video for The New Yorker was created/produced by Sara Joe Wolansky. Watch the Instagram-bit on Sey Coffee’s account here.

What are your thoughts on the world of specialty coffee?


The entire catalog of Annals of Obsession at The New Yorker appears here.