Iced coffee connoisseurs are no longer content with traditionally brewed extra-strength hot coffee simply chilled and poured over ice.
The cold brew trend has spread beyond coffee epicenters Seattle and Portland and devotees nationwide laud the smoother, less bitter, and less acidic taste of cold brew. Starbucks began offering cold brew coffee in more than 2,800 locations March 31, signaling that the trend is here to stay.
The buzz around cold brew stems from the brew process. Cold brew coffee is brewed without heat for a long period of time, typically at least 12 hours. This lengthy process can present a challenge for restaurant operators looking to offer cold brew.
For Joey Turner, an owner of Brewed in Fort Worth, Texas, serving quality coffee was a priority for the restaurant when it opened more than two years ago. But making cold brew in-house daily was too time consuming.
“It’s really tedious, especially because we’re not just a coffee shop,” he says.
Brewed opted to serve nitrogenated coffee, or cold brew infused with nitrogen, on tap instead. Nitrogenated cold brew is thick and forms a velvety head when poured, like a stout.
“The nitrogen system makes it really fluffy so it looks like a Guinness,” Turner says. “We put it in a tulip glass like we would a quality craft beer so that gives it a great look.”
Brewed serves the coffee on tap on one side of its bar and 13 craft beers on the other. Coffee kegs were installed under the bar just like beer, and Turner says the coffee will remain fresh for one month if needed.
Coffee purveyors offer multiple options for restaurants looking to put cold brew on the menu without undertaking the brew process.
“Most operators find trying to do cold brew in-house each day is a lot of work,” says Diane Aylsworth, director of marketing for Stumptown Coffee Roasters.
Kegs can be added to existing draft systems or operators can install a kegerator to serve cold brew coffee on tap, Aylsworth says.
Stumptown also sells bottles of cold brew, cans, and a concentrate, which is the end product of the cold brew process.
“It's very strong in flavor and caffeine,” Aylsworth says of the concentrate. “The common practice is to dilute it with water to make a ready to drink product.”
At Brewed, sales of the cold brew have been strong, particularly in the heat of the Texas summer.
“It’s got a great story, and it just tastes better,” Turner says.
By Sarah Niss