What is cold brew coffee?

By Hugo Harrison

Cold brew, hot on the heels of sprouted flours, pulled pork and craft beer, is the latest in a series of food and drink trends to make its way to the UK from America. But what is it? And how is it made? As I found out, the answer is a little more scientific than simply adding ice…

What is cold brew coffee?


coldbrew coffee

When coffee is brewed normally, hot water passes through ground coffee and is filtered, either with a filter paper when using an AeroPress or v60, or fine metal gauze when using a cafetiere or espresso machine. The addition of hot water brings out the acidic and slightly bitter flavours of a coffee, but when cold brew is made, coffee grounds are steeped in chilled water for anything from 12-24 hours, resulting in a coffee with low acidity and a sweeter flavour. It’s then usually filtered two or three times before bottling.

Hugh Duffie, co-founder of the British cold brew brand Sandows, explains what separates cold brew from an iced latte – and the best way to drink it.

‘Most iced lattes you buy are made from coffee brewed with hot water, which is then chilled and served with milk,’ he says. Sugar syrup is often added to counteract the slight bitterness in the coffee created by the hot water it’s been brewed with. Cold brew is different: ‘Because there’s a longer, chilled process in the brewing, there usually isn’t any need for sugar and people enjoy it straight up over ice.’

But that’s not all there is to get your head around. Cold brew is being super-charged into something else. At this year’s London Coffee Festival, Hugh and his business partner Luke Suddards launched their latest venture: cold brew nitro.

cold brew nitro

Nitro cold brew has been a hit in cities across Japan and America, and now it’s even available in a can. When poured on draught, it looks more or less exactly like Guinness: ‘It comes out with a thick, creamy, glossy head and is even smoother to drink than the still version of our cold brew, with an almost buttery flavour,’ says Hugh. ‘It fits in just as well at a bar as it does at a café.’

Whether you like your cold brew black, with milk or charged with nitrogen – or whether you want to give it a try for the first time – you can now get your chilled caffeine fix from a growing number of brands and cafes across the country. Here are some of my favourites:
Sandows London
Minor Figures
Nude Espresso

Are you a cold brew coffee convert or are you sticking to instant? Let us know in the comments.

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