Opting for a cold caffeinated beverage instead of your usual latte order is a solid summertime choice. We’ve moved on from iced coffees and frappes; chilled black coffees, such as cold brew and cold drip, are quickly gaining popularity. Because it draws out less oils and acids from the bean than a hot process would, the cold extraction method allows for a lighter and more floral drink and minimises bitterness. The slower process means the caffeine content is higher, too. But if you’ve ordered a coldie and been disappointed, you’re not alone.
“A person might order a cold drip expecting a cold brew,” says Ian Callahan, owner of Bar 9, Adelaide. “We serve a 45ml shot of cold drip with some ice and they’re expecting a 300ml highball. They’ll ask ‘Can I top this up with water?’ and we go ‘Oh you wanted cold brew!’”
Callahan compares the two drinks to the choice between espresso and filter coffee. “Cold brew is generally a lot lighter, compared to cold drip, which is more intense and concentrated,” he explains.
The main difference between the two is the method. Cold brew uses an immersion technique, mixing coffee and water, which is left to ‘brew’. “Put simply, the process is coffee grounds steeped in temperature-controlled [cold] water for an extended period, until desired extraction is achieved,” explains Scott Giles of Mischief Brew. Things like “temperature, filtration, bottling, storage and [even] service have an effect on our final product.”
Cold drip coffee requires timed contact with water and coffee, controlled by a slow drip and grind size. This is achieved with a drip tower, usually made up of three glass vessels held together by a wooden stand. “With the drip, you’re getting a drop of water that [flows through coffee grounds and] collects aromatic compounds, fats and lipids which then gets stored in a separate vessel. As opposed to [cold brew’s] immersion style where everything is swelling together and it’s almost like a stew,” says Callahan.
There’s plenty of room for variation, too. “Like with anything coffee related, there are always different brew ratios. You can set up a cold dripper with a coarser grind and faster drip to achieve something a bit lighter and fresher, as opposed to the intensity of something slower.”
For those who still want a splash of milk in their coffee, opt for the cold drip. “If you want a milk coffee, ordering cold drip leaves more room for adding it. You can basically use the cold drip in place of an espresso shot,” says Callahan. Adding milk to cold brew will mask its subtle flavours. The upside is, cold brew’s lighter style allows the floral aromas of the coffee bean to shine through, which makes for an enjoyable and almost bitter-less black drink. So, next time you’re ordering, make sure to choose the right word to avoid disappointment.