Over the last ten years, cold brew coffee has skyrocketed in popularity and has revolutionized how we consume coffee.
Cold brewed coffee is different from brewed coffee in 3 ways: it brews cold, brews for at least 14 hours, and is not bitter. Basically, it’s all the great parts of brewed coffee without the bitterness, sourness, and diluted flavor. So how did cold brew become so popular? The history of cold brew starts in Japan.
Cold Brew Started in Kyoto, Japan
Cold brew dates back to the 1600s. The Japanese had already been cold brewing tea when Dutch trading ships introduced the beverage as a way to transport and make coffee that did not require “dangerous fire.” Today, Japanese or Kyoto-style coffee is made by letting water slowly, drop by drop, drip over coffee grounds in glass apertures suspended as a tower.
It is unclear how the brew evolved from cold-steeping to drip, but experts have speculated that it came about after people realized that slower brewing helps extract more flavor. Kyoto-style drip coffee is heralded as one of the most artistic brewing processes in the industry and takes up to 24 hours to produce a single batch.
The Rise in Popularity
After the Dutch introduced their cold brew coffee to the Japanese, the Kyoto-style cold brew coffee was invented. Then, in the 1840s, the Mazargan, an iced coffee made with lemon, became a popular drink to combat the desert heat. By the 1930s, Cuba reinvented the cold brew process and iced coffee began gaining popularity across the US. Then, in 1960, a man named Todd Simpson invented the Toddy Brewing System after taking a trip to Peru and being introduced to cold brew coffee. However, it wasn’t until the 90s that coffee shops in America adopted this method and began making coffee concentrate for their blended drinks.
In the 2000s, cold brew was adopted by innovative coffee shops like Blue Bottle and their New Orleans style iced coffee, along with Stumptown Coffee Roasters with their nitro cold brew.
A decade later, big coffee chains like Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts picked up on cold brew, making it more accessible to the general public. This is when cold brew coffee’s popularity finally skyrocketed after its long journey. In 2017, the US revealed its annual cold brew coffee growth figures to be at a staggering +370%. (Source)
Why Cold Brew Became Popular
Cold brewing produces coffee with a smooth and sweet taste, it generally goes down easier and quicker than hot coffee. While brewing coffee with hot water brings out acids, a characteristic that professional coffee tasters call “brightness,” cold water produces a full range of mouthfeel and sweetness, devoid of the acidity. The absence of acidity in cold brew is even more noticeable when compared to iced coffee made from hot coffee. When hot coffee cools, the acids develop into an unpleasantly harsh flavor, and cold brewing coffee avoids that acid development. This makes cold brew the perfect choice for iced coffee with milk or alternative milks since they add to the smoothness and richness in taste. (Source)
Cold brew coffee is much more stable than hot coffee, making it a popular choice for packaged beverages such as single-serve steeped coffee bags or wholesale coffee. A keg of cold brew coffee has a shelf life of 90 days! It’s also relatively easy to brew in small and large batches, or at home, making it cost-effective and easy.
Cold brew coffee carries a rich history, and certain methods—most notably, the Kyoto-style cold brew—are seen as a form of art. The multiple characteristics of cold brew coffee make it an easy favorite amongst coffee and non-coffee people alike.
The Future of Cold Brew
No other coffee drink has disrupted the coffee industry as significantly as cold brew coffee. As a unique brewing method, it furthers the artistry of coffee and makes it more accessible to the general public. Cold brew coffee only seems to grow in popularity, as Grand View Research projects that the global cold brew coffee market will grow at a “compound annual growth rate of 25.1% from 2019 to 2025 to reach USD 1.63 billion by 2025.” (Source)
While we can’t predict what the future of coffee and cold brew will look like, new techniques and technologies surely will push the boundaries of what we know of them both.