Many refer to “Iced Coffee” and “Cold Brew” interchangeably, but the cold coffee beverages differ. Iced Coffee–the most popular way to consume cold coffee for decades–starts at a hot temperature before being cooled and served over ice. Cold Brew, instead, is traditionally made by infusing ground coffee in room-temperature water.
Cold Brew’s popularity has soared over the last few years, but its roots run centuries deep, dating back to when Dutch traders introduced coffee to the Japanese in the 17th century. Locals decided to apply the same process to coffee as they did to tea leaves, steeping the grounds in cold river water, and the drink soon became all the rage in Kyoto. Accordingly, the earliest documentation of Cold Brew indicates the drink went by the same name as the city.
Unlike Iced Coffee, a classic Cold Brew requires a 12-hour extraction (at least). This process produces a markedly less acidic and bitter drink than hot and iced coffee. As a result, Cold Brew generally tastes smoother than Iced Coffee, maintaining a high level of natural sweetness that, for many, eschews the need for added sweetener (leaving Cold Brew calories around zero). The beans’ floral aromas remain intact throughout the Cold Brew extraction, exposing nuances that don’t emerge during the hot brewing process.
Lower in acidity than traditional hot coffee, Cold Brew is gentler on sensitive stomachs and many ready-to-drink Cold Brews contain natural ingredients, appealing to those who avoid artificial flavours or preservatives.
In addition, the drink is versatile: it can be enjoyed on its own or serve as a base for drinks, such as a Cold Brew Latte, or cocktails. Cold Brew’s popularity has increased thanks to specialty coffee shops and even national chains offering it, and it’s since become a favourite of millennials, who sip it on various occasions from coffee shop gatherings to backyard barbecues.
One of the major coffee shop chains reported in August 2022 that cold beverages accounted for 75% of its drink sales from April through June.*
Even in the dead of winter, cold drinks accounted for 60% of Starbucks’ beverage sales. Consumption of these cold beverages has even moved from the morning to midday and late evening.
While the company attributed the popularity of iced drinks to its Gen Z customers, a confluence of factors has also contributed to Cold Brew’s explosive growth.
De’Longhi surveyed coffee lovers worldwide, and Cold Brew ranked in the top three coffee drinks and not just as a seasonal fad (half of cold coffee lovers sip it when the mercury drops). If Cold Brew weren’t available, half of those who consume the ready-to-drink versions would opt for juice and a soft drink in its place. This is a testament to how Cold Brew benefits overall health and well-being– a healthier alternative to sugary beverages, Cold Brew’s calorie count totals less than the said beverages.
Coffee’s fourth wave, one centred around at-home coffee preparation, arrived by dint of the pandemic. With higher living costs and an increasing number of remote workers, consumers have started enhancing their experiences at home, including their coffee routines.
As indicated by the abundance of early adopter products, like powders and pods, on the market, manufacturers of home coffee products compete with cafes to offer the “experience” of going out to buy an iced coffee. As the curiosity surrounding Cold Brew grows and the drink’s popularity surges, coffee lovers have started to consume it at home–yet the 12-hour time commitment deters many from actually preparing it. But new technology has changed the game.
The brand new fully automatic Eletta Explore and La Specialista Maestro, a bean-to-cup manual machine, feature the technology. No more 12-hour wait: coffee lovers can enjoy a Cold Brew at home in under 5 minutes. And when stored in the fridge, Cold Brew maintains its distinct flavour profile for up to 10 days.
As Cold Brew’s popularity continues to surge, coffee lovers can emulate their favourite barista creations at home by styling the beverage according to their preferences, gearing up Cold Brew as the next “even bigger” thing.