Spring-time weather has arrived in Houston! Well, at least for a couple of days anyway and that means it’s time to start thinking about how to cool off during the coming summer. For coffee drinkers that means switching to a cold version of our favorite hot drink. I’ve been trying quite a few lately around town, and found a wide variety of tastes. Some are punch-you-in-the-face bold while others are like a cool towel carefully draped on your face after a close shave. The difference in taste depends, of course, on the beans used but also is affected by the brewing method. I think that the best version I have tasted so far is the Japanese iced pour-over.
This method is currently popular because it is quick (compared to other 24 hour cold brew methods) and the experience is closer to a regular hot brewed cup of coffee. Over in Peter Giuliano’s coffee blog Dymaxion he scientifically explains why it’s better to brew this way and then sums it up nicely with this:
“So the science tells us: to fully extract flavor? Brew hot. To protect flavor and prevent development of off-flavors? Cool instantly.”
He explains that the instant cool-off traps the all important coffee aromatics into the drink itself where it is experienced through taste instead of smell. I have found this to be true, both in my own experiments at home and at Fort Bend Coffee’s farmer’s market table where I first tried it. However, since it is a pour-over, making an individual drink takes longer. So, if you are in a rush it may not be an option for you.
From what I’ve seen, pretty much all of Houston’s coffee shop use some form of the 24-hour cold brew method. Some turn out better than others, depending on the coffee used, and also depending on how long after it’s been brewed that you taste it. A majority of the iced coffees I tried were too strong but I’m sure if you add milk and sugar then it will taste much better. I’m happier with black coffee, so the cold brews that I liked the best were those that had a deep rich flavor without being too strong.
However, if you are looking for something closer to a true coffee taste with the aromatics intact, go for the Japanese style. If you make pour-overs at home then they are easy enough to make yourself. The only change to your normal recipe is exchanging half of the water for equal weight in ice. Don’t forget to use the same water for your ice that you use for the pour-over. Also, I recommend a brighter coffee over a darker one for a more refreshing drink.
I won’t do one of those trendy “top ten lists” but the shops that I like the best, besides the aforementioned Fort Bend Coffee, are: Fioza in the Meyerland area, Black Hole in the Museum District, Inversion on Montrose, and Downhouse in the Heights.
However, like I always say, just drink what tastes best to you. Not everybody has the same taste and may prefer something more extreme than subtle. Whatever you do though, get ready because: Summer. Is. Coming.