The Surprising History of Cold Brew Coffee

Cold brew is a type of coffee that is made by steeping coarse-ground beans in cool water for anywhere from 12 to 24 hours. In this way, it differs from the majority of other coffee-making methods that utilize hot water. With cold brew, the water is generally held at room temperature but the process can also be done with chilled water.

It is important to remember that cold brew coffee is not the same thing as iced coffee. While the former is produced by slowly steeping ground coffee beans in cool water for an extended period of time, the latter is brewed hot and then served cold and over ice.

Though the majority of coffee history has been dominated by everyone’s favorite caffeinated beverage being made through the use of hot water, cold brew has become increasingly popular in recent years. Beyond this, cold brew has a history that is unexpected and surprising. It is a subject that is worth looking into in more detail.

Who Invented Cold Brew?

Though it may come as a surprise to many coffee drinkers, the history of cold brew coffee is usually traced back to Japan of the 1600s. This style of cold brew is usually referred to as Kyoto-style coffee. Its name comes from Japan’s Kyoto region where it originates. It is in this region of Japan that we have the earliest record of coffee being made through the cold brew process.

Records show the making of cold brew in Japan as early as the 1600s but it could be the case that the method was used even earlier than this. Some scholars who have studied the topic have speculated that Dutch traders that docked in Japan for purposes of commerce might have brought this method of coffee making to the Japanese.

The thought is that the Dutch may have used it as a way to produce coffee that they could carry for drinking on their mercantile ships. This speculation is exactly that. What is certain is the fact that Kyoto-style coffee has a long and distinguished history that is well documented.

The country of France has also made a major contribution to the world of cold brew. French soldiers are noted to have served a form of cold brew coffee as early as 1837 when they took Mazagran Fortress in Algiers, Algeria. It is because of this origin that this version of the drink is known as a Mazagran.

What Is the Appeal of Cold Brew Coffee?

Cold Brew Coffee

It is typical for many coffee traditionalists to wonder about the appeal of cold brew. It is no secret that most people think of coffee as a hot beverage and this has been the case for most of its history in most of the world. The reality is that cold brew offers up a certain complexity and depth of flavor that have made it increasingly popular with coffee aficionados in recent years.

Among the things that people immediately notice when they try cold brew coffee for the first time is a natural sweetness. This is because the coffee bean oils are extracted slowly by steeping in cool water for an extended period of time. Since there is a natural sweetness that comes through in a cold brew coffee, it is an ideal medium for mixing with cream.

Cold brew coffee is also less acidic than other forms of coffee. This is another factor that is favored by many people who have become converts to this unique and delicious way of enjoying one of the world’s most beloved beverages. Beyond these appeal factors, the length of time that cold brew steeps before it is served means that a higher amount of caffeine is extracted from the beans. This is another attribute of cold brew that makes it highly appealing for many coffee drinkers.

When Did Cold Brew Come to the United States?

Though cold brew has been around for hundreds of years in one form or another, it has only been the past ten years that have seen it become increasingly popular in the United States of America. It was initially a variety of cold brew known as the Toddy that started making appearances in cafes across the USA. Its popularity has only grown in recent years as more Americans are getting tuned into this age-old way of making one of the world’s favorite drinks.

An increasing number of Americans have started to make their own cold brew at home. For success in this process, it is recommended that a coarsely ground coffee is used. A French press grind is usually considered appropriate for making cold brew coffee.

The ratio of water to coffee is generally recommended to be four to one and it is also recommended that filtered water is used. Many coffee aficionados also recommend that a coffee blend is used to add another level of complexity to the finished product.

How Has Cold Brew Coffee Changed Over the Course of Its History?

The way that cold brew coffee is made has seen some significant changes over the course of its long and fascinating history. The original Kyota-style of making cold brew was a truly artisanal process that included adding the water one single drop at a time as opposed to submerging the coffee in water all at once.

Since the first cold brew coffees were created in Japan, there have been many varieties of the style that have popped up. As mentioned before, the French-style Mazagran gained popularity in the early 1800s.

These days, the most popular way to make cold brew is through the immersion method. At the same time, the drip method that has roots going back to Japan of the 1600s is still popular as well. Cold brew is also made using pressure and emulsion methods.

The New Orleans area is famous for a type of cold brew that is infused with chicory. In Cuba, cold brew is made in a highly concentrated form by using finely ground beans that are placed into a vessel and topped with water. This process is then repeated several times.

The previously mentioned Toddy style of making coffee was pioneered by a man named Todd Simpson who was inspired to develop his own method for making the drink after he first tasted it while traveling in Peru. Cold brew can be found in many coffee houses served from a keg in a similar fashion to a glass of draft beer.

There are even varieties of cold brew that come ready to drink in cans. All of these variations on cold brew coffee demonstrate that it has gone through quite a fascinating process of evolution over the course of its history.