With soft drinks and sodas losing some of their fizzle with Canadian foodservice customers, many are turning to a perennial beverage standby presented with a cool twist – cold-brewed coffee.
Not to be confused with iced coffee — which is usually just a variation of espresso or strong coffee blended with milk, ice and sugar — cold-brewed coffee involves a long, slow process where the coffee is brewed in cold water for between 12 and 24 hours. And it has quickly become one of the hottest new trends with coffee lovers across Canada.
Canadian Restaurant & Foodservice News recently spoke with two leading cold-brew coffee specialists who join us below to share their insights and knowledge with CRFN readers:
Brett Johnston, Head of Innovation, Pilot Coffee Roasters
Mike Roy, Brewmaster, Station Cold Brew Coffee Company
What are some of the most exciting developments when it comes to cold-brewed coffee?
Brett Johnston: The most exciting development in cold brew for restaurants to consider in the coming year would be serving nitro cold brew on tap. Nitro cold brew is simply putting any cold brew in a keg and pressurizing it with 100-per-cent nitrogen to then pull it on tap from a stout faucet. Interest in cold brew has been growing rapidly and currently you can get nitro cold brew in kegs from companies like Pilot, or make it yourself from any coffee you’re enjoying. The significance of this is that it adds a new level of accessibility to some of Canada’s best coffees, and doesn’t require nearly as much time or skill at the point of service when compared to brewing that same coffee hot.
Mike Roy: One of the most exciting trends for restaurants when it comes to coffee in Canada are bar owners and managers having an appreciation for quality craft coffee in the same way as cocktails, wine, and craft beer. As bars and restaurants begin to integrate high-end coffee programs into their menus, bartenders and chefs alike are using their palates to incorporate coffee into cocktails and dishes outside of the norm. Another growing trend in the industry for 2016 is nitro cold brew coffee on draught. Nitro cold brew is cold brewed coffee infused with nitrogen gas in the same fashion a beer would be carbonated with carbon dioxide. This creates a creamy, stout like texture in the coffee with an effervescent finish and is becoming quite popular in craft beer bars. These trends are breaking down a barrier in the restaurant world, where dining customers can have a coffee with or after dinner, on the same level as their local café. We are bringing together two worlds thought to be separate for so long.
What are the biggest benefits and challenges for chefs and restaurant operators in adapting to these trends?
BJ: The biggest challenge will be effectively educating staff and customers about the coffee, the cold-brew process, and how it impacts flavour. Although there are some parallels to the way we talk about wines, there are many unique attributes to coffee that, like anything, will take time for people to become acquainted with. I have found The World Atlas of Coffee by James Hoffman particularly valuable for this. The benefits are being able to serve high quality coffee in a new way, with no additional training. Waste is also reduced through eliminating the calibration process, and never throwing out old pots of coffee or failed espresso shots. Cold coffee will never replace hot coffee but these are some of the advantages to this trend.
MR: The biggest challenge is the cost of equipment, and the space to install it. Espresso machines and grinders are big, expensive and difficult to maintain. When you’re operating a restaurant and a kitchen, coffee is not on the top of your list. Approaching a bar about draught cold brew is just as difficult. Trying to convince a bar manager to give up a beer line for coffee, or to install an extra line for coffee is a challenge for all parties. As coffee becomes a highlight and not just a necessity of routine, restaurants are benefitting from being able to offer a coffee that is of as equally high quality as their food and drink.
What are the key factors that are currently driving innovation and experimentation in coffee service and products?
BJ: A major driver of innovation is the growth of online buying platforms that allow roasters to communicate directly to new producers. This increased exposure has led to producers experimenting with various processing techniques, separating out the types of varietals their farm grows, or offering the dried coffee cherries to consumers to make cascara tea with. This grants us new opportunities to offer processing or varietal kits of roasted coffee, or serve tasting flights and signature drinks around these trends.
MR: Cold-brew coffee is definitely the newest and most innovative product in the industry right now. With a lasting shelf life, low acidity and consistent profile, bartenders are able to quickly make traditional coffee cocktails with a premium, consistent pre-made product without the effort of pulling an espresso. Cold brew is also allowing bartenders and chefs alike to experiment with new coffee infused drinks and dishes, making desert reductions, bitters and even meat rubs.
What are some creative ways operators can use cold-brew coffee to offer the consumer more variety and a better overall dining experience?
BJ: Cold-brew cocktails may be the most accessible way to expand into new areas of the menu. Cold-brewing coffee is an old tradition being looked at through new eyes and there has never been a better time to have parallel industries take advantage of these innovations. With a little research its easy to put new cocktails on the menu that mimic classics like the espresso martini, or the “cold fashioned,” and experiment in making your own from there.
MR: Bars integrating coffee into their menu has been a huge improvement over the way consumers previously drank coffee in restaurants. Operators have begun merging café culture into their bars before dinner service and running daytime hours, where consumers can have a well-crafted coffee, snack or even their favourite cocktail or beer while enjoying a bar atmosphere.
Are there any unique ingredients that you are seeing more of in today’s coffee products?
BJ: Many people are using coffee cherries to make cascara teas, cascara kombucha, and cascara sodas. I think these have risen in popularity because they repurpose the coffee cherry into a delicious drink, rather than it being used to fertilize the coffee farm’s soil. There has also been a rise in breweries making coffee porters with cold brew and even the inverse where hops are used during the cold brewing process to add new flavours and aromas.
MR: I’m noticing a lot of herbal infusions and organic, health-forward spices being added into coffee beverages. Major coffee chains have offered flavoured coffee for years, so there is obviously a demand for it. Coffee innovators are providing that same service, but with natural ingredients and education on why they are better for the consumer than the standard large chain brand.