Cold coffee heats up STRANGE brew?

Cold coffee heats up STRANGE brew?

The Toddy Coffee Maker, 40 years old this year,
produces a flavourful brew without the bitterness

Edmonton (Canada) - Here's the scene: A hectic morning, and that fresh pot of coffee near your terminal is steaming in your direction.

The phone rings.

Four or five calls later, your coffee is stone cold, and a strange little oil slick has formed on the surface.

The fault, dear coffee lovers, could be the heat.

According to one segment of coffee-lovers, the brewing process counts as much as the bean and the roast.

That's the theory behind a cold-brew system first used centuries ago by Peruvian Indians.

It took a chemical engineering student named Todd Simpson to bring it to the attention of North American coffee lovers.

He knew that coffee beans contain several compounds that are extracted during the hot brewing process. Some of those compounds, including the oils and fatty acids that cause the slick on your coffee are soluble at a high temperature. The method most of us use at home, including the French press and virtually all steam methods, scalds the beans, which brings out those acids and oils.

Simpson was studying at Cornell University in 1964, when he discovered that those same acids and oils were not soluble at low temperatures. He found that up to 67 per cent of them, including the ketons, esters and amids that sometimes give hot-brewed coffee a bitter undertaste and cause some people to experience a burning sensation in the digestive tract, could be eliminated by cold-steeping the coffee grounds for several hours to produce a rich concentrate.

He patented the Toddy Coffee Maker -- 40 years old this year. Although the company has never advertised, it's about to sell its one millionth cold-brew system and numbers its enthusiastic converts in the hundreds of thousands.

People who drink cold brewed coffee swear by it. A recent consumer-test article in the Washington Post declared the system to be the ultimate coffeemaker.

"(It produces) the perfect cup of coffee," said the Post.

COLD COMFORTS

Some of North America's major coffee chains -- Seattle's Best among them -- are now using the Toddy method to make coffee concentrates.

Stacie Osborne, vice president of the Canadian retail division for Seattle's Best, says they use the cold brew method in all seven of their Vancouver outlets.

"It's fabulous. Once you try it, you won't go back to the hot water method," she says. "We use one pound of coffee to two litres of water, and let it steep for 12 hours. The home brewers are available in our shops for around $30."

The Toddy Maker is almost ridiculously simple. It consists of a plastic brewing container with a plug and filter at the bottom, and a glass carafe. Ground coffee and two litres of cold water go into the top and are allowed to steep for eight to twelve hours. The plug is pulled, and the concentrate drains through the filter into the glass carafe.

The concentrate must be refrigerated and will keep for about three weeks. It can also be frozen (in ice cube containers) for several months.

SOME LIKE IT HOT

OK, so it's mild and sweet. But at minus 40 C, iced coffee doesn't cut it. We need that steamy mug.

And in the hot-versus-cold brew debate, the same coffee chains that rave about the pure sweetness of cold brewed coffee for their chilled drinks -- iced cappuccino, iced latte and so on -- just aren't using it for hot coffee.

For that, they stick with the traditional methods.

John Delutis, director of operations for Second Cup in western Canada, says his company has tested many methods for making the perfect hot cup, including this one, but they've ruled it out.

"We experimented with it for our chilled lattes, but we weren't really set up for it."

And for the hot mug?

"It wouldn't have replaced our other methods in any case," he says.

"We've just been through a major reinvestment in (the quality of) our coffees. We feel that we use the perfect critical temperature. Too hot, and it would be bitter. Too cold, there wouldn't be enough flavour extracted."

However, home consumers who use the cold brew method for making hot coffee say it produces a smooth, mild, full-flavoured brew, infinitely superior to the hot brew method.

More importantly, it's easier on the stomach.

According to the American College of Gastroenterology, more than 60 million American adults experience painful gastro-reflux disease and heartburn at least once a month. The cold brew method all but eliminates the irritating acids released in hot brewed coffee.

That's why Shelley Smith, a coffee-loving bookkeeper in Abbotsford who suffers from chronic inflammation of the bladder, bought her own Toddy Coffee Maker.

"My condition was irritated by the acids and oils in most coffee, and this method produces a delicious, low-acid coffee that I can drink all day."

COFFEE'S LITTLE SECRET

According to Smith, the cold-process coffeemaker reveals something that high-priced gourmet bean sellers don't want us to know: The secret of great tasting coffee is mostly in the preparation.

"I don't go around endorsing things, but this is different," she told Bistro. She uses a variety of different coffees.

"Use any beans, including supermarket beans. I'm too lazy to grind my own, so I even use Folgers. Don't use a fine grind -- it needs to be regular or coarse grind. Don't shake it or stir it, and you'll have great coffee."

She uses one part concentrate to two or three parts boiling water, depending on how strong she wants it. If it's not hot enough, she'll microwave it.

Smith also appreciates the low tech aspect of the Toddy. It's basically a water pot, a filter and a carafe.

If there's a downside to the cold brew method, it's in the amount of coffee required to make the concentrate.

"You do use a little more coffee, but you probably throw out less."

For more information on the cold brew method, and information on where Toddies can be purchased, check out the website at www.ToddyCafe.com.

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