Our story begins approximately 6,303 miles away, in Japan. Specifically, in Kyoto, Japan, a place I adore. It makes all the more sense why I love it so much — my coffee senses were telling me this place was significant to my morning joe.
It began in the 1600s, and Kyoto-style coffee is the first documented time of making anything resembling a cold brew coffee. Much like most other things that come from this unique country, even their cold brew is made with an artistic, quirky flare.
Rather than submerging the grounds for 8-24 hours, the fancy-schmancy contraptions they use let cold water drip through the grounds one drop at a time every 1.5 seconds. The devices look exactly like the kind of thing you’d find in a hipster coffee shop and I’ve already added one to my cart to be delivered in t-minus 2 days. Will report findings.
After this point, you can trace some sort of cold-brew-type coffee to wartimes, but the French came the closest to making an actual cold brew for their troops. Called “Camp Coffee,” you can imagine that there was nothing pleasant about it.
“Camp Coffee” is a coffee concentrate mixed with sweetener. It was transported in a treacle-like consistency, the thought of which makes my stomach lurch. It was then reconstituted by soldiers using cold water. It was those soldiers returning from the Mazagran fortress that distributed the idea of this cold cup of morning caffeine to the surrounding population.
There was some of a dissemination after that, selling cold brew coffee at markets and whatnot, but it actually wound up back in Japan to seal the deal — in 1960, Japan’s Ueshima Tadao took a twist on the popular coffee-flavored milk craze and essentially inverted the ratios. I know, I know, what?! Just what. Coffee-flavored milk? I feel you. I do. Japan is a strange, magical place.
Either way, those were the first canned coffees sold — cold brew, mixed with milk and sugar.
Let me tell you, though, I bought one while I was bumming around Kyoto. They use a syrupy sugar in there and it is deadly. Just from one coffee lover to another, unless you can figure out what’s in the can, watch what you sip.
Fast forward to the US though. You’ll probably notice that those cool, kyoto-style makers aren’t commonplace in the US. Only recently can I say that I’ve seen them in some of the smaller, hipper coffee shops.
Nah, we opt for a much less fussy route: steeping. Cafes quickly glommed on to selling cold brew coffee this way because, well, it’s super easy. Pretty much anyone can do it, and that anyone includes you.
It’s not the end…
The story doesn’t really end there, though, even though we’ve wound our way back to making it in our own kitchens. You can find pre-made cold brew bottles in grocery stores, even gas stations, and you can also buy some seriously wicked versions, like this one that’s made using “sonication-assisted extraction.” They use sound to extract the flavor into the cold water.
There’s some that even use pressurized nitrogen gas.
What is this magic?