November 9, 2011

The Cold Drip


A few years ago when the Roast and Ground coffee industry told us that coffee should be drunk at 65, not 75 degrees, I don’t think anyone would have ever thought that we would one day be drinking it at 4 degrees. At ONA Coffee we are always looking for something new to play with and right now, it is definitely the cold drip.

After a lot of research, the cold drip remains quite a mystery. However, from what we know, its origins begin in the colonies of South-East Asia. Coffee was very unattractive to drink in this part of the world, due to the extreme heat and humidity. So, cold infusion coffee was developed. This was a way for people to enjoy the beverage, without adding to the already stifling conditions.

It may not be as hot here, but the specialty industry, as always, is giving it a go. Cold Drip Towers have found their place slowly dripping alongside their kin of Syphons, pour overs, Chemexes and now Aeropresses.

Although it may require a bit more patience, I don’t think anyone would disagree that cold drip holds its own as a coffee brewing method. In fact, the product is quite remarkable. Without any heat applied, this method successfully extracts a sweet liquory product from coffee. It can highlight the deepest of chocolates, caramels and spices or the lightest fruit with a texture unlike any other brewing method.

What we have deduced from the cold drip and all alternative brewing methods is that it is still a coffee extraction. Hence, in reality the theory and approach is no different to espresso. Also, being a gravitational based method, we see even more similarities. From this, the variables are as such: grind, dose, extraction rate, extraction temperature, water quality, roast profile and, of course, the coffee.

The two results you get from cold drip are either a dark, rich and liquory extraction or a more light and fruity extraction, more similar to filter style coffees. To achieve the heavier result we use a slower extraction (4 drips per 10 seconds), and for the lighter we do a faster extraction (15 drips per 10 seconds).

The dose and grind are used to achieve balance in the cup. So, with a higher dose you are going to get more sweetness and viscosity, leaning towards the more liquory style, and a lower dose will promote more acidity, leaning more towards the light and fruity. As we know from espresso, this just comes down to trial and error to get the right dose and grind for that particular coffee.

Water quality is a large factor that is quite often overlooked. In the case of cold drip, we have found that hard water, which has more solids (minerals, metals, vitamins and proteins), will promote sweetness and complexity. On the other hand, soft (filtered) water promotes clarity and acidity.

Our final insight is this. Match your method to your coffee! If you have a fruity and bright East African that has been roasted for filter, try to emphasise its natural characteristics with the faster extraction. Conversely, if you have a nutty and chocolaty Brazil roasted for espresso, slow it down and get the deep intense liquory result from it.

So, does the slow and old world cold drip have its place in the fast paced café world? Definitely! The cold drip is the least labour intensive and most forgiving brewing method you will encounter. Looking back, I don’t think I have had a bad cold drip.

Personally, I think that the cold drip is the mainstream entry to the world of specialty coffee appreciation. It cuts through the bitter stigma of black coffee with a sweet, interesting and approachable product that engages everyone who tries it. It is perfect in summer and it lasts in the fridge for weeks and actually improves. In the end, it’s not going to replace your espresso machine, but it does add another element that showcases your café as going that extra distance with coffee.

All in all, this is great brewing method. It is simple enough to be approachable for the public and complex enough to keep baristas engaged – not to mention the aesthetic value of the tower.

The setup.

If you visit the ONA Coffee website: you can pick up a cold drip tower for a meagre $295. The rest of the setup costs around … oh wait … that is the whole setup! This is seriously easy. The 1L tower is perfect for home users. The exact same tower is used by the Ona single origin roaster to make our cold drip recipes. It is small and reduces the extraction time. However, for a café, you can get a 3L Yama tower that comes with an antique looking stand. It’s a definite eye grabber and can do a big enough brew to keep you going for a while.

Pour 600 grams of water and 100 grams of ice into the top vessel. Using grams will help you achieve the highest accuracy.

Grind 56 grams of coffee to a similar coarseness of plunger and place it in the middle vessel. Make sure your filter is in! We have found that the filters that come with your towers work quite well. Lightly tamp the coffee grounds to ensure a flat top surface.

Wet a paper filter and place it on the top of the grounds. This helps distribute the water evenly across the grounds. If you don’t rinse the paper filter well, it can infuse a woody flavour into the coffee.

Adjust your drip regulator to about 12 drips every 10 seconds. We have found this is a good starting point. We advise using a timer for this part.

Find something to do to take your mind off it. It can be mesmerizing. Keep an eye on the middle vessel. If it starts to flood the grounds, you may have to slow down the drip rate a little bit. The extraction will take a few hours. The time depends on your quantity.

When the extraction has completed, cover the bottom vessel and put it in the fridge to cool. It should keep in the fridge like this for several weeks. Once cooled, serve it in chilled glasses and enjoy!

Once you are used to the process, play around with the variables to try and get an outcome that you like. I suggest only changing one variable at a time. This will help you identify how each affects the extraction.

About ONA.

ONA Coffee is a specialty coffee wholesale company, based in Canberra. ONA’s roasters and baristas have competed at national level, and recently Sasa Sestic won the Danes Australasian Grand Barista Championships. Sam Corra, their roaster, took first place in the 2011 inaugural Equal Barista Cup at Fine Foods in Sydney.

If you are looking to purchase a cold drip tower or any other coffee equipment, visit: ONA also provides barista training. To keep up with their insights, follow them on Facebook.

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