Hot coffee may be a year-round drink, but with summer temperatures rising, cold brew becomes a greater focus for local shops. At Coffee & Tea Collective, they’re experimenting with longer steep times, taking a standard 16–20 hour brew and extending it to 36 hours in search of deeper flavors. Up in Encinitas, Lofty Coffee’s Roasting Works has taken to offering Kyoto cold drip infused with cocoa and fresh mint and charging it with nitrogen, giving it a creamy, effervescent body.
The nitro takes its cue from San Diego’s more prominent beverage concern: beer. Nitro is often used to produce stouts with finer, denser bubbles than carbon dioxide, and pressurizing cold brew with the gas produces the same result. Dark Horse also keeps nitro charged cold brew on tap, sometimes infused with vanilla beans.
However, some local roasters have drawn upon the influence of beer to take cold brew to new and interesting places. Last fall I reported Modern Times applied the idea of barrel aging beer to green coffee beans, aging the porous beans in bourbon barrels.
Cold brew specialist Mostra recently took the idea a different direction. It’s recent release, Elder Mostrasity, actually barrel aged the cold brew itself. Mostra head roaster Mike Arquines explains, “Being a beer and bourbon geek… it just made sense to take a page out of some of the great craft beer breweries/distilleries’ book.”
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Mostra’s single origin Brazil cold brew spends three to four months in bourbon barrels previously used by Port Brewing to age its Older Viscosity Imperial Stout. Arquines describes the result as “A balanced melange of deep chocolate notes, dark fruit, toffee, vanilla, and oak,” adding, “The cold brew starts to take on new levels of flavors, complexity and depth.”
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Over in Mission Beach, Swell Café head roaster Nel Newbom drew from a different craft style — IPAs. “I’ve always been obsessed with both coffee and beer,” she says, “They’re two nice bitter craft beverages, where bitterness is really part of the flavor.” So she infused cold brew with hops.
Swell has started offering it under the name Hopped Toddy, with plans to bottle it in coming months. It’s made by adding hop leaves to its coffee’s 18 hour steep — about 20 grams of hops per pound of coffee beans. “The hops can give coffee a really clean, bright pop at the end,” Newbom says. “People consider cold brew to be a way of getting a less acidic coffee. This is almost a way of contradicting that — like No, let’s get some alpha acids in this!”
Newbom says she’s experimented with several hopping and infusion methods, one of which led to a modification she calls Hopped Toddy Tonic. She likens it to dry hopping beer — the process of adding hops post-fermentation. For the tonic she adds hops to the finished Hopped Toddy cold brew, then pressurizes it to create a carbonated version that, like dry hopped beers, releases greater aromatics and therefore a more potent hop flavor.