We've said it quite often, but we'll say it again a little louder! Cold brew coffee is hardly anything new. Just because it's "in" & trendy doesn't mean it's never been done before. In fact, if you look at today's cold brew compared to it's predecessors, cold brew coffee has merely advanced, or "leveled up"! But where did cold brew come from?
There are several theories on this one. There's supporting evidence that cold brew coffee arose in Japan, from traveling Dutch traders. Yet there's also some cold brewing methods well known in Guatemala, and other parts of South America. Clearly across the globe for hundreds of years people have been making cold brew coffee in one way or another.
"European travelers to the near East brought back stories of an unusual dark black beverage. By the 17th century, coffee had made its way to Europe and was becoming popular across the continent. Some people reacted to this new beverage with suspicion or fear, calling it the “bitter invention of Satan.” The local clergy condemned coffee when it came to Venice in 1615. The controversy was so great that Pope Clement VIII was asked to intervene. He decided to taste the beverage for himself before making a decision, and found the drink so satisfying that he gave it papal approval." -The National Association of Coffee
(Alright, now if the Pope says it's good to go? It's good to go. You'll receive no arguments from us!)
While this is in regards to coffee, what does it have to do with cold brewing? You see, the traders needed to find a way to brew large batches of coffee that could be stored for longer periods of time, without any potential fires burning their ship. By steeping the roasted ground coffee with cold water, they found a new way to brew up something delicious. This current trend of cold brewing is actually more vintage than many would guess!
Kyoto Coffee (named out of Japan) is another incredibly early account of coffee brewing using cold water, and time. Cold brewed coffee has been 'brewing' since the 1600's! We have Dutch Traders to thank for that.
Now keep in mind, this is just on one side of the planet! There was some coffee genius activity in South America as well.
"Other cold-brew genesis theories point towards Latin America, either Peru or Guatemala, or Java, although these are equally difficult to substantiate. In a larger sense, one could link the origin of cold brew as an evolution of the general practice of creating a coffee concentrate, which is what cold-brewing process produces. Some of the earliest documented coffee concentrates — documented is the key word here — are known to have originated as military rations." - Daily Coffee News
"Cold brew and iced coffee caught on independently in other pockets of the globe. Vietnam, India, Latin America, and New Orleans (the latter brewed with characteristic chicory) . All these nations cultivated their own variations of cold brew and iced coffee. Real breakthroughs for consumers who wanted to cold brew at home began taking off in the 1960's. In 1964, Todd Simpson, an engineer by education and a nursery owner by trade, went on a botanical trip to Peru. There he saw locals cold brew coffee by traditional methods, then heat the beverage before serving. Simpson noted the milder flavor and diminished acidity of the cold-brewed coffee, and sought to concoct his own brewing method for consumers at home, especially those with sensitive stomachs. Thus, the Toddy was born, a device suited for cold brewing coffee in the home." -Timeline
Like so many other brewing methods, each one has its own rules -- brew time, water & coffee amount, etc. Yet in general cold brewing works on a similar premise, despite some variations. Serious Eats shares a similar insight,
"[The] essence of the method is this: coffee ground to a medium/filter setting is put into a grounds chamber, over top of a filter (many prefer paper for clean taste, but some models come with a metal filter included). Water is put into a water chamber some distance above—and while some accept room temperature water, some brewers are designed for cold water, and have reservoirs roomy enough for you to add a mixture of water and ice. (More decorative drippers will have coils through which the water travels as part of its slow journey, adding to the theatrical nature of the brewing process.)"
Oh, and just a friendly FYI, cold brew coffee is not solely for making iced coffee. Of course it absolutely makes the most amazing and delicious iced coffee drinks in seconds but because cold brew coffee produces a concentrated extract that usually is diluted it can also be used to make hot drinks too! For information on more delicious ways to enjoy cold brew coffee check out our Radiant Recipes blog.