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From Cold Brews to Pour-Overs, Coffee Culture is Heating Up

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Thursday Nov 9, 2017

From cold brew to pour-overs, from latte art to nitrogen infusions, coffee has never been so high-tech. At the recent New York Coffee Festival, vendors from around the world showed off the latest trends.

Top marks go to the pour-over, the hottest new trend that's a hundred years old. Most purveyors are using the Chemex coffeemaker, an hourglass-shaped carafe invented in 1941 by Dr. Peter Schlumbohm. They haven't changed the design because its genius is simplistic: fit a bonded coffee filter into the top, fill it with freshly-ground beans, and pour hot water over it.

"We've had a lot of coffee roasters buy Chemex pots in the past five years. It's simple to use, and challenges something like a Keurig, because the results are much higher quality," said Chemex owner Eliza Grassy.

"It brews a clean cup of coffee, filtering sediments and fats to get to the pure taste of the bean," added Grassy's assistant Meghan Dewar. "A lot of roasters are using it as opposed to a French press because of the lack of grounds. The company hasn't really changed anything for 75 years because they haven't had to."

Starbucks is even getting in on the action, via Starbucks Reserve. "It's our way of representing small-batch coffees via the triple paper filter Chemex method," said barista Arielle from Closter, NJ, as she prepared a Costa Rican La Candelilla blend. "It leaves you with the cleanest cup of coffee, with virtually no oils or sediment."

Man, That's Cold!

The second hottest trend in coffee is also the coldest: cold brew. And it's not just for summertime. Cold brew coffee is never heated, rather, coarsely ground beans are slowly steeped for at least half a day. The result has a lower acidity level because it's not subjected to boiling water. There's no watered-down effect from melting ice, which means a higher bean-to-water ratio, i.e., more caffeine.

"You take something delicious and make it better, with lower acidity and no bitterness," said Chris Vetter, whose Long Island Cold Brew Coffee company Sail Away offers cold brew in to-go bottles. "We also infused one with nitrogen, which gives it a creamy texture, like Guinness."

There's a lot of new tech for cold brew. Brumi recently launched an all-in-one cold brew thermos. Put the grounds in the steel basket, pour water over it, and refrigerate for 16 hours until it's ready. The Bkon Rain promises to extract the flavor of cold brew via Reverse Atmospheric Infusion. And Puck Puck, a new gadget available on Kickstarter, turns your Aeropress into a cold brew machine.

Not All Roasts Are Created Equal

The World Health Organization now says coffee prevents cancer, and the USDA recommends three to five cups a day, but Andrew Salisbury, founder of Purity Coffee, warns that cold brew shouldn't be the bulk of it. Because of the many types of molds and yeasts in most commercial blends, "people should be more conscious and aware of food safety."

"With cold brew, you need to adhere to strict safety standards because you are not pouring hot water over the beans to kill the mold," said Salisbury. "The main issue is ochratoxin A, which affects kidney health."

Purity's Director of Coffee Ildi Revi warned this was paramount "for anyone who has a compromised or delicate immune system," including people living with HIV/AIDS.

"I would hope that those companies manufacturing cold brew are using all the methods at their disposal to prevent this from happening, but in some cases, people experiment with cold brew at home and may not realize some of the issues involved," she said.

And while some think it's sacrosanct, the National Coffee Association says decaf is the fastest-growing category for 18- to 39-year-olds. There's even a Swiss Water process in which green coffee beans are immersed in water and flow through carbon filters that trap caffeine for 10 hours.

"We are excited about this because roasters want to serve decaf, and they know we can offer something for people who want decaf coffee without the bad taste," said Kris Wu from Vancouver, Canada. His group supplies to local shops like Café Grumpy and Stumptown Coffee.

The digital age also offers a lot for coffee drinkers, including the app SpeedETab, which lets you order your brew ahead of time via your smartphone from a long list of local vendors, pay for it online, then just pick it up. Talk about shaking up your daily grind!

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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