Cold-brewed? Flash-brewed? Nitro?

The story of your iced coffee.

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Photo by Michael Cummo

Before you start to say that summer “is over,” might I remind you we still have until September 23 to rejoice in this season. Until the Autumnal Equinox arrives, we’ll be slurping those glorious iced coffees — the pumpkin spice lattes can wait!

Whenever I start thinking about the marvelous world of caffeine, my mind instantly goes to local coffee roaster Todd Christy of Chilmark Coffee Co. Todd is incredibly knowledgeable about coffee, and is always happy to share his expertise. So when I wanted to learn more about iced coffees and their processes, I first had to get a couple of concepts straight, the first one being: Is iced coffee the same as cold-brewed coffee?

“Iced coffee is usually hot coffee brewed into a tub of some kind and then cooled and served over ice. Some shops (nameless) serve leftover coffee from the day before as cold coffee the day after. Some iced coffee is ‘flash’ brewed hot over a measured amount of ice, which then cools and dilutes the coffee to a reasonably measured ratio. Cold brew is ‘steeped’ in cold water over a period of time, dependent on several factors such as grind and total-dissolved-solids ratio. Cold brew has a very different flavor profile, as it never gets hot and thus does not go through that hot extraction and chemical process,” says Todd. Enlightening, right? Now that we have made that terminology clear, we can move on to how to make iced coffee at home.

It’s important to note that you can use the same coffee you brew your hot morning cup of joe with, so there’s no need to go out and purchase special coffee. Some people suggest a medium roast, but our coffee expert Todd suggests one that has interesting flavor notes: maybe something fruity and lightly roasted, creating a sweet and refreshing drink.

Want to try making it at home? Hot coffee over ice is known as “Japanese coffee,” where a measured amount of hot coffee is served over an equally measured amount of ice, creating the ideal balance. You’ll definitely need a digital scale for these measurements to ensure a consistent result: 32 grams of ground coffee, 600 ml of ice, and 290 ml of water.

Todd’s tip: “One trick is to place ice in a big soda bottle cut in half and let it drip over a bed of coffee as it melts — it’s a cold-brew drip method, and it’s pretty easy to make. Ah, mad science!”

On the run every morning and don’t have time to make it yourself? Here are a few of my favorite coffee shops serving up a chilled brew:

Espresso Love serves up a Thai Iced Coffee that is just dreamy — hot coffee and espresso both poured over ice and drizzled with sweetened condensed milk, plus your choice of dairy.

Behind the Bookstore has an impressive coffee selection, and it’s the only place on-Island where you can try an Iced Mint Latte. Refreshing and energizing, perfect for battling those midafternoon slumps.

Mocha Mott’s serves up a double dose of caffeine with their Iced Bomb, the traditional iced coffee with the addition of a shot (or two if you really need it) of espresso.

Trending in the coffee world right now is “nitro cold-brew,” and Todd Christy has the scoop! “Nitro cold-brew is really a fun delivery system for cold-brew. We steep our cold brew and then keg it like soda or beer. We push that liquid with nitrogen in place of beer gas or CO2, as those can add a flavor that is undesirable to the cold-brew. We use a stout tap to add more diffusion and micro bubbles, so the coffee pours like a stout beer and has a sweet flavor! It’s a really fun way to have cold-brew, and it’s been a huge success for us. We plan on a nitro system in every town by next summer!” So while this summer may be winding down, we already have a reason to look forward to the next one.