Japanese Iced Coffee v. Cold Brew

When talking about iced coffee, one will generally encounter two schools of opinion when it comes to the best brewing method: hot or cold. Neither method is necessarily “correct,” and preference depends entirely on what you are trying to get out of the cold brew experience. Brewing hot, as in the Japanese iced method, tends to preserve more of the delicate fruit and citrus tones and is well suited for highlighting the top notes of a high grown African coffee. Brewing cold, on the other hand, minimizes a coffee’s acidity (the fruit, floral, and citrus notes), and allows a coffee’s natural sweetness to show through.  A Brazilian coffee brewed on the Yama Cold Brew Drip Tower would be both crisp and sweet with a neutral acidity.  The only downside is that this process takes 8 hours to complete, but the reserved acidity is well worth the time for many.

This difference in flavor presentation is almost exclusively a result of extraction temperature.  A higher temperature will more completely dissolve a coffee’s sugars and volatile oils, but it will also coax out more of its acid qualities. When cooled slowly, these sugars tend to turn rancid and sour. The secret to preserving these flavors is brewing hot and chilling the coffee instantly. Doing so dramatically inhibits oxidation and keeps these delicate flavors in balance, but the heightened acidity can be unflattering, which is why the Yama Cold Brew Tower has such a fervent following. The benefit of the Japanese method, however, is that it is much more accessible and can be brewed on conventional equipment. For those with a V60, Chemex, Bonavita, or Technivorm at home, you can get double use out of it during the hot summer months. We just need to compensate for brewing over ice. Below are a few starting points to get you on your way.

Want to read even more geekery? Check out the original discussions of James Hoffman, Oliver Strand & Peter Giuliano.

How to Do It: Bonavita/Technivorm:

  1. Measure 300 g (two 12 oz cups of ice), and place in the brewing carafe.
  2. Fill the water reservoir to the half-way line.
  3. Measure and grind 60 g of coffee on a medium setting.
  4. Pre-wet filter and place in holder with coffee.
  5. Brew and enjoy.

How to Do It: Chemex/V60:

  1. Fill kettle with water and put on to boil. We will be using 675-725 g of water.
  2. Measure and grind 60 g of coffee on a medium-coarse setting.
  3. Fill the brewing decanter with 300 g (two 12 oz cups of ice).
  4. Pre-wet filter and place in decanter with coffee.
  5. Pour 75-100 g of water over the coffee and allow to bloom.
  6. Continue pouring the reminder of the water over the next 1.5 – 2 minutes.
  7. Let the filter drain and remove.
  8. Enjoy!