The Definitive Guide to Cold Brew

 Why Cold Brew? Why Now?

In the last decade, cold brew has taken the coffee industry by storm, re-inventing our at-home coffee rituals, and revitalizing our favorite iced coffee beverages and the cafès that sell them. Cold brew is one of the most consumed beverages in the US right now - a top competitor with Diet Coke and water. The demand for cold brew - by Gen Z, millennials, and baby boomers alike - surges each year.

The History 

1600s Japan

While cold brew only gained popularity in the US in the last 10 years, it has a much longer global history. The first record of cold brew traces all the way back to the 1600s in Kyoto, Japan. The cold brew method in Kyoto was highly stylized, and a much longer brew extraction process than 12 hours. In fact, in this original cold brew process, one drop of water would touch the coffee grounds at a time. There is evidence that the Dutch used the cold brew method as a way of transporting shelf-stable coffee on trading ships to and from Japan. While we tend to think of iced coffee as a newer, more modern form of coffee beverage, people have been drinking cold coffee for centuries. In fact, there is speculation that cold brew was the only form of coffee beverage consumed before heat electricity.

1840s Algeria

In a French-occupied region of Algeria, a sweet coffee syrup, known as Mazagran, was combined with cold spring water to create a refreshing caffeinated beverage. This new cold coffee beverage moved from Algeria to Paris, and became a go-to item in the cafè. This Mazagran was not only mixed with cold spring water, but it was often diluted with lemon, rum, or milk. 

1920s Cuba & New Orleans

In Cuba, the cold brew method is altered slightly, as the process entails saturating  very fine coffee grounds with cold water repeatedly. Around the same time, New Orleans begins cold brewing, but they add a signature touch. Chicory root is added to the coffee beans pre-grind, so the root and beans are thoroughly combined, and the brew is effectively chicory-infused. Not only does chicory add a signature NOLA flavor, but it also helps the coffee last longer. 

The Process 

While many people think of cold brew as a particularly popular form of iced coffee beverage, it actually refers to the process that the coffee is brewed...and it’s pretty self explanatory: rather than being brewed in hot water, the coffee grounds are steeped in cold water over a long period of time. 

More specifically, coarsely ground beans are steeped in room temperature to cold filtered water overnight or longer, depending on the preferred strength or concentration. This slow brewing process allows the beans to gradually infuse the water. As a result, the chemical compounds break down and oxidize much slower than in the traditional hot brew method. The slower extraction process - made possible by the cold water infusion - leaves behind the bitter, acidic notes that arise from exposing coffee grounds to boiling water. This process is what gives cold brew its signature flavor: uniquely smooth, sweet, delicious. At Explorer, we cold brew our beans through a proprietary process, so each and every brew is infused with its own secret magic. 

The Roast

It can be very difficult to make a full-bodied cold brew using a light roast. Oftentimes, with a light roast, the cold brew will come out much thinner and less flavorful. At Explorer, we use a medium roast, for we find it has the best of both worlds when it comes to the light and dark roasts. It achieves the perfect balance of light, bright, and zesty, while also maintaining the deep flavor of a dark roast.

The Grind Size

With cold brew, when using a finer grind, you run the risk of over-extraction, as well as a more difficult straining process. The grind size for cold brew should resemble a coarse salt, so that each ground is roughly distinct. 

The Right Bean To Water Ratio

A standard cold brew go-to ratio is one pound of ground coffee beans to one gallon of water. If you want a smaller batch - or a more refrigerator-space-friendly ratio - try using a quarter pound of beans to four cups of water. Be careful with your ratio because you might accidentally end up making a concentrate!

The Beans

As with any brewing method, high quality coffee beans can take your brew to the next level. At Explorer, we use a single-origin washed coffee from the Sidamo and Yirgacheffe regions of Ethiopia. Our Arabica beans are the best of the best - they are in the top 3% of beans produced world wide, as well as 100% organic and specialty grade.

The Difference Between Cold Brew & Iced Coffee 

Iced coffee is simply regular hot coffee chilled - meaning the brew process itself is hot, but it is cooled post brew. Iced coffee does not have the same flavor benefits as cold brewed coffee, since the brewing process is the same as regular hot brew.  The only difference between regular hot coffee and iced coffee - besides the temperature - is that iced coffee is brewed double the strength of normal coffee. 

What’s A Concentrate? 

A cold brew concentrate refers to the cold brew pre-dilution. The strength of the concentration makes it super versatile, since it can be diluted with anything. The strength of the cold brew is dependent on how much it is diluted, so it is completely customizable. 

At Explorer, we are the first to make cold brew in four different caffeine levels, and at a 1:4 concentrate - the strongest cold brew concentrate out there. Besides a classic cold brew iced coffee, you can make any unique or traditional coffee beverage with super concentrate - lattes, cappuccinos, espresso martinis, even Dalgona CoffeeIf you’re a cold brew enthusiast, as we are, or even if you’ve never heard of cold brew before, try our specialty grade super concentrate. If you’re caffeine sensitive, try our Swiss-Water processed  Low Caf or No Caf concentrate. Or if you can never have enough caffeine, our Extra Caf may be the perfect fit for you. No matter how specific your coffee ritual or tastes, our cold brew super concentrate can accommodate your every cold brew - and caffeine - need.

Health Benefits 

Coffee is naturally infused with many of the same nutrients that we get from eating our greens. Coffee is rich in a group of antioxidants called polyphenols, also found in many fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. Polyphenols are superstar antioxidants that fight free radicals—agents that can damage our cells’ DNA—in our bloodstream. They are also proven to reduce inflammation, the culprit behind almost any chronic illness.   

Researchers have come to link coffee drinking to a reduced risk of contracting a whole host of chronic diseases. In a series of studies, coffee drinkers saw a 10% reduced risk for diabetes and heart failure, and a 40-50% decreased risk of liver cancer. The caffeine in coffee is associated with a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s as well.

While coffee is packed with good antioxidants, it lacks calories, carbs, proteins, and fats. Coffee’s low energy density, coupled with the fact that caffeine has been shown to increase metabolic rate, makes it a helpful beverage for anyone who is trying to lose weight.

Cold brew specifically has its own unique health benefits apart from coffee. Because of the cold brew process, it is lower in acidity than regular coffee, so if you are acid-sensitive, cold brew may be the perfect coffee beverage for you. If you are looking to caffeine to help boost your metabolism, a standard regular cold brew has more caffeine than both a standard hot and iced coffee. 

Thanks to modern research, us coffee drinkers can now have our daily joe with the peace of mind that we are doing our bodies a favor. But more than that—we can sip it with the intention of reaping specific health benefits.

Our Cold Brew Concentrate 

At Explorer, we not only make sure that we ethically source the best of the best coffee beans - ours are in the top 3%  produced worldwide - but we work with three ingenious Tastemakers whose wisdom, expertise, and artistry help us craft the smoothest, most delicious cold brew out there. 

Once imported from Ethiopia, we medium roast our beans to maximize flavor and cold brew them using our proprietary method for 12 hours. Our brewing method was developed and perfected over the last 50 years, so it consistently results in a smooth, balanced, and full-bodied cold brew batch. 

The Regular Caffeine & Extra Caffeine 

Our classic black reg caf is a single origin washed coffee from Ethiopia, otherwise known as the ‘birthplace’ of coffee. It’s grown at high altitude, carefully hand-picked, and meticulously sorted. Our beans are primarily grown in the Sidamo and Yirgacheffe regions of Ethiopia, known for their high quality beans and balanced coffees. We work with several 'unions' (organized groups of coffee farmers) in these regions, including the Sidama Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union, the Yirgacheffe CFCU, and the Oromia CFCU, that hand-pick our 'green' (unroasted) coffee.

The No Caffeine & Low Caffeine

For our No Caf and Low Caf coffees, we use the premiere Swiss Water Method of decaffeination on a blend of the highest-quality Ethiopian and Peruvian beans to support our incredible decaf taste profile. The Swiss Water Method has revolutionized decaffeination in the last few years with its all-natural, non-chemical process. Unlike other decaf coffees, which use chemicals to strip out caffeine from coffee and leave a harsh and weak tasting result, the Swiss Water Method gently uses water to wash 99% of all the caffeine, resulting in a full-bodied coffee without the buzz or jitters.

Our Secret Ingredient 

What makes us different at Explorer is not only our caffeine versatility and our 1:4 concentration, but our passion for coffee, its rich multicultural history, and of course, the revolutionary cold brew method. Each member of our team has their own unique relationship to coffee - from two time barista champion to childhood coffee fanatic to recent cold brew convert, we are all forever in love with coffee and 100% dedicated to creating the best cold brew, and best at home premium coffee shop experience. At Explorer, we each have a very different go-to cold brew beverage, whether that’s straight black every time or classic cold brew with a vanilla sweet cream cold foam, we are passionate about letting you customize your own coffee beverage. 

Keep Exploring, 

The Explorer Team