Barista Magazine

JUN-JUL 2016

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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thing 1 percent better, or you can try to do something completely different and fun. I chose to do something fun." In the Café There's a reason why cold brew is such an ideal ingredient for making new things: Its flavor is naturally potent. It begs to be mixed with some- thing else, and can withstand the addition of milk, sugar, and water, while still preserving its flavor. Most cafés brew it as a concentrate and serve it diluted with water, and may perhaps add some carbonation or even a nitro tap to give it some weight and texture. Specialty-coffee folks often don't think to pair it with other ingredients, though—the idea brings to mind cloyingly sweet drinks like lattes doused with sugary syrups. Go to Chromatic Coffee's Instagram account, however, and you'll see a bevy of beverages that'll make you swoon and wish you were at this San Jose, Calif.–based café in person. "We have a lot of fun with our drink menu," says Otessa Crandell, who runs the store and helps design drinks. From an iced latte with Fruity Pebbles for the company's anniversary, to a series of coffee-soda drinks, Chromatic isn't afraid to use cold brew as a raw ingredient and incorporate it in fun and unique ways. Chromatic's approach to cold brew allows for menu expansion, offer- ing the kind of selection and descriptions you'd expect at an upscale restaurant. "Things change all the time, and we're always looking for new ways to use the ingredients we have," says Otessa, noting seasonal and regional ingredients. In our current coffee culture where menus are getting shorter and baris- tas are being encouraged to simplify the choices that customers have, it can almost seem like there's no room for innovation. How many ways can you add milk to espresso? How many grind settings can you experiment with? It can also stagnate the experience a customer has when they walk into a coffeehouse, so being able to be innovative and get creative with what's behind your bar becomes increasingly important. If you're thinking that Fruity Pebbles and unusual sodas seem like too much for a café to take on, consider that simply thinking of different ways to serve cold brew within the confines of the café setting can yield interesting results. "We use our cold brew to make iced lattes," says Gabe Smentek, a barista at Onyx Coffee Lab in Fayetteville, Ark. Cold-brew lattes aren't new, but building the drink with ice cubes made of cold brew, or with barrel-aged cold brew, or even using the brew as the basis for a float, which Onyx does, certainly could be considered unique. "We sort of just got the idea for cold-brew coffee floats because cold brew was what we had and liked," says Salvador Mejia, manager of the Affogato Bar at Sightglass in San Francisco. Affogatos, i.e. ice cream with espresso, are the name of the game at this specialized bar tucked away on the second floor of the flagship store. The secret show-stealer is the cold-brew float, topped with two scoops of a rotating selection of ice creams from Salt & Straw in Portland, Ore. "There's really no combi- nation of ice cream and cold brew that can be wrong because the cold brew is flexible and lends a very distinct coffee flavor to the ice cream," says Sal. Cold brew is oddly flexible, but also incredibly unique, and that's why it can often show up as an ingredient in signature drinks during barista competitions. Barista competitors not only have to make a signature drink to showcase the coffees they're serving to the judges, but have to be able to describe them and articulate why they've chosen them. Tim Jones of Raleigh, N.C.'s Jubala Coffee used cold brew in his signature drink to complement his natural Ethiopian espresso during the 2015 Big Eastern Regional, which was a riff on a Manhattan cocktail. "The cold brew was meant to serve as the base spirit," says Tim. Competitors have been experimenting with and treating cold brew as an ingredient, and not as a singular drink, for plenty of competition seasons, and have produced beautiful and nuanced drinks that consider what specifically cold brew can offer. A Call to Experiment Asked to describe the inspiration for his company's canned cold-brew drink, Todd Carmichael of La Colombe cited the desire to make as many people happy as possible. For him, that was to create a beverage that would allow his product and brand to come to the customer as opposed to the customer coming to his store. Certainly most independent coffeehouse owners might not all have the resources to research and develop a new product, create a package for it, and create a demand in the market (reportedly Carmichael received 10,000 orders within 47 minutes for the new drink, which is essentially the draft lattes that La Colombe made popular last year in canned form), but what we all have in all our cafés is a raw product: cold brew. After talking to Josh of Beach Coffee, I went to my local grocery store and bought every flavor of water I could find. Maple water, spring water, dis- tilled water—and I tried them all with cold brew at different ratios. Now, I can't claim that any of them are good, but doing this experiment allowed me to break apart what cold brew can be. It forced me to think about the way cold brew interacted with the different waters I added to it, and how the flavors I liked could be enhanced while other flavors quelled. It's impossible to ignore how popular cold brew is, and customer demand is driving our industry to make cold brew more accessible and get it into the hands of more people. Perhaps, as Todd suggests, that means creating more ready-to-drink coffees, but it can also mean testing the boundaries of our current understanding of what tasty drinks can be. Cold brew isn't simply a beverage, but a canvas, an easy-to-experiment-with ingredient, and a way to engage not only customers in a new way, but also ourselves as craftspeople. Chromatic Coff ee in San Jose, Calif., has "a lot of fun with our drink menu," says store manager and drink designer Otessa Crandell." Pictured here, Chromatic's Unicorn Pony Power Puff : Cereal-steeped almond milk, Unicorn Pony cold-brew concentrate, brown sugar simple syrup, topped wirth hand-whipped vanilla cream, and unicorn pony sprinkles, i.e. Fruity Pebbles. PHOTO COURTESY OF CHROMATIC COFFEE 66 barista magazine

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