If you haven’t already got a cold-brew on your menu, there are some caterer-friendly ways of creating this most fashionable of coffees, says Ian Boughton
At the beginning of this year, as always, experts queued up to predict what would be this year’s big trends in hot beverages. They are not always right, but this year just about every opinion-giver identified one big commercial trend in coffee.
In general, the fairly obvious predicted trends for hot drinks were that non-dairy milk would continue to be widely requested; that coffee cocktails would be big; that younger customers would become more important to the coffee market; that non-specialist outlets would make bigger inroads into the serving of tea and coffee; and that more sustainable takeaway packaging would be required. Three other items were highlighted by most pundits: the rise of high-quality filter coffee; the rise of top-notch decaf; and, the most common prediction of all, the rise of cold-brew coffee, and its near-relative, nitro coffee.
Did all this happen? And, crucially, is this simply for the hip and cool end of the coffee market, or something relevant to every level of the trade?
“If ever there was a summer to kick-start cold-brew, 2018 was it,” says Jonathan Wadham, communications manager for Rombouts. “Due to the sheer length of the hot period, many more café, catering and foodservice outlets had the chance to offer it, so demand increased exponentially. Consumers now have a taste for it, so we will see many more brands entering the market.”
Is this just marketing speak? Did cold-brew really sell? “It flew out!” says Alice Rendle who, as managing director of Edgcumbes in Arundel, West Sussex, is both a coffee roaster for the trade and a café owner. “Caterers who saw it happening came for our advice and the kit to make it with, and they sold shedloads. It is definitely something all caterers need to be thinking of – it is simple to make and has a whopping profit margin.”
But what is cold-brew and how is it sold? It’s definitely not the same as iced coffee, which is brewed hot and then chilled. Cold-brew is coffee infused with cold water for several hours, which results in a sweeter and smoother liquor with less acidity and bitterness than coffee brewed hot. The result can be served cold or used as a base: David Warr, managing director at Coopers of Jersey, says he now uses cold-brew as the base for all his iced coffees.
Marco Arrigo, who first introduced Illy coffee to the UK and is also the owner of Bar Termini in London’s Soho, has experimented widely with cold-brew, in both coffee and tea. He says: “It should be simple and fun. Yes, there is science behind it, but I still say that if you brew it in a bucket, stir it with a drumstick and filter it through a Nike sock it will taste great – but too many people have concentrated on the process and obsessed about the right brand of sock, which is why cold-brew has suffered from marketing speak gone mad.”
There are those who advocate steeping the coffee beans overnight, some for 18 hours, and in some cases for 24 hours. Arrigo disagrees: “I don’t believe it should be brewed for more than four or five hours. Some 12-hour brews give you the same bitter result as leaving a tea-bag in the pot, and anyway, caterers need a solution which allows them to knock out another batch fairly quickly.
“The important thing is to use a high- quality coffee, and I find that Illy coffee, which is a great espresso, suddenly becomes very interesting if you cold-brew it. Camomile tea is the same – it’s a beautiful drink and it proves that the best iced tea is made in your fridge, not brewed hot and then chilled. I’m a huge fan.”
However, not everybody loves it. “This is a Marmite subject, because cold-brew tastes different to what we expect from coffee,” points out Marco Olmi, director at Drury Coffee. “I did a tasting with 100 people on a day when the temperature was 30°C-plus, when everyone was struggling to sell hot drinks, and the reactions to cold-brew were one-third ‘wow, that’s great’, one-third ‘a bit weird’ and one-third ‘disgusting!’ Generally, it appeals to the younger generation, and we’ve now gone for cold-brew in cans.”
This is typical of the caterer- and retail-friendly variations of cold-brew that are appearing, because in-house production can be awkward and not easily done in a catering kitchen, says Kerttu Inkeroinen, marketing director at Union Hand-Roasted.
“With the rise in consumer demand, we saw caterers trying their own cold-brew, but it is time-consuming, often inconsistent, and there are hygiene issues. Our new catering product, Double Strength Cold-Brew, was inspired by a need in our own café to have a quicker, easier, better-quality solution. This is a three-litre bag-in-box with a tap, and with 1:1 dilution it can be used for cold coffee drinks, black or with milk, or for espresso martinis and other coffee cocktails. We tested it over the summer and it proved to be a far superior, convenient and cost-effective way.”
Among the brands now offered to the trade is Batavia, which is selling its Dutch coffee here in both retail bottles and catering kegs. This brand has opted for the unusual ‘cold drip’ method, where iced water is dripped over coffee grounds for 18 hours. It’s more complicated, says the company, but gives a clearer liquor as a result.
The Sandows brand has gone for flavoured variants, offering cold-brew coffee sodas, including a citrus variety with lemon, lime and grapefruit, and a spice one with orange blossom and ginger.
The second main prediction for 2018 was a sharp rise in the demand for higher-quality filter coffee, specifically decaf. “Speciality filter is definitely a trend worldwide,” says Drewry Pearson, chief executive of Marco Beverage Systems. “This is not just among the independent coffee outlets, but also in Starbucks Reserve, and one can expect more to follow.”
One research house has suggested that 6% of customers order decaffeinated coffee in a coffee shop, and there has been agreement in the coffee trade that higher-quality decaf is now demanded.
Guy Wilmot, director of the Decadent Decaf Coffee Company, has made a speciality of it. He says: “We are seeing an increase in enquiries from cafés and restaurants. We suspect that because awareness about good coffee has improved so much among the trade and the public, and because decaf is being ordered more often by customers, those restaurants who want to upgrade their coffee see that a move towards higher-quality decaf is a positive thing for them.”
“This is definitely happening,” agrees Olmi. “We’ve just introduced a sparkling-water decaf blend from Kenya and Brazil which is really very good indeed. It’s decaffeinated using water and carbon dioxide, combined under pressurised conditions to create a sparkling water, which is then washed over pre-moistened coffee to extract the caffeine.”
“We have seen a stampede towards the Swiss water method of decaffeination,” says Rendle. “But some of the catering sector is still slow on the uptake – they still regard decaf as something that lurks in a bag under the counter, and tastes naff.”
Not now, says Stephen Hurst, chief of the coffee importer Mercanta: “Higher quality decaf coffee for the catering sector is improving slowly, though not among certain airlines, hotels and high-end restaurants, who really should know better! It is now a solid ‘category’, and many of the decafs we sell would be hard for the layperson to distinguish from caffeinated.”
It is also happening in the world of espresso capsules, notes Jacopo Ubaldi of Lavazza: “We have introduced an A Modo Mio Decaffeinated coffee capsule, which is absolutely amazing.”
Although many fans of the cold-brew coffee concept drink it ‘straight’ as a black coffee, several companies have diversified. Conker spirit company of Dorset has created a coffee liqueur and says that cold-brewing provides a smooth result with traces of vanillas and caramels which works well in cocktails – and not just a martini, says Conker, but a cold-brew G&T and even a cold-brew negroni.
A very fashionable development of cold-brew coffee has been ‘nitro’. This was devised as cold-brew coffee infused with nitrogen on draught, producing a visual effect very much like Guinness. This is impractical for many catering situations, so caterer-friendly products have now entered the market.
Paddy & Scott’s of East Anglia says its nitro coffees are ‘natural highs’ – guilt-free energy drinks to ‘blow the mind, body and soul’. Don’t over-complicate it, the company says: just keep it chilled and pour slowly into a glass, straight or as a mixer. It works with espresso martinis, a Honey Jack (Irish coffee with Jack Daniels), and creates easy alcohol-free cocktails.Union now offers a catering ‘nitro kit’ of ‘coffee cocktail chargers’, which use pressure and a jet nozzle. It is quick and easy, says Union, and will allow for four cocktails at a time.
+31 6 1984 1379
Cooper & Co www.cooper.co.je
Decadent Decaf Coffee Company www.decadentdecaf.com
Drury Tea & Coffee www.drurycoffee.com
020 7740 1100
01604 821 234
Marco Beverage Systems www.marcobeveragesystems.com
0845 604 0188
07527 299 990
020 7474 8990