Cold brew offers new way for coffee lovers to chill out

Shannon Kuhn

The Anchorage coffee scene has been hot for years, but the latest trend is looking to cool things down. It's called "cold brew" and it may win over your caffeine-addicted heart.

Here's the scoop: Most of us make our morning cup of joe by pouring boiling water over ground beans. But to make cold brew, you instead pour cool water over the coffee grounds and allow it to steep at room temperature for as long as 24 hours.

The result is a rich concentrate, which is diluted with cold water and ice before serving. At this point, you can add milk or sugar if desired, in the same way that you treat your drip coffee.

SteamDot was one of the first shops to offer cold brew in Anchorage. I met up with owner Jonathan White this week for a quick Coffee Science 101 lesson behind the cold brewing process.

"When coffee is kept cold, the acids are not converted, which gives it a sweeter chemical makeup," he said. "This is a way to extract a bean's flavor while leaving behind a lot of the acidity typically found in hot coffee."

I found the resulting brew to be smooth and light enough to drink black, with a naturally sweet flavor.

Just don’t confuse cold brew with iced coffee. The latter is made by adding ice to hot espresso in order to cool it down, while cold brew is completely untouched by heat.

Cold brew in Anchorage

SteamDot opened its doors in 2010 and soon afterward started brewing and bottling cold brew coffee at their O'Malley headquarters. They offer fresh cold brew year-round on tap, in specialty growlers, mini-growlers and 12-ounce bottles.

Earlier this summer, Kaladi Brothers Coffee began offering its own style of cold brew coffee, also now on tap at four locations, bottled in growlers and sold in 16-ounce to-go cups.

If you’re not familiar, a growler is a half-gallon glass jug traditionally sold at breweries as a way to take beer to go. “It’s a great travel companion: You can easily take cold brew with you camping or on the road,” said GW Neal, one local cold brew fan.

One thing that’s notably missing from this icy beverage is the delectable aroma that only a steaming espresso can produce. However, unlike a pot of hot coffee, which goes stale in a few hours, a growler of cold brew "stays good for at least 3 weeks refrigerated," according to the Kaladi Brothers Facebook page.

Cold brew on tap may still be trendy, but -- fingers crossed -- it’s here to stay. Sunny mornings will never be the same.

In Anchorage, you can find cold brew on tap, in growlers and in 12-ounce bottles at SteamDot's Coffee & Espresso Lab on O'Malley and their Benson Coffee Bar. Cold brew is on tap at Kaladi Brothers' Brayton, Title Wave, Jewel Lake and Tudor cafes. Growlers and 16-ounce to-go cups are available at all Kaladi Brothers locations. 

Shannon Kuhn lives in Anchorage, where she writes about food and culture.