Wandering around in the near 30-degree heat in New York City I could almost taste the humidity in the hot summer air. The sun had got its hat on and I needed to get my iced coffee on to cool myself down in the concrete jungle.
Cool beans when the heat is on
While the sun turns up the heat, some of my favourite coffee shops in the city are raising the bar with their cold versions of specialty and single origin offerings. And on the tip of every coffee lover’s straw is a cold brew.
Now, I’m not giving standard iced coffee the cold shoulder. However, I’ve found myself rather partial to the refreshing cold brew blends, as it’s another way of experiencing alternative flavour and roast profiles. I was first introduced to this flavour-inducing non-hot water brew method at a coffee festival. Like coffees enjoyed at heated temperatures, cold brew is served with or without milk, but unlike the simpler form of iced coffee, which is best described as hot coffee poured over ice, cold brew is made with cold water and time. There’s a lot of chemistry in coffee – the acidic or silky or fruity or intensely sweet tastes prove that opposites attract – and you can taste this clearly in the cold brew blends.
Ground coffee is soaked and steeped in cold water and left at room temperature for 12-24 hours before being strained. The result is a cold coffee of low acidity, full of delicate and complex crisp tea-like notes. Sometimes it’s of a clear caramelised brown sugar tone or a deeper malt-like shade of brown. I enjoy its natural sweetness and also its smoothness at times, depending on the brewing time. It’s all about having the patience for taste and a penchant for speciality flavour-packed iced coffees. There’s sometimes as many flavour profiles as there are ice cubes floating around.
Oh how it chills me…
I absolutely love flying to New York during the summer months and doing what I do best on layovers: coffee-ing. So I thought I’d sip and tell by sharing some of my favourite places to enjoy an iced coffee in Manhattan. Below are a few of the spots where I like to enjoy my ‘liquid air con’…
La Colombe: Draft Latte
These guys created the first ever draft latte. It’s my ultimate iced coffee indulgence and the clue is in the name – cold pressed espresso mixed with velvet whole milk is pulled icy and chilled from a keg. It comes out on tap, frothy – almost like whipped ice cream –with an inviting microform finish. I tried it made with their own La Colombe Torrefaction blend, the Nizza. The notes are like toasted nuts glazed in honey, so you don’t need to add any sugar, as this espresso is naturally sweet. Oh and hold the ice; its cool enough.
I also love the cold brew here with a dash of almond milk added. I love seeing the marbling milk swirl amongst the ice cubes – it’s the ultimate chill factor.
Sip at: La Colombe, 270 Lafayette Street, NY & various locations
Gimme Coffee: Flash Chilled Iced coffee
I stumbled upon this delightful little coffee bar in a different kind of chilled climate back in February this year. Now it’s the middle of summer, I’ve been enjoying Gimme Coffee‘s Flash Chilled iced coffee.
Ice is placed in the glass container of the Chemex coffee maker, then filter paper is placed in the funnel. With medium ground coffee sitting pretty inside, hot water is carefully poured from on high, as long tear drops drip over the ice. I tried the Flash Chilled Coffee made with their own roasted Colombia Finca San Luis, La Gloria blend. I really enjoyed the iced tea-like lightness to this, like little bursts of a tropical fruit garden with lingering blackberry later on to soften the citrusy hint and compliment the caramel. If you like your cold brew a little sparkling, try the Espresso Soda: espresso topped with San Pellegrino. Great for experiencing your favourite roast profiles at a cooler temperature without milk.
Sip at : Gimme Coffee, 228 Mott Street, NY & various locations
Happy Bones: Iced Latte
The name itself well describes having coffee here, especially the kind at much lower temperatures. This is certainly one of my top five coffee spots in Manhattan, with clean lines, chalky white brick walls and a minimalist ambience, not to mention the white La Marzocco coffee machine. Said to be inspired by the New Zealand coffee scene, it’s small and intimate and you can also sip side by side on the obligatory bench outside. The large windows let in rays of sunlight, so sit and reflect with a delicious iced latte, or order a cold brew and add milk. Either way, this clean and cool ice cube of a coffee shop is a work of art. Each time I’ve visited Happy Bones they’ve brewed Counter Culture Coffee and I recommend coming here for other specialty and signature coffees too.
Sip at: Happy Bones 394 Broome Street, NY
Third Rail Coffee: Cold Brew
Pottering around the streets of Greenwich Village can be thirsty work so I headed to Third Rail Coffee; another of my regular caffeine haunts. Their cold brew iced coffee is brewed in-house for a whole day and the sip through that straw is certainly worth every one of those 24 hours. I ordered the seasonal blend cold brew made with the Finca El Puente from Honduras blend by Counter Culture Coffee. It’s perhaps a little sweeter than some cold brews, as it has notes of grapes, brown sugar and toasted nuts, though I could really taste the brown sugar more than the grapes. I enjoyed it on ice without milk. Mocha lovers are in luck too as the baristas here are happy to add sweet single origin Ghanaian Cocoa chocolate to your iced latte – chocolate AND coffee; now that’s a chill factor.
Sip at : Third Rail Coffee, 240 Sullivan Street, NY & various locations
Gregorys: Toddy Iced Coffee
This iced coffee from Gregorys is certainly full of beans. It’s cold brewed overnight and has a punchy, nutty, chocolatey and toasty toffee-like accent, maintaining a light and crisp finish. They use a blend of South American coffee beans from Brazil and Colombia, and the result is a great all rounder cold brew coffee with as much character as a Broadway star.
Sip at: Gregorys Coffee, 42 Broadway, NY & various locations
Think Coffee: Single Sourced Iced Coffee
Don’t even give it a second thought: before you walk the High Line on a hot summer’s day, pop into Think Coffee for a super single sourced origin iced coffee. Coffee sourced from the most remote and tiny geographic regions possible, and then brewed cold.
Sip at: Think Coffee, 73 8th Avenue, NY & various locations
Stumptown Coffee: Hair Bender Cold Brew
I’ve enjoyed the blend in a cappuccino but as a cold brew it really lived up to its name. It’s a fusion blend of beans from major coffee growing regions, and the signature blend of Stumptown Coffee roasters. A little like salted caramel with distant light floral whispers, it almost had a creamy texture and a sharp sweetened salty fudge flavour.
Coffee Roasters Ace Hotel, W 29th Street, NY & various locations
Joe Pro Shop
I originally came to the Joe Pro Shop to take part in a cupping session; the technical term for coffee tasting. This time it was a beautiful 28-degree day in Manhattan so naturally I left with their very own 18-hour cold brew called the Overnighter. I enjoyed its syrupy caramel and white chocolatey taste on ice, with a dash of almond milk to compliment the blend.
Sip at: Joe Pro Shop, 131 W 21st Street, NY & various locations
La Colombe: Pure Black Bottled Cold Brew
A passion for cycling and a love of coffee work together like a well-oiled bike chain at Rapha. Inside this rather artful cycle club is a café serving La Colombe Pure Black cold pressed cold brew, and it comes in a steel capped bottle which I loved – and the message inside was deliciously received. An intense cocoa-like malty cold brew, with 16 hours of brewing to create the smoky, honey-like sweetness.
Sip at: Rapha, the New York Cycle Club, 159 Prince Street, NY
Some like it sweet
If an iced coffee isn’t quite your beverage of choice to cool down with but you’re strolling around town with someone like me, stop at this charming little bakery. They serve delicious ice cream that you can pair with a Brigadiero – a Brazilian delicacy shaped like a truffle ball with a sweet chewy texture. I – of course – enjoyed the coffee flavoured one. They also serve cold brew coffee here for people like me… and wait for it, a complimentary Brigadiero is served with every coffee purchase. Sit outside on the sunshine coloured bench.
Sip at: Brigadiero Bakery, 156 Sullivan St, New York
Answers on a postcard…
I regularly visit La Colombe and Gimme Coffee, so grabbed an opportunity to find out the barista view on the brew – here’s what they had to say:
Marshall, barista at La Colombe: I prefer to enjoy my cold brew coffee black, made with our Nizza blend. If I were to enjoy cold brew anywhere else other than at La Colombe it would be at Toby’s Estate Coffee at various locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Steve and Carl, baristas at Gimme Coffee: We really love coffee of Indonesian origin. Steve: I wouldn’t mind the coffee brewed for longer and then prepared using the Chemex brew method, like with the Flash. Carl: If I were to enjoy a cold brew anywhere else it would probably be at Third Rail Coffee in the East Village.