A Guide to Japanese Iced Coffee

By Imbibe
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Is Japanese-style iced coffee better than other cold-brews?

Written by Emma Janzen. Photo courtesy of CREMA.

Over the past five years, cold-brew coffee has been capturing the attention of coffee drinkers everywhere, and one brewing method has emerged as especially popular in American cafés. The Japanese brewing method flash-chills coffee via hot water that’s poured over ground coffee into an ice-filled carafe. The result is an incredibly bright, flavorful cold brew. Read more about the process here.   

CREMA co-founder Ben Lehman says his Nashville-based crew was inspired to adopt the practice after reading this article by long-time coffee pro Peter Giuliano, who says Japanese iced coffee was a game changer for him when he tried it in Japan. "Bright and clear, it had a vibrant, refreshing quality that contrasted starkly with the leaden, low-end iced coffee I was used to in the U.S.," he writes. "And best of all, the aromatics that I was used to smelling in hot coffee, I could taste in iced coffee." 

Lehman was sold. "We’ve never looked back," he says, adding that high-quality iced coffee is a must for Crema’s customers. "It’s really hot in the south, and if you run out of iced coffee you’d better be ready for a riot. This method enables us to brew quickly, with the crisp flavor, clarity and acidy that the Japanese method produces." 

"Brewing hot and then rapidly chilling preserves the nuances and complexities better," adds Timothy Hill, coffee buyer and quality manager for Counter Culture Coffee. "Cold-brew has flavors caused by oxidation, and cold water does not extract as well as hot water. Meaning when brewing hot and then chilling, you’re extracting and preserving more of a coffee’s natural flavors." 

If there’s any downside it’s that the method only allows for brewing the amount a carafe will hold, but, says Hill, "What you may be limited to in terms of batch size is made up for in speed. The coffee is ready in minutes, and it doesn’t need a really extended extraction time. This is part of the reason we believe it tastes fresher and cleaner, and showcases the coffees natural flavors better." 

In Portland, Nossa Familia uses the Japanese method for their first ready-to-drink Full Cycle blend that was released in bottles this summer. "It has a good level of brightness, but it maintains some of the chocolaty undertones that we love in the Brazilian coffee from my family’s farm," says founder Augusto Carneiro. 

Interesting in trying the method yourself? Lehman suggests increasing extraction by grinding your coffee beans a little finer, then using water just off the boil and making sure the total water contact time is four minutes. Crema has a handy step-by-step guide with more details.

Like what you see? Read more about the rise of cold-brew coffee, find out which coffee shops around the country are doing the most creative things with the ingredient, and discover some of our favorite pre-packaged options over at imbibemagazine.com

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Imbibe is a magazine and website dedicated to the world of drinks. For more, visit imbibemagazine.com and follow us @imbibe. #imbibegram

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