May 7, 2012

Rethinking iced coffee


You might remember last summer our iced coffee was written up by the Boston Globe alongside Dunkin and Starbucks in a must-have-iced-coffee-in-Boston article. You might not know that I’ve never really been happy with our iced coffee method. It’s been nagging at me.

Our last big iced coffee change came when we moved from cold brew to our single-cup brewed iced coffee. The thinking at the time was that cold brew has WAY too much caffeine. The current method has undergone some tweaks, but basically we pour a cup onto ice when you order, not too different from our hot coffee. This method, pouring hot onto ice, may be the best thing in the world for iced coffee.

But I’ve been bothered by a few things. And these get sort of technical, a warning for those of you who just want your cup and don’t really care about this level of detail. (1) For our hot coffee we us the Melitta (that black plastic thing that holds the filter) to restrict the flow of the coffee. It lets us pour a very reliable cup. For our iced we need coffee that’s a bit more concentrated, because it’s hitting ice. So we cheat and try to restrict the flow by pouring more slowly. I’ve never liked this. It’s not consistent enough, and it just feels a bit jury-rigged. We also grind our coffee to a finer grind for our iced, also in an attempt to get a more concentrated brew. I don’t like that either. (2) I think some of the beans we sell make horrible iced coffee. Not every great hot coffee is going to be a great iced coffee. And to be honest we test all of our new coffees hot, sometimes glancing at what they are like iced, but the focus is always on hot. (3) Related to the second thing, most of our customers put milk/ cream in their iced coffee. While hot coffee customers use dairy 3 out of 10 times, iced coffee customers use dairy 8 out of 10 times. And really the lighter coffees don’t always stand up. So I wonder whether our iced should be darker. (4) It’s really hard to pump volumes. This is true for our hot coffee too, but somehow it feels like more of a limitation for our iced. Maybe because of our large lunch crowds in the summer?

This picture here is Chris (HUB/HSQ) meeting with Janet from George Howell Roasters. George Howell does a lot of blends so we asked her to bring in some blends that we could consider. I know, we’ve never done blended coffees before, but I was wondering whether this could be a good choice for iced. We also talked to her about brewing methods, especially for larger quantities. Yesterday she brought us a Bonavita. I’m going to try it out this week.

In the meantime, expect us to be asking your opinion about iced coffee if you stop in at HSQ. We’ll be sampling out different coffees/ blends/ methods as we sort this all out. I’m hoping we come out the other side with an iced coffee that’s even better than what we have now.

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