Cold-brewed iced lattes in S Korea's Hannam-dong

The Korea Herald/Asia News Network

Sunday, Jun 22, 2014

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Cold-brewed coffee, when done right, offers aficionados a potent moment of relief from that perpetual blanket of heat that is summer.

Essentially made by combining ground coffee with cold to room temperature water for numerous hours, a cold-brew differentiates itself from other iced caffeine by starting off at room temperature or lower, while a standard iced Americano or latte usually begins with hot espresso.

Cold-brew fans assert this results in a brew with lower acidity that tastes naturally sweeter.

Green bean buyer-roaster Alex Choi, who makes cold-brewed coffee for the two location-roaster Alex the Coffee, also believes that it boasts a sweeter profile.

"I feel it has more flavor, more depth," said Choi, who travels to coffee farms around the world to do direct trade for Alex the Coffee's roasts.

Alex the Coffee, which first opened in Gyeonggi Province's Yongin less than a year ago before launching in Seoul's Hannam-dong this May, gives coffee lovers a chance to compare cold-brewed to espresso-based iced brews by serving both options.

At Alex the Coffee, Choi extracts her cold-brewed coffee for 24 hours. That is around 10 to 12 hours more than the usual brewing time.

"It is a little bit deeper."

Choi, 38, believes the more-than-usual hours spent steeping the grounds makes a difference, however minute.

After a day of extraction, the resulting brew is sold as bottled concentrate, iced coffee and lattes at both locations.

In Choi's opinion, cold-brewed coffee offers certain advantages, namely large amounts can be made at once for a convenient brew that requires mere tweaks, like more water, ice or milk, before being served and then, of course, there is that "deep flavor."

The brew also appears to allow for a certain consistency.

While the taste of espresso-based coffee relies partly on the skills of the barista who extracts it, Choi has total control over her cold-brewed coffee.

All these advantages do not equate to the superiority of cold-brewed coffee over other brews.

In fact, Choi stresses cold-brews are not for everyone, explaining how letting it steep for many hours gives the coffee an aged flavor that does not sit well with some people.

On the flipside, there are plenty of folks who like it, something that has clearly been taken account at Alex the Coffee.

At the Hannam-dong outlet, cold-brewed coffee crafted from roasted beans hailing from the Carmen Estate in Panama is currently available.

"I like sweet coffee," Choi said. She explained how she took the "originally very acidic" beans and roasted them to create what she considers her signature flavor profile, one that boasts a "sweet aftertaste."

As straight-up cold-brewed coffee, the brew sports a fragrant chocolate nose with a tart, fermented flavor profile and a clean aftertaste.

When served up as an iced latte, it is creamy and medium-bodied with a compelling spicy, floral endnote and a deep, dark chocolate flavor that makes for a great summer digestif.

This particular cold-brewed coffee is only on the menu for one to two months, after which Choi plans to switch it up with beans from Africa.

"This is a lab."

Choi explained how the Hannam-dong based Alex the Coffee Lab only sells brews crafted from beans hailing from one region at a time with the aim of bringing out "the many different facets of one ingredient" through different brew-and-extraction styles.

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