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Coffee Trends: Fall 2015

Cold (in)fusion

October 5, 2015
By Brian Martell


Many years ago, there was a buzz in the scientific community around the possibility of cold fusion, a process that would allow for an inexpensive and clean way of generating energy.  

Perhaps not so technical in application, there is a trend from south of the border that is seeing cold infusion (or cold brewing) coffee become a significant market.  

Coffee has been served cold for almost as long as it has been served hot but never to the same appeal than its other caffeinated cousin – tea – has been chilled. For the last five years, Americans have seen a meteoric growth in this segment of the coffee market with companies, equipment and recipes springing up in a groundswell around this phenomenon.  

What is different about this trend that sets it apart from the previous iterations of chilled coffee is the means of preparation. Cold (or iced, or granita, etc.) coffees have always had their genesis through hot extraction, usually using a double-strength brew at traditional temperatures (202 F) and then diluted with cold water to bring it back to regular strength followed by refrigeration of the whole preparation.  


The new method uses longer periods of time, lots of coffee and lots of ambient-temperature water to do a cold extraction. The results are a very different product than what we are used to on the hot side. Not surprisingly, the early adopters of this product are the southern American states, which experience more days over 80 F than their northern counterparts. The excessive heat they experience from mid-spring to mid-fall makes them ideal markets to embrace anything cool (can you blame them?) to slake the sizzle of summer.  

So a couple of questions spring to mind: what does it taste like and why is it so different from its traditionally hot counterpart?

Cold-brewed coffee tends to be sweeter (less bitter) and is usually brewed as a concentrate, so it must be diluted before drinking – unless you’re looking for the jitters.  Acidity levels are also lower due to the process. This may or may not be a good thing, depending on your own personal preference.

On to why it’s so different. Coffee is a fragile, volatile and perishable product once roasted. In its green state it will remain relatively inert for a long period of time (in some cases more than a year) but the clock starts ticking once we add heat adequate enough to roast it. Of the over 600 organic compounds that make up the complexity of coffee’s taste profiles, there are undesirable elements which proper hot brewing will leave in the brew basket, never to taint your cup. Of the 10 principles in the Continuum to Contentment several revolve around avoiding over-extraction, which leads to bitter and astringent elements in the finished brew. One of those principles is the “hotter the water the stronger the brew.” Focusing on this side of the equation, the temperature of the water is critical in speeding up the brewing process as it allows for a greater rate of dissolution of the soluble oils present in coffee. What it also does is speed up the aging process of those oils, making their shelf life that much shorter. Indeed, brewed coffee that is kept hot through an external heat source will maintain freshness for about 20 minutes and no more; coffee kept hot though mechanical insulation will stay fresh for about an hour before it starts to lose its appeal.  

But what about coffee that was brewed at 70 F instead of 202 F? Firstly, the fragile coffee oils are not exposed to the same degree of temperature as their hot brewed counterparts, meaning their shelf life has been extended. Secondly, and infinitely more important, is that the degree of extraction using ambient-temperature water does not lend itself to acquiring the less desirable compounds also present in coffee, making the taste profile that much more different using this method.

The American market has embraced this product so much so that it is becoming a staple foodservice and OCS offering. Many of the trends Canadians have gravitated to had their start in the United States but not all have stuck. Fresh-brewed iced tea (which represents 70 per cent of American tea consumption) struggles to hold a beachhead in Canada in spite of its wide popularity with our American cousins.  

Will cold-brewed coffee be accepted in Canada? And if it is, will it be a game changer or an also-ran? The answer lies with those intrepid Canadian entrepreneurs, some of who may be reading this, who will test the market to see if we can, yet again, “re-valourize” Canada’s favourite beverage. 

Brian Martell works at Heritage Coffee as vice-president of sales and has many years of industry experience. Brian has also been the recipient of three prestigious awards: the Don Storey, Stuart Daw, and the Albert DeNovelus Customer Service awards. The Continuum to Contentment© is a registered trademark of Heritage Coffee. For the complete “Continuum” visit the Heritage website at Questions, comments, feedback, start a dialogue? Email him at

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