Saturday, September 1, 2012

Cold-brewed Coffee from Cartel Coffee Lab

Best Cold Coffee Ever

Iced coffee is an abomination. Wait, let me explain. The best coffee is the best because of the exquisite combination of flavors and fragrances it gives off as you drink it, and both are most evident at a hot temperature. To me, taking good, strong coffee and pouring it over ice is like killing it. I would much rather drink it hot than kill all its finely nuanced wonderfulness. Think about everything that went into creating all those flavors and fragrances, the hundreds of finely balanced aromatic chemicals, from the plantation to the barista, then squash most it with ice to create a cold dull caffeine delivery juice. Even in the summer in Phoenix, I have made it a habit of drinking hot coffee only, because killing good coffee simply due to my own weakness in handling the heat seemed unfair, if not a waste of money.

Eventually, though, as the summer wears on and the hundred-plus degree days pile up, I begin to wonder if a tall cool afternoon coffee would be so bad. When I stopped in at Cartel Coffee Lab on 5th Avenue in Scottsdale and told the barista my dilemma, after agreeing with me on the crassness of pouring good coffee over ice, he suggested I try some of their cold-brew over ice. I'm not sure how they make theirs, but the general idea is that it's steeped for a long time in either less hot or cold water. Ever since I read this article on Boing Boing, I wanted to give cold-brew a try, although I never found myself in the exact circumstances leading to the hotel room brew-it-yourself scenario mentioned. This was my first experience. Oh my.

The coffee internet pundits have it that cold brewed coffee has less acid than hot brewed coffee, which seems true, but tells you what this cold brewed coffee is like as much as telling you that mountain bikes are like road bikes except with smaller wheels.

Before, during, and after, sipping Cartel Coffee Lab cold brewed ice coffee through a straw on a hot street is a delicious experience. It's not like hot coffee poured over ice at all. There was so much smooth flavor that I didn't want to add any cream. It has a natural sweetness and fruitiness that made me hesitate to add sweetener, too, but it seemed slightly improved with a little cane syrup added. There's a little bit of coffee candy flavor in it, to me, reminding me somewhat of Kopiko coffee candy from Thailand. I say that only because there's not much I can really say to describe the flavors very precisely, and the Kopiko is at least in the right palette.

Cartel opened my mind to a new to me way of sipping coffee in the summer in Phoenix. And I used the word, "sipping", intentionally, since I found the flavors so intensely flowing that I only wanted a sip at a time. The glass in the photo lasted a long time. More, please. 



  1. I'm an old fashioned boy. My concession to hot weather is I drink my hot coffee inside when the air temperature goes above 105F. Still, I'm intrigued and your post will definitely prompt a little research...

  2. I will taste any coffee but I may spit it out, but that usually does not happen. I cold brew coffee every two weeks or so and I use it in a variety of ways.
    I have coffee in the morning using 1 oz of cold brew and 7 oz of warm not hot water.
    I have it with cold water over ice using whatever amount taste right.
    If I need a pick-me-up I have an oz straight up. If you have had strong espresso you know what that is like.
    It's in the cooler and always ready and it does not have to be hot.
    Cold brewing makes cheap coffee (the only kind I can afford) palatable and often times really good.

  3. I'm not sure if I'm convinced, JRA. With spring just kicking off, I may have to do some local research.It's going to be a long hot summer on this side of the equator.




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