June 1, 2016

never underestimate a good cup of coffee. it’s the beverage of choice, the first one we reach for in the morning, and the only one that can keep us alive too, both in those early hours and up-all-night tv marathons. except, the next time you’re feeling the heat from just walking out of your house, instead of an iced latte, reach for a bottle of cold brew coffee.

smoother, less acidic, but more potent than just pouring regular coffee over ice, the process calls for steeping coffee beans in water for a long time in order to extract the best flavours from the usually single-origin beans. this means that it appeases coffee connoisseurs and casual drinkers all at once – no wonder they’re all the rage. By Amelia Tan

Apart from how cold brew coffee is a welcome drink under our blazing heat, it’s supposed to taste better too, or at least different, if you like coffee that’s “smoother, with less of the harsh acidity that may come with hot brewed coffee”. That’s according to Shawn Tan, Head Barista at independent coffee boutique Papa Palheta, also a leading establishment in our local coffee scene of “third wave coffee” that’s all about artisanal brews. Here, he answers a few of our burning questions about cold brews.

What exactly is cold brew coffee?

Cold brew is, essentially, coffee that is brewed with room temperature or cold water, over a long period of time, ranging anywhere from 6 hours to even 24 or 48 hours. This is as opposed to the typical hot brewed coffees, that are brewed with hot water.

Where did the idea for a cold brew first originate from – is it a country, region, or a particular cafe?

It’s probably quite difficult to trace the first origins of the cold brew, but some prominent specialty brands in USA have been popularizing cold brews for years, for example, Stumptown Coffee Roasters and Blue Bottle Coffee.

What’s the process of cold brew coffee like – and how does this process affect the taste or strength of the coffee?

Our cold brew is steeped for 12 hours overnight, with a coarse grind setting, then bottled and served fresh in the morning. When you brew coffee at different temperatures, you extract different compounds from the coffee at different rates. According to the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), studies have shown that bitterness and astringency decrease when coffee is brewed at low temperatures. Most would find that cold brew coffee is smoother, with less of the harsh acidity that may come with hot brewed coffee. Cold brew typically uses more coffee as compared to a cup of hot brewed coffee, so naturally there is more caffeine in a cup of the same size.

What’s the difference between the usual ‘black’ and ‘white’ cold brews?

Some cafes would brew their cold brew and add in cream and sugar syrup, then bottle it. Over at Chye Seng Huat Hardware (CSHH) Coffee Bar, we prefer to serve a good unadulterated black cold brew, but offer our guests the convenience of adjusting their cold brew coffee to their taste.

How about making your own cold brew at home – what kind of gadgets or machines would you recommend?

The simplest method of making cold brew at home would be to put ground coffee in a container, add room temperature water, and allow to steep overnight. Of course, you would need a way to strain out the ground coffee as to get a less gritty cup. Some may use a french press, or a sieve. Alternatively, one could simply pick up one of our cold brew pots at our retail section at CSHH, which comes with a built-in filter, perfect for home use.

What’s the best way to store it?

Coffee should typically be stored in closed containers, and kept chilled as soon as possible, to prevent oxidation that occurs at higher temperatures.

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Chye Seng Huat Hardware

Peer behind the old-school shutters of this former hardware store, and you’ll find a coffee joint for people who take their caffeine very seriously. The flagship store of Papa Palheta also houses a roastery and a 360-degree coffee bar in its industrial-look space – but more than being another hipster haunt, what keeps ’em (and us) coming back is the coffee. One of our earliest cold brew experiences was this, served in an apothecary-type bottle, which houses an unadulterated black cold brew that’s brewed daily, steeped for 12 hours overnight then served fresh the next day. Theirs uses single-origin coffee, the Suke Quto from Ethiopia, Sidama, which has a pleasant acidity, with a nice round sweetness that tastes great over ice, straight from the bottle, or with a dash of milk. It’s a little on the potent side, which definitely pleases us.

TRY: Cold Brew Coffee, $7; Nitro Cold Brew, $7

Location: 150 Tyrwhitt Road, Singapore 207563
Opening Hours: 9am – 7pm, Tues to Fri; 9am – 10pm, Sat & Sun
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Old Hen Coffee Bar

It was a picture of coffee in a dark glass bottle that really enticed us, before we immediately made plans to head to the cafe on a Sunday afternoon – and weren’t disappointed. Their popular chilled bottles use either the Four Chairs blend by Nylon Coffee Roasters for the unsweetened black version, or the Raven blend by Oriole Coffee Roasters for the white, which results in a light, more rounded flavour for both; the white brew was definitely more milky than the others we tried, which was welcome on a hot day. If your friend’s not a coffee-lover like you though, rest easy because they can get a non-caffeinated bottle of their own too. The cafe serves a cold dark cocoa drink as well, a lovely rich beverage that we’d easily want to stock our fridges with and drink any time of the day.

TRY: Cold Brew Black, $6; Cold Brew White, $6.50; Valrhona Dark Cocoa, $6.50

Location: 88 Rangoon Road, #01-03, Singapore 218374
Opening Hours: 12pm – 10pm, Mon to Fri; 10am – 6.30pm, Sat; 10am – 10pm, Sun
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Dapper Coffee

Hit ’em up if you’re in need of a caffeine fix around the CBD area – they promise the crispest, cleanest-tasting cold brew around. Using Ethiopian Yirgacheffe beans, the coffee has a light and refreshing texture, yet with great depth of flavour. All this, because of their extremely high-tech processes. Instead of steeping coffee, they use vacuum pressure to speed up the process, and place coffee and water in a low pressure environment (or, a rather intimidating machine) so it takes all of… 60 seconds. Perfect for their time-starved patrons. On top of that, for a clear blend, they use organic protein instead of filter paper, which sounds like something only seen in fine-dining restaurants, while the drink’s served like a glass of Old Fashioned.

TRY: Dapper “The Cold Fashioned” Cold Brew, $6; Gold Brew, $10

Location: 73 Amoy Street, Second Floor, Singapore 069892
Opening Hours: 8am – 5pm, Mon to Fri
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Taisho Black

Oriole Coffee + Bar

The first time we tried this was a matter of convenience – there was no time for a proper sit-down at the cosy cafe – but you can bet that their cold brew coffee has been our regular order since. One of the more popular ones around, their bottles, called Taisho, named since iced coffee was first introduced in Japan in the early 1900s, are unique concoctions dreamed up by their baristas, and roasted at their own roasting facility for maximum quality control. Stocked at both the Somerset and Capitol Piazza branches, the black version is brewed with Burundi Sehe single-origin beans, while the white version is made with their unique Raven blend. There’s also a non-dairy version of the Taisho M.A.D Milk, coffee that’s sweetened with a natural nut milk of macadamia, almonds and dates. All of them taste light and balanced on the tongue, but are pretty substantial fuel that deserve a place beside your nice weekend brunch.

TRY: Taisho Black, $6; Taisho White, $7; Taisho M.A.D Milk, $8

Location: 96 Somerset Road, #01-01, Pan Pacific Serviced Suites
Opening Hours: 8am – 11pm, Sun to Thurs; 8am – 12am, Fri & Sat
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The Laneway Market

When we first headed to this gorgeous hideaway in the East, complete with dried flowers hanging from the ceiling, we were first blown away by the earthy, aromatic Dashi Risotto. Then came the coffee. While they only do it in one style, the White Cold Brew deserves mention, first because it’s brewed using their house blend of beans from Sumatra Lintong, Ethiopian Sidamo and Brazilian Yellow Bourbon, and secondly, it’s like a journey on your tongue – a slight sweetness on your first sip, followed by a whiff of wine and cherries, before ending off with a smooth finish reminiscent of dark cocoa. You’ll be tempted to want to take the bottle home, but the cafe gives off such a nice rustic charm, you’d wanna hang out all day too.

TRY: White Cold Brew, $6.50

Location: 266 Tanjong Katong Road, Singapore 437053
Opening Hours: 10am – 9.30pm, Wed to Sun
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Joe & Dough

It’s easy to guess what this homegrown chain cafe’s serving from its very name – why, good crafted coffee and baked goods of course, including wholesome sandwiches and cakes. So when their new concept outlet opened this year, they were eager to introduce new bottles of smooth cold brew that tapped on their rich expertise, both of which use single-origin beans steeped for more than 20 hours. The Black brew features beans from San Lorenzo, Costa Rica, and has a sweet malt-brown sugar aroma that’s complex then finishes with a hint of grapefruit at the end; as for the White, beans from Alice Estate, Brazil lend more nut and milk chocolate flavours, as well as a quiet herbal complexity. Pretty deep stuff, but all we’re saying is that they taste really good on the palate.

TRY: Black Cold Brew, $6; White Cold Brew, $7

Location: Waterway Point, at The Soup Spoon Union, #B1-12
Opening Hours: 11.30am – 8.30pm, Mon to Thurs; 11.30am – 10pm, Fri; 9am – 10pm, Sat; 9am – 8.30pm, Sun
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Habitat Coffee

Probably the newest kid on the block in terms of bottled coffee, they only recently launched these in May, with the benefit of a more convenient brew that you can take away, enjoy on-the-go, or even have for later since they have a five to seven day shelf life. We’re long-time fans of the cafe since they’re located relatively near our office, and a main fixture at Upper Thomson that’s great for the times when we’re taking a break from our convenient kopi peng. So hear us out when we say this: we’ll gladly vouch for their Carpenter’s Blend, roasted weekly and locally and used across all their coffee, including the Cold White Coffee. As for the regular version, they tend to switch the single-origins up every week, so every bottle’s really a whole new experience.

TRY: Cold Brew Coffee, $6; Cold White Coffee, $6.50

Location: 223 Upper Thomson Road, Singapore 574355
Opening Hours: 11am – 10.30pm, Tues to Fri; 10.30am – 10.30pm, Sat & Sun
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Tanuki Raw

You might be more familiar with Tanuki’s savoury offerings, the kind of indulgent but yummy fare we can’t stop craving for, but the next time you’re tucking into their Truffle Yakinuku Donburi (now with foie gras on their new menu), spring for something beyond an iced latte. It’s a little-known fact that the restaurant serves their own blend of cold brews, a regular one with a floral fragrance that also manages to be lightly fruity, as well as Cold Brew Mint, where the coffee is infused with tiger mint tea for a refreshing aftertaste. We last heard that they’re also working one with maple vanilla, which sounds like it’d be a hit for sweet tooths who still need their caffeine fix.

TRY: Cold Brew, $5; Cold Brew Mint, $5

Location: Orchard Central, #04-01
Opening Hours: 11.30am – 10pm, Daily
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d’Good Cafe

We’re always dropping by this cafe whenever we’re in the Holland Village vicinity, and it looks like we’re not the only ones who do though, since the three-storey space, swing seats and all, is usually full of patrons on the weekends. Other than an interesting custom coffee process that allows you to choose your own blend from a range of beans, they also serve three types of cold brews – the d’Black, a medium-bodied floral-fruity blend of Indonesi Java Jampit and Ethiopian Yirgacheff beans; the d’White, a more nutty blend of Papua New Guinea, Ethiopian Sidamo and Indonesian Mandheling beans; and lastly, something called d’Unknown, whose name is pretty self-explanatory. Don’t worry though, you don’t need to be a fearless explorer to venture forth, just a person who likes to be pleasantly surprised by the seasonal blends the cafe offers.

TRY: d’Black, $7; d’White, $7.50; d’Unknown, $7.50

Location: 273 Holland Avenue, #02-01/02, Singapore 278992
Opening Hours: 10am – 10pm, Sun – Thurs; 10am – 11pm, Fri & Sat
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Dutch Colony Coffee Co.

What happens when you mix fizzy soda with coffee? Why, a drink that certainly pops, all the better on your tongue and as it slides down your throat. You could opt for a more traditional brew, but the highlight here’s the Dutch Colony Carbonated Cold Brew, an easy-to-drink bottle that blends flavourful coffee that has been steeped for 20 hours, with soda pop. Launched late last year, it’s meant to satisfy those who loved their iced coffee a little sweeter, a recipe that still means serious business because it calls for coffee that holds well in carbonated water. Hence, the cafe went for single-origin beans from Panama, named Finca Santa Teresa, known for its floral-like fragrance. What’s even better? They’re looking to stock theirs in supermarkets and cinemas, which means, yes, solid company for that midnight blockbuster.

TRY: Carbonated Cold Brew, $7.90; Regular Cold Brew, $7.90

Location: 113 Frankel Avenue, Singapore 458230
Opening Hours: 9am – 7pm, Sun to Thurs; 9am – 9pm, Fri & Sat
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Say, you’re the kind who likes to be spoilt for choice. Well, you’ll love this little joint at the Singapore Art Museum then, since they serve a whopping seven different single-origin beans for their coffees, and seven types of cold brews as well. Beat that. Beyond the regular method of using room temperature water, they’ve also developed a technique of Ice-Dripped Cold Brew, an impressive name that describes a process of steeping coffee grinds in ice, not water, to extract the coffee’s flavour, resulting in a brew that’s smooth and elegant. Most people opt for the blends that are lower in acidity, such as the Brazil Yellow Bourbon, for notes of caramel and chocolate, or the Indian Monsoon Malabar, a clean blend with a slightly spicy aftertaste.

TRY: Cold Brew Coffee, $7

Location: Singapore Art Museum, 71 Bras Basah Road
Opening Hours: 8am – 8pm, Mon & Tues; 8am – 10pm, Wed to Fri; 10am – 8pm, Sat; 10am – 6pm, Sun
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Grain Traders

At this moment, we’re still gunning for this CBD-based casual joint to open on the weekends, so the only way we can appease our stomachs with their hearty food bowls, stuffed with protein, veggies and grains like quinoa and soba noodles, is to rush down post-work hours for our insatiable fix – which is also how we got wind about their cold brew blends. The white brew comes highly recommended, with a blend of two beans from the Thippanahalli Estate in India, and the Brazilian Ponto Alegre region, with the original blend of chocolatey, nutty notes balanced off with milk, cream and sugar. As for the more acidic black brew, the beans come from the Sidamo region in Ethiopia, Africa, and have a brighter, fruiter taste for those who need their coffee strong.

TRY: Black Cold Brew, $7; White Cold Brew, $7.50

Location: 138 Market Street, #01-01/02/03, Singapore 048946
Opening Hours: 8am – 8pm, Mon to Fri
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The Daily Roundup

First things first, since this is a cafe that specialises in crepes, we’ll zero in on our all-time favourite: the Burrata Galette, a generous dose of Italian cheese with pesto sauce and a bed of arugulas on a nice, thin crepe that’s both refreshing and delicious. Then, you’ll need a drink to accompany the savoury meal. Try a bottle of cold brew, in either Bold Black or Creamy White. Both use Papa Pahelta’s signature blends, the Suke Quto blend and Throwback blend respectively, so you’re assured of its quality. Go ahead, take a sip – but not before you take lots of Instagram-worthy photos on their nice marble top tables, or with a backdrop of their lovely mint counter.

TRY: Bold Black, $7; Creamy White, $8

Location: 1 Keong Saik Road, #01-02, Singapore 089109
Opening Hours: 8am – 9.30pm, Mon to Fri; 9am – 9.30pm, Sat; 9am – 7.30pm, Sun & PH
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