In a society where you can see the other side of the world at the click of a button or order something and have it arrive on your doorstep the next day, it is simple, easy, and convenient to meet your basic needs.
Some industries, especially the at-home coffee industry, are taking convenience to the next level with the creation of coffee concentrate. Coffee concentrates are growing in number, and it can be overwhelming to know what kind is worth including in your morning routine. To avoid spending too much money on bad coffee, here’s the ultimate coffee concentrate guide for a behind-the-scenes look at the coffee industry.
Read on and learn what to look out for in the coffee concentrate world!
A Little Coffee Background
Coffee concentrate seems like a new and fresh idea in America. However, coffee concentrate can be dated back to the 17th century. The Dutch would make a concentrated cold brew coffee to bring with them on their long voyages all over the world to ensure they still got their caffeine kick. Eventually, that concentrated coffee made it to Japan.
The Japanese were big fans of cold-steeped tea, and they believed coffee could be brewed the same way. They developed a way to make cold brew coffee called the Kyoto method. This method takes over 24 hours to brew, resulting in a very strong cold brew. The typical Kyoto method, however, is not a coffee concentrate itself — it’s simply strong coffee.
For many years in early American culture, cold coffee was only consumed by soldiers since it was easier to keep than hot coffee. It was also simpler to store and brew at that time.
Cold brew has always been more convenient to keep once brewed, and our society today is thankful for the convenience it brings to our days now.
Cold Brew: Concentrate
Now that we have a basic background on how long coffee concentrate has been around, let’s dive into one of many big questions concerning coffee concentrate. What is the difference between regular cold brew coffee and coffee concentrate? The answer is simple and complicated all in one.
There are two main differences:
- Brew time
Specialty coffee truly is a science. So many tools are used in coffee, some of which you would think belong in a high school chemistry lab. However, these tools are used to weigh grounds and make different coffee drinks. Ratios are a fundamental concept when making any type of coffee.
For example, the standard coffee ratio measurement is in grams, and it’s written as theamount of coffee: the amount of water. The standard ratio for a pour-over coffee is 1:17. That’s one gram of coffee for every 17 grams of water.
These ratios can differ depending on the type of coffee drink you want to make.
Cold Brew Ratio
Cold brew is made with a 1:4 ratio. The smaller ratio used for cold brew results in a more potent brew since there is more coffee and less water to dilute it.
Coffee Concentrate Ratio
Concentrated coffee uses a 1:1 ratio, so you have the same amount of coffee ground as you have water.
After letting the grounds steep in the water, the concentrate will almost resemble a syrup. Before drinking, the coffee concentrate must be diluted with more water. You can always add more concentrate to your cup to suit your tastes, but a little goes a long way.
Coffee Concentrate and Cold Brew Steep Time
The typical brew time for cold brew is 16-20 hours. Steeping for longer than that can result in a bitter-tasting brew.
However, since the ratio of coffee concentrate is 1:1, the longer it steeps, the more potent the brew and the better the concentrate. Coffee concentrate can steep for up to 24 hours and does not lack flavor or caffeine strength.
Other Determining Factors
The ratio of coffee to water and steep time both differentiate cold brew and coffee concentrate on a basic level. Other differences include the type of coffee and the quality of water used.
Let’s break down what type of roasts work best for coffee concentrate, where they come from, and how to understand their flavor notes.
Coffee Terms To Know
In the coffee world, the terms origin, flavor notes, and fair-trade pop up a lot in the coffee world. Let’s dig into them and learn more about what these terms mean and how they relate to choosing the right concentrate.
The Origin of Beans and Their Flavor Notes
The farming, growing, and harvesting process of coffee is impressive. So much goes into the health and growth of the beans, which can easily be affected by different factors. Depending on what region of the world the coffee is grown in, it can result in a different tasting cup of coffee.
We will discuss the major coffee-growing regions and see what flavors you can taste from each.
Central and South America are full of coffee-growing countries such as Colombia, Brazil, Guatemala, Peru, and Mexico. They have similar climates, elevations, and soil, so they produce similar tasting coffee. This region of the coffee-growing world produces more full-bodied, chocolatey, and nutty-tasting coffees.
This region is the highest coffee-producing area in the world. Coffee from this region tends to be cheaper because it is easier to grow due to the tropical climate that is rich in sunlight and rain. Most medium to dark roasts come from this region, providing rich and flavorful coffees that are smooth and naturally sweet.
Africa and Asia
The next two regions to mention are Africa and Asia. The countries in these regions more commonly known for producing coffee are Uganda, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and India.
Most coffees from this region are expensive due to the harsher climates, which are not ideal for coffee cultivation.
The beans from this region taste fruity — like berries, melons, and sometimes even wine. Coffee from this region tends to be used for lighter roasts.
Another label commonly added to coffee is fair-trade. Due to the instability of weather, crop yield, and labor instability, farming is a difficult trade. Coffee farming is very unstable, and more often than not, the farmers are unable to make ends meet despite working so hard to produce enough beans to keep up with the worldwide demand for coffee.
Fair-trade coffee ensures the farmers receive enough livable income to take care of their farms and their families.
Keep an eye out for fair-trade labeled coffee to ensure your cup does more than just give you your daily caffeine boost. Coffee passes through so many hands before making it into our mugs each morning, so it is essential to give back to those who provide the drink we love so much!
Arabica vs. Robusta
Another commonly used term on coffee labels is 100% Arabica, but what does that mean?
Coffee comes from a plant, and just like any other plant, each kind of plant has variations. Let’s see what some of those are to ensure you know what’s in your cup.
Arabica coffee comes from the plant species Coffea arabica, which has been around since 1000 B.C. It is the O.G. of coffee plants, making up 70% of coffee production worldwide. It tends to be the sweeter, chocolatey-tasting coffee we get from our Central/South American region. It takes seven years for the plant to mature and start producing coffee beans.
On the other hand, Robusta coffee comes from the plant Coffea canephora. This plant is hardy, but it only makes up around 30% of the coffee produced worldwide. However, the use of Robusta has been on the rise in recent years.
Robusta coffee tends to be more bitter and acidic, resulting in a low-quality tasting coffee. It is cheaper because it is not as widely accepted as good coffee. Compared to Arabica, Robusta is not as flavorful, despite it being a hardier plant.
Choosing the Concentrate for You
Now that we have learned about the regions coffee comes from, the types of plants that are used, and how each type tastes, it’s time to dive into choosing the right coffee concentrate for you.
Let’s learn what to look for on labels to know the good stuff from the not-so-good stuff.
Read the Label
Before choosing what coffee concentrate to add to your daily coffee routine, be sure to do your reading. Each label should tell you where the concentrate came from, any additional flavors included, and whether or not it uses Arabica or Robusta coffee beans. If you know that Arabica produces better-tasting coffee than Robusta, you know how to find the good stuff!
Research the Company
As mentioned before, despite the coffee industry being a fast-growing industry, the farmers who produce the beans often do not receive enough to make ends meet. Before choosing your coffee concentrate, research the companies you are thinking of buying from to find one that is clearly fair-trade.
Choosing fair-trade coffee might not seem like a big deal, but your choice can go a long way in helping coffee farmers' livelihood! Look into what the company stands for and find how they receive their products and who it impacts.
Get Your Money’s Worth
Coffee concentrate is a wonderful way to get more bang for your buck. A little can go a long way.
Some big coffee companies can take advantage of people’s desire for convenience, and they lose quality because they’re producing such a high quantity of products. When reading your label, understand where it comes from so you know what kind of coffee you’re drinking.
Also, you will need to understand how much you are getting per ounce! The average price for a cup of coffee in the United States is $3.93. Coffee can be an expensive habit, and the little things like daily coffee shop stops add up quickly. With coffee concentrates, you can save a lot of money, but you need to know how much you are getting and how much it can save you each day!
Coffee Concentrates: Drink With Ease
Be aware of what’s in your cup, and understand how many lives are touched by purchasing your coffee beans or even just one cup of coffee at your local coffee shop. Coffee passes through so many hands, so it is essential to be aware that such an accessible necessity in our culture is someone else’s livelihood.
Choosing a coffee concentrate can be overwhelming. The amount of options available is a blessing and a curse. Remember to research your coffee, research your brand, and don’t be afraid to do some math to break down how much money you can save daily. More importantly, be sure to enjoy your cup and take the time to share it with others!