Cold brewed is a coffee term that has been popping up more and more frequently, even though there are plenty of cafes – including the chain Seattle’s Best – that have been offering up cold brewed coffee for quite some time now. Cold brewed coffee is just what it sounds like: coffee that is brewed cold, not hot. To make it, ground coffee beans are placed in cool water and left to sit in a cool place for around 12 hours to brew. Cold brewing produces a milder and sweeter cup of coffee than simply refrigerating coffee that is brewed hot. You don’t get the harsher, more bitter notes of coffee that are often brought out after chilling hot-brewed coffee. Cold brewed coffee will keep very well for several days in the refrigerator after it has been made, and it is easy to make a big batch and keep it on hand. As with regular coffee, you will want to experiment with the ratio of coffee grounds to water to get a concentration that you like, but err on the side of using too much coffee. Not only are you not rising adding bitterness to your drink by doing this, but you can always water down a cold-brewed coffee concentrate with a bit of extra water before serving if it is too strong.
Jonathan Stark wants you to use his Starbucks card, which he is using as a kind of social experiment. He has posted the screenshot of his mobile Starbucks card from the Starbucks iPhone app and is inviting people to use the card and get their drinks, free, on him! He asks that purchases be kept to under $3 and that users Tweet or blog about his project to keep it going. And, if you want to pay it forward to the next coffee-lover in line, you can go ahead and add a little money to the card’s account.
Since the project started in July, the account has seen more than $4000 come and go through it. Stark seeded the account, but the vast majority of that money has been contributed (and used!) by everyone using Stark’s card at a Starbucks store. The Providence, R.I., based Stark says that “he sees his experiment as setting an example of ‘humans being good’” – not because people are sharing coffee with others, but because mobile payments allow people to do good things in such an easy way. ‘Imagine,’ says Stark, ‘if you had a CVS card and you could give someone $10 for their Alzheimer’s medication. The concept of frictionless social giving is very attractive. And this is just the beginning of that.’
French vanilla, hazelnut and other types of flavored coffee usually to consumers looking for something a little sweeter and a little milder than other types of beans. Flavored coffees don’t allow you to taste all the complexity of black coffee, but at the same time, they usually deliver more of an aroma of their “flavor” rather than a strong dose of hazelnut or, in the case of the Dunkin’ Donuts coffee pictured above, strawberry shortcake. This begs the question: how is flavored coffee made?
Flavored coffee can be made in a variety of ways. The simplest way to flavor coffee will add spices alongside the beans, and the spices are soaked into the water along with the coffee as it brews. Most flavored coffees, however, are flavored by mixing flavoring – either a natural or artificial flavoring, usually mixed with water or some other liquid – into freshly roasted coffee beans. The flavoring gently coats the beans and is essentially steeped into the brewed coffee. Often, flavored coffee is ground before flavoring is added to increase the surface area that the flavoring can cover. Powdered flavorings can also be added, although that generally works best with already ground coffee.
Coffee aficionados will tell you than many manufacturers use less expensive beans (or simply a whole variety of beans mixed together rather than a specifically formulated blend) to make flavored coffee because the flavors will cover up any imbalances in the beans. This may be true in some cases – though there are plenty of companies that use high quality beans for all of their products – but it is definitely true that you will not be able to taste the nuances of a perfectly roasted coffee bean after flavoring has been added, so it isn’t worth putting your very best or most expensive beans in a batch that is going to be flavored.
So, with the exception of the occasional batch of spiced coffee, the flavoring comes from natural or artificial flavoring liquids that are added to the coffee beans. Actual ingredients like hazelnuts and chocolate are not added to coffee to produced flavored coffee and this is why flavored coffee usually has a stronger aroma of the “flavor” rather than the distinct taste of it.
I was recently asked to be one of the judges for Cupcake Project and Scoopalicious‘s 2011 Ice Cream Cupcake Contest. As a judge, I had to pick my three favorites out of a field of 60 entries and it was a tough job! I definitely wanted to choose more than just a handful, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to spotlight the two coffee-infused entries to the contest here. They were only slightly edged out of the top three (based on my very scientific judging process), but that doesn’t mean that they look any less delicious. The one pictured about is a Cappuccino Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Cupcake from Elizabeth of A Girl In Her Kitchen. It has a chocolate cupcake with cappuccino Chocolate Chip ice cream and is topped with Whipped Cream and a chocolate covered coffee bean. Another caffeinated entry came in the form of some Chocolate Cherry Mocha Delight Cupcakes by Alana (no blog given). These chocolate cherry cupcakes were like mini ice cream sundaes, topped with coffee ice cream and chocolate syrup. The final coffee-infused cupcakes were the Sunken, Crackle–Top Mocha Cupcakes with Toasted Pistachio Gelato and Burnt Caramel Drizzle by Leah of Wine Imbiber. These decadent cupcakes have a generous dose of Kahlua in them and that little bit of coffee flavor makes the cake base even richer.
Check out my other top picks and you’ll probably get some inspiration for coffee-spiced cupcakes of your own (I know I did!).