Cool beans: The buzz on local iced coffee

Promises, promises. The folks at Shenandoah Joe say their iced brew is the best you’ll ever have. Photo by Andrea Hubbell. Promises, promises. The folks at Shenandoah Joe say their iced brew is the best you’ll ever have. Photo by Andrea Hubbell.

When a hot afternoon turns sleepy, iced coffee’s the perfect pick-me-up to get you through the rest of the day. Aficionados seem to be split over which method makes better iced coffee. Some say coffee needs to be cold-brewed to temper its bitterness. Others insist that hot coffee-turned-cold is the only way to maintain its strength and body.

We asked our own coffee guru, Shenandoah Joe’s Dave Fafara, what side of the iced coffee camp he’s on, and he was all abuzz over the new cup-at-a-time option. “This is the best iced coffee you’ll ever have,” said Fafara, who recently started offering the choice in addition to their original iced coffee that’s simply hot-brewed at 1.5 times the strength before being cooled down and refrigerated.

Here’s how the cup-at-a-time works. First, you select your coffee from the blackboard listing the single origins or blends available that day. Next, your barista grinds the beans and puts 1.85 ounces into a cone filter that sits atop an ice-filled cylinder which rests inside a graduated flask. He pours water that’s 30 seconds off the boil gradually over the grounds allowing them to “bloom.” In a minute or two, the hot coffee trickles over the ice, cooling it instantly, and becoming 20 ounces of glorious iced coffee.

Shenandoah Joe’s regular iced coffee is still far from your average joe (they go through 16 gallons of it every Saturday at the City Market), but this cup-at-a-time is smooth, strong, and, well, the best iced coffee we’ve ever had.

When coffee’s not your bag
If tea’s more your cuppa, here are three ways to perk up your parched palate.

On City Market Saturdays, $2 will buy you a colorful iced tea (and straw) at Gilbert Station Farm & Edibles, where several flavors—like peach ginger black tea, raspberry rose green tea, and honeysuckle white tea—grace a row of dispensers each week.

Sweet and fragrant Moroccan mint tea gets chilled during the summer months at Aromas Café, making it the perfect accompaniment to a chicken shawarma wrap or a Barracks Road shopping spree.

Choices abound up the stairs at the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar, but you can always count on their homemade iced chai to be on the menu and to be the tastiest around.

Sweet and simple
If you take your coffee or tea with sugar, you’ll need to switch up your sweetener when you’re drinking it on ice. Make a simple syrup by dissolving equal parts of sugar and water in a small saucepan on the stove, let it cool, and store it in the refrigerator for a month. It works in cocktails too, so make double.

Cold as ice
Making iced coffee at home seems simple enough until you realize that pouring a hot cup of coffee over ice turns it acrid and that your tepid morning dregs poured over ice end up tasting muddy at best. A drinkable cool brew requires some planning—12 hours to be exact —but you’ll be smoothly rewarded for mornings to come if you follow this simple recipe.

Cold-brewed coffee 
Makes 3 cups of coffee concentrate
Place one cup of coarsely ground coffee in a quart-sized jar. Using a funnel, fill the jar to the brim with cold, filtered water. Cover and let steep in the refrigerator overnight or for 12 hours. Strain through a coffee filter, a fine-mesh sieve, or a sieve lined with cheesecloth. Or, pour the contents into a French press and slowly depress the plunger. In a glass filled with ice, mix equal parts coffee concentrate and water, varying the ratio to taste, adding milk and/or sweetener as desired. Store for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

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