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Cold Coffee is Heating Up

Growing consumer interest in cold coffee beverages opens opportunities for foodservice operators
iced coffee

There’s no doubt about it: Cold coffee beverages are hot.

From straight-up iced coffee to premium cold brew and ultra-trendy nitro, these chilly java jolts have hooked consumers, who are willing to pay for refreshing, craveable brews throughout the day. Operators also are seeing opportunity in selling bottled or canned cold brews from local roasters. 

Iced coffee is the fastest-growing beverage at LSRs, according to the Technomic 2016 Beverage Consumer Trend Report.

Cold coffee drinks are a great way to boost lunchtime check averages, a daypart when many diners seek out something other than hot coffee.

Plus, iced coffee is an appealing swap for soda as consumers turn to other beverages to avoid sugar and additives.

Shifting Consumer Trends

More than a third of millennials say they are more interested in cold-brew coffee at coffee cafes and bakery cafes now than they were two years ago, according to the Technomic 2016 Bakery and Coffee Cafe Consumer Trend Report.

Younger consumers are more willing to experiment with new-to-the scene beverages, like nitro coffee. Witness the recent growth of nitro, cold-brew coffee infused with nitrogen. The cold coffee is dispensed through a refrigerated tap, much like a Guinness beer, and fills the cup with a well-balanced drink topped with a foamy head. Nitro taps have been phased in at chains including Starbucks, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Caribou Coffee and more. And manufacturers are expected to roll out table-top nitro coffee machines in coming months, which is expected to expand the reach of this trend even further.

Cold brew, which requires up to a full day of steeping, has gained popularity because of its smooth, mellow flavor profile. But the process can be labor intensive. Iced coffee offers another cold coffee alternative, and one that tends to be more easily handled by operators. The trick to offering better iced coffee than in the past is selecting the right equipment for the right technique.

“While cold brew represents a small portion of the overall category, our research indicates curiosity about trying a new style of coffee is driving current consumer demand,” said Elizabeth Sisel, beverages analyst at Mintel. “However, this may foretell future challenges for the beverage; when a newer coffee brewing method begins to trend, it may easily overshadow cold brew’s current popularity.”

Types of Cold Coffee

Cold brew coffee uses a steeping method versus hot water extraction, which can produce a slightly sweeter flavor profile. Filtered, cold or room temperature water is blended with freshly ground coffee beans and steeped for 12 to 24 hours, then filtered out. The resulting concentrate can be diluted with additional filtered water and/or served over ice. Equipment needs are minimal; only a bucket and a filter are required, though some commercial versions offer larger sized, stainless steel containers.

When it comes to iced coffee, there are various ways to brew the beverage. In the flash-chilled version, coffee is brewed in a more traditional format using hot water and then flash-chilled using special equipment.

In the Japanese method for brewing iced coffee, ice is placed in the serving dispenser and the brewer is adjusted to prepare the coffee as normal, but with less hot water dispensed, creating a more concentrated brewed beverage. The ice in the dispenser offsets the lesser amount of water.  When the ice melts, it replaces the missing brewed water thereby preventing an over-extraction of the coffee.

Operators who can capitalize on creative ways to meet these growing beverage trends have great potential to drive new sales and expand their customer base.  By incorporating new tools and innovative techniques, restaurants are in a better position than ever to reap more hot profits from their cold coffee offerings.  

This post is sponsored by Curtis Coffee Equipment

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