By Steve Hosey, Blending Application Manager
You can usually find hot, freshly brewed coffee on most restaurant menus. But you cannot always find cold specialty coffee. While the term “specialty coffee” does refer to the quality of the beans, it can also refer to how the coffee is served, and nowadays, there are a plethora of options, from espresso beverages to iced or cold brewed coffees, as well as frozen concoctions, adorned with whipped or cold foam toppings.
If you’re not already serving creations like these, then it’s an opportunity to consider. Sales of specialty coffee drinks are increasing at a rate of about 20% annually, according to a recent article in Forbes. Many of these beverages are easy to prepare, command premium prices, and are in demand all throughout the day – not just during the morning hours.
As compared to hot coffee, cold coffee drinks hold particular appeal, especially among younger generations who are driving much of the sector’s growth. In fact, coffee shops say that cold coffee drinks now account for more than half the beverages they sell – and not just during the summer months but all year long.
While a commercial espresso machine may be required for some coffee drinks, others utilize simpler brewing techniques, or even instant espresso powder. For example, drinks made with iced coffee require simply strongly brewed, chilled coffee. Or, for cold brew coffee, just combine coarsely ground beans with cool water and allow it to steep, refrigerated, for one to three days, then strain. Most find this brew smoother, less acidic, and less bitter than traditionally brewed coffee, making it well-suited for pairing with many other ingredients and flavors.
After brewing, what makes specialty coffee beverages really special is how they’re blended, flavored, and embellished. Many customers take pride in choosing their types of milk or cream, flavorings, and toppings, and customers can order them to their liking.
Typical flavoring agents include ready-made coffee syrups like caramel, mocha, vanilla, and chocolate – or you can make your own. You can also swap in holiday and seasonally inspired flavors like peppermint, pumpkin, and hazelnut to make the options more festive.
Commercial blending equipment, such as The Quiet One® by Vitamix® Commercial, is essential to your specialty coffee program because, with 34 optimized programs, it allows you to quickly produce consistent results and the smooth textures that customers crave.
For example, with the aid of The Quiet One, you can produce delectable frozen coffee drinks containing the perfect blend of suspended ice crystals. Simply combine your choice of cold brew, powdered espresso or instant coffee, flavored syrups, cream or milk, and ice in the blender container, then use one of the iced coffee blending programs. As an option, finish the beverage with whipped cream made with the Aerating Container, an accessory for The Quiet One.
Toppings are among the most cherished elements of cold coffee drinks, especially creamy cold foam, the perfect foil for cold, bold coffee. It is visually interesting and gains appeal as it gently cascades into the beverage while you drink it.
You can make cold foam in less than a minute using The Quiet One and the Aerating Container. Just blend a small quantity of chilled 2% or skim milk in the container using the optimized one-touch program designed for this purpose. The container’s flat, circular-shaped blade will quickly aerate the milk, expanding its volume by up to three times. To flavor the foam, simply add one or two pumps of syrup to the milk before blending. Popular flavoring options include vanilla and caramel.
New Directions in Specialty Coffee
Ready to move beyond the standard set of cold coffee options? With influences from around the world, the scope of possibilities is truly mind-bending, including combinations of cold coffee with tea, coconut, fruit juice, and even cocktail beverages.
For example, Shawn Lickliter, director of bar operations for République based in Los Angeles, California, and a 2022 Vitamix Commercial StarChefs partner, created a cold coffee drink he calls the TCMT Frappé. A spin on the classic Hong Kong coffee-milk tea, Shawn’s frozen version is made by combining cold brew coffee, tea, and a house-made coconut cream with ice in a blender.
Shawn’s version uses cream of coconut thinned with coconut milk in place of dairy milk, and Thai tea instead of the traditional black tea, resulting in a frozen coffee drink that tastes like a “coffee colada,” he says.
To make the drink, combine 2 ounces each of cold brew coffee, brewed Thai tea, and coconut cream (made by combining three parts cream of coconut with one part coconut milk) with one cup of ice in The Quiet One. Blend until smooth and serve in a tall glass garnished with whipped cream and freshly grated nutmeg.
Shawn is finding cold brew coffee to be a welcome ingredient in cocktails, too: He recently created a frozen blend made with rum, cold brew, and coffee liqueur, plus sugar, pineapple, and lime. The tropical creation is a frozen take on a popular cocktail served at San Diego’s Bali Hai Restaurant.
Another pairing Shawn suggests is cold brew coffee sweetened with fruit juice instead of sugar. He says adding a splash or two of fresh grapefruit or pineapple juice to cold brew is light, refreshing, and surprisingly good.