Heavy Table’s Summer Cold Press Lab

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

This story is underwritten by Peace Coffee.

In the last couple of years, baristas in these parts have been getting crazy with the Cheez Whiz. OK, maybe not Cheez Whiz, but in the Twin Cities’ best coffee shops, you can find drinks with additions like fresh herbs, horchata, root beer extract, sriracha, and gin bitters. These unconventional and (generally) tasty concoctions highlight coffee’s versatility — the brewed bean plays surprisingly well with ingredients that seemingly have no business in a cuppa Joe.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

This spirit of experimentation inspired us to organize a cold press lab with the generous underwriting of Peace Coffee. We spent an evening at their roastery unscientifically testing recipes — with the grilling season upon us and the sweltering days of summer just ahead, we decided to focus our energies on the cold stuff.

peace coffee yeti banner

Along with several of our writers and a couple of photographers, our crew included two highly skilled coffee chemists: Jackson O’Brien, head barista at Peace Coffee’s Wonderland location, and Andy Johnson, Peace alum and current barista at Five Watt.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

At the appointed hour, we gathered at Peace Coffee’s new tasting and cupping lab and training room, loaded down with enough ingredients to fill a modestly sized wheelbarrow. Our bounty included everything from marshmallow fluff, savory and sweet herbs, liquid smoke, and sodas from around the world to mango chutney, maple syrup, spicy peppers, an assortment of bitters, and fruit. Yes, it included a durian — a large, roundish, thorny fruit that’s so pungent that at least one country (Singapore) bans it on buses and in public buildings. We procured this wide range of mix-ins because we wanted to explore new (at least to us) flavor and texture combinations — and who doesn’t like slamming a durian on the concrete and stepping on it until the yellowy custard seeps from its thick skin? Great for caffeine-induced aggression!

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

We had but one rule: the drinks had to taste like coffee. This rule was rather easy to follow because we used Peace’s bottled cold press made from a rich, bold blend aptly named yeti. Given our funky ingredients and free-flowing process, it shouldn’t be a surprise that we produced many, many duds … and a very full dump bucket. On the other hand, we really did think pennywort soda (which tastes of freshly mowed lawn and dirt) would blend well with cold press concentrate. We were wrong.

Through trial, a great deal of error, and even more laughter, we developed a solid lineup of drinks. Without further delay, here are the recipes (aka estimations scribbled with shaky hands after consuming way too much caffeine). We very much encourage readers to add in the comments section recipes for their own refreshing summer coffee creations. Each recipe makes one drink.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Huma Cereza
Andy Johnson

This dairy-free concoction tastes of vanilla ice cream, smoked hickory, and chocolate cherries. It brings out the wow!

4 ounces cold press concentrate
2 ounces water
½ ounce vanilla simple syrup
2 drops liquid smoke
2 full droppers cherry-bark bitters
5 drops xocolatl mole bitters
Halved cherries
Ice

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

1. Combine ingredients (except mole bitters and cherries) in shaker. Shake and pour into glass.

2. Place 5 drops of mole bitters on top.

3. Garnish drink with halved cherries, and swirl in froth for added color and flavor.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

The Firewalker
Joshua Page

A refreshing, subtly sweet drink with creeping heat. Molasses brings out the tamarind flavor without overpowering the cold press. Orange juice and peel add brightness.

3 ounces cold press concentrate
⅓ fresh habanero pepper
½ bottle Jarritos tamarind soda
1 teaspoon molasses
1 tablespoon orange juice
Orange peel
Ice

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

1. Chop habanero and mix with 3 ounces Jarritos. Let sit for 7 to 10 minutes. Strain out peppers.

2. Mix molasses with 1 ounce Jarritos. Set aside.

3. Combine pepper and molasses mixtures with cold press and orange juice. Pour over ice.

4. Rub orange peel on rim of glass, and add peel to the drink.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

The Java Nut
James Norton

The mellow, earthy flavors of roasted coconut and cold press coffee join forces to create a mellow, nutty base. Cardamom-coriander bitters provide pizzazz.

3 ounces roasted coconut juice (available at United Noodles)
3 ounces cold press concentrate
2 ounces half-and-half
3 drops cardamom-coriander bitters
Ice

1. Combine ingredients in a shaker. Shake and pour.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Nashville Slammer
Jackson O’Brien

Basil gives a light and fresh tone to the cold press (they play off each other in much the same way chocolate and mint do). Lime and sparkling water add brightness.

4 ounces cold press concentrate
4 ounces sparkling water
1 tablespoon simple syrup
4 large basil leaves
1 lime wedge
Ice

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

1. Tear basil leaves and muddle with simple syrup until leaves are wilted.

2. Add cold press and sparkling water.

3. Pour mixture over ice; squeeze in lime wedge and stir.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

The Holy Hand Grenade
Ted Held

Sweet basil gives the cold press a light, herbal aroma, and the pineapple adds fruitiness and tartness.

3 ounces cold press concentrate
1 tablespoon simple syrup
2 cubes pineapple
2 basil leaves plus 1 sprig
Ice

1. Tear basil leaves, and muddle pineapple with simple syrup.

2. Add cold press and ice.

3. Garnish with a sprig of basil.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Durian Shake
Becca Dilley

The durian and coffee support each other with their earthy notes. Horchata’s dusty-but-sweet flavor melds with and moderates the funky kick of the durian, giving the drink a pleasantly sweet edge. The mint garnish masks the smell of the durian.

2 tablespoons durian (available frozen at United Noodles)
1 ounce cold press concentrate
1 ounce milk
1 tablespoon Klass horchata drink mix
Sprig of mint
Ice

1. Combine ingredients (except mint) in shaker. Shake, and pour into glass.

2. Garnish with mint.

Cody Blades and CJ Hoppe of Extraction Coffee Co.

Natalie Champa Jennings / Heavy Table
Natalie Champa Jennings / Heavy Table

Cody Blades and CJ Hoppe (above, left and right) don’t take vacations, more like coffee pilgrimages. They travel to check out Water Avenue Coffee in Portland or Handsome Roasters in L.A. They could have seen Powell’s Books or the Griffith Observatory, but likely by accident if they did. “We’ll be sitting at a roaster and think, there are mountains out there,” says Hoppe. “We should probably see them on the way to the next shop.”

The couple is now entering their second season of delivering cold brew coffee. Their Extraction Coffee Co. partners with local roasters — Spyhouse, Dogwood, Cafe Imports, among them — to select a new single-origin coffee each month. They produce an ultra-caffeinated concentrate intended to mix in equal parts with hot water, ice water, milk, or whatever (for instance, I’m thinking vodka and Bailey’s). Once delivered, it’s good for about two weeks in the fridge.

Natalie Champa Jennings / Heavy Table
Natalie Champa Jennings / Heavy Table

To get off the ground, a Kickstarter campaign netted them just over $3,000. Now anyone within 10 miles of the 494-694 loop can have a coffee-of-the-month delivered to their doorstep. Or customers can purchase a one-off bottle whenever they see fit — Extraction delivers twice a month.

Summertime is Bourbon Time and Morning Roundup

A preview of Minnesota Cooks at the State Fair (here’s our recap from last year), bourbon recs from South Minneapolis bon vivant Andy Sturdevant, a kind review of Pepitos, Dunn Bros. is selling growlers of cold press coffee, a Chowhound digs the Korean offerings at Lucky China (a hidden menu profiled in these pages), Zimmern interviews Beard Award winner and Wisconsin native Michael White, and Amici Pizza offers 25 percent off to celebrate its grand opening (our review here).

Cafe Con Leche

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

If you have traveled to Spain (or some parts of South America), you may have been lucky enough to experience cafe con leche (literally “coffee with milk”), which is a staple of breakfasts all over Iberia. Cafe con leche is strong coffee mixed with warm or scalded milk. While it’s often compared to Italian cappuccino, it doesn’t have the acid bite or bitterness that most American coffee drinks feature. It’s still got that caffeine jolt, but it’s a far more pleasurably mellow experience than either coffee or cappuccino.

It is the low-acidity part of the cafe con leche that makes it so difficult to recreate at home, as nearly all commercially available coffees are strongly acidic when brewed. Most Spanish coffee beans are made using a Torrefacto process of roasting, which involves introducing sugar to the beans during the roasting process, making them less acidic (and also much higher in antioxidants), but it’s difficult to find torrefacto beans domestically. Adding to the challenge, cafe con leche should be made with strong coffee, usually espresso, which heightens the flavor of the beans.

To capture the real flavor of cafe con leche at home, the secret is to start with cold press coffee. Cold brewing means you use time instead of heat to extract the coffee flavor into the water. The result is a very low-acid but strong coffee that can be stored in the refrigerator for future use.

Cold Press Coffee
1 lb. ground coffee (medium or strong roast)
12 c. cold water

Soak coffee in water for 12 hours at room temperature, then strain out grounds. Cold press coffee at this stage is strong, and can be mixed with water or milk for iced coffee or hot water for coffee.

Cafe con Leche (serves 2)
Warm 1 cup of cold press coffee on stove top till hot but do not boil. Place in cup.
Put 1 cup of milk (preferably whole milk) on stove top and stir constantly until warm and almost boiling. (If you have a cappuccino maker or steam wand, use that instead).

Milk equal parts coffee and milk together and serve immediately. Add sugar if desired.