If Long Island summer were etched in sound, it might include crashing waves, the firing up of a grill, cicadas — and, at least recently, the clink of cubes in 8 a.m. iced coffee.
During the past two years, hot coffee’s dominance over Long Islanders’ morning routines has taken a serious hit from its colder brethren, iced and cold-brewed coffee, which rolled in from seemingly nowhere to become the caffeinated drink of choice from spring until fall.
“Once we hit April, people are getting their large cold brews before work,” said Mel Chiusano, general manager of Gentle Brew Coffee Roasters, where cold-brewed coffee accounts for the majority of joe sold in its Long Beach cafe.
For the uninitiated, cold-brewed coffee comes from steeping grounds in cold water for anywhere from 13 to 24 hours. According to roasters and brewers, the almost glacial process extracts the coffee’s choicest flavors, and often its latent sweetness, with fewer of the acids and bitterness that emerge during faster hot brewing. The result is a mellower, rounder drink that can be almost dessert-like — especially when it is poured using a tap that disperses nitrogen into the brew (a nitro tap) lending it a creamy head similar to Guinness. By contrast, iced coffee is coffee brewed with hot water and then cooled over ice.
Cold brewing “yields a flavor profile that is a huge crowd-pleaser,” says Arsalan Pourmand, owner of Flux Coffee in Farmingdale. For his, Pourmand uses a Mexican coffee from Oaxaca that yields a “super chocolaty” result.
Despite the deceptively simple formula of grounds plus cold water equals cold-brewed coffee, Long Island’s growing crop of roasters and baristas diverge on the roads they take to the final product — from grind size to steeping times — and with increasing competition, some prefer not to disclose too many details.
Several Long Island roasters, such as Gentle Brew and North Fork Roasting Co., are bottling their cold brews, and Flux will start wider distribution of its bottled cold brew soon. Sail Away Coffee Co., a 2-year-old cold-brew company based in Deer Park, distributes bottles of its coffee across the Island, as well as kegs that are hooked up to nitro taps.
With cold-brew production reaching a fever pitch, those who prefer less caffeinated, run-of-the-mill iced coffee are enjoying a knock-on perk — better coffee. A few years ago, iced coffee usually was made by cooling down hot coffee in a refrigerator. However, since brewing coffee with hot water draws out acids that become more obvious when a brew cools down and oxidizes, those iced coffee 1.0 versions could be pretty harsh.
Wiser to the ways of flavor extraction, many of Long Island’s dedicated coffee cafes now make iced coffee — if they make it at all — by pouring double-strength hot coffee right onto ice, using heat to release its brighter aromatics but locking in those aromatics via flash cooling. This is the so-called Japanese method of making iced coffee, and some drinkers think it superior to cold brewing.
Iced and cold brew “have completely different flavor profiles,” said Susan Kennedy, who in 2013 cofounded Tend Coffee in Shirley with her husband, Daniel Kennedy. “Iced is light, bright and refreshing, like lemonade. Cold brew has lower tones, almost like chocolate and cola.”
Here are places to find some of the best versions of both on Long Island.
Gentle Brew Coffee Roasters
Gentle Brew Coffee Roasters (Multiple locations): Gentle Brew founder Bryan Baquet began roasting beans in Hicksville in 2010, and cold brew “was part of the plan from the beginning,” said his partner, Mel Chiusano — long before it was even a glimmer in most drinkers’ eyes. Its blend has stayed consistent since: coarsely ground Brazilian beans that undergo a 24-hour steep. When Baquet and Chiusano began decanting it into bottles at farmers markets a few years ago, they often added cream and sugar, but now the same product is sold black. “People have really become accustomed to the taste, and they can’t get enough of it,” Chiusano said. It’s also served inside the modern-rustic Long Beach cafe (151 E. Park Ave.) as well as the boardwalk kiosk (1 National Blvd., where they’ll also soon roll out affogatos, or hot espresso poured over vanilla ice cream. More info: 516-605-2370, gentlebrewcoffee.com
Southdown Coffee (49 Audrey Ave., Oyster Bay): Visitors to Southdown Coffee in Huntington know how seriously it approaches its hot- and cold-brewed coffees. When owner Mark Boccard opened a smaller, second location in downtown Oyster Bay this summer (where there is no cold brew, only flash-cooled iced coffee), he added a whimsical touch: a slushy machine that turns out coffee granitas and coconut-espresso creemees, sort of like a creamy slushy. Both the smoky-tasting granita and the coconut creemee — coconut milk, decaffeinated espresso and a touch of agave, blended to smoothness — can come topped with whipped cream. More info: southdowncoffee.com
Georgio’s Coffee Roasters
Georgio’s Coffee Roasters (1965 New Hwy., Farmingdale): Glass cold-drip contraptions help create a lablike vibe inside Georgio’s Coffee Roasters, a no-nonsense spot on an industrial strip in Farmingdale. And this is a coffee lab of sorts — legendary roaster Georgio Testani has been knee-deep in single-origin coffee for a quarter-century, and his process for cold brew is suitably involved. He makes three blends using three different setups — including those cold-drip contraptions — then blends all three each morning for the day’s concentrate, which is slightly diluted before serving. On a recent afternoon, the intense cold brew tasted almost boozy. “I sell 80 gallons of it a week,” said Testani, who pours the cold brew over coffee-water ice cubes. “People think the ice cubes make it, and they help, but it’s really the three processes.” Also on offer for hot summer days: a dessert-like shakerato, or a blend of triple espresso with cream and simple syrup that is shaken with ice like a cocktail. More info: 516-238-2999, georgioscoffee.com
Flux Coffee (211 Main St., Farmingdale): Though Flux Coffee has been on Farmingdale’s Main Street for barely six months, its roots in cold brew go back nine years, when owner Arsalan Pourmand began his own cold-brew operation in California. “There was no commercially viable way to make cold brew,” Pourmand said — so he designed his own, which he has fine-tuned over the past decade. Though Pourmand is mum on the details, it involves thrice-filtered water, Oaxacan coffee and a 24-hour steep. The result is dark and chocolaty, but can be brightened up with foamy body via the nitro tap in this airy cafe. Flux’s team will serve its roasts as iced coffee, too, poured directly onto ice to cool the brew almost instantly. More info: 516-586-8979, fluxcoffee.com
Tend Coffee (924 Montauk Hwy., Shirley): The co-owners of Tend, Susan and Daniel Kennedy, are culinary-school graduates — so they can geek out when it comes to the subtleties of iced versus cold-brewed coffee. House-roasted Central American and African beans constitute their cold-brew blend; for iced coffee, baristas pour hot water through grounds and onto ice, the so-called Japanese method. “It reduces oxidation, and leaves coffee sweet and clean,” Susan Kennedy said. You can taste it for yourself, perhaps alongside a fresh pastry, inside their cozy Shirley cafe. More info: 631-772-4707, tendcoffee.com
Local’s Cafe (106 E. Main St., Port Jefferson): Owner Jiten Singh learned his trade at Caffè Vita in New York City, and uses its roasts inside the Port Jefferson corner cafe he opened last year. For the 22-hour cold brew, the staff uses the Theo blend for a smoky, almost caramel-like drink. “It’s very concentrated,” Singh said. Both the cold brew and iced coffee are on tap. What you won’t see here: frappes, because of their sugar content — but you will find healthy bites such as avocado toast and a kati roll, as well as iced turmeric-ginger, beetroot and matcha-tea lattes. More info: 631-509-0627, cafelocals.com
Roast Coffee & Tea Trading Company
Roast Coffee & Tea Trading Company (41 E. Main St., Patchogue): The opaque cold-brew at this bustling, 7-year-old Main Street roastery and cafe is made with a bold Brazilian roast whose concentrate is slightly diluted before serving, aka the toddy method. Smoother still is the toasty iced coconut Americano — a shot of hot espresso combined with coconut syrup and served over ice. More info: 631-312-5027, roast.coffee
North Fork Roasting Co.
North Fork Roasting Co. (55795 Main Rd., Southold): If you’ve shopped on Long Island’s North Fork lately, chances are you’ve come face-to-face with a bottle of the inky cold brew from this NoFo roastery, made with the roastery’s Brazil-heavy Beetle Juice blend (a touch of Ethiopian grounds keep it zippy). Steeped for 16-plus hours, it’s a complex brew that packs a wallop. Find it fresh inside the homey Southold cafe, where they’ll also serve you a creamy pint from the nitro tap. More info: 631-876-5450, noforoastingco.com