One stiff shot of cold-brew, neat, from Heart Roasters

After starting out with a shot of Heart’s Brazil Daterra espresso this morning, I went back to try some of the café’s iced coffee (‘tis the season, after all—despite the rain).

Heart uses a cold-brew process to make its iced coffee, and today’s offering was from the Kochere region of Ethiopia. Normally when you order a cold-brew, the barista takes some of the coffee concentrate and cuts it with water and ice to make it the right strength for sipping. I find that as the ice melts, you lose some of the rich chocolate notes and taste more of the acidity on the margins. For some time now, I have been planning to try the concentrate without mixing it to see if the drink holds its flavors better, and today seemed like a good time to do it.

Apparently, drinking cold brew straight up is not very common, because the barista had a hard time understanding what I was ordering. Granted, I asked for it in a clumsy manner, since there is no actual name for what I wanted to try. With a little persistence, though, we made it to the same page, and he gave me a glass of the potent concoction.

Short but strong

You would expect a drink that is normally diluted by half to be quite strong, and it was. Inhaling deeply over the glass of mahogany liquid, I could smell a sweetness similar to blackstrap molasses. The richness of the drink came through in its aroma.

When coffee brewed this way hits your tongue, the first impression it gives you is that it is going to be sour or bitter, but then it mellows out quickly into a mouthful of silkiness. The Ethiopian coffee had hints of bittersweet chocolate and pink grapefruit, with a body that lingered, filling my entire mouth with a pleasant satisfaction.

Drinking iced coffee this way is a little like drinking a shot of whiskey—strong up front, with a mellow finish. If you can figure out how to order one, you will probably want to drink it slow. It is a concentrate, so the caffeine per ounce must be pretty high.  

As an everyday drink, a cold-brew “neat” might be a little strong (knock-you-on-your-a$$ strong, really). I wouldn’t order it every time I decide to drink a cold-brewed coffee, but I do foresee ordering it from time to time when I am looking for something a little different.