Coffee alchemy – the shakerato

Today, after a quick lunch at Pizza Nostra (Northeast 48th and Fremont – I highly recommend the pepperoni), I pedaled down through the morass of construction on Sandy Boulevard and stopped in at Case Study.

Unsure of what to order and feeling adventurous, I asked Ricky, the barista, for a recommendation. Case Study always has lots of interesting things going on – they bring in a wide variety of different coffees, some of which are very high-end. They like to experiment with different beverages and presentations too. One time they served me an espresso paired with slices of green apple and a small vial of honey. As a barista competition judge, I appreciate the creativity.

For this visit, Ricky recommended a “shakerato.”

“A what?” I asked.

“A shakerato. It’s espresso and a little bit of sugar, shaken with ice in a cocktail shaker. The result is…magical,” he assured me.

Espresso on ice? Not something I would normally order, but why not? It is summer after all (though it has often felt like Junuary) and I’ve had plenty of cold-brew lately.

The shakerato had several characteristics of a quality beverage. First, it was visually interesting. In the clear glass, I could see a thick caramel foam resting heavily on the  espresso beneath. It looked like a sampler of freshly-poured Guinness, though the taste was nothing like the famous Irish stout. The beverage was sweet and fruity, reminding me of white grape juice. The coffee flavor was fairly muted and the foam’s texture was light and silky. Overall, the beverage was very unique.  There is also a latte version of the shakerato that sounds interesting, but that will have to wait for another day.


Shake it...In addition to the shakerato, this summer Case Study is also cold-brewing a Geisha varietal from Colombia that is tasty. Like I said, they are always trying out new beverages, in addition to their traditional coffee lineup. When construction on Sandy ends, which should be soon, you will be able to roll in on the smooth new street and indulge your inner coffee adventurer.

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.