The Quest for the Perfect Iced Coffee in South Florida
Believe it or not, in 1946, Americans consumed double the amount of coffee that we do now: 48 gallons annually per person. That's amazing, considering they did it without Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, and fancy coffees like French Press, espresso, and Frappucinos. They accepted prepackaged, preroasted, overheated, watered-down, one-flavor-fits-all coffee.
And for the most part, they did without iced coffee.
Exactly when and where iced coffee was invented is up for debate. Some speculate it can be traced back to 17th-century Vienna, after the Turkish army unsuccessfully besieged the city. With a surplus of the magical bean left behind, the Viennese began to experiment with new ways to prepare the drink, eventually coming up with a cold version, mixing it with ice/snow from the Alps.
It's more likely, though, that iced coffee wasn't invented until the beginning of the 20th Century, when ice could be produced and stored. The Japanese started drinking iced coffee in the 1920s, and the Greeks developed the idea of the coffee frappe in the 1950s.
On a smoldering South Florida summer day, nothing sends shivers of pleasure into your fingertips and an instant chilly wake-up call to your brain like iced coffee. I went on a quest for the perfect cup.
Starbucks has served iced coffee since 1971, although back then, it was called Iced Marrakesh and was actually cold brewed using the Toddy system (more on that later). Today, you can grab one at the company's 13,000 U.S. outposts. Baristas now use a regular hot drip coffee, brewed at double strength, and serve it over ice. According to the independent caffeine research site energyfiend.com, one grande (medium) cup of iced coffee ($2.60 for 16 ounces) still contains only about half the amount of caffeine (165 mg) as the same sized cup of regular hot coffee (330 mg). A grande Frappuccino ($4.23), a sweeter, milkier blended iced coffee beverage, will give you 110 to 115 mg. As for Dunkin' Donuts (where it costs $2.32 for a medium, 24-ounce iced coffee), according to energyfiend, cut the caffeine roughly in half.
But I discovered something better than either of these two titans can offer -- cold brew coffee -- and I'm never going back.
Cold brew or cold pressed coffee is simply coffee grounds that have been steeped in room temperature or cold water for an extended period. This process of leaching flavor from the beans results in a different chemical profile -- a sweeter, deeper brew.
This potent potion is deceptively simple to make and has actually been around since before electricity was invented. Because the coffee beans in cold-press coffee never come into contact with heated water, cold-brewed iced coffee contains 67 percent less acid than its hot-brewed counterpart, experts say. Yet because of the drastically longer steeping time for cold brews, you usually get a stronger drink. In fact, the folks at Panther Coffee in Miami claim their cold brew packs a bigger caffeine punch than any other drink on the menu. (Fort Lauderdale's Green Bar & Kitchen offers Panther's cold brew for sale behind the counter. Just make sure you stop in early, as it often sells out.)