The History of Cold Brew Coffee

The history of summer’s favorite drink.

With summer in full swing, many coffee drinkers turn to cold brew coffee to get their morning fix. Delicious, thirst-quenching, and packed with caffeine, cold brew coffee is more popular than ever. But how did this powerful drink come to be? The answer is more complex than you might expect.

Coffee–Kyoto Style

The Japanese have been cold-brewing their coffee since the 1600s. Some people believe that the practice was passed on to the Japanese by Dutch traders who cold brewed their coffee to store on their ships. It was an easy way to keep large quantities to reheat later.

Whatever way the Japanese first discovered the cold brew method, it became immensely popular. The Kyoto style of cold brew may have changed over the years, but the current method is beautiful to watch. Water is dispensed, one drop at a time, through the coffee grounds and into a lower collection chamber. This brewing style creates coffee that is very aromatic with a light body, which is especially nice on a hot day.

Toddy—It’s All in the Name

Have you ever wondered why some people called their cold brew “toddy?” I did too.

In 1964, Todd Simpson, a chemical engineering student from Cornell, was introduced to a Peruvian-style of coffee extraction. It wasn’t long before inspiration struck. Simpson created and patented The Toddy. The system was first created with the same goal as the Dutch, to cold-brew coffee which would then be heated up before consumption. This would reduce the coffee’s acidity. Sensitive stomachs around the world rejoiced!

It wasn’t long before Simpson’s discovery was being used to create both hot and cold brewed coffee. Thus the modern era of cold brew coffee was born.

Re-discovery

The history of cold brew coffee is a circuitous journey filled with lots of re-discovery. As far as I can tell, different groups of people created this delicious beverage at different times, each thinking that they had been the first to discover it.

For example, a section in Scientific American reported the cold brew concept as early as 1847. They called it “essence of coffee” and deemed it “genuine stuff.” It seems that it was even bottled and available for purchase.

All of these stories of re-discovery have lead me to one conclusion: cold brew is a globally loved beverage. No matter what the reason, as a society, we will never be without our cold brewed coffee.

Cold Brew—What Top Pot Makes Today
Top Pot’s practice for making cold brewed coffee is called the immersion method. We combine coarse ground Guatemalan coffee and water, carefully monitoring the PH levels while steeping the mixture in a refrigerated environment at a consistent temperature for 24 hours.

It takes trial and error to find the perfect water-to-coffee ratio. Most experts say to start with 3/4 cup coffee beans for every 4 cups of water.

This process may seem time consuming, but it’s a small price to pay to create the delicious coffee you’ve come to consider your go-to summer drink.


When did you first discover cold brew coffee? What’s your favorite way to get your summer coffee fix? Let us know in the comments below.

We love making cold brew coffee, and we want to share that love with you. Make sure to check back in on the blog for details on an exciting cold brew happy hour coming soon to all cafes!

National Doughnut Day–An Unexpected History

National Doughnut Day? What will they think up next? But there is more to the story than you might expect.

On the first Friday in June, America celebrates National Doughnut Day. I know what you’re thinking: “National Doughnut Day? What will they think up next?” But there’s more to the story than just a quirky reason to indulge in a sweet treat.

The calendar is full of strange holidays commemorating everything from cheesecake to teddy bears. Each holiday has its own quirky history and devoted followers. Top Pot loves National Doughnut Day, but we love it for more than the obvious reasons. The story of the creation of NDD is more complicated than you might expect. It’s a story about caring for others and being brave in the face of danger. Didn’t expect that from a doughnut holiday, did you?

WWI and the “Doughnut Dollies”

In 1917, not too long after America entered WWI, The Salvation Army sent volunteers to France. The idea was to set up huts where the soldiers could receive baked goods, write letters back home, and have their clothes mended.

It wasn’t long before two of the volunteers had the idea to serve doughnuts. The life of a soldier was hard, and doughnuts were the perfect treat to brighten their spirits. The doughnuts were an instant hit, with one of the volunteers reporting that she made 300 doughnuts and 700 cups of coffee in one day!

Due to the doughnut’s instant success with the service men, the women became known as the “Doughnut Dollies.” Although the nickname was cute, no one forgot the immense service these men and women were contributing to the fight for freedom.

National Doughnut Day is Born

National Doughnut Day was born out of the struggles of the Great Depression. In 1938, the Salvation Army created the holiday as a way of fundraising for those in need. It also served the dual purpose of commemorating the men and women who had fought in WWI.

The tradition continued throughout the years. The Red Cross took over the Dollies’ work during WWII and the Vietnam War, raising spirits wherever they went.

Top Pot and Northwest Harvest

Top Pot is proud to contribute to the history of NDD. Each year, we partner with Northwest Harvest, a local nonprofit, to collect donations for those in need in our community. Each cafe will be collecting non-perishable food items to support Northwest Harvest’s mission to eliminate hunger.

“Northwest Harvest is Washington’s own statewide hunger relief agency. Our mission is to provide nutritious food to hungry people statewide in a manner that respects their dignity, while fighting to eliminate hunger. Our vision is that ample nutritious food is available to everyone in Washington.”

But that’s not all! In addition to food collections, we host a raffle with the chance to win some awesome prizes. A single ten dollar ticket gives you the chance to win one of ten prizes.

Come by any cafe to purchase your tickets. All raffle proceeds go to Northwest Harvest, so you can win big and do good.

We would love to see you at one of our locations on NDD. It’s a very busy day for us, so if you would like a large order it’s best to call ahead! Come support a great local nonprofit and celebrate the surprising history of National Doughnut Day.

Come into any Top Pot location this Monday through Thursday and show the barista this blog post to receive a free 12 ounce drip coffee.  This offer is good through June 2, 2016.