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!