Local Favorite: Iced Coffee

Lately I have been shamelessly addicted to iced coffee from Black Hand Coffee Co in Richmond’s Museum District. It started out as a convenient place to stop for coffee or a sandwich when I didn’t want to venture too far from my neighborhood. Then as the weather warmed up, it became a usual stop on Sunday afternoons when I needed an ice cold pick-me-up to get me through cleaning, laundry, or errands. Before I knew it, I was strategically planning my lunch breaks from work so that I had enough time for a Black Hand run. Obviously this coffee is super delicious. On my weekend runs to the coffee shop, I love to bring it home to enjoy on my balcony with a good book and some relaxing music.

Recently when I was sitting in Black Hand, I asked them how they brewed their iced coffee to get it so dark, smooth, and delicious. It turns out that they use the best iced coffee brewing method ever (in my opinion): the cold water brew. In high school I worked at a local coffee shop and I learned a great amount about coffee. We brewed our iced coffee using a toddy, a cold water brewing method.

The method consists of immersing coarse ground coffee in cold water in a large container and allowing the mixture to sit overnight (or for at least twelve hours). The toddy has a filter in the bottom that lies on top of a draining hole with a rubber plug. When the coffee has finished steeping, the toddy is placed over a pitcher and unplugged, which lets the coffee drain through the filter and into the pitcher, leaving the wet grounds behind. This produces a coffee concentrate which is very strong and must be diluted with fresh cold water before drinking. Soaking the grounds in cold or room temperature water yields a different flavor profile than traditional hot brewing methods. Cold brewed coffee is less acidic and is the least bitter coffee I have ever tested. The results are smooth and mellow, which is why many people use a dark roasted bean to punch up the flavor.

As I wrote earlier, Kyle and I were recently on vacation in Harrisonburg, VA, where we visited and fell in love with a locally owned cafe/bar called The Artful Dodger. We had a tasty and filling breakfast along with a pair of coffees for a bargain price. What surprised us the most was the quality of the coffee. On our first visit, we asked where they got their beans. It turns out that they are sourced from a local roaster, Lucas Roasting, in Broadway, VA. I had a Nicaraguan brew with my veggie scramble, and Kyle had the Nicaraguan, iced, with his veggie breakfast quesadilla.

On our second visit to the Artful Dodger, we had the Mocha Java and the Zimbabwe. Both were excellent. This time around, we asked about their brewing method for iced coffee. The guy behind the counter explained to us that they had just started using “this cold brew method where they soak the grounds in cold water overnight and then get a really strong concentrate that you have to add water to, which sounds kind of complicated, but it’s totally worth it because the iced coffee just turns out awesome.” Agreed. I found out that the folks at the Artful Dodger had just started using this method a day before our second visit. It seems like more coffee shops are picking up on this brewing method (which has been around since the 1960’s) to make deliciously smooth iced coffee, and I am glad to see it because it truly is my favorite way to make an iced coffee.

Now when it comes to hot coffee, I prefer my French press, but that is a story for another time. Check out the yummy pre-hike meal that I made for us before our trek to Rose River Falls and Dark Hollow Falls last week. I used Lucas Roasting coffee purchased at the Artful Dodger, coarse ground, and brewed in my French press.