Into this arena arrived an apt solution for dealing with such low quality coffee: cold brewing via the Toddy Maker. The Toddy Maker allowed users to soak cheap grocery coffee grounds overnight in the fridge and the thick filter extracted out the soury acids that dominated the taste in regular brew. Since it soaked for a number of hours, the resulting solution would have some semblance of body, making the coffee more palatable. Naturally, there was no aroma to the resulting solution since it was merely soaked and not brewed with hot water. This was no loss since the coffee was stale anyway and had long ago lost any aroma. So, all in all, it was an excellent way to make poor coffee drinkable.
We have come a long way from those days of little choice in the grocery store aisles. These days one can find any number of small, craft, quality-focused coffee roasters in most any town. Along with the rise in these roasters has been the drastic improvement in brewing technology. Programmable, pulse-controlled coffee brewers are capable of producing outstandingly flavorful coffee, with brewing profiles to bring out the best aroma and taste. These brewers can be set up to make excellent iced coffee as well, retaining all the delicious aromas and flavor in an iced version. With all these technical innovations and access to fresh roasted coffee one would think that there would be a corresponding improvement in coffee flavor. Sadly, I would argue, that we have gone backwards. Somehow it has become fashionable to only offer thin, soury coffee made from manual pour-over brewers.
It comes with little surprise then that there has been a resurgence in cold brew coffee with hip new roasters extolling the virtues of cold brew. Some are even bottling said cold brew coffee for the ready-to-drink market. Compared to regular brewed coffee they promote cold brew's smoothness and rich body. It's the latest thing. And like so much in our modern coffee industry, nostalgia and novelty trumps critical observation. The simple fact remains, if your coffee improves through cold brewing it is an indictment of the coffee, not a validation of the brew. As stated earlier, the great thing about cold brewing is it makes poor coffee drinkable. The downside is that it makes great coffee merely drinkable.
Cold brewing is an oxymoron, there is no "brewing" of coffee in cold water. One only soaks the grounds in cold water. Brewing, and brewing at the correct temperature and timing, releases the aromas of the coffee and extracts the flavors. That is why there is no aroma to cold brew, only a swamp gas smell from the grounds soaking overlong. It saddens me to see enthusiastic coffee people preaching this over-hyped method. The popularity of cold brew says a lot about the current state of coffee quality. The tide of quality seems to be going out with the third wave.
At this rate, the next big thing to come along in third-wave coffee will be the "discovery" of instant coffee.