The swelter is upon us. As temperatures spike, coffee may be the most refreshing refuge.
We've moved so far beyond what cold coffee used to mean, a pot once brewed and steaming left forgotten or abandoned. A bracingly bitter dark liquid that's not cold so much as cool or violently room temperature.
Then came the cold brew boom. It started a decade ago with iced coffee, initially that forgotten dreck poured over ice and surprisingly redeeming, though still profoundly bitter.
With cold brew, cold coffee became great. Time replaced heat as the means of extraction, turning a two- or three-minute hot brew to a 12-hour steep, or even 16 or 24 hours. The result is a rich concentrate that cuts out the acidity of a hot cup but with deep flavors of chocolate or fruit or flowers and enough caffeine to power a small car.
Within the Triangle's expansive coffee scene, featuring world class roasters and talented baristas, it's a cold and caffeinated wonderland. This is, after all, the birthplace of Slingshot Coffee Co., one of the nation's best-known bottled cold brews making it mainstream by taking up space on the shelves of major grocers. A number of local coffee shops have their own offerings, from cold brew blends, single origin, artisan iced or coffee sodas, the next wave of the trend.
Here are a few of the Triangle's best iced coffee programs.
▪ Black and White: When two of the world's best coffee pros team up to start a coffee company in Wake Forest, expect the exceptional, including a nitro cold brew. 314 Brooks St., Wake Forest.
▪ BREW: Using Raleigh Coffee Company beans, this two-shop operation in Raleigh and Cary pours a nitro-infused cold brew that's velvety and rich. 111 Seaboard Ave., Suite 116, Raleigh; 122 E. Chatham St., Cary.
▪ Cocoa Cinnamon: Chiseled onto the year-round, snow and sunshine menu since the beginning is St. Al's, a cold brew blend named in honor of Durham sculptor Al Frega, a friend of the business. A blend of full- and light-bodied roasts is steeped 12 to 24 hours, with the result rich and smooth and increasingly fruity, owner Areli Barerra de Grodski says, since they've started roasting their own beans under the 4th Dimension Coffee name. Three locations in Durham at cocoacinnamon.com.
▪ Caffe Bellezza: This mobile coffee shop is one of the most elegant food trucks in the Triangle, offering a window, bar and stools for customers to sip their espressos rather than scurrying away. Their cold brew, made for years from Carrboro Coffee but now on a rotation of local roasters, is one of the great Saturday traditions at a summer farmers market in Durham. caffebellezza.com.
▪ Jubala: At two Raleigh cafes, these master alchemists work wonders with Counter Culture beans but are not fans of cold brew. At Jubala, iced coffee is preferred, brewed as a pour-over with more grounds than usual, half the water and ice to dilute the rest. They use Yama towers to make a small amount of cold brew concentrate daily to use in their seasonal special, a coffee lemonade that's tart and bright. 8450 Honeycutt Road in Lafayette Village and 2100 Hillsborough St., Raleigh.
▪ 42 & Lawrence: No other Triangle shop has bought into cold brew as much as this wonder bar from Larry's Beans. There's a regular cold brew, one made from beans roasted specifically for cold brew, one hit with nitrogen and an iced latte, all on tap. Larry's also sells a canned nitro cold brew in stores around the Triangle. 134 E. Martin St., Raleigh.
▪ Gray Squirrel: This small Carrboro coffee shop and roaster moved from a pop-up sized cafe into its flagship space last fall. Brewing from all their own beans, Gray Squirrel offers a basic cold brew, plus Kyoto style made from Yama towers and returning this month, nitro. 360 E. Main St., No. 100, Carrboro.
▪ Open Eye Cafe: About 20 feet separate the espresso machine and the roaster at one of Carrboro Coffee's cafes. Here they have proprietary cold brew in nitro kegs. 101 S. Greensboro St., Carrboro.
▪ The Durham Hotel: This boutique hotel in downtown Durham has a much better coffee program than it needs to. The sprawling retro lobby is a perfect spot to spend a morning with a coffee and pretend to be an out-of-towner. 315 E. Chapel Hill St., Durham.
▪ Raleigh Raw: All cold brew starts as a concentrate before it's diluted down to something that won't launch you into outer space. Raleigh Raw does a lot of things its own way, including its Raleigh Coffee Company nitro, optionally sweetened with house-made almond milk, local wildflower honey, coconut sugar and maple syrup. 7 W. Hargett St., Raleigh. A second location will open in July in Morgan Street Food Hall.
▪ Videri: There are few smells more intoxicating than a coffee shop — among those is a coffee shop inside a chocolate factory. Videri backs that up with one of Raleigh's low-key best coffee programs, drinks made from a variety of southern roasters and major independent coffee pioneers like Stumptown. 327 W. Davie St., Raleigh.