The art of getting cold coffee just right

The art of getting cold coffee just right

Here's how you can make THE perfect cup at home


Nivriti Butalia

Published: Fri 31 Aug 2018, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 31 Aug 2018, 11:54 AM

Growing up, summer evenings would frequently begin with a devastating sound from the kitchen. A mixer would have been switched on to make either banana milkshakes or cold coffee. The family would be stirring from deep afternoon naps, but the house would still be a tomb, silent, except for the kitchen, where someone or the other would be preparing tea for the grown-ups and milkshake or cold coffee for the kids. Both these drinks used to be blended in a mixer ("mixi", we used to call it). It would make a manic whirring sound and wake up whoever was still asleep at 5pm. The ear shattering sound would result in good cold coffee, at least.
When I was older and had started to spend money at coffee chains, I realised it was a waste. Outside coffee was always inferior to what I could get at home. Coffee chains, for one, couldn't make cold coffee that was thick enough. They would serve diluted portions with unnecessary smidges of liquid chocolate around the glass, to make it look fancy and justify the price.
From drinking all that garbage outside, I soon learnt to copy the one good cold coffee in my book - the coffee shake at The Big Chill (a restaurant in Delhi that was my yardstick), by bunging vanilla ice cream into the mixi. My above par copycat attempts notwithstanding, I believed I got the best cold coffee at the homes of two friends, where I could count on being plied with thick, chilled, strong cold coffee, in not-fancy tumblers - home style.
Last weekend, my early cold coffee days came back when I was experimenting in my kitchen, trying to incorporate some of what I had learnt at a recent coffee masterclass.
On a weekday morning, I landed up at Marina Mall, at the new outlet of Nespresso - where coffee classes will soon be open to the public. My instructor was Yassir Max Corpataux, of Swiss-Moroccan parentage, the brand's 'coffee ambassador' of the Middle East. This was his first media interaction and, for that morning, I was his only student.
Yassir gave me a tour of the new outlet and pointed out the design elements (some cool ones with a sustainable angle). He walked me through four recipes of cold coffees. I might probably only use the one basic recipe - unless I begin to stock whipped cream at home, or mint syrup, both seem unlikely.
In one hour, he explained different coffee profiles, who drinks what coffee where in Italy (in Salento, in the south, near the boot of Italy, they chug Salentina, apparently), and talked about the difference between Arabica and Robusta coffee beans (Arabic is milder, Robusta is more robust), and gave me a pointer out of a mixologist's handbook; that when you do the shaking part of blending a shakerato, use a glass mixer with silicone seal (or cocktail shaker), then flap out your arms like a chicken and use the strength of your elbows to shake, conserving energy to repeat that action the entire evening. You don't want big frenzied bubbles. So, the smoother the shaking rhythm, the better the froth in your coffee - 1-2, 1-2, back and forth, back and forth. I needed practice.
Yassir taught me to make the shakerato, caffè alla salentina, iced mint espresso ("Can you smell the woodsy notes plus the flavour of mint?"), and iced caramel macchiato. All these recipes are online. For all of them, the way they were taught, you need a coffee machine (approx Dh700 for the basic one).
However, if you don't have a coffee machine, that's fine - improvise. Use the instant stuff or, preferably, buy small lots (for freshness) of dark roast beans (Robusta; if you like your cold coffee strong). Pick any half-decent brand. Look up the menu of the Raw Coffee Company. I alternate between Lavazza and beans from Caffè Nero). Consider investing in a basic coffee grinder (a compact, perfectly functional one is available online for Dh102.99), and if you want, a French Press.
If that's too much, heat water and coffee on a stove in a saucepan and use a sieve to distill the extract. That should be adequate for good, strong, cold coffee.
Nespresso's limited edition coffee sleeves (Ispirazione Shakerato and Ispirazione Salentina) are available till end August for Dh31.50 a sleeve (contains 10 coffee capsules.
How to make fancy cold coffee
The shakerato (like an iced espresso) [5 stars, super easy]: Top up a tall see-through glass with ice. Pour 10 ml of sugarcane syrup onto the ice (one swirl). Place glass under coffee machine and bung in a capsule of shakerato (or any strong coffee capsule). Cap on the silicone lid, shake, shake, shake, 1-2. 1-2. Remove silicone lid. Either pour into a more sophisticated glass or drink straight out of the shaker.
Caffè alla Salentina [5 stars, easy, most rewarding, looks the best]: This one needs almond milk, according to the recipe. But use what you like. Top up a glass with ice, swirl in the 10 ml of sweet syrup (just melt sugar in hot water; I used liquid jaggery, nolen gur), almost top up with milk. Place under nozzle of coffee machine spout. Push in the Salentina coffee capsule. Balance a knife on the mouth of the glass so the hot coffee drips on to the steel (see box Enjoy marbled look. Stir once you finish swooning at your creation.
3The iced mint espresso [2 stars, bit of a pain] and the iced caramel macchiato [1 star, too kiddie for my taste] seemed to me a travesty. If I'm going to put tonic water, soda or whipped cream in my beverage, I'm going to call it a a dessert, not coffee.
Some tips
Use a transparent glass so you can tell the layers and strength of the coffee apart.
To give your coffee a professional barista look, where layers of milk are distinct from layers of coffee, do this. Add four-five ice cubes to a tall-ish glass, pour in 10 ml of liquid sugar (or cane syrup or just dissolve sugar granules in water, which is what I did at home) over the ice cubes. Then pour in the milk. Fill up three fourths of the glass. Last comes the coffee. The trick is this: when you pour the coffee, place a flat stirrer (a knife works) across the rim of the glass so the liquid pours on the metal blade first, then disperses inside the glass, without muddling the milk. Instead, it creates a distinct, marbled look. There's fun in later stirring the drink, after you coo at the distinct layers and feel like a pro. (I did this at home and sent a bunch of people pictures of my coffee with heart eyes).
Yassir's dad used to insist he shut the bottle cap really tightly of those 'doser bottles' - the kinds Italian restaurants use to serve olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I see the wisdom here. Air can be the enemy.
4To release the flavour of mint, place a few leaves in your palm and slap
them. Not thrash to a pulp, just a tight slap, to release the minty aroma. What is mint doing in cold coffee? Yeah, my sentiments too.

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