Now more than ever, we have a huge number of different ways to prepare coffee at our fingertips. As part of this, we’ve seen an explosion in the cold coffee segment; over the past few years, cold brew, nitro, and iced coffees have become more prevalent on coffee shop menus.
However, as well as being able to use freshly brewed coffee or espresso for these beverages, coffee shops can also use coffee concentrate. This is usually prepared as concentrated filter or full immersion brewed coffee, which is then diluted to make other beverages – such as cold brew or iced lattes.
Although the concept of coffee concentrate is relatively simple, there are a number of factors to consider when making it. So how is it made and how can coffee shops use it? I spoke to three coffee professionals to find out more. Read on to learn what they told me.
You may also like our article on how you can make cold brew coffee at home.
What is coffee concentrate?
Thomas Blackwall is the Global Head of Coffee for Finlays, which manufactures coffee extracts in the UK and US.
“Coffee concentrate is essentially an extract,” he says.
It’s important to note that preparation methods can vary massively for coffee concentrate. Thomas explains that Finlays’ process involves placing ground coffee in water to create a “strong” concentrate.
This is a full immersion brewing method, as the coffee grounds are in full contact with the water for the entire brew time.
“Generally, higher-quality coffee concentrates are made with cold water,” he says. “This slow extraction produces a thick-textured coffee that is more intense than regular filter coffee.”
In a recent study carried out by Finlays, researchers found that cold-extracted coffee has a 30% lower concentration of chlorogenic acids, which are responsible for bitter flavours in coffee.
“As a result of this, our customers believe that cold-extracted coffee concentrates are more palatable than hot brewed coffee,” Thomas says.
“There are many options available on the market, but at Ozone and Hasbean, we use a hot brewed coffee that is stored at an ambient temperature,” he says.
Making coffee concentrate
Jaime van Schyndel is the founder of Barismo Coffee. He explains how brewing temperature affects the flavours in coffee concentrate.
“The main difference between hot and cold coffee when made as a concentrate is the fruitier notes are more prominent in the hot coffee as it starts to cool,” he says. “The cold coffee has a heavier mouthfeel.”
But brew temperature is just one of several factors to consider when making coffee concentrate – brew ratio is also important.
One common method is to use a medium-to-coarse grind with a brew ratio between 1:5 and 1:7. This means that for every gram of coffee used, you will need between five to seven grams of water – which can be room temperature or colder.
When you experiment with brew ratios, keep in mind how you want your coffee concentrate to taste. Are you looking for more intense, bolder flavours or a more subtle concentrate to create a more delicate beverage?
For bolder flavours, lower ratios are recommended, whereas if you want a less intense concentrate, higher ratios will work better.
Jaime says: “We like to use four parts water to one part coffee in our concentrate, as it’s a good ratio to allow the coffee quality to hold up – even if it’s made stronger or weaker.”
Dale details the concentrate recipe used at Ozone and Hasbean.
“We brew a single origin coffee and then concentrate it down to a similar strength as a double espresso,” he says. “Essentially, the whole concentrate is around 80 double espresso shots that you can use for cold or hot coffee.”
The total brew time for coffee concentrate should be around 14 to 16 hours. Once ready, the concentrate can be added to water, a range of milks, or other ingredients.
Thomas suggests storing concentrate in a bag or lined box in cool conditions to preserve freshness as much as possible. The bags can then be attached to automatic coffee dispensing systems, such as the Marco POUR’D, which can be installed in fridges, kegs, or on counters.
What is it used for?
“Coffee concentrate is a diverse product,” Thomas tells me.
He explains that the US market is growing rapidly, and adds that the European and Asian markets are also developing at pace.
Many different brands purchase coffee concentrate, including coffee shops, restaurants, bars, offices, and manufacturers of carbonated drinks, ice cream, and condiments. Consumers can also use concentrate at home to quickly prepare coffee beverages.
In hospitality settings, meanwhile, coffee concentrate can be used in a number of ways to create different drinks.
“We use the concentrate for everything on our menu that’s not hot espresso – such as iced lattes, cold brew, and even hot brewed coffee,” Jaime says.
“Cold brew is my favourite because it’s clean and smooth-tasting. We use 2oz (around 60ml) of coffee concentrate and 8oz (around 236ml) of water, and then we add ice,” he explains.
Dale also says that cold brew can be made easily using coffee concentrate.
“Cold brew is the go-to choice for concentrates: it’s how most of our concentrates are served, although it can just as easily be used in iced lattes and iced cappuccinos,” he tells me.
By 2024, the global cold brew market is expected to grow a further US $1.12 billion, with year-on-year growth between now and then estimated at 28%. This shows just how popular it is on coffee shop menus.
Coffee concentrate can also be used as a substitute for espresso to prepare hot or cold milk-based drinks, as well as americanos, frappés, coffee-based desserts, and coffee cocktails.
“Cold brew concentrate with a shot of gin and some clementine-infused tonic water tastes wonderful,” Thomas says.
To add to this, coffee concentrate can even be consumed on its own over ice.
“There is a wide range of flavours and sensory attributes in the coffee concentrates available on the market, so do your research and find what works best for your coffee,” Jaime explains.
What are the benefits of concentrates for coffee shops?
Besides being a versatile ingredient in many beverages, coffee concentrate has several benefits. Baristas or home consumers can create a range of high-quality coffee beverages in less time than it takes to prepare espresso, filter coffee, or cold brew.
Extracting large volumes of cold brew, in particular, can take as long as 24 hours. However, by using coffee concentrate to make “instant” cold brew, both brew time and labour can be reduced.
“Concentrates open up a range of cold coffee drinks that can be popular in coffee shops during summer months, without the need for extra labour, space, or technical skills, which makes for more consistent coffee,” Dale tells me.
Coffee concentrate can be useful for seasonal drinks, particularly in summer when more customers order cold brew and iced coffee drinks. At the same time, concentrate can be used as a base for multiple beverages, which can make it easier for baristas to adapt to consumers’ preferences.
“It can also be used as an ingredient to make milk-based drinks and cold brew easily at home,” he adds.
What’s more, Dale says that coffee concentrates can be especially beneficial for smaller coffee shops which may have limited access to equipment.
“Coffee concentrates mixed with hot water can produce consistent and high-quality filter-style coffees, especially in coffee shops where batch brewers and large grinders aren’t available,” he explains.
“Being able to make iced milk-based beverages without using the espresso machine is beneficial for many coffee shops,” he adds.
Furthermore, smaller coffee shops which have limited counter or storage space could also benefit from using concentrates.
“Coffee shop owners can struggle with space – concentrates can help with this,” Jaime says. “Significant space and labour can be saved as your concentrate storage kegs or bags will be smaller.
“At Barismo, we have one font that produces hot coffee and hot water, and another font which serves cold coffee and cold water. The systems for these fonts are all under the counter, [keeping the bar clean and decluttered],” he adds.
Automated cold coffee concentrate dispensing systems, like the Marco POUR’D, can increase counter and fridge space, as well as making service more efficient.
Marco also offers a hands-free font as part of POUR’D range – which is ideal for busy coffee shops, office spaces, bars, and restaurants.
“Using concentrate maximises our storage capacity and makes our drinks more consistent as we make large batches so we can dial in our coffee,” Jaime says.
Tips for using concentrates
Ultimately, quality is key when it comes to coffee concentrate.
Dale says: “If you can’t taste where the coffee comes from and if the beverage doesn’t represent the coffee flavours well, then maybe it’s not the right fit for your business.
“You should taste the coffee concentrate the same way that your customers will experience it, either as an iced latte or cold drip – whichever beverage sells the best.”
Furthermore, coffee shop owners need to decide how they will incorporate coffee concentrate into different beverages, which can mean needing different recipes for each drink.
“The recipe might be different for each concentrate product, mainly depending on the roast profile,” Dale tells me. “Generally, the same dilution recipe served at different temperatures helps to accentuate different characteristics of the coffee.”
He adds: “For our product, we found that a higher level of total dissolved solids (TDS – a measurement of how much of the coffee has been dissolved in water) suits cold brew better, as it highlights both acidity and depth of flavour.
“Diluting the concentrate more (a lower TDS) can allow more of the flavours to come through and creates more balance.”
However, Dale points out that baristas should take extra care when preparing cold beverages with coffee concentrate.
“You should account for ice in a coffee concentrate, as it will melt and dilute the drink even more,” he says.
Optimising counter space by using coffee concentrate dispensers, such as the Marco POUR’D, can make service more efficient and consistent, as well as giving baristas more time to interact with customers.
Marco’s three-button dispenser also allows the user to preset up to three different kinds of coffee concentrate. This means that baristas can dispense several different concentrates that are specifically suited to different beverages – such as milk-based drinks and cold brew.
“Coffee trends have changed in recent years,” Jaime says. “Having cold brew, cold coffee, and hot coffee options has changed a lot of consumers’ perceptions about coffee concentrates, especially because the experience is easily repeatable.”
Although it might not be suitable for every coffee shop, coffee concentrate can be a versatile and efficient addition to many cafés. Whether it’s used to make cold brew, milk-based drinks, or even cocktails, concentrate can be easily adapted for use in most types of beverage.
“Focus on the concentrate recipe first,” Dale advises, “Once you get this right, you can explore the easiest way to incorporate it on your menu.”
Enjoyed this? Then read our article exploring RTD cold brew’s rising popularity.
Photo credits: Finlays
Perfect Daily Grind
Please note: Marco Beverage Systems is a sponsor of Perfect Daily Grind.
Want to read more articles like this? Sign up for our newsletter!