Is the skinny latte dying?

Something strange is happening in your local coffee shop

Something strange is happening to the menu of your local independent coffee shop – our frothed milk favourites suddenly don’t get top billing. If you thought a flat white was innovative, then prepare yourself for the next wave of artisan produce and new techniques. It’s seriously nerdy, but it tastes good.

Drink cold coffee

The Greeks invented the frappé, a sweetened iced coffee topped with squirty cream, in the 1950s but cold coffee methods have evolved to incorporate fresh coffee and bring out the nuances of the beans. Cold brew coffee is steeped in cold water for several hours, then strained. It is sweet, refreshing and less acidic than traditional coffee. An extension of cold brew is nitro coffee. “It’s mixed with nitrogen and served from a keg, like Guinness – it has a similar texture and mouthfeel,” says Nick Barlow of Brighton’s Small Batch Coffee Company. “It’s kept pressurised, which means it lasts longer and retains its flavour better.” Also keep an eye out for Japanese iced coffee, made with fresh ground coffee that is filtered and poured over ice.

Order a glass of cascara

The outer shell of a coffee bean is known as cascara. “It’s full of sugar, fruity acids and caffeine,” says Jeremy Challender of London’s Prufrock. “It has a complex fruity taste and it’s not as bitter as coffee. It’s brewed like rosehip tea – 20 grams per litre in a teapot.” Simon Lewthwaite at Caravan Coffee Roasters describes cascara as “a bit like honey, it has a sweetness, but with a light body”. He’s served it in several ways: “You can make tea with it, use it as a side drink with an espresso as a palate cleanser, and put it in soda or a cocktail.” At London’s Kaffeine, owner Peter Dore-Smith serves cascara as a straight tea, and also as a palate cleanser alongside espresso and macchiato. For the latter, he stews cascara overnight with earl grey tea in filtered water, before straining it and serving it cold.

Which water are you using?

Water hardness is a measure of the amount of magnesium and calcium that is dissolved in water – the presence of these minerals, magnesium especially, aids in extracting wanted flavours in coffee. At Caravan Coffee Roasters, they filter the water using reverse osmosis, a sophisticated system that takes water from the mains and filters out a lot of the hardness and mineral deposits. This is an expensive bit of kit – smaller coffee shops are more likely to use traditional filtered water. “There are different solubles in water and if you have lots of impurities it muddies the experience,” says Nick Barlow of Small Batch, which uses magnesium filtered water. “Coffee is not just about which coffee you use – it’s about the whole process.” To work out which water purification is your preferred method, try making coffee at home with tap, bottled and filtered water. Simon Lewthwaite recommends Brita filtered water or “I often use Tesco’s Ashbeck water or Waitrose’s bottled water if I’m desperate.”

Fancy filtered coffee

If you’ve spotted a coffee machine that looks like it’s from an American diner, it’s likely to be a bulk brew machine. They are used for high-volume coffees like long blacks and should be filled with high quality single origin coffee. Simon Lewthwaite highlights some other popular filter methods you might see in a coffee shop: “AeroPress heightens the body and texture of the coffee, forcing water through a paper filter. V60 and Chemex are pour-over systems that use gravity to produce the coffee – the density of the paper filter allows for a cleaner product, highlighting some the lighter nuances we find in coffee.” Syphon filters, which look like they belong in a laboratory, combine immersion brewing and paper filtering. “They aren’t a gimmick,” says Nick Barlow. “They make excellent coffee because the immersion gives the coffee body but then it gets filtered through paper so you get a clean finish without any residue.”

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