Cold Brew Coffee: It’s So Hot Right Now

Just wanted to make a quick introduction to how we prepare some of our non-traditional latte drinks here at Planetary Coffee. Since launching our little coffee shop on wheels this past August, we have taken a very coffee-forward approach to our menu. We designed our offerings from this angle partly due to curiosity and inquisitiveness, but mostly out of necessity, due to the limited scope of what we could realistically pull off with the pared down nature of our mobile setup. 

Typically, when you order a latte you will enjoy plus or minus 2 ounces of espresso and 6-12 ounces (depending on the size of the beverage) of finely textured steamed milk.  There are all sorts of variations on the sizes and ratios of drinks and milk textures, microfoam to milk ratios: latte, cappuccino, macchiato, cortado, flat white, etc…

Planetary Macchiato: equal parts steamed cold brew coffee + microfoam

When you order a hot latte at Planetary Coffee, instead of pulling a double shot of espresso, we steam a concentrated amount of cold brewed coffee to both heat and aerate the coffee.  When serving an iced latte, we don’t heat the cold brew, instead, we simply dose our concentrate ratio, pour it over ice, add our milk (or non-dairy alternative) and give it a vigorous shake in a tumbler.  Often we pair it with one of our delicious house-made syrups. We also enjoy steaming a straight up cold brew coffee, by incorporating the concentrate with equal parts cold water, and then steaming it hot. The result is a mild, sweet coffee, which is rich and creamy in body, and kind of looks like a Guiness when you pour it into a glass.

Listed below are the main reasons why we found the cold brew method to be a more stable/approachable model for our establishment:

  1. Climate Control (or lack thereof).  Due to cost, we decided to install roof vents/exhaust fans rather than a full air conditioning unit, humidity is a constant enemy to a consistent espresso shot. Anyone who has ever been to Michigan in the summer can attest to the humidity. It really sucks to be on bar when your grind that you spent tirelessly dialing in suddenly nosedives when the temperature rises or humidity increases or decreases.
  2. Space Limitations. When we first began designing the innerworkings of the truck, there were a few issues we faced when it came to the prospect of having an espresso set up. We wanted to be able to brew hot coffee quickly, but also to have the ability to focus on seasonal coffees by making a few pour over offerings available. After the accommodations were made for our brewer and grinder, we basically had just enough room to add a little steamer to the mix, rather than the inclusion of both an espresso machine and additional grinder.

Pro’s of this method: A long extraction time, and subtracting the element of heat during the extraction process results in a really smooth coffee that is rich and full bodied, but lower in acidity that its hot-brewed brethren. The extended extraction time at room temperature lends brew method, and the resultant coffee has a smooth body, subtle sweetness. Often cold brew coffee features notes of berry and pecan shortbread, but can also come through with a silky body, notes of citrus, and milk chocolate, depending on the coffee we are using.

Cons: It’s not actually espresso. Espresso can be life-changing. Also, working with the steamed cold brew concentrate is not the greatest in the latte art department. You can do it, but there’s more water to the concentrate than is typically found in espresso, so it seems there’s less viscosity due to having a lower density. There’s also a distinct lack of CO2 infused crema, which is one of the main hallmarks of the decadent tango that is a well-crafted shot of espresso. All of these factors combined seem to allow for less control over the building of contrast. The best looking of them are our mochas, which we make using out of this world chocolate from Mindo Chocolate Makers, with a dash of black sea salt on top.

sweet & salty. swoon

We love to experiment with different single origin coffees as well as blends. We’ve been enjoying working with Halfwit Coffee Roaster’s Moonbat blend and Triforce Espresso blend for our concentrated batches brewed for our latte drinks. We are also really stoked to be featuring some of their single origin coffees as “shots” and as the base for single-origin macchiatos.  Most recently we’ve been working with their Colombia Edelmira Camayo to feature in small cold brew batches. It’s outta this world delicious when steamed, mated with a little steamed milk, or over ice, as is the traditional method for serving cold brew.


Planetary Coffee Pops-up at Press On Juice

A few months ago, when we first launched Traverse City’s first coffee truck, Planetary Coffee, we had no concrete idea where the next few months would take us. We just figured, let’s just get this thing off the ground, and we’ll sort out the details as we go along. We had considered a variety of scenarios of how we might be able to winterize and keep the truck operational throughout the long, cold winter here in Northern Michigan, each of which seemed to fall short, especially when we considered the cost associated with investing in the necessary infrastructure. Meanwhile, the question still remained: would people even approach the truck in the dead of winter if we were able to keep it running?

truck in the snow
The last day of service outside in the truck was a doozy!
These questions plagued us and served as a distraction from our ability to focus fully on the sole purpose of our operation, which is serving outta this world coffee and giving superb customer service! The breakthrough came one late fall day, when Kris Rockwood, the owner of Press on Juice, strolled out to our truck and casually invited us to work alongside her and her excellent staff inside her shiny retail and production facility. We were floored. This was such a huge breakthrough for us. Now we knew exactly what the next few months held in store for us: a winter pop-up shop inside a fabulous local juicery!
We’re overjoyed andfile_005 humbled to have the opportunity to share space with Kris and her incredible staff. Just in the few months of operating outside of Press On, we’ve forged many friendships with the individuals who work here and we are thrilled to be working alongside each other over the course of these next few winter months. The partnership is really easy, and very uplifting. Both of our businesses are environmentally-minded and engage in recycling and composting practices to reduce waste. Over the course of the off-season, and the remainder of the pop-up shop, we plan to make improvements to the truck and focus on marketing and filling up our calendar with events for the coming summer season. img_1503
Our winter pop-up hours will be Monday to Friday 7-3 and Saturday 9-4.  During this time, we will continue to serve our stellar coffee bar menu, and hand-brewed seasonal offerings sourced and roasted by Halfwit Coffee Roasters, but now we’ll do so alongside of Press On Juice’s fabulous menu of cold-pressed juices, nutritious smoothies, and a delicious raw food menu forthcoming in early 2017.