I have journeyed to the soul of chocolate and I bring you good tidings
Cold brewed coffee is a revelation of complex, bittersweet, intense flavor. Cold-brewed chocolate? Even better. (Holy. Crap.)
It started when one of my local coffee shops announced that it would be serving cold-brewed chocolate, grinding up raw cacao nibs and soaking them overnight in cold water, straining it and serving it (it turns out that there's also a shop in Brooklyn doing this).
After one sip, I was hooked, and schemed to do it on my own. I brought a bag of nibs and ground half of it -- about four ounces -- in a cheap blade grinder, then put it into my giant, beautiful Kyoto dripper with eight cups of water. The next 24 hours were delicious torture, as the office filled with the incredible, rich aroma of chocolate liquor being leached from the precious nibs with aching, tender slowness.
The resulting drink was...amazing Every one of the flavors of raw, bitter chocolate, teased out in aromatic glory, delicate and individuated in a golden, translucent drink that was not sweet, but also far less bitter than unsweetened chocolate on its own -- some of those bitter flavors must have stayed behind in the chocolate mush left in the dripper.
Next, I decided to try making a batch with my tried-and-true nut-milk bag and plastic jug fridge method, using the other half of the cacoa nibs with eight cups of water. The drink was functionally identical, though perhaps with a little more suspended solids (the cheesecloth nut-milk bag let the smaller grinds through), which, if anything, intensified the flavor.
This time, I decided to mix the chocolate. First, I added some heavy cream, which was so goddamned delicious that I found myself standing in the middle of my office just groaning and holding the glass.
Next, I tried mixing it with a good single-malt whiskey (12 year old Yamazaki), and the sweetness of the whiskey really brought out the chocolate. But once I combined heavy cream and whiskey, well, I think the technical term is holy fucking shit. Like a cold version of Irish coffee, but with Scotch, and cold. And chocolate. But...wow.
There's lots more experimentation to be done, clearly. I don't consume any sweeteners -- sugar, honey, maple syrup, etc -- but you probably do. That would be an obvious line of attack. Then there's other cocktails -- mixing with bourbon, with coffee, with various bitters.
I don't think there's much of this going on out there in the world...yet. But cold-brewing chocolate is cheap and easy and effectively mess-free. You can get enough nibs to make eight servings for $5, and in quantity, the price drops by a third. The equipment -- a plastic jug, $6 nut-milk bag, and $20 grinder, are unlikely to break your bank, and are good for lots of stuff besides this weird chocolate beverage that's done my head in.
One caveat about the grinder: the ground cacao nibs tend to clump up a bit in the grinder, but were easy to dislodge with the back of a spoon, and wiped away clean with a bit of paper towel, leaving it set for grinding coffee again.
This morning, CBC's flagship weekend programme Day Six aired its latest episode (MP3), a conversation between host Brent Bambury, me, and Tim Maughan, the author of an outstanding debut novel called Infinite Detail. (Image: Jason Vermes/CBC)
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