Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø is a stubborn man. Stubborn in a way that straddles the line between mind-bogglingly frustrating and irresistibly charming. But once the acclaimed gypsy brewer behind Evil Twin has fixed his opinion about something, it is unlikely to change. That didn't stop me from trying, though.
With a hopeful glint in my eye, I began my effort to change Jeppe’s mind on something beloved by many but detested by him: iced coffee.
Jeppe hates iced coffee. Hates it. Although the passion with which he loathes the drink is a bit odd, considering his feelings about coffee in general.
"I'm crazy about coffee," he claims. "I grew up drinking shit like everybody else—there was a point when we thought Starbucks was pretty good. Then Coffee Collective opened up in Denmark, and…I just fell in love."
"And your thoughts on iced coffee?" I tauntingly ask him, already knowing the answer.
"Do we really have to talk about that?" he volleys with a sarcastic smirk.
We do have to talk about it, and to help with the conversation I enlisted J. Park Brannen, a world-class barista and educator at Counter Culture Coffee.
We met Park at the Counter Culture training center in New York. Presumably to get on Jeppe’s good side, he pours us each a hot cup of Bolivia Amor de Dios, a light-medium roasted single-origin coffee with a silky body, sweet notes of red apple and a slightly nutty finish.
Jeppe takes a long slug. He shrugs, as if his review will be obvious, and smiles. "It's nice. I like it. It's good!"
But Jeppe quickly turns the discussion toward the object of his disgust.
"As you know, I'm very passionate and opinionated about things. I mean, I don't like the flavor of iced coffee. But it also doesn't make any sense for me to drink it. Coffee is meant to be brewed with hot water." And in case he hadn’t made it clear, he wanted us to know he isn’t too keen on all the trendy cold brew. “I absolutely cannot stand it. It doesn’t even taste like coffee.”
"Cold brew tastes like a different coffee product," Park clarifies, in the way only the most diplomatic of coffee experts can.
"Yeah, like Coffee Kool Aid!" Jeppe says, calling back his top-notch Photoshop work from earlier in the week.
— Evil Twin Brewing (@EvilTwinBrewing) April 3, 2015
Considering the level of contempt this topic induces in him, I wondered if Jeppe had some sort of iced coffee trauma. Was he freezer-burned by a batch of the stuff as a little boy growing up in Denmark? Perhaps, as a foreigner, the CIA interrogated and waterboarded him with iced coffee?
He denied both scenarios but continued his musings: "And I think the reasons people drink iced coffee are so annoying. 'Oh, it's so nice when it's warm out!' That's just so silly. When it's cold out, do you drink hot beer? It's like you have to make up an excuse to drink iced coffee."
Park relates to some of Jeppe’s plight, admitting that even in the sweaty heat of a New York summer he still often reaches for a cup of hot coffee.
But Jeppe finally concludes with one more argument that has nothing to do brewing methods, flavor profiles or watered-down drinks: "People who like iced coffee but don't like real [hot] coffee are the worst. They like something that is coffee-flavored but actually has nothing to do with coffee."
Park patiently explains that most cold brew or "slow-cooled" coffee is highly oxidized, having been exposed to air for a long time. He also points out that just as in brewing beer, hot water is always the best solvent for the extraction of flavors from either coffee or grain malt—and better iced coffee can be produced if these issues can be addressed. That’s why if he does plan to have iced coffee, he brews it using the Japanese method, a process in which a hot coffee concentrate is filtered directly onto a proportionally measured amount of ice. Doing so, Park explains, "doesn't homogenize flavor as much and lets you taste terroir."
And so, with great optimism, I invite Jeppe to taste Park's chilled, Japanese-brewed version of the Amor de Dios he tried and enjoyed earlier today. He cautiously puts a cup of it to his lips and takes a quick sip. After a long pause, he holds up the iced cup and inspects it like a suspicious child encountering brussels sprouts for the very first time: "I mean, I don't know—I think it tastes different [from the hot cup]. It's more bitter? I think it coats my tongue and has an ashy flavor to it."
Not the review we were looking for, though Park points out that this coffee, new to Counter Culture's lineup, might have been brewed a little under-extracted. "It usually takes us about a month to get our iced coffee dialed in around here."
Jeppe takes another sip. "No doubt, I've had worse. I've had a lot worse. It doesn't taste like coffee that's been sitting and has gone cold—I'll give you that. And I do like this better than cold brew," he concedes. "But honestly, I've decided I'm not gonna waste my life on iced coffee.”
I give a long, exasperated sigh and ask him if this afternoon was all for naught—or if he's learned anything at all.
"Oh I've learned a lot—I just haven't changed my mind," he says with a mischievous smile. Apparently, you can bring a brewer to iced coffee, but you can’t make him drink.