Added: 16th March 2015
Carbonated coffee? Yes, you heard right. Here in the UK we’ve had to get used to something of a revolution in our caffeinated beverages over the past few years: first there was iced tea (a conventional product on the Continent and in the States, but accompanied by ironic “what will they think of next?” advertising over here), and then there was the health buzz that surrounded ‘kombucha’. The new trend for carbonated coffee comes of course from the US, where it’s making waves in hip, coffee-centric major cities such as New York as well as Austin, Texas and Portland, Oregon.
Like kombucha, carbonated coffee in at least one of its incarnations is a brewed drink, meaning that it actually has a very low alcohol content. Billed as something of a cross between beer, soft fizzy drinks, and your regular espresso, the drink was first developed by Austin based Chinese-American entrepreneur Kevin Chen. Chen’s product is described as a “naturally-fermented carbonated coffee soda”, and it bears the somewhat curious moniker of Coffer. Chen has explained that his product was initially developed by adding carbon dioxide to a cold coffee, but that the resulting beverage was so bitter it was barely drinkable. Instead, he latched on to the idea of combining yeast and sugar (as in kombucha) to create a naturally fizzy drink which also happens to contain a lot fewer calories than traditional colas and lemonades. Chen claims his carbonated coffee product is alcohol-free, but if fermented tea is anything of a benchmark, then naturally fermented fizzy coffee is likely to contain around 1% alcohol due to its manufacturing process.
Chen’s Coffer has been praised for its similarity to a really tasty homemade beer, but with a highly reduced alcohol content. While we would love to get hold of this speciality product, unfortunately Coffer (Coff-ee Fer-mentation), is only available in select high-end food stores in the state of Texas, so adventurous British coffee lovers looking for their next fix will have to look elsewhere.
Fermented coffee is actually not the only carbonated coffee product on the market: Chen’s unique take is the fermentation process, but actually the idea of adding bubbles to coffee isn’t especially innovative. Italians have mixed cold coffee with carbonated water for a refreshing summer drink for years, and American Manhattan Special is a “coffee soda”, which was first brewed in 1895, and is still on the market today. Black and Blue is another homegrown Texas brand, but this carbonated coffee derives its fizz not from fermentation, but from the addition of nitrogen. Starbucks branches in the US have even got in on the act, although the availability of carbonated coffees at the caffeinated beverage megalith is something of a secret: those in the know can order their coffee with added fizz, but carbonated coffee is not a listed menu item in any of the stores.
While it doesn’t appear that any of these effervescent coffees are currently available on the UK market, it’s surely only a matter of time (our money is on a trendy East London coffee bar, possibly run by coffee-mad Australians, pioneering the product over here). In the meantime, WikiHow have a very useful, simple and fermentation-free guide to teach curious coffee lovers how to make their own fizzy coffee at home if they so desire.
You can of course use some of our delicious Café Bonté espresso coffee beans to get the taste you prefer!