Summer is approaching and it is getting pretty hot in Japan. Iced coffee might be a go to coffee drink in the summer for a lot of people, but today I would like to switch it up a bit and talk about the espresso tonic. It is an equally if not more refreshing coffee drink.
As the name suggests it is a drink made from espresso and tonic water. It is sometimes called coffee tonic. If you serve it in this two layer style it will also be visually refreshing.
I tried a bunch of ways of making this drink without an espresso machine. So technically I should probably call it coffee tonic. Hope you will find a method that fits your liking.
The recipe is very simple. You add espresso or a strong coffee to tonic water. Thats it. But there are a couple of tricks to make it better.
First fill your glass with a lot of ice. It helps if you rinse your ice cubes with water once. This melts the rough surface of the ice cubes which will reduce the gas leaving the tonic.
It’s also important to add a lot of ice here. I used about 130g. It may seem like the more ice you add, the waterier (is this a word?) your drink would get. But it turns out the more ice you have, the lower the temperature your drink will be thus slowing down the ice from melting. (Obviously, if you let it sit for long enough and let the ice melt, you will end up with a very watery drink, so best to finish it pretty quickly)
Next you pour some tonic water in to the glass. For the recipe I used today, I kept this around 80g. Please adjust according to your glass.
Lastly, you pour in your coffee. I used about 40g of strong coffee in my recipe. Again please adjust the ratio with the tonic water accordingly.
When pouring your coffee, use a spoon held on top of the tonic to slow the impact to prevent the coffee and tonic from mixing. This will leave you with a very nice looking two layered drink very easily.
Stir the drink before drinking. If you plan to drink it your self, you may skip this layering step. But I feel like the visuals of this drink add a great deal to the refreshing nature of the drink, so I hope you give it a go!
Making strong coffee
The true way to make this drink would be to use real espresso from a machine. But most people, including me, don’t have an espresso machine at home. So I have tried 3 ways to brew strong coffee at home.
- Moka pot
- Strong coffee with pour-over
- Moka pot + paper filter
The moka pot is a brewer which can brew strong coffee with the help of high pressures, sort of like espresso. The one I have is a Moka Express for 2 cups from Bialetti. I purchased it for around $30 in Japan, but this would probably differ where you live.
Grind 10g of coffee at a finer setting that what you would use for filter coffee, and place it in the basket. There is no need to tamp the coffee.
In the water chamber, add boing water to just below the valve. Yes, you should pre-heat the water.
Attach the top part, and place it on the stove. Keep the lid open so that you can see the coffee coming out. The moment you see bubbles coming out take it off the heat and stop the brewing by cooling down the water chamber. Keeping a bowl of water ready, and just placing the moka pot in the water works great.
You should end up with about 40g of strong coffee. Taste it at this stage to check you have good coffee.
The espresso tonic prepared with this moka pot method of brewing will look like this.
Moka pots use metal filters, so you get a lot of the coffee oils and fine grinds suspended in the coffee. This results in an opaque layer of coffee.
The espresso tonic made this way has a very strong coffee taste and body. The tonic does not over power the coffee. I believe it looks closest what you would get with true espresso.
But personally, the opaque look of the coffee sort of takes away from the refreshing look of the drink.
Using a pour over to get strong coffee
So I also tried using a pour over to get strong coffee.
To do this, I ground the beans finer than I usually would, and used a immersion dripper (check this post out for details of this immersion brewer).
Don’t worry if you don’t have an immersion dripper or brewer. You can just mix coffee grounds and hot water in a cup, let it steep for about 3min and filter out the grounds using any paper filter dripper.
This time I used 10g of coffee to 100g of water in, to get about 80g of coffee.
The espresso tonic prepared this way looks like this.
I think that the transparent look of the coffee make the drink look much better. That’s a clear win for this method.
But unfortunately, the strength of the coffee is just not as strong as with a moka pot. So taste-wise, the coffee was a bit weaker in the end drink. It does taste very clear and matches the over all theme. So this might be the best way if you want a light clean drink.
Moka pot + paper filter
I wasn’t quite satisfied with the two methods, so I tried a hybrid of the two. I wanted a clear but strong coffee. So I brewed some coffee using the moka pot, then filtered it with a paper filter.
The coffee itself does not look too different, but looking at the paper, it seems that it was able to filter out the fines quite effectively.
And this is how the end drink looked like.
The coffee looks much clearer than the original moka pot. The taste of the drink is also great. You get strong and clean coffee flavor reminiscent of filter coffee. For my personal taste, this was the method I liked the most.
I prepared 3 different tonic water bottles for comparison.
From the left, WILKINSON TONIC, CANADA DRY TONIC WATER, and the WILKINSON GRAPE FRUIT. The third one might technically count as tonic water, but let’s look over that point for today and see which works best.
I realize that these exact drinks would probably not be available where you live. That is not a problem at all, try it with anything you can find easily. I will try to share some general pointers of what kind of tonic water works best.
For the tonic comparison, I used the moka pot + paper filter method for preparing the coffee.
The tonic water on itself was bitter and acidic, probably exactly what you would imagine for tonic water. It was quite a bit sweeter than I expected.
The drink as a whole had a good balance of bitterness and acidity. The bitterness of the coffee and tonic blended in a good way giving it a deep rich bitterness. The after taste was quite clean as well. However the tonic was too sweet, so the delicate sweetness of the coffee was completely drowned.
CANADA DRY TONIC WATER
This also was a very sweet tonic. The bitterness comes in slightly delayed. It had a much stronger lemon aroma compared to the WILKINSON one.
The bitterness of the espresso tonic was dominantly from the tonic. Again the sweetness was overpowering. And in this case the aroma of the lemon was a bit too strong for my liking. I felt a bitter after taste which sort of lingered. The taste of the coffee was, to put it in a good way, very mixed in with the drink. In a way, this was good for the uniformity of the drink, but was hard to make out the coffee flavor.
WILKINSON GRAPE FRUIT
This is a non-flavored, non-sweetened carbonated water, with grape fruit aromas.
The espresso tonic make from this had the most clarity and coffee flavor. This is to be expected since the tonic has no flavor. But the sweetness of the coffee and the aromas of it came through the best. The grapefruit was acting as a nice addition.
Having said this, it was lacking the tonic flavors, so if you are looking fo that, this may not be the tonic you want.
Having tested 3 tonics, I don’t think any of them was bad. It would depend on what you are looking for. I think one clear advice I can make is you should try to get non-sweetened or low sweetness tonics if possible. This will bring out the best from the coffee.
Other than that, the best balance will also depend on the coffee you use as well.
The espresso tonic is a very simple but tasty and refreshing drink, I hope you give it a try. It’s also fun to taste compare which tonics work best with your coffee.
Please leave your best tonic water in the comments!