When I lived in Santa Barbara, California, there was a cafe on the mesa where I set up shop just about every day. I did school work, I nursed hangovers, I met people. This cafe sold a special type of iced coffee that was like no iced coffee I'd ever had. They called it "Brazilian Iced Coffee" and claimed it was brewed cold. It was delicious - smooth and a little sweet. The sad thing was, back in 2005, nobody else sold this special potion, so when I headed back east it was time to part ways. Like my penchant for Gucci sunglasses, I left Brazilian iced coffee back in SB.
...or so I thought! Turns out, that little coffee spot on the mesa was just ahead of its time.
Now cold brew coffee is A Thing. You can find it at local hipsterific coffee joints and Starbucks drive-thrus alike.
The Whats and Whys of Cold Brew
Cold brew is a method of brewing coffee without heat. Coffee grounds are steeped in water overnight (or up to 24 hours) and the result is a smoother, sweeter and less bitter coffee than the traditional hot-brewed method produces. Here's a good explanation why from dreamy heartthrob Jamie Oliver's site:
Iced coffee is a very fast process, but has to be brewed to be stronger than standard coffee to make up for the severe dilution caused by the ice. This method tends to make for a more bitter drink, because of the intense and rapid extraction of flavour from the beans by the hot water. Cold brew, on the other hand, takes a formidable 18—24 hours. However, the far gentler infusion process produces a drink of lower acidity, which is why cold brew coffee is naturally sweeter. It can also be served over ice without such extreme dilution because it’s already cold. For these reasons, cold brewing is generally regarded as the better method for producing cold coffee. (Side note: I love JO and you should, too. He's the greatest. Visit his site here.)
While I'm stoked to see my favorite coffee back on the map, I'm sorta over paying $5 for a cup of coffee. $5 can buy a dozen eggs from properly-fed, pastured-raised chickens. That's a lot of healthful calories per dollar. But I'm spending it on coffee. Something I probably shouldn't be drinking anyway. You can see my conundrum. So how do I handle this extraordinarily first-world "problem"?
You guessed it. I started making my own.
The process I use doesn't involve any special gadgets - just some things I've got in my kitchen. Having said that, you can get a bit fancier and buy a specific cold brew contraption. I've heard good things about this one.
How To Cold Brew at home
What you'll need:
1 cup COARSE ground coffee beans* - buy Organic, Fair Trade beans (I like this brand)
4 cups filtered water
32 ounce mason jar or large container (I like using glass)
fine mesh strainer and/or cheesecloth
*1 cup coffee grounds : 4 cups water is a good place to start. I like strong coffee. You may find that you need to scale the amount of grounds back. Some people like to brew it strong, then dilute with water after the brewing process and before serving.
Step 1: Grind
Grind coffee beans COARSE in a coffee grinder. This step is important. You don't want them too fine. Add to mason jar or large glass container. Pour water over grounds and gently stir.
Step 2: Brew
Allow the coffee to brew overnight or up to 24 hours. I don't have an exact time. I just do whatever is convenient for me.
Step 3: Drain
Pour the coffee mixture through a fine wire mesh strainer into a large bowl. Depending on your strainer, you may want to line it with cheesecloth so grounds don't sneak through into your final product.
Step 4: Transfer
From the bowl, pour coffee into a mason jar or other glass container with a lid. This coffee concentrate will last for a couple of weeks in the fridge. Transfer coffee grounds to compost.
Step 5: Serve
Pour over ice. Cold brew is so smooth (I think it tastes a bit like chocolate) that you might enjoy it plain. My favorite way to drink it is with coconut milk (this BPA-free kind is my fave - I buy a case at a time on Amazon).
Step 6: Never look back.
What's better than a midday coffee hit at work? Rather than shell out the $5 for a coffee house blend, bring your own cold brew concentrate to the office. Keep it in mason jar in the fridge and pour over a cup of ice. Add a little milk, and you're good to go.