I’m really late on this, because my extensive scientific research has caused Cold Brew Coffee to hit the mainstream media more than fifteen years ago. However, I never said I was a pioneer in food fashion. Oh sure I to listen on fashions and food trends all the time. I don’t really listen.
My personal introduction to cold brew came in the form of a dark, “truncated” bottle of Cold Brew from Stumptown Coffee that could only be found in specialty shops and coffee shops at the time. Deep, slightly more intense than my usual morning cup of coffee. It was refreshing of course, it was, you know, good, but I didn’t find the cold brew to be much more extraordinary than regular old iced coffee. That, of course, says nothing, because I’m a whore for all things brown, bitter, and caffeinated.
What I did finding extraordinary about cold brew was the bit obscene at the time $4.50 price tag for a 10 oz bottle. Shocked as a consumer, impressed as a businessman.
The real revelation came when I got home and searched for “cold brew” online. Wow. There was so much information there.
How had I missed it all? Of course, you can search just about anything and marvel at how quickly Google can return millions of results. Acetone-free nail polish remover for chihuahuas? 1.39 million sites in three tenths of a second! You know, uh, for example.
It was discovering that cold brew is first, and more often, something you do at home, and only very recently a store-bought product, that made me obsessed with making it myself. -same.
(Wait. What? Packaged product that actually started at home? Right, like, everything? Even pop tarts?! Yeah, kind of a sarcastic little side note.)
What exactly is Cold Brew?
Cold brewing coffee doesn’t require any special skills, ingredients or equipment, not even a coffee maker, although there are products on the market that are specifically designed for making cold brew at home. Pretty much the only thing you need that might be hard to find is – pardon me for a moment while I conjure my inner Axl – patience.
Cold brewing is a time consuming process. I let my cold brew mixture of coffee grounds and water sit at room temperature for almost 15 hours before I had to pour it first, slowly over a few layers of cheesecloth, and then, even more slowly through a paper coffee filter.
For someone who can barely wait three minutes for the dregs of a paper shredder to “instantly” reconstitute into ramen, the process is excruciating (but obviously worth it).
Health and Taste of Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee
So yeah, you’re probably wondering why anyone would choose cold brew coffee over regular iced coffee or vice versa. It comes down to two things: taste and health.
In terms of taste, cold brew coffee tastes smoother and rounder than regular hot brew coffee. The slow steeping process extracts fewer compounds from the coffee grounds that can give coffee an acidic or bitter taste. It’s also easier to control the flavor and strength of cold brew by diluting a concentrate with water, than trying to work backwards the strength of brewing hot coffee so that it will dilute to proper strength with ice cubes.
More importantly for some of us, cold brew is easier on our digestive system than regular hot brewed coffee. For the same reason, coffees taste different — cold brew process removes less acidic compounds from coffee grounds — the cold infusion is less acidic and therefore less irritating to the stomach.
There is, however, a compromise. Cold brew extracts less “stuff” from the coffee, which means less acid, but also less of the antioxidant compounds that can make coffee beneficial to our health.
What you need to make cold brew coffee
As for the actual ingredients and equipment for cold brew, you need:
- ground coffee
- filtered water
- large glass containers
- cheesecloth, paper coffee filters or, if you really want MacGyver, paper towels
How to make cold brew coffee
Cold brew boils down – obviously not literally – to just two steps:
- coffee grounds infused with water
- cold brew filter
I had a glass pitcher large enough to hold the coffee grounds and water while it cold brewed, but that was it. To strain I had to pour the cold brew from this large glass pitcher into several smaller glass containers, then wash the glass pitcher, then pour out the filtrate – omg that dirty word took me back to AP Chemistry – through filter paper return in the glass pitcher. I could have used plastic containers I guess, but I’m freaked out by the weird shit in plastics and other weird chemicals.
(Oh that’s right, not that I haven’t sweetened my life with the white powder of hate and drank a 6 pack of Diet Cyanide everyday for years).
Cold Brew Coffee Ingredient Resources
Coffee beans. If you start with whole coffee beans, grind them coarsely. Individual coffee pieces should be about the size of raw sugar granules.
Ground coffee. However, I will always encourage you to take the path of least resistance first. So go ahead, use pre-ground coffee. Simply brew the coffee for a shorter time so the cold brew doesn’t get too strong. Whatever that means. I use an organic Italian roast (very dark).
Water. Use filtered water at room temperature or cold.
Ice cream to serve. Once the infusion is cold in the refrigerator, you can drink it directly. However, adding ice to a glass of cold brew makes it taste better. Do not ask me why. Since Cold Brew as prepared is a concentrate, you can serve it with regular ice, which will melt and dilute the Cold Brew as you drink it. It’s similar to how a cocktail dilutes over time. If you’re just waiting for your cold brew to steep and have nothing else to do, freeze the coffee in coffee ice cubes to serve with your cold brew. Your cold brew won’t dilute and you’ll have a consistent taste experience throughout your drink.
Sweetener. I drink all my coffee, hot, iced, cold brew or otherwise, black and bitter. However, if you’re not quite a replicant like me, use any liquid sweetener to sweeten your cold brew. Granulated sugars and sugar substitutes may not dissolve completely in a cold drink. Agave (herbal), honey, and simple syrup are all great.
Non-dairy milk or regular dairy cream. As I said above, black coffee for me. However, if and when I have to use milk or cream, I usually take oat milk, which has the heart-healthy benefits of oats and also seems to blend in best with coffee.
So I’m a little late to find out. And so I’m so slow to follow fashion that it’s no longer one. So I’m a bit late in the season to bring up something that’s usually enjoyed on a patio in the full summer sun, but summer in LA lasts until October and the sun lasts…? Still.
Now, have you heard of those little versions of cakes called “cupcakes?”
Cold Brew Coffee Recipe
A note from me: most “recipes” seem to think that any dark, stormy liquid rendered after 12-15 hours of cold brewing is a “concentrate” that you dilute to your desired strength each time you serve and drink. . I diluted mine to an I-did-not-dilute strength. Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe I’m hyper-caffeinated. makes about 1 liter of cold brew, which if you treat it as a concentrate can be mixed with 1 liter of water to make (math time) ½ gallon
- 1 12 ounce bag medium ground coffee a 12-ounce bag of grounds was about 2½ dry cups
- seven cups filtered water room temperature or cold
Serve a cold infusion
- ice cubes although I’m not that behind the giant ice cube trend, am I, hmm? !
- simple syrup
- milk or cream
In a large glass container, mix the coffee grounds with 7 cups of water. Stir gently for a few seconds just to combine the coffee grounds with water (sometimes the grounds float, etc.).
Cover the container with cheesecloth and leave it at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. The longer the coffee brews, the stronger the cold brew will be. It goes without saying that I maximize the steep-time.
Line a large, fine-mesh sieve with a few layers of cheesecloth, then place it over another glass container. Slowly pour the cold infusion over the cheesecloth to strain the grounds. You can probably stop here, or you can punish yourself and re-filter the coffee through something even “finer” like a sieve lined with a paper coffee filter.
(The punishment isn’t that you filter it a second time; it’s that the paper filter takes forever. But hey, you’ve waited so long to make a cold brew, so what’s the rush anyway? )
Throw away the cheesecloth, filters, and grounds (although I will now be exfoliating my face with used coffee grounds).
To serve cold brew, dilute with additional cold filtered water to desired strength. Serve over ice with simple syrup, milk or cream. I didn’t use any of the above because I’m a fucking boss in my own right.
The cold brew will keep in your refrigerator, covered, for up to a week.