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I love coffee. After my last trip to Texas, I had my dad mail me back some of my belongings so I could make room to fit about 100 K-cups into my checked baggage instead. My aunt had said that I could take whatever I wanted from the hospitality suite she had arranged for my daughter’s bat mitzvah. I dare you to tell me you wouldn’t have done the exact same thing.
Now that the weather is getting warmer, though, I’m slowly transitioning from hot mugs of caffeine love to nice, chilled iced coffees. That means it’s time for me to start making cold brew.
What is Cold Brew?
Cold brew coffee is made by putting coffee grounds in room-temperature water, letting it sit for 8 to 12 hours, and then straining out the coffee. Coffee + Water + Time + Strain = Cold Brew. Seriously, it is that simple. I think cafes just came up with the fancy name “cold brew” so they can charge you $5 a cup.
How to Make Cold Brew Coffee
The first thing you’ll need is ground coffee. I’m too lazy to grind my own beans, so I just go to the store and grab a bag of ground coffee off of the shelf. My most recent batch was made using Gevalia, because I love their “have coffee with Johan” commercials. Hey, sometimes marketing actually works.
The internet is full of cold brew recipes extolling the virtues of bottled, purified water. I’m sure that people do actually exist who could tell if their coffee was made with tap water instead of bottled, but I am not one of them. The only reason I use bottled distilled water in my Keurig is because I’ve heard it’s better for the machine. For cold brew, I use the tap.
At some point you’re going to want to remove the coffee grounds from the coffee liquid. This is where I’ve had some fun experimenting:
Option 1: French Press – I’ve used my French press to make cold brew, but my main difficulty is that my French press is small: I can only make enough cold brew coffee for two cups. Now keep in mind that 1 cup = 8 fluid ounces. This means that 2 cups = 16 fluid ounces. My favorite tumbler for iced coffee holds 24 fluid ounces. See the problem? After a twelve-hour wait, I’ll be lucky (with adding milk and ice) to get two Lindsey-size servings of iced coffee. Here’s a math problem for you: If it takes Lindsey 12 hours to make 2 servings of iced coffee, and Lindsey can drink 2 servings of iced coffee in about 5 hours, how long will it take Lindsey to go insane?
Option 2: Fine mesh strainer with paper coffee filter – How long does it take to filter 2 to 3 cups of coffee grounds out of your cold brew by pouring it through a paper coffee filter that has been laid onto a fine mesh sieve/strainer? Do you know? No? I don’t either. I’ve tried this method exactly one time. I didn’t have a sieve so I just sort of suspended the paper filter on top of a pitcher. Halfway through the process the paper filter fell apart, leaving me with a massive mess of coffee grounds. Never again.
Option 3: Pouches – When I was at Target the other day, I noticed that the Starbucks kiosk was selling boxes of cold brew coffee pouches. They’re like tea bags, but designed for cold brewing coffee. GENIUS! I knew I could come up with a Macgyver-like hack to make this at home without shelling out $12. I ran to the local kosher grocery store and picked up soup strainer bags.
These are lightweight, muslin drawstring bags for cooking. You’re supposed to throw all your soup herbs in there, tie it up, and throw it in the pot. When your soup is ready, you can just remove the bag. (Kosher rules prohibit eating bugs. Since aphids and other insects are often throwing a party in that bunch of dill, this is a way to have your seasoning and eat the soup too.) If you don’t happen to have a local kosher grocery store that sells soup strainer bags, you can look for drawstring muslin bags elsewhere, or even sew up some basic ones at home. These work GREAT for cold brewing coffee, and save you the pain of straining!
Finally, the recipe.
Cold Brewed Coffee Recipe
Caveat: This is not going to be an exact-amount kind of recipe. This is more like how my grandmother cooked: a little of this, a pinch of that, add some in until it tastes right. Play around with the amounts until you hit the ratio you love.
So, how do I make cold brew coffee? Place 1 cup of ground coffee into a muslin drawstring bag. Tie bag closed securely. Place bag in a pitcher with 3 to 4 cups of room-temperature water. Let sit, with lid on the pitcher, on your counter for 8-12 hours. Remove bag. If you want, dump out the grounds, rinse out the bag, hang it to dry, and put it away for next time. What you will have now in your pitcher is very, very strong cold brew concentrate. Add another 2 cups or so of water to the pitcher (taste as you go.) Pop that pitcher of cold brew in the fridge to chill.
Basic Iced Latte: Pour equal amounts of chilled cold brew and milk over ice. Add sugar or flavored syrups to taste.
Coffee Smoothie: Freeze the cold brew in an ice cube tray. Add coffee ice cubes, more cold brew, and milk in a blender.