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Cold-brewing coffee makes for richer, concentrated drink

Wednesday, July 10, 2013
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Glasses of cold-brewed iced coffee are great for summer relaxation.
Glasses of cold-brewed iced coffee are great for summer relaxation.

Simply put, I love coffee. My morning coffee is my favorite part of the day. I even travel with a mini espresso maker so that all my mornings can start with a steaming shot of rich, dark coffee.

And last summer, I became obsessed with a fresh approach to my favorite beverage — cold brewing. It’s no more complicated than it sounds. Instead of running hot water through ground coffee, you use cold. And instead of straining the water through it quickly, you steep the grounds in it for longer, as much as 8 to 12 hours.

The result is a rich coffee concentrate that is so worth the wait. You then dilute the concentrate with either hot or cold water (more on that later) to produce a cup of coffee that is light, yet rich and virtually acid-free. This is because the grounds steep slowly, which is a gentler extraction process than traditional brewing. And it quite naturally makes the most amazing iced coffee, one of my favorite summer drinks.

Early efforts

When I started experimenting with making cold brewed at home, I made it in canning jars and old milk jugs. But straining the grounds at the end was always a bit of a hassle. A light went off in my caffeine-charged brain when I thought of my somewhat abandoned French press. The coffee press could brew and filter the coffee in one piece!

Of course, I’m hardly the first person to think of it. In fact, French press maker Bodum even has a model designed for cold brewing. That version comes with a lid for the overnight brew and the plunger part has a locking pourer “spout,” which allows you to keep the cold brew in the refrigerator for as long as it lasts. You just clean it and get rid of the coffee grounds when you are ready to make a new batch.

There are a few points to consider when making your perfect brew. For cold-brewed coffee, you must use coarsely ground coffee. If you use a fine grind, it will be difficult to strain the coffee and your iced coffee will be filled with sediment. I use a 4-to-1 ratio of water to coffee. It is easy to remember and makes a good strong coffee “concentrate,” but not too strong.

One of the reasons I love to use cold-brewed coffee for my iced coffee is that it doesn’t get watered down when poured over ice. Traditionally brewed coffee loses its punch when the ice melts. But if you use the cold-brewed concentrate straight up, it can handle the ice without losing its flavor.

Another iced coffee tip along those lines — whenever you have leftover coffee (no matter how you make it), pour it into ice cube trays and freeze. Then when you make iced coffee, use those cubes instead of regular ice. This way as the ice melts, your coffee just gets better and better rather than watered down.

A final note about sweeteners. Anyone who loves iced coffee surely has noticed that granulated sugar doesn’t dissolve well in cold beverages. So instead use simple syrup (sugar and water mixed at a 2-to-1 ratio, simmered, then cooled), agave syrup or even maple syrup.

COLD BREWED COFFEE

This recipe walks you through prepping the iced coffee and gives you the proper proportions for each serving. Since cream and sweetener are such an individual matter, we leave those to you.

Start to finish: 8 to 12 hours

Servings: 8

4 cups spring water

1 generous cup coarse ground coffee

In a glass jar slightly larger than 1 quart, combine the water and coffee. Stir well. Cover the jar and refrigerate overnight, or at least 8 to 12 hours.

When ready to strain, uncover the jar and stir. Line a mesh strainer with several layers of cheesecloth, then set it over a large bowl. Pour the coffee mixture into the strainer and let the coffee concentrate drip into the pitcher. Depending on the size of your strainer, you may need to do this in batches. Discard the coffee grounds.

Pour the coffee concentrate into a clean glass jar and refrigerate until ready to drink.

To serve, fill tall glasses with ice and any desired sweetener or cream. Pour 1/2 cup of the coffee concentrate into each glass. Stir and serve immediately.

 

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