Every few years, people rediscover one of the best ways to brew their morning coffee: cold brew. Cold brewed coffee is richer in flavor and lower in acidity than traditionally made coffee. The lower acidity of the resulting brew is what attracts a lot of people. If you tend to get a sour stomach after your normal morning cup of joe, cold brew gets you your caffeine infusion without the upset tummy. And because the coffee brews for such a long time, you get flavor complexities that can get lost in a hotter extraction.
Another great thing about cold brew coffee is that once you make it, it stores well. A jar of cold brew concentrate will store well in your refrigerator for up to a week after you’ve made it. However, it will rarely last that long.
Using the concentrate is extremely easy. Because it is concentrated when you make it, you need to dilute it about half and half. You can use cream, sweetened condensed milk, or plain water or ice if you like. If you want a hot cup of coffee made with cold brew, you can use hot water as well. Just use boiling water to dilute the concentrate to taste.
Making Your Cold Brew
There are three basic ways that you can make cold brew coffee. The first is to use a specialized cold brew system. The second method uses your French press, and the last method just requires a large container and a reliable strainer.
If you have the means and the space to store it, the Yama Drip Tower or even the Toddy Cold Brew system is a great way to get consistent results. The Toddy system is essentially a large reservoir that rests above a storage container. There is a filter at the bottom, so when the cold brew is done, you remove the stopper so the coffee can drain into the bottom. The Yama slowly drips cold water into the coffee grounds, which then drips into the bottom chamber where it can be poured into a sealable container.
Using a French press to make cold brew is very easy. You add the coffee grounds to the press carafe and then add the water. Stir it gently to make sure that all of the grounds are wet and put the lid back on. Let it brew for 24 hours and then slowly plunge. Pour it into a storage container to keep the concentrate from over-extracting and getting bitter.
If you’re using your own container, then all you need to do is add the coffee and the water to your pitcher or large Mason jar. Stir to get all the grounds wet and let it brew in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Once your cold brew is done, strain it into a storage container using cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer. You can also use a regular paper coffee filter if you don’t have any cheesecloth, although it will take longer for it to strain.
No matter what method you use to make your cold brew, the basic ratio of coffee to water is 1 pound of coffee to 1 gallon of water. It’s unlikely that you’re going to need that much cold brew unless you drink a lot of coffee. Scaling the ratio down is easy. Use 1/2 pound of beans to 8 cups of water, 1/4 pound to 4 cups of water, etc.
Common Pitfalls in Making Cold Brew
As long as you remember three common pitfalls when making your cold brew, your concentrate should end up smooth, luxurious, and delicious. The first and most common pitfall is grinding your coffee too finely. Because of the length of extraction, you want your grounds to be coarse. If you’re grinding them on your own, use the coarsest setting on your grinder. Additionally, a coarse grind is easier to filter out once your brew is done.
The second error that befalls a lot of cold brewers is mucking about with the ratio of coffee to water. While some recipes call for exact masses of coffee grounds for specific milliliters of water, the basic ratio of 1 pound to 1 gallon still holds true. Additionally, don’t worry about the temperature of the water. While you don’t really want to start with boiling water – this will hasten the brewing process – you can if you like. But you don’t have to use ice cold water to brew it either. Just use room temperature water from your tap, and you’ll be good to go.
The last area where a lot of people go awry is not brewing the coffee long enough. For a standard cold brew, you need about 16 to 24 hours to extract the maximum flavor from the coffee without venturing into bitterness. You don’t want to leave any flavor on the plate, so to speak. However, when it comes to brewing time, you shouldn’t feel like you have to go the full 24 hours. Experiment with the brewing time; you may find that you like your cold brew after only 16 hours. You’re the one drinking it, after all.
Cold brew coffee is a great way to get your caffeine fix. The methods of production are varied, but the end result is still the same. If you’re interested in trying it, get yourself a carafe and a metal filter and see what all the fuss is about.