Cold-Brewing Basics

October 9th, 2012 by

I recently made an important discovery, thanks to my new slow cooker: I’m a better cook and more cheerful dining companion when I do all the work many hours before eating. According to the people I feed, the outcome is better than my usual efforts, and it’s nice not having  to lie to my sweaty face. It’s hard to set food on fire in a slow cooker—that could be the main reason for my improvement—but I also think I’m less sloppy about prep work when I’m not starving. Half a day later, all that work is a distant memory and a delicious meal is ready as if by magic.

Brewing coffee is hardly as labor intensive as cooking a meal, but it would be nice to brew up a big batch and drink it any time I feel like it without it burning or spoiling. So, when a customer mentioned making coffee from homemade cold concentrate, I thought I’d give it a try. Cold-brewing has many passionate fans for whom it is the only way to brew coffee. Cold-brewed coffee is said to be sweeter and less acidic, with a flavor more closely resembling the roasted beans.

For my experiment, I used a simple recipe for iced coffee concentrate because it required nothing in the way of equipment other than a big container and a strainer. It couldn’t be any simpler. This recipe makes a large batch. If you’re short on storage space in your fridge, halving the quantities will make about 2 cups, which is enough for several servings.

I used one full pound of our iced coffee blend. I’m sure any rich, flavorful coffee with a delicious aroma would work. Coarser grounds brew up just fine and are easier to filter out. I ground mine for French Press.

There are some cold-brew appliances out there (Toddy makes a popular and affordable one, Northwest Glass Designs‘ version is a work of art), but for those of you short on counter-space, the above will work just fine.

Step 1: dump the full pound of coffee into the bowl. You probably don’t need a visual to handle that, but there it is anyway.

Step 2: put the bowl up to your face and breathe in.

Step 3: measure 7 cups of water.

Step 4: add the water slowly.

Step 5: give it a good stir to submerge the grounds. Make sure everybody’s in the pool. Then leave the bowl covered at room temperature for 15 hours or so.

Step 6: place a mesh strainer in your container of choice (a pitcher perhaps, or giant-sized measuring cup like mine if you have one with a lid). Place a coffee filter or cheesecloth inside the strainer for even more filtration action.

Step 7: pour the contents of the bowl into the strainer slowly, a little at a time. It can take up to an hour or so for all the concentrated goodness to filter through. Replacing the filter a few times will speed things along. In the end you should have about five cups of concentrate which will keep for about two weeks refrigerated in an air-tight container.

Warning: consumed straight this stuff will put hair on your chest. Even if you like your coffee strong, I recommend diluting it at a ratio of about 1:1, coffee to water (hot or cold) to start. Cold-brewed concentrate is indeed smoother and more mellow than coffee from a conventional drip brewer, though I still like drip coffee just fine. It’s great to have in the fridge for those mornings when scooping grounds, pushing a button, and waiting is just too much. It’s also great to cook with and improves many things including:

Are you a cold-brew fan? Share your tips and recipes below! Thank you to our customer Karen for the inspiration!


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2 Responses to “Cold-Brewing Basics”

  1. Anne Gusmano Says:

    I’ve discovered the joys of cold brewing, thanks to your blog! It results in such a rich, mellow flavor, regardless of the blend. I recently tried it with House Blend Decaf and really liked it. And it’s so convenient, just keeping a pitcher in the frig ready to dilute at a moment’s notice. I’m retired now, but if I were still working, I’d just whip up a batch on the weekend, then be able to enjoy great coffee all week with no fuss or muss on those hectic weekday mornings.

  2. Deb Says:

    …so they won’t water down your iced coffee when they melt.
    Do a 1:1 with the concentrate, pour into ice cube trays and freeze.
    Use as needed/wanted for iced coffee!

    BIG NOTE: don’t freeze milk into cubes for iced coffee. I’m told there’s a bacteria issue. Just pour the milk, and maybe some caramel sundae sauce into the ice coffee. It is AMAZING!

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