I first learned about cold brewed coffee a while back when I read Cory Doctorow’s young adult novel, Homeland, where the main character brings a stash of cold brew coffee to Burning Man, to use as barter currency on the playa. It’s popping up everywhere now, for sale in plastic jugs by the quart, or sold at artisanal coffee shops for much more than it costs to make at home.
I’ve personally always disliked iced coffee done the usual way, by pouring hot brew over ice cubes. After hearing about cold brewed coffee, I decided to check it out and see how I liked it as the foundation of iced coffee. I’m thrilled to report that it’s super easy, and delicious too!
There is some disagreement about whether or not cold brewed coffee was more caffeinated, or less, than drip brewed coffee. There are tons of opinions on the subject, but not enough objective data for me to come down on one side or another. Cold brew is a concentrate, so it’s meant to be diluted with water or ice in equal amounts. If you want to really let things rip, just drink it straight. Note: I don’t recommend it, but hey, we’re all adults here.
There are also lots of online tutorials for making cold brew coffee, some of which overlap in agreement, but most have widely different do’s and don’ts. This version is but one of many, and is a good start. It’s easy to get overwhelmed if you tend to geek out on details, like I do. So, think of this as an easy introduction, a base to work from that’s easy to try out. If you find you like it, great! If you don’t, or find it underwhelming in comparison to regular brewed coffee, at least you haven’t driven yourself insane or spent a ton of money on stuff you won’t be using again.
I use the cold brew in iced coffee, but you can also use it as a concentrate that they add hot water to for a hot cup. The benefits of cold brewing are that the acidity of the brew is much less than when hot brewed – you get all the richness and flavor of whatever beans you’re using, but without the nasty notes from oxidation. It’s also great because it takes no power, so if you’re living off the grid, camping or whatever, you can still get your coffee fix.
COLD BREW ICED COFFEE
- 1 nut milk bag
- 1 large jar with airtight top (I like the Fido jars)
- Coffee grinder
- Whole coffee beans of your choice
The general ratio of cold brew coffee to water is 1:1 when you are ready to drink it.
First, grind your coffee beans a bit at a time. Use 1 cup of ground coffee per 4 cups water. I had a large jar, so I did 2 cups ground coffee with 8 cups water, which will make 16 cups of ready to drink coffee, that’s one GALLON for you math-challenged people out there.
There’s no need to grind the beans fine, just a few pulses will do. The time spent in the water will extract the goodness will get all the flavor. The idea is to avoid letting the beans stay in contact with air and heat, so less time grinding is best. If you don’t have a grinder, you could even place them in a heavy plastic bag and smash the beans with a heavy pan (I wouldn’t use the nut milk bag for that part, as it may open some bigger holes than you’d want).
Place the grounds in the nut milk bag, tighten the string, and put in the jar. Add your water, press the bag below water level and squeeze out any air bubbles as best you can, seal up the lid, and put in a cool dark place for the next 12 to 24 hours. I like 24 hours best, but your mileage may vary.
After the time is up, remove the nut milk bag with the grounds, squeeze out any extra moisture into the jar. Store sealed airtight in refrigerator. For iced or hot coffee, just use equal amounts of cold brew and water or ice. Keep it simple, and have fun!