I recently took my coffeemaker off of the counter top and regained about a square foot of space. In my kitchen, that’s a big deal. It’s not that I’ve given up coffee – I still have my morning cup most days – it’s just that I’ve found a new way to make that cup, and it is about as low-tech as it gets: cold-brewing.
I make mine a concentrated strength. Add 1 part of the concentrate to 2 or 3 parts boiling water, and you’ve got a deliciously smooth cup o’ joe. The usual methods of dripping and percolating can bring out bitterness in coffee, but cold-brewing keeps bitter flavors at bay. Plus, it’s incredibly easy to use the resulting concentrate in cold drinks (it is the middle of August right now, after all). Add it to cold milk, throw in a couple of ice cubes, and you’ve got a nice iced coffee. Blend it with milk, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate syrup, and you’ve got a simple Frappuccino substitute. Mmmmmmm!
Gather your supplies
First you need coffee, naturally. I just recently discovered Equal Exchange, and my first order showed-up yesterday. It’s fair trade, organic, and it saved me a trip to the grocery store. What’s not to like about that? You can, of course, use your own favorite brand. Course grinds are recommended, but I often ignore that with no ill effects aside from the occasional specs of coffee grit in my cup. This current batch was made with Equal Exchange Organic Breakfast Blend, and it was quite good.
You also need a french press. I have a Bodum Brazil 8-Cup, which I love. Be forewarned if you are in the market for one of these, that’s eight four ounce cups. I don’t know anyone who drinks such a small cup, although it hardly matters when you’re making a concentrate, anyway. The press is great for making regular non-concentrate coffee, too, and I’ve also used mine for loose teas. (Just in case you’re trying to justify buying one – it’s great for more than just concentrates).
Cold brew your coffee concentrate
Put about a cup of grinds into the press, and then fill the rest of the press with cold water until it’s about 3/4 full – just enough to leave some room for the plunger.
Stir the grinds with a plastic or wooden spoon until they are all wet. Put the plunger on the press, but only push it down until it reaches the water, no further.
Put the press into the refrigerator and let it sit 12 hours or so. It’s not an exact science. I have left mine for less and for more. Different steeping times result in different strengths of concentrate.
[edited 03/05/12: I've been doing this for some time now, and my method has changed slightly. First, I've been buying whole bean coffee and grinding it coarsely. Second, I fill the press higher with water, leaving only about an inch at the top. And lastly, I let it sit for a full 24 hours. YMMV.]
Process the concentrate
Once the steeping is complete, press down the plunger as far as it will go. This will trap the grinds on the bottom of the press while letting the brewed coffee flow freely out the spout. Fill up your coffee cup about 1/4 of the way with the concentrate, and pour the rest of it into an airtight container.
Label the container so you know what type of coffee is inside, and add the date, just so you know when it’s over-the-hill. Keep the container refrigerated, and discard the contents after two weeks. (Tomorrow, you’ll take the container out of the fridge and pour about a quarter cup of the concentrate into your mug, just like you did today with the freshly-pressed stuff.)
Enjoy your cup
Add boiling water to the concentrate in your mug, and there you have it – a piping hot cup of cold-pressed coffee. Add whatever it is you usually add to your coffee to make it palatable (I’m a whole milk or half & half girl, myself) and enjoy!
This process really has improved my morning coffee experience, saved me counter space, and made it super easy to whip up a frozen coffee drink cheaply and on demand. I also imagine that it will be useful during get-togethers. Having two containers of make-ahead concentrate in the fridge (one regular, one decaf), requires me only to boil water – something I do anyway for the tea-drinkers.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you tried something similar? Have any tips? Have a great recipe that requires cold coffee? Leave them all in the comments!