I don’t drink a pot of coffee a day like the Guy does, but I do need a cup of joe to get me started in the morning. And, unlike the Guy who can drink hot coffee all year long, when the weather warms up, my coffee has to cool down. Spring has been unseasonably late arriving this year, but it’s finally time to make the switch from hot coffee to iced.
I used to spend way too much money on coffee, because I was too lazy to brew my own just for my one solitary cup each morning. So I’d drop a buck and half every morning on a cup from Starbucks. As much as I love Starbucks, I also love saving money. So when I married the coffee-guzzling Guy and there was good reason to brew a whole pot each morning, I stopped sharing my money with Starbucks, except for the occasional treat of a caramel macchiato or a Frappucino on a hot day.
But in the summers, they were still getting my money on a consistent basis, because I just hadn’t had any luck making GOOD iced coffee at home. Late last summer, I finally found the secret: the cold brew method. It really couldn’t be easier, and it’s just as good as any iced coffee you’ll find at your local coffee house.
Brewing coffee with hot water speeds up the brewing process, but it creates a more acidic, bitter drink. For some reason, that’s more palatable when you’re drinking the coffee hot; if you take that same coffee and pour it over ice, it just doesn’t taste good. Cold brewing uses cool or room temperature water to steep the coffee grounds over a longer period of time–about 12 to 24 hours.
You can find specially designed cold brew coffee pots, but a good French press works fine. Coarse ground beans also work best. If you don’t have a French press, you can actually just use a Mason jar or pitcher and a paper coffee filter at the end of the brewing cycle–it’s just a little messier and more time consuming than the French press.
Use about twice the coffee-to-water ratio that you would normally use to brew a hot pot of coffee, since you’ll be diluting the final product with ice–I use two tablespoons per cup of water. Spoon the grounds into your press or jar, then fill with water. Use a long ice tea spoon to stir the water and grounds together, since the grounds will just float on top and not steep otherwise. Cover with plastic wrap (if you’re using a French press, leave the lid and press off for now), and let set overnight at a minimum, up to a full day.
If you’re using a French press, filtering the coffee when it’s done brewing is easy–just put the lid on and slowly and smoothly press down on the plunger until the filter is at the bottom, then pour your filtered coffee into a new container–or directly into your waiting cup. If you’re not using a French press, you can manually use a coffee filter by holding it over another container, or pouring it through the filter basket of your coffee maker. I usually end up with a bit of a mess when I’ve tried this, so it’s really worth getting a French press. They are not terribly expensive, and it’s definitely worth a couple extra bucks to get a good one that doesn’t let extra grounds through.
Now we’ll use your cold brew coffee to make a perfect cup of iced coffee. Cold brew coffee doesn’t require as much sweetening as hot coffee, since it’s less bitter to start with. But I do like to add a little something sweet, and sugar doesn’t dissolve well in cold water. You can always buy the expensive flavored syrups, but it’s very easy (and cheap!) to make your own simple syrup as a sweetener–just heat equal parts water and sugar slowly over the stove until all the sugar is dissolved. Let cool, then pour your syrup into a handy plastic squirt bottle (the kind you get for about a buck, right next to the refillable mustard and ketchup bottles in kitchen supplies), and you’re all set. If you really want gourmet flavors, you can make your own versions of those too, without too much more work–check out these recipes from Annie’s Eats.
Once you’ve got your sweetener (remember, it doesn’t take much), blend it together with a bit of milk or cream, your cold brew coffee and plenty of fresh ice, and you’re set to conquer summer with a ready morning caffeine supply. Refrigerate any of the remaining coffee–it will keep nicely for several days.