Who says that you need hot water to make coffee?
Well, a lot of people. And until pretty recently, I would’ve said the same (and I work at a café too – shame on me!).
Almost all coffee-brewing methods, from the French press, to the pour-over, pulling an espresso shot, and even an automatic drip machine, all require heating water to the right temperature before saturating the coffee grounds.
But these are all methods you use when you want coffee relatively quickly. Cold-brewing, on the other hand, takes a MUCH longer time – we’re talking about hours here, folks.
To make a long story short: if you plan ahead and are patient enough to use this method, you’ll be rewarded with an iced coffee that tastes about a gazillion times better than hot coffee that’s been cooled down.
You see, the thing about cold-brewed coffee is that the cool water will dissolve only certain elements from the coffee grounds (namely the flavor elements and the caffeine content), whereas hot water will extract more of the oils and acids. So compared to regular hot coffee, cold-brewed coffee will be more aromatic and far less bitter.
Now, doesn’t that pique your curiosity?
It sure did for me, and once I figured out how it worked, I got busy getting everything together.
I started with about one cup of whole coffee beans. I usually get my beans from Moon Doggie Coffee, a local micro-roaster in Maywood; while their café isn’t that great, they have a huge variety of coffee and they also freshly roast their beans on-site every few days. This time was the the first time I tried their house organic blend “Half A World Away,” and it’s AMAZING.
I put a little less than 1 cup into my grinder because the coffee usually increases in volume when they’re all ground up.
Turning my grinder to the medium-coarse setting, I let ‘er rip.
Now, I hate to sound like a coffee snob, but if you can, you should reaalllly get your coffee ground as close as possible to the date you’re using it. You’ll notice that I keep my beans whole and grind them at home, right before I use them. I can do this because I have a conical burr grinder that’ll grind the beans to equally sized particles; but if you use a spice grinder, the beans will just end up smashing against each other into bits that range from really large to itty-bitty, making for badly extracted coffee. So if you want good coffee, either invest in a good grinder, or use those special grinders you see in stores – the ones with the different settings on them.
Whew. Ok, now that the schpeel is over, onwards to the cool coffee adventure!
For this kind of coffee, you want a 4:1 water-to-grounds ratio – so I added a little over 4 cups of water to my 1 cup of ground coffee.
See the little bubbles on the surface of the coffee? That’s the grounds releasing carbon dioxide, which it’ll do when the coffee is freshly roasted and ground. If I had done this a few days earlier, you would’ve seen even more of the “bloom.”
But you can’t just let your coffee sit around like that! You’ve got to stir it around…
Mixing the slurry until the light colored foam starts to come up.
Un-separated chopsticks are my utensils of choice for this kind of stirring – they get all the way to the bottom of the jug, and also do a good job mixing without removing to much of the grounds once you pull it out.
After everything has been well mixed, put a top on your container and let it sit in the fridge for 12 hours (although I’ve heard that anytime from 4 hours on is alright).
But just to be safe, I left my pitcher to chill overnight…
And took it out this morning once I had my straining things all prepared.
With a fine-meshed sieve on top of another jug, I poured the brewed coffee through my strainer…
And let it sit for a while, so I could get every single precious drop of coffee from the grounds.
Now you’ll notice that the resulting coffee still looks kind of thick – that’s because of the smaller coffee particles that are still swimming around in there.
Which is why we use a moistened-then-wrung cheesecloth to strain everything again!
Like last time, you’ll want to wait a bit even after you’ve poured everything through the sieve; just let gravity do its thing and pull the coffee down.
And now… THE COLD-BREWED COFFEE IS COMPLETE!!!
‘Cuz now that you’ve made this awesome coffee, you have to actually drink it.
Preferably in a reusable, double-walled container made especially for cold drinks. A regular ol’ cup will suffice, but c’mon – this thing is perfect when you want homemade coffee to-go!
Cold-brewed coffee is actually stronger than regular drip coffee, which makes it ideal for iced coffee; as the ice melts, it’ll slowly dilute the brew to the perfect level of caffeination.
Or you can a little bit of water and heat it in the microwave if you want hot cold-brewed coffee.
And the verdict?
I’ve tried this same exact coffee both hot and cold-brewed, and I’ve got to say that the cold method definitely has a deeper flavor. It’s less bitter, with slight notes of fruitiness that dance on the back of your tongue towards the end of each sip.
In other words: pure deliciousness, and perfect for these hot summer days.
Now, please excuse me while I go pour myself another cup.