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Cold Coffee

July 13, 2011

Finally, it feels like summer has really arrived in Albany. It’s about time, but it’s hot out there. Which means the new priorities are finding ways to beat the heat. Last night we ate a mostly cold dinner consisting of a variety of summer salads, with fresh, seasonal and local produce from our CSA.

Ideally I would have gotten my act together and purchased a grill by now. Because despite having central air, I’m still loath to turn on the oven or fire up the stove. It’s a long story and it goes into all kinds of crazy I won’t bore you with today.

On the other hand, I’m surprisingly well prepared for making iced coffee.

Now for those of you who think that making iced coffee is just about brewing hot coffee and chilling it down, you’ve got another think coming. Yes, sure the old-fashioned way works, but it’s not that great. I’ve found something much better.

It’s cold brewed coffee. Sometimes it’s called a Toddy, after the Toddy coffee maker. Mrs. Fussy and the Fussy Little Children bought me the competing Filtron for Father’s Day.

Here’s how it works.

1)    Take a giant plastic bucket that has a hole in the bottom and plug up the hole.
2)    Push the thick, reusable filter into place inside the bucket.
3)    Dump in a pound of coarsely ground coffee.
4)    Level the grounds, and put in a “grounds guard.”
5)    Drizzle cold water into the grounds, so that it fills the bucket.
6)    Let it sit for 12-24 hours.
7)    Pull the plug, and bask in the glory of your cold brewed coffee.

Officially what it makes is a coffee concentrate that they claim will last more than six weeks in the refrigerator. There is no way my concentrate is lasting six weeks. The way we drink coffee, especially iced coffee, especially good iced coffee, is reserved for the way most people drink soda (or even water).

But let me tell you a bit about the maiden voyage.

I’ve actually been sitting on the Filtron for a while. It arrived in the mail the week after Father’s Day, and I lovingly unpacked it and lingered over the instruction pamphlet. The device came with everything you need to make coffee, except for the coffee. And you need a pound of it.

The only coffee we keep in the house in those quantities is the dreck Mrs. Fussy drinks because it’s hot, caffeinated, inexpensive, and not entirely undrinkable. And part of me thought it would be a good experiment to see if the Filtron could make a good batch of concentrate from mediocre grounds.

While in theory it’s possible, it seemed unlikely.

So I decided to hold out for good beans. Unfortunately my summer schedule really started to kick into gear, and I couldn’t seem to get out to Caffe Vero no matter how I tried. One evening I was driving past Professor Java’s, and I thought I could pick up some of their freshly roasted beans, but that didn’t work out either. That involves another story, about my craziness regarding freshly roasted beans.

Finally, I was able to get out one evening and hobble my way over to Uncommon Grounds. Come to think of it, we have quite a few local coffee roasters in the area. Perhaps, more than one might expect. And there, after some back and forth with the staff,  we decided upon a pound of their Kenyan AA beans.

This was a great decision.

Bringing the beans home and grinding them (on medium-coarse) in my spiffy burr grinder filled the house with all kinds of great fresh coffee smells. It was a heady experience. Although since my grinder is small, I had to do the grinding in four batches. Next time I may just have the beans ground to order.

After following all the steps and waiting for twenty-two hours, I pulled the plug, and released a torrent of deep dark brown coffee nectar.

The trickiest part is finding one’s preferred dilution ratio for the concentrate.

One ounce of coffee to three ounces of water was a bit too watery, but 1:2 was a bit too strong. And after a couple days of experimentation, I’m quite happy with 2:5 over ice. At this level of dilution, a pound of coffee yields about 19 eight-ounce cups.

The bottom line is that this isn’t a terribly efficient way to brew coffee. On an ounce-to-ounce basis comparing this to Intelligentsia’s ratios for a pourover extraction, the cold brewed coffee is 57% more expensive to make (without even including the cost of the device). And those Intelligentsia folks brew some seriously strong coffee.

But the cold brew is delicious. And I’m so glad that I have this new coffee-making device in my life. Now not only can I drink rich and low-acid iced coffee anytime I like, but I can also fulfill my coffee fix without having to heat up the house.

The side benefit will be getting to buy more freshly roasted coffee from our local roasters. That is provided I can ever find out how to work those trips into my summer schedule. But a ready supply of iced coffee will help.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 13, 2011 8:22 am

    This is good. I have experimented with both cold and hot brew techniques for iced coffee, and, with the equipment I own, My preference is the hot brew. I’ve gotten it to a point where, with the beans I use and with the coffee maker (equipped with on board grinder) I own, I can reproduce the strength that is perfect for the ice and nonfat milk I like in my cup.

    In my experimentation with the cold brew (which I’ll have to revisit when I get settled in at my new place), it resulted in a less acidic and less bitter cup, which makes sense since the high temperature isn’t present in the brewing process to extract the less water soluble compounds in the beans. I just couldn’t find the right dilution for me.

    I am very much looking forward to moving closer to an Uncommon Grounds; their roasts are incredible. Especially their espresso, but that’s a whole ‘nother beast!.

  2. July 13, 2011 1:22 pm

    so for a while i was doing 4 scoops (8 T) per liter of cold h20 – steep in refrigerator for 18 hours min, 48 max. strain and drink straight over ice. it was intense and awesome. then i started doing 8 T per liter of the hottest tap h20 I could get (again 18-48 hour brew in refrigerator) and I feel that it yielded a superior brew. maybe im crazy…maybe not. seems to be a lot of buzz on the internet about japanese – brewing with half the amount of boiling h20 over ice. could be interesting to do a more…scientific analysis of cold brew techniques

  3. foodiemom permalink
    July 14, 2011 10:33 am

    I use a french press for iced coffee-my ratio is 2/3 cup a coffee and then fill the press to an inch below the top. Then I usually do a 1 to 1 water to coffee ratio. So very good and easy.

  4. July 14, 2011 11:14 pm

    Wow, you have seriously fussified the cold brew process. I do like Foodiemom except I use a full cup of grounds in my press and I don’t bother watering the coffee down I just pour it over a lot of ice and drink it slowly.

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