Cold Brew Five Ways
In celebration of National Coffee Day, here's how to save money on this favorite drink
Now that Starbucks is elbowing its way into artisanal-drink territory it's time once again to look at ways to kick the coffee-shop habit.
How hard could it be to make your own cold brew?
The idea is to steep coffee grounds in cold or room-temperature water for about 12 hours and filter the resulting concentrate. Think of it as slow brew, as opposed to hot coffee. You then dilute the concentrate, which has a two-week shelf life in the refrigerator, with cream, milk, water, or some combination of the two.
Cold brew naturally lends itself to iced coffee, but you can also mix it with steaming-hot water. I like to pour a shot of concentrate into a jar with the same amount of cold water plus lots of ice and a bit of condensed milk, clap on the lid, and shake energetically before serving.
A little goes a long way: Perhaps slow extraction, while cutting down on acids and oils, nonetheless produces high levels of caffeine?
claims to have invented the first countertop cold brewer some 50 years ago, a straightforward multipart carafe (about $40) with an upper chamber for brewing and a thick, slow-drip filter in between. Since then, other apparatuses have sprung up to compete for your coffee-addiction-gizmo-and-gadget expenditures. With "cold brew" on everybody's lips this summer, there's even a subscription program—yes, like tea bags of the month—being proposed on Kickstarter, with $9,694 in pledges last time I looked.
The engaging coffee geeks at the retailer did a taste test and liked what came out of the new $50 Oxo best. It has a number of nice touches, including a glass carafe with a stopper that doubles as a measurer. But it's 15 inches high and 9½ inches wide—big for a countertop helpmate.
Or so I thought until crossing paths online with the , a Rube Goldberg-esque contraption that's 29 inches high and requires hands-on tweaking of its little brass valve to maintain the correct rate of dripping ice water through a hypnotizing length of slow-it-down spiraled glass. With its delicate parts, the Yama tower would be a challenge to clean, and at about $255 entails very slow amortization indeed.
A junior brewer, the , has a smaller profile and an elegant carafe, and is a mere $96.
Over at , the how-to-cook-and-with-what-and-why empire, they like the Toddy and the Toddy-like Filtron (about $40). also gets a nod from the discriminating baristas at the cultish coffee-shop chainlet .
So what's to stop you from brewing cold concentrate with materials at hand? Just get out 12 ounces of coarsely ground medium-roast coffee—if you like a New Orleans touch, see if your roaster will throw in some chicory—an 8-cup container, cheesecloth, a fine strainer, and a seven-cup pitcher. If you happen to have a cone and filter, get them out too.
Gently stir the grounds into 7 cups of room-temperature water, cover the container with cheesecloth, and let it sit about 15 hours. (My colleague Sal would like to interject that he gets better results using cold water and brewing in the fridge.) Line the sieve with the cheesecloth and place the sieve over the pitcher; you may need to prop up the sieve handle to keep it steady. Slowly pour the concentrate through the cheesecloth and let it drain for about 45 minutes. Twist the ends of the cheesecloth together and toss the grounds (do not attempt to clean the cheesecloth for reuse). To remove sediment, pour the concentrate through a cone filter. Store the concentrate in the fridge.
Keep in mind that you now have a stash of instant coffee to tempt you every time you open the fridge. This means you will be consuming 12 ounces worth of expensive coffee beans at a much faster rate than if you were, say, pulling individual espresso shots.
Of course, espresso has always been the most efficient way to wring value out of beans. Hopefully by now you've forgotten how much you squandered on that machine during your last effort to beat back Starbucks.