Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee

So everyone who knows me knows that I have my own little love affair with coffee. I blame it on a friend in college who introduced me to Gevalia, who sent me a free coffee maker (my first ever!), monthly coffee deliveries, and it was all downhill from there. Then a couple of years later I roomed with a friend who had an espresso machine and we held weekly espresso parties, and there was no turning back.

I've since moved on to greatly disliking flavored beans, but my love of espresso and strong coffee has only gotten stronger. But on hot days like this heat wave we're currently going through, hot coffee is just too much for me. I enjoy an iced latte, but sometimes I want a plain, strong, iced coffee.

Getting iced coffee from coffee shops has been hit or miss for me. Starbucks makes my stomach hurt, consistently, while Peet's is one of the best I've had, consistently. And my recent introduction to the Blue Bottle iced coffee was lovely, although I could have done without the cup of ice that got in the way of that tasty chilled goodness.

So when a friend sent me this link from the SF Chronicle, I decided it was definitely time to try some iced coffee at home. But following their lead, and making it cold-brewed instead of trying to hot brew the coffee and then chill it (which I've tried before and was horrible, no matter how good the beans were).

The recipe calls for one pound of coffee to 10 cups of water. Well that's all well and good, but I'm not planning on making that big of a batch when 1) I'm not sure how good it will turn out, and 2) we live in a very foggy beach town. This heat wave may last a week, it may be over tomorrow. I'm not sure how long I'll be wanting iced coffee. 3) The hubby hates coffee, so I'm the only one drinking this, and I can't imagine him being so happy over the entire fridge being taken over by iced coffee. So I needed to figure out a smaller batch recipe to make in my french press.

Problem being, we're converting weight to volume, which is tricky, and for the life of me I can't find my postal scale (yes, I'm that big of a nerd that I would have weighed it out). So I approximated volume to weight and decided I would try 3 cups of water to 9 tablespoons of coarse-ground coffee. I erred on the side of over-filling those tablespoons, since it's a whole lot easier to make it weaker than try to make it stronger! The article said that we're making a concentrate anyway, one that you'll want to add milk and/or water (and whatever sweetener) to.

The only bad news about cold-brewing iced coffee, and good reason to make large batches, is that it takes 12 hrs to brew, and lasts up to 2 weeks in the fridge. So if you're dying for something right now, make an iced latte or take that trip to the coffee shop. But start the iced coffee brewing at home first, so you'll have it for later!

Are you dying to hear how it tasted? Well, I have to say, I'm exceptionally happy with it. I'll have to figure out how much to weaken it, but to start with I did half milk and half water to approximately match the coffee concentrate amount. I will definitely be making some larger batches of this. I figure it's about a 3:1 ratio of tablespoons of coffee to cups of water. And these are real cups of water we're talking about, not the coffee cup (which is only 6oz instead of the normal 8oz, in case you didn't know. Pretty sure that's due to evaporation during the hot brewing process).

I'm going to keep playing with the recipe a bit, but I'm really happy with this one overall. I like the idea of having it as a concentrate that you add your own amount of water and/or milk to, so I have more control over the flavor. And I really love that the coffee flavor comes through without the bitter taste hot-brewing and then making cold gives you (which is also probably why the Starbucks version makes my stomach hurt - they hot brew the coffee double-strength and then refrigerate it. It's more acidic with this method).

Also, if you're interested, Peet's has their recipe on the page with their iced coffee press, which is tempting, but really only if I were wanting to save my french press for making hot coffee. And considering how easy it is, I don't think a special gadget is necessary. I think the biggest difference between the two recipes is that the Chronicle says to brew at room temperature and then refrigerate, while Peet's says to leave in the fridge to brew.

Make sure to check out the other recipes on the Chronicle's article page. They've got Blue Bottle's New Orleans style iced coffee (which adds chicory), Vietnamese iced coffee, and a coffee granita that I'm going to definitely have to try - looks amazing!

And let me know your results when you try it. Because really, it's too easy not to try. You just need a little time and planning. And you can bet I'll let you know how that granita goes!

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