Like most people, you’re probably familiar with cold brew coffee’s cousin, sun tea. People have long raved about the intense flavor of sun tea, which involves placing tea bags and water in a large jar and placing it in the sun for a number of hours.
Cold brew coffee is not an identical process, but it does have similarities – cold coffee brewers employ time, rather than heat. The process involves blending medium-coarsely ground coffee beans with room temperature or cool water (not hot) and allowing it to sit for 12-24 hours.
The resulting liquid coffee concentrate is low in acids, smooth and richly flavored. It even has a bit of sweetness to it, since the compounds that cause bitterness are absent, requiring heat to be extracted from the coffee.
The concentrate should be diluted, either with hot water (and/or milk) for quick and delicious hot coffee in the morning, poured over ice for cold brew iced coffee, or even mixed with chocolate for a heavenly blend.
How is Cold Brew Coffee Made?
To make cold brew coffee, you can use a cold brew coffee maker, or, if you prefer, a couple of clean mason jars. It can also be made with a French press coffee maker.
The best coffee for cold brew is a matter of personal preference, but regardless of the brand, you’ll get the most flavor with whole roasted beans you grind yourself. Once coffee is ground, it rapidly loses flavor and potency, so don’t grind your beans until you are ready to operate your cold coffee brewer. The proportions required are roughly one-third of a cup of medium-coarsely ground coffee to a cup and a half of water, although proportions vary depending on the coffee maker used.
To brew, place the coffee in a glass jar and add cold water. Stir the coffee with a plastic or wooden spoon (metal reacts with the acid in the coffee), cover and let sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours. The longer the coffee brews, the more strongly flavored it will be.
When ready, strain the brew into another clean glass jar through a paper coffee filter (unbleached is preferred, as it has not been exposed to chemicals), and then strain it a second time. The resulting coffee concentrate can be drunk immediately or refrigerated for up to two weeks.
What About the Mess?
Cold coffee brewers are more convenient and much less messy than mason jars or other diy processes, with filtering systems already in place that capture the grounds (no need to strain). And, since they’re fairly inexpensive, a good cold coffee brewer can be a better choice for coffee lovers who prefer to take as little time as possible – and minimize the mess – while creating their cold coffee concentrate. Two popular brands are Toddy and Hario (see below).
What are the Advantages of Cold Brewed Coffee?
Other than a remarkably smooth flavor that cannot be obtained by brewing with hot water, the primary advantage to the cold brewing process is that it produces a low acid coffee. This allows people to enjoy coffee who were previously unable to do so because of sensitivity to coffee’s normal acidity.
According to the National Coffee Association, cold brewed coffee is two-thirds less acidic than hot brewed coffee. In addition, most of the bitter oils, fatty acids and undesirable elements such as amids, esters and ketons are left behind, producing a purer coffee.
The primary benefit that accompanies low acidity is an exceptionally smooth taste and the complete lack of bitterness. Cold brewing allows coffee drinkers to fully savor their blend’s intricate undertones – subtleties that are often destroyed by hot brewing. And, many who use cream and sugar to mask unpleasant flavors in regular coffee don’t need to do with cold brewed coffee.
Once finished, your cold brew coffee can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. That means you can brew on the weekends and enjoy nearly instant hot fresh coffee all week.
While a great many people enjoy drinking cold brewed coffee iced, with cream and/or sugar, the benefits rendered from the cold brewing process will remain even if now heated. So, feel free to add hot water to dilute and heat your smooth, mellow, robustly flavored cup of coffee. You can even use your cold brew concentrate to create espresso, cappuccino and other coffee drinks.
Cold Coffee Brewers
When selecting the best cold coffee maker for you, determine how much concentrate you want to make at a time. Do you want to make enough to last a week or two? If so, choose a brewer with a larger water capacity. It’s also handy to be able to cover the coffee brewing container and pop it into the fridge without having to transfer the concentrate to another container.
Toddy T2N Cold Brew System
The Toddy Cold Brew System is a popular, highly rated cold coffee brewer. Fans say it’s easy to use, easier to clean than some and makes deliciously smooth coffee concentrate that is low-acid and not bitter. A coarse grind is recommended, with 12 ounces of coffee to 7 cups of water. About 4 ounces of the concentrate will make one cup of coffee. The Toddy requires re-usable filters that should be rinsed cleaned, put in a plastic bag and stored damp in the fridge. The filters last 3 months or longer. Toddy users recommend not stirring the coffee grounds while brewing as it can clog the filer. The Toddy coffee maker can also be used to make tea concentrate for iced tea. Plastic parts that come into contact with the coffee are BPA free.
Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffee Pot 600ml MCPN-7B
Fans of the Hario cold brew coffee maker exclaim over the smooth low-acid coffee it produces. The instructions are in Japanese so you may need a little trial and error to master it, but good instructions should be also available online. Put about 1\3 of a cup of your favorite ground coffee into the filter then top it off with water. Stir it for a bit until all the grounds have been soaked. Place it in your refrigerator overnight (8 hrs.) or leave on the counter for up to 24 hrs. The 600 ml size produces 18-20 ounces of concentrate, enough for a day or two for serious coffee drinkers. There are larger sizes available, also, that produce enough for a week or more. The Hario has a permanent filter (no need to buy paper filters) and is BPA free.