Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee

Have you ever had a coffee, iced or otherwise, that made your eyes roll back in pleasure? That made you realize that maybe all the fancy coffee tasting snobs aren't just blowing hot air with their talk of flavor profiles, fruitiness, nuttiness, smokiness, and other strings of nouns made out of adjectives? It's a eureka moment, and I had one the first time I made cold-brewed iced coffee — and not just because that turned out to be ridiculously easy.

The first time I knowingly drank cold brew was at the Blue Bottle branch in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, just last summer. I'm sure I'd had it before then, without knowing what made certain iced coffees better than others, but that particular New Orleans style iced coffee pretty much blew my fool mind. It was subtle, smooth, sweet... see, there I go with the adjectives myself. Was it the chicory that made it magic? I'll probably never know). But later that summer, I Googled for "cold brew coffee" or a similar search string, and learned how to make the stuff myself. Here's more or less how:

Ingredients and Equipment

  • 2/3 cup whole coffee beans
  • coffee grinder
  • 2 quart-size Mason jars and at least one suitably-sized lid
  • water
  • paper coffee filter and funnel or other way of holding said filter in place

What You Do

  1. Grind the coffee. There is considerable debate as to how finely the coffee should be ground; since I don't have a fancy burr grinder I tend to have a pretty wide range of ground sizes anyway but I do tend to let the grinder go a little longer than I would if using a French press because I know I'm going to be using a paper filter later.
  2. Put ground coffee in one of the Mason jars. Add cold water until the jar is nearly full, but leave a little room for the beans to expand as they moisten. (The first cold brew recipe I learned called for 1 1/2 cups water to 1/3 cups beans, but when I used a little more than 3 cups on 2/3 cups beans the results were still delicious, so I wouldn't stress the exact measurements too very much — I get even more touchy-feely later on, you'll see.)
  3. Put the lid on the jar, give it a turn to mix everything together, and let it sit at room temperature overnight (at least 8 hours).
  4. Strain the coffee-water mixture through a paper filter held in a funnel or similar, placed on top of the other jar. This can take a while, especially if your beans are super-finely ground, so be patient. If you don't get all the grounds out of the jar on the first try, feel free to rinse it with some more cold water and strain again (cold brew is pretty strong and is sometimes served diluted with equal parts water or milk, so a little extra water here is fine). I usually end up with a little less than a quart of cold brew after all the rinsing and straining is done.
  5. Serve cold brew over ice, diluted with milk or water to the strength of your choice (although I prefer half and half in regular coffee, I find it almost too rich in cold brew — drowns out flavors and all that). If desired, sweeten with simple syrup.

And that's it! Really.

Now cold-brewing tea, that's a story for another day.

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Cross-posted to my li'l food blog but originally written for right here, oh yes.