Last summer was my first summer in New York. I was paying too much for half of a sublet bedroom in a crummy Craigslist apartment without air conditioning, and I was drinking a lot of cold brew coffee — so much, in fact, that I was trying to justify how much money I was spending on iced coffee by how much money I was saving by not having air conditioning.
In retrospect, this was pretty silly; I could have saved a lot more money and been a lot happier had I invested in an air conditioner and made my own cold brew at home. But cold-brew, initially, sounds intimidating; I, like many, I think, believed that I needed both a significant amount of specialized equipment and to brew gallons at a time. Neither is true in the slightest.
In fact, making cold brew is no harder than brewing a cup of hot coffee (and depending on your hot coffee setup, might be easier). If you have a large, clean glass jar — even an old, thoroughly cleaned pickle jar — you can make enough cold brew to get you through the week.
If you can, get yourself a coffee (or spice) grinder. Some of the most reliable are only about $15 at your average kitchen supply store, and freshly ground coffee really does make a difference. So do high quality coffee beans, purchased whole. (Some local favorites: Toby’s Estate Coffee, Parlor Coffee and the Brooklyn Roasting Company.) Yeah, it is a little more expensive, but if you start your own cold brew tonight, you’ll be less inclined to spend upward of $3.50 on a cup of it tomorrow and the next day and the next day after that.
Also, a note on cold brew versus iced coffee: Iced coffee, while lovely, is a horse of a different color — essentially, refrigerated hot coffee. Cold brew is never heated. It’s also steeped, is more intensely flavored and is less acidic than regularly brewed coffee is.
Cold Brew Coffee
Yield: 12 oz. coffee concentrate (24 oz. iced coffee)
½ c. best-quality whole coffee beans
16 oz. cold water
Grind the coffee beans on your grinder’s coarsest setting. Pour the ground coffee into a vessel with a lid; I like a large Mason jar for this. Pour in the cold water, screw on the lid and turn the jar over a couple of times to saturate the grounds, making a sort of slurry. Let this slurry sit in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, ready a very-fine-mesh sieve (or cheesecloth or spatter screen or t-shirt) over a clean vessel. Carefully pour the coffee slurry through the sieve into the clean vessel. This is the coffee concentrate. Dispose of the wet coffee grounds.
To drink, fill a glass with ice and add coffee concentrate until it reaches halfway up the side of the glass. Fill the rest of the glass with water and stir to combine. (Alternatively, you could add 12 ounces of water to your 12 ounces of coffee concentrate right away rather than making it à la minute.)
Feature photo: Flickr/thebittenword.com