Coffee is one of the great loves of my life.
Growing up, my dad drank it religiously. Black with sugar. One cup, two cups, three cups, alongside the Boston Globe. The few times I stole near-simmering sips with a devil-may-care attitude, I was left gargling a bitter, burnt acid. Chock full o’Nuts will do that to a girl.
Not until high school, when I needed something to swish through my braces after consuming not one, not two, but three Boston Cream donuts, did I consider giving coffee another go. I played it safe with a Dunkin’ Donuts hazelnut iced coffee, whole milk and sugar. Now, if you’ve ever ordered this combination, you know how promising it tends to be. I even bet by now you’ve guessed how the rest of the story goes.
If your guess involved me spilling no less than half of it all the way down my pink and navy new sweater vest, you would be correct. If you also guessed that I did not, in fact, leave Dunkin’ Donuts with clean, publicly acceptable-looking braces, you would also be very, very correct.
Ever the resilient one, I tried once more. No spills, no braces misadventures. And it was,
as happy endings go-
Fast forward to now and you will rarely find me without a coffee cup in hand. As I like to tell my friends and family who worry about my caffeine consumption from time to time, coffee is, quite simply, my lifeblood. It is a true joy. A hobby. An activity. A routine. Perhaps living in Seattle gave me an even greater respect for not only the drink itself, but for the whole of coffee shop culture. And as a writer, as a forever traveler, this is all part of the life.
Aside from adventures in new places, where I’m likely to try the local coffee specialties, my drink order is one of two things, always. For chillier days, an Americano (shots of espresso and piping hot water). And for warmer days, iced coffee. To both of these drinks I add whole milk. I prefer it for its richness, its ultra-creaminess. Over years of striving to eat better, more pure foods, sugar became something I slowly weaned myself off of in my coffee mug. Once I became accustomed to drinking it sugarless, it was easy. Now I’d dare say you can taste the full flavor of the coffee more purely without sweetening.
Usually around this time of year, I’d make the switch to hot coffee. It just pairs well with fall. But for some reason, I’m clinging tightly to the iced version. I’m wanting it more and more everyday, regardless of temperature, regardless of the fact that after drinking it I fantasize about slipping into a warm fleece cocoon.
So I’ll go with it for now.
This method of cold brewing coffee is new to me. I’ve been reading bits and pieces about it for quite a while now, and from what I’ve gathered, it’s an ideal way of brewing iced coffee. Unlike the traditional heating process in coffee preparation, steeping grounds in cool water and letting them soak means a cup o’ joe with markedly less bitterness, less of that familiar acidity. It also means that you’re able to taste more of the coffee’s true flavor profile, naturally leading to a more full-bodied drink. I hear you can also get away with using less expensive coffee beans/grounds by using this method, but I’m not yet convinced.
Click here to see the recipe I used. Note: You do not need any special equipment (eg. a French press) to cold brew at home. I simply used a fine mesh sieve (exactly like this one on Amazon) lined with a regular ol’ coffee filter.
The result? A fantastic, well above average glass of iced coffee.
HOW- TO: I used freshly ground French roast coffee beans from Whole Foods. In a big cylindrical plastic container, I combined 1 and 1/3 cups coffee grounds with 4 cups water. I stirred, covered the container with a fitted lid, and let the mixture sit undisturbed on my kitchen counter (at room temperature) for 24 hours. The next day, I placed a fine mesh sieve over a small pot in my sink (to prevent a disastrous mess) and very carefully poured the coffee grounds/water mixture into the sieve. The grounds remained in the sieve and the pure extracted coffee liquid drained into the pot. Now, there was very little sediment in the pot along with my cold brewed coffee, but if there is any in your own batch, feel free to remove the grounds from the sieve and then re-pour the liquid through the sieve to be sure you’re left with smooth, ground-free coffee. This batch makes 8 cups of iced coffee when diluted with water slightly. By itself, it is more of a coffee concentrate- a really strong brew that could use some diluting before drinking. I store the strained mixture covered in a glass pitcher in the refrigerator. It should keep for 5 days.
TO SERVE: I filled a glass with ice, poured the cold brew coffee concentrate about two thirds of the way full, tasted it to see how strong it seemed for my personal taste preference, and then added a little bit of water and a little bit of milk, tasting along the way to be sure I liked the strength.
The coffee was happily free of any bitterness, any astringency whatsoever. The flavors were bold, dark and somewhat smoky, but also more pure, more smooth than what I’m used to brewing on my own. I found that the gentle sweetness of the coffee allowed me to use less milk that I traditionally do.
I am a convert to cold brewing miracles. Come over for iced coffee if you please :)
Are you more of a hot coffee person, or do you love iced like I do? How do you brew your coffee?