Cold Brew at Home
Introduction (scroll down to get right to the recipe)
When it comes to brewing coffee there are several methods one can employ, each producing a satisfying cup of your favorite roast. Most brewing methods use hot water (195-205 degrees F) to extract the coffee flavor from the grounds in a short period of time. Hot water extracts bitterness and acidity from the roasted beans, which are desirable flavor characteristics in a cup of coffee. But like anything, too much of either is just too much. The cold brew steeping process extracts coffee flavor using low temperature water and a longer time. This results in a lower bitterness and acidity from the same roasted coffee.
A cold brew coffee is different from an iced coffee for this one reason – the coffee extraction process does not use hot water. Of course you can use hot water to accomplish a faster extraction, then pour it over ice. But this is just a cold version of your hot coffee. Steeping the coffee with low temperature water over time results in a much smoother coffee, which works well for a refreshing drink on those hot summer days.
For cold brew we tested three different methods and outlined our preferred process below. The three methods we tested are:
- Steeping loose grounds
- Steeping grounds in a bag
- Steeping grounds in a French press
All three methods used room temperature steeping, out of direct light and covered. We settled on steeping loose grounds for a couple of reasons:
- Loose grounds provide more surface area to come in contact with the water, shortening the steep time
- It only required the purchase of cheesecloth for filtering, an inexpensive item readily available at a hardware or grocery store. Other materials are typical household kitchen items.
Steeping the grounds in a bag certainly makes filtering and cleanup a lot easier. However we found that the bags compress the grounds, resulting in uneven soaking. Also, the filter bag floats. This, combined with the compressed grounds, means the water doesn’t evenly saturate all the grounds, resulting in a less flavorful brew overall.
The French press method works well, however you will need to purchase a French press and will be limited in quantity to the size of the press.
So, with these highly subjective opinions, let’s look at the loose grounds steeping process.
Recipe for concentrated cold brew coffee
This recipe uses a 1:4 ratio of coffee to water. We’ll use 1 cup of ground coffee to four cups of water.
- Measuring cup(s)
- Container large enough to combine the coffee and water
- Filter (we used cheesecloth) and container to catch steeped coffee while filtering
- Strainer (we used a screen type strainer)
- Coffee roasted for cold brew
Measure out one cup of ground coffee. Use a medium-to-coarse grind, like what you would use in a drip or French press.
Add the coffee grounds to the container.
Add four cups of the room temperature water. Stir briefly and briskly to combine and ensure the grounds are soaked.
Cover with a lid or plastic wrap. Place on counter out of direct light and let steep for 6-8 hours.
Place in refrigerator and let steep for 20-24 hours. Refrigerated steeping requires a longer steep time.
Take a sieve or screen strainer and line it with two layers of folded cheesecloth. Filter the coffee through the cheesecloth/strainer into a container.
Empty the grounds from the original container and give it a rinse. Return the coffee to the original container, cover and refrigerate. Or if you have two pitchers handy, filter from one pitcher into the other, cover and refrigerate and you are good to go.
The result is a concentrated form of coffee. Opinions vary - you can dilute it with some water or milk to drink. We like it undiluted over a glass of ice to enjoy a full-flavored beverage right to the end.
Now serve some over ice. After all, you’ve waited quite awhile for this to be ready!
Your coffee will stay fresh for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator. Cheers!