Cold Brew Coffee {how-to}

Cold Brew Coffee, pitcher and glasses

Slow? I know, to say the least

I am reeeally behind on this, as my research has cold brew hitting major media more than five years ago. However, I never said I was a bleeding edge food trendsetter. Oh, sure, I hear about food fads and trends all the time. I just don’t really listen.
cold brew coffee glasses with ice cubes
My personal introduction to cold brew was this past summer in the form of a dark, “stubby” bottle of Stumptown Coffee’s Cold Brew only to be found in LA (I think) at Sycamore Kitchen. Deep, slightly more intense than my usual morning cup, and refreshing of course, it was, you know, good, but I didn’t find it all that much more extraordinary than other regular iced coffee. That, of course, says nothing, because I’m a filthy whore for anything brown, bitter, and caffeinated. What I did find extraordinary was the $4.50 price for a 10 ounce bottle. (Shocked as consumer, awed as businessperson.)
Cold Brew Pitcher
The true revelation came when I got home and looked up “cold brew” online. Wow. There was so much out there. How had I missed it all? Of course, you could look up just about anything and marvel at how quickly google can return millions of result. Non-acetone nail polish remover for chihuahuas? 1.39 million sites in three-tenths of a second! You know, um, as an example.

It was finding out that cold brew is first and more often, something you make at home, and only very recently a store-bought product, that put the obsession in my head to make it myself. (Wait. What? Packaged product that actually started at home? Isn’t that, like, everything? Even pop tarts?! Yes, you sarcastic little parenthetical.)

cold brew coffee, cheesecloth strainer
Cold brewing coffee doesn’t require any special skills, ingredients or equipment, not even a coffee maker (though there are products on the market specifically designed for making cold brew at home). About the only thing you need that might be hard to find is — pardon me for a moment while I conjure my inner Axl — patience. Cold brew is a process that takes time. I let my cold brew mixture of coffee grounds and room temperature water sit for almost 15 hours before having to pour it first, slowly over a few layers of cheesecloth, then second, even more slowly through a paper coffee filter.

For someone who can barely wait three minutes for the dregs of a paper shredder to “instantly” reconstitute into ramen, the process is excruciating (but obvs, worth it).

I had a large enough glass pitcher to hold the coffee grounds and water whilst it cold-brewed, but that was it. I had to filter the cold brew from the big glass pitcher into several smaller glass containers and then wash the glass pitcher and then pour the filtrate (omg, that dirty word just took me back to AP Chem) through a paper filter back into the glass pitcher. I could have used plastic containers I suppose, but I am freaked out by freaky shit in plastics and other weird chemicals.

(Oh, right, not that I didn’t sweeten my life with the white powder of hate and drink a 6-pack of Diet Cyanide every day for years).
cold brew coffee, cheesecloth strainer
So I’m a little behind in discovering this. So I’m so slow to follow the fad that it isn’t one anymore. So I’m a little late in the season to bring up something that is usually enjoyed on a patio in the full summer sunshine, but summer in LA lasts until October and sunshine lasts? Forever.

Now, have you heard about these tiny versions of cakes called “cupcakes?”
cold brew coffee glasses, top

Cold Brew Coffee {how-to}

loosely based on tips and techniques from various sources (mostly listed at the end)

A note from moi: Most “recipes” out there seem to think that whatever dark and stormy liquid that is rendered after 12-15 hours of cold-brewing is a “concentrate” that you dilute to your desired strength each time you serve and drink. I diluted mine to a strength of I-didn’t-dilute. Maybe I’m nuts. Maybe I’m hyper-caffeinated.

makes about 1 quart of cold brew, which, if you treat it as a concentrate, can be mixed with 1 quart of water to make (math time) ½-gallon

Ingredients

1 12-ounce bag of medium-ground coffee (I used Kings Road Café; a 12-ounce bag of grounds was roughly 2½ dry cups)
7 cups filtered water, room temperature or cold

To Serve Cold Brew Coffee:

ice cubes (though I don’t seem so behind on the giant ice cube fad, now do I, hmm?!)
simple syrup
milk or cream

Directions

In a large glass container, combine coffee grounds with 7 cups of water. Stir gently for a few seconds just to combine the coffee grounds with water (sometimes the grounds float, etc). Cover the container with cheesecloth and leave it at room temperature for 15 hours.

Line a large fine-mesh sieve with a few layers of cheesecloth, then place over another glass container. Slowly pour the cold brew over the cheesecloth to strain out the grounds. You can probably stop here, or you can punish yourself and filter the coffee again through something even “finer” like a sieve lined with a paper coffee filter.

(The punishment isn’t that you’re filtering it a second time; it’s that the paper filter takes forever. But hey, you waited this long to make cold brew so what’s the rush anyway?)

Discard the cheesecloth, any filters, and grounds (though I am now going to be exfoliating my face with used coffee grounds).

To serve cold brew, dilute it with additional cold filtered water to desired strength. Serve over ice with simple syrup, milk or cream. I used none of the above because I’m a fucking full-strength boss.

Cold brew will keep in your fridge, covered, for a few days, probably up to a week.

Others:

~ America’s Test Kitchen serves cold brew with salt instead of sugar?
~ Bon Appetit‘s big batch cold brew concentrate
~ Single-serving cold brew by New York Times
~ Sassy Radish’s fine vs. coarse grind for cold brew (in “Update” at bottom)
~ It wouldn’t be hip if it didn’t have its detractors, too

cold brew coffee glasses with simple syrup

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  • Allison

    I have a Toddy, which I use to make cold brew every week. It’s essentially a reservoir plus a thick filter, a rubber stopper and a decanter to do the exact same process which you’ve outlined here. Just wanted to mention that in the instructions for the Toddy, it says that the coffee concentrate can keep in the refrigerator for up to three weeks! That is–if it is in a sealed container (not that anyone could wait that long to finish drinking it!).

    Have you made any iced coffee with Stumptown beans?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=510157676 Sarah J. Gim

      I can’t imagine that even a huge pitcher of cold brew wouldn’t be consumed within days…! Thanks for the confirmation, though!

      No, I haven’t used Stumptown to make iced coffee…To be quite honest, the first (and few subsequent) times I tried Stumptown coffee (brewed and served), I didn’t love it. (In fact, I kind of hated it) Something about the taste/texture just didn’t do it for me. It was worse when I made Stumptown coffee at home. I tried the bottled cold brew just for fun that day, but am not sure I want to shell out $$$ for the grounds/beans to make cold brew given those previous experiences (even tho the bottled cold brew was good)…

      Kings Road Cafe (LA) works pretty well :)

      • Allison

        Thanks for the recommendation! I moved to LA about a month ago, and I’m trying out as many local roasters as I can! I just made a batch yesterday with The Coffee Roaster (Sherman Oaks); I’ll try King’s Road next!

  • coffeelover

    These are some the most beautiful glasses of coffee I’ve ever seen & I seen em all.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=510157676 Sarah J. Gim

      coffeelover: thank you! i got so lucky with the lighting and the ice cubes that day!

  • Ellen

    I love me some cold brew. I drink my coffee cold year round. I like to brew mine with a cinnamon stick sometimes…

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=510157676 Sarah J. Gim

      ellen: cold brew WITH something?! oh the possibilities…

      • Ellen

        Yah! Let me know if you think of other delectable add-ins! Just occurred to me a citrus zest could maybe work…

      • Ellen

        Ok, just did a batch with maybe half a lemon’s worth of lemon peel(just long, pith-less strands, I didn’t zest it) and twas good. Next up:ginger root.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=510157676 Sarah J. Gim

        guessing it has the same sensory effect as that little lemon zest thing that accompanies espresso sometimes…? very curious to hear about what happens with ginger!!!

  • http://www.wristflick.com/ Christina G. Smith

    I was wondering how is a cold brew any better than making a hot one. Letting it get room temperature, or putting it in the fridge? Just using a cafe press to do it all.
    Is there a difference in quality or taste really?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=510157676 Sarah J. Gim

      christina: according to most of the more “scientific” (about coffee ha) articles and blog posts out there that i’ve read, something about room temperature/cold water extracts less acid from the grounds than hot water…the result of cold brewing is supposedly “smoother,” whatever that might mean :) (i have no grounds – oh gawd excuse the pun – for making that claim as i’ve never side-by-side tasted the same coffee grounds brewed with the two different methods…)

  • Kristopher

    I’m a fucking full strength boss is my new motto. Very pithy :). Will have to give this a gander. My coffee usually begins its life in my espresso machine and is not technically “coffee”.

  • bsgbumpersticker

    Great post. Solid recipe. I use a Fridge Barista because it brews, stores and serves all from the one container. And it is cheap. Cold brew is a lot different than brewing hot and then chilling because it changes flavor profile and the bitterness is not there.

  • BParry08

    Great tutorial! I love cold brew coffee from local shops. I will have to try this at home soon.

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  • Naomi

    I spotted Stumptown’s Cold Brew at Eataly in NYC, but since I’m a Montrealer, I’ll continue to pick up cold brew fresh at my fave coffee shops…

    • TheDelicious

      Naomi ~ or make it! :) it is honestly, mostly passive effort of just waiting while it sits and “brews”…

      • Naomi

        I was going to take the lazy route, but you may have just convinced me! :)

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