Cold brewing coffee

Tamara pointed out an obvious error in the previous post on iced coffee: I didn’t tell anyone how to cold brew. See, I’ve mentioned it before and so thought I didn’t need to do it. I know better, so let me make amends with this short(er) post.

The basic of so-called cold brew is to steep grounds in water at room temperature for an extended period of time. Extended as in at least eight and up to sixteen hours. The usual guide is “overnight”, though I tended to start it in the morning and finish as an evening chore. Because of this time and the effort to finish the usual recommendation is to make a somewhat large quantity of coffee and keep it in the refrigerator. The nominal estimate is that it will keep for two weeks without developing problems. I suggest that if your sense of taste is sensitive you want to finish it within a week.

As I said, you put grounds and water into a container. Till you get it tweaked to your taste the starting measures are five pounds of water per pound of grounds. That’s 10 cups of water for a pound of grounds. I’ve made batches with as small as a quarter pound of coffee with 2 1/2 cups of water. It depends on the container you’re using.

See, the finish gets to be “fun”. You want to strain the grounds from the liquid, and most of us don’t have the ability to easily handle the six pounds plus container over the several minutes it takes to drain.

If you’ve got it, the easiest way to do this is to use a colander or strainer that can be stood or suspended, line it with cheesecloth, put it in a large bowl, and dump the whole coffee mess into it. Let it drain some, then lift and suspend the colander/strainer so it can continue to filter out. You’ll get about 80 percent of the liquid this way — roughly eight of the ten cups. If you want to get more you need to press the grounds. You’re only going to get ten to fifteen percent more (one to one and a half cups on a pound of coffee), but that last pressing will bring some extra flavor so it’s worth it if you can manage.

This liquid is stronger than you get from a regular brew. However, if you haven’t tried cold brew it’ll fool you if you just drink it because it’s missing many of the acids you’ve learned to use as cues to strength. Comparison time.

A pound of coffee is about 60 tablespoons of coffee. The usually recommended mix for hot brewing is two tablespoons per six ounces (3/4 cup) of water. In other words you’ll get a bit over twice as much liquid (22.5 cups) from hot brewing as you will from cold brewing.

If you want to heat the cold-brew, add it to approximately the same amount of very hot (boiling) water. You can also mix it equally and heat it (stove or microwave), though you do get a bit of bitter from that method.

For iced coffee, you’re just going to add the liquid to ice. As the ice melts it’ll dilute the coffee. Depending on your taste and how much ice you use you might want to add a little water up front.

That’s it. Again, the advantage is the weakness. Cold brewed coffee is missing some of the acids and bitter oils brought out by hot water. Some people prefer that, others prefer keeping them. Rule four (Your taste is right for you.)

Have fun.


2 thoughts on “Cold brewing coffee

    • You’re welcome.

      I should have pointed out that a pint of water is a pound of water. I also should have pointed out that for the brewing container, something with a lid works better than just an open bowl. On the other hand I’ve used a large open pitcher. It’s just that the open top allows evaporation and, given enough time, wild bacteria to come into play. That means you lose a bit more liquid and the top layer of grounds can dry up a bit, and you can pick up just a bit of mold if you’re over 12 hours on the brew. Mold in this case is not a good flavor.

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