I gave up coffee for Lent. Coffee drinkers looked at me with concerned awe when I told them this. In truth, it was not that hard ... at first. I had already started cutting back on the free coffee at the office, which is an abomination unto the Lord, and I'm just frugal enough that the prices at swank coffee shops give me pause about 9 times out of 10. Once in awhile, a coffee aroma would tempt me, but for the most part, I was a coffee-avoidance machine for about three weeks.
Then the unthinkable happened. We had an extremely early spring.
Every moment that I had NOT been craving a steaming cup o' joe was replaced, and doubled, by an insane desire for iced coffee. I love iced coffee any time of year, but not being able to have it on a warm and sunny morning drove me to distraction.
I was giddy the day before Easter, because that meant I could start some cold-brewed coffee, and have it ready the next morning. One can make iced coffee by making hot coffee, and sticking it in the refrigerator, or even pouring it directly over ice. Cold brewing, on the other hand, involves steeping coffee grounds in cold water. Some say it is less bitter than regular brewed coffee. I say it lets me avoid having to remember where I stashed the big coffee pot.
There are almost as many ways to prepare cold brew as there are people who drink it. I sifted through many instructions, and came up with this method that worked with the tools I already had on hand.
Needed: two one-quart measuring cups, a large strainer, two large coffee filters, coffee beans, coffee grinder, a pitcher or other storage container.
- Coarsely grind four ounces of coffee (about 1.5 cups of whole beans). Use a decent quality coffee. It doesn't have to be that $600 monkey poo coffee, but indulge yourself a little bit to get something worthy. If you don't have a grinder, try using two or three of those little one-pot packs. As with all coffee, the fresher, the better.
- Put the coffee in a quart measuring cup.
- Fill the measuring cup with cold water.
- Cover the top of the cup loosely with something -- waxed paper, a towel, anything to keep stuff out.
- Ignore it for twelve hours. After an hour or two, you may want to use a spoon to gently submerge the grounds that are still floating, but that is the only attention it needs.
- Put the large coffee filter in the strainer, and carefully pour the coffee through the strainer into the other measuring cup. I use a size 6 cone filter, but if you can find restaurant-size filters, that would work even better. Let the grounds sit in the strainer long enough that all of the liquid has drained off. Store the coffee, covered, in the refrigerator.
- You could drink the coffee at this point, but I put the grounds back in the brewing cup, fill it up with water again, and let it sit for another twelve hours. It won't look quite as pretty as the first batch, but there is still plenty of coffee flavor lurking in those beans.
- Finish the second batch, same as the first, and add it to the first batch. I end up with 5 to 6 cups of extra-strong coffee.
When you are ready to drink the coffee, mix one part water to one part coffee, and serve over ice. One cup of coffee/water mix, plus ice fills my big travel cup nicely, and fools me into thinking I'm having a lot more coffee than I really am. It's a bargain, too. The Easter coffee came out to about 25 cents per prepared cup -- far, far cheaper than coffee shop coffee, and a quarter well spent if it keeps me away from the office coffee.
You can use this procedure as a jumping off point to create your own personal cold brew method. Use more coffee, or less, when brewing. Make it with decaf for evening drinking. If you have bigger containers, make a bigger batch. If you don't like diluting your coffee with ice cubes, make some "coffee cubes" to add to your coffee. Find whatever works for you,
I usually take my iced coffee straight, but you can fancy it up as you like with milk, sugar, or flavorings. Use it to whip up a frozen concoction in the blender. Some people heat it up in the microwave for hot coffee, but since I specifically want iced coffee so I don't have to drink hot coffee, I cannot vouch for that idea.
If you like coffee, and you like cold beverages, you owe it to yourself to try making your own cold-brewed coffee.