Ever wonder why iced coffee at a gourmet java joint costs more than a hot cup of joe? Coffee connoisseurs will gladly inform you that it's because this liquid gold is cold-brewed, which means it requires more grounds and much more time than hot coffee. True to its name, the cold-brewing process starts and finishes with cold or room temperature water. Brancey Mora of the esteemed Blue Bottle Coffee gave us her company's recipes and tips on making the perfect brew.
"Cold-brewed coffee uses a higher ratio of coffee grounds to water and it’s left alone for about 10 to 12 hours to brew," says Mora. "When you make hot coffee it only takes two to three minutes, so colder coffee comes out a little more concentrated and has a higher caffeine content. It's also less acidic, which makes it more sweet." Mora says Blue Bottle baristas use 5 to 10-gallon buckets to make their iced coffee, but cold-brew aficionados can still replicate the results at home, albeit on a smaller scale.
Mora recommends using the Toddy Cold Brew Coffee Maker, though you can also make cold-brewed coffee at home with a French press. "I think the Toddy is a little bit cleaner tasting," she explains. "You get a better sense of the flavors of the coffee. With a French press, you taste more of the coffee oil and it's going to be a little darker-tasting as a result. The Toddy method is cleaner because it actually uses a filter."
One of the biggest mistakes home-brewers make? "They grind their coffee too fine," she says. "You want to err on grinding it to be coarse in order for the coffee to extract at maximum capacity. It'll be easier to strain and it won't come out so concentrated - it will be a middle ground to being super flavorful and punchy and not over-extracted." Mora even gave us Blue Bottle's recipe for their signature New Orleans iced coffee that adds chicory and sweetener to their cold-brewed cup.
French press cold-brewed coffee
- 1/3 cup (or 80 grams) of coarsely ground coffee
- Water (fill the French press)
1. Combine coffee and water in the French press and put the lid on. Don't press down the plunger!
2. Leave the French press to sit, either in the fridge or on the counter overnight or for 10 to 12 hours. The longer the coffee is left to brew, the stronger and more concentrated it will be.
3. When it's ready, press down on the plunger and serve.
New Orleans iced coffee
- 1 pound of coarsely ground coffee
- 1.5 ounces roasted chicory
- 2.5 quarts filtered, cold water
- 3 ounces simple syrup
1. Add the grounds and 1.5 oz. of roasted chicory to a large stockpot.
2. Pour water into the stockpot. Give the contents a few gentle stirs with a wooden spoon, so that all the grounds are visibly immersed.
3. Cover the stockpot. Let its contents steep for 12 hours at room temperature.
4. After the coffee's steeped, pour it through a fine-grained mesh sieve. Straining is easier if you first break the coffee crust with a wooden spoon. In terms of yield, look for about 4-5 cups of concentrate. As unappetizing as it may sound, the concentrate should resemble used motor oil.
5. Add simple syrup to your concentrate and incorporate it thoroughly with a wooden spoon.
6. Serve over ice, and add milk to taste. The concentrate/milk ratio should be roughly equal. Unsweetened concentrate will last for 5-7 days. Once sweetened, it will only last for 1-2 days. Once you add milk, hustle up – it’s only excellent for an hour or so.
Cold-brewed coffee (Toddy method)
- 1 pound of coarsely ground coffee
- 2 liters of water
1. Unfold your filter and place it in the Toddy. It will be a bit of a loose fit, so be sure to secure it evenly and fold it where necessary.
2. Add your coffee to the Toddy, then give it a few shakes to level the bed.
3. Pour your water over the grounds – carefully, of course – in a series of concentric circles.
4. Submerge the grounds with a butter knife or bamboo paddle.
5. Position the plastic disc filter atop the filter, then place the plastic top component on top of that. It's possible to add the water through this top part, but we've gotten better results by pouring directly on. In this case, the top component will just serve to keep any errant materials out of your coffee. Let steep for 12 hours.
6. Here’s where you’ll need a friend. Carefully position the Toddy over your carafe and swiftly pull out the rubber stopper. Often, you have a couple of seconds before the flow of coffee begins.
7. Serve over ice. Enjoy.
Learn more about preparing great coffee on Blue Bottle Coffee's website.
Follow Andrea Park on Twitter: @andreapark