Putting Cold Brew Coffee to the Test

After hearing the segment on NPR’s Fresh Air, I finally was motivated enough to get in on the cold brew coffee fad. What is all the hype about? Just as the name implies, it is coffee brewed with cold (or room temperature) water over a long period of time. It takes at least 12 hours. Apparently, cold brew coffee is lower in acid and therefore tastes sweeter. Hot water extracts the acrid bitterness from the beans. Cool water allows the flavors to settle and leach slowly without shocking them and covering up the subtler flavors with burnt bitterness.

Here are a few variations and what I recommend on that matter. Generally heavy coffee drinkers go for a 1:1 ratio by volume to achieve a concentrate. After brewing, the concentrate is again diluted by 1 more part water (totaling 2:1 water to coffee grounds). Go with this if you like your coffee cowboy style. For the occasional coffee drinker I say start out with a ratio of at least 3:1 water to grounds, brewed 24 hours. I don’t drink coffee every day, I might have it twice a week at most. Here’s why…

In highschool, I was the epitome of the junk-food vegetarian. Along with a slew of caffeinated soft drinks, I also had a 12 cup pot of coffee every day. By undergrad, I cut that down to 2 cups a day. Seriously addicted, if I didn’t have my first cup by 8 am—I’d get a migraine. Later, I got really really sick. I was bed ridden for a week and didn’t have any coffee. I was weaned without trying and don’t plan on ever going back. Now when I drink a lot of coffee to stay up and work on something, like when I did my grad work, I get a severe hangover. So, I drink it as a culinary enjoyment. I’m in no way caffeine free, instead I do a british cuppa everyday.

Back to the cold brew—I feel that a fine grind is better, allows for a better extraction. Another blogger recommends brewing with a few sprigs of mint to bring out the fruitiness of a cold brew, which I’ll try next time and share the results.

 Cold Brewed Coffee (12 oz concentrate or very strong coffee)

12 oz room temperature water (my french press only holds 12 oz) 
1/4 cup fine ground coffee beans (1/2 cup for a concentrate)

Put the grounds into your french press and pour the water over. Stir to distribute the grounds and keep everything from floating to the top. Cover. I set my press lid on top, with the plunger up. Allow to brew on the counter or in the fridge for at least 12-16 hours or over 24.

Plunge with the press and pour through a coffee filter or fine mesh strainer. I only had about a tsp of silt left after the french press. Not sure if it’s necessary, depends on how picky you are about coffee grounds. Pour over ice and add nondairy milk or water to taste. Add a dash of salt instead of sugar, as it will bring out the natural sweetness of the cold brewed coffee.

I found it did taste sweeter, something you might find in very dark chocolate. Some say there are flavors of vanilla, but I thought it was rather nutty than anything else. Not sure if I drink enough coffee to feel sold on the matter. We’ll have Monkey Man and his sensitive tummy test it on the acid level. In the meantime, give it a try and tell me what you think!


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