Brew Yourself A Cold One
Rabbit Season? Nope. Duck Season? Not Even Close.
It's May. This month means many things to many people, but the very most important thing it means is this: it's cold brew season!
What is cold brew? Well, it's coffee. Brewed with cold water instead of hot. Have you ever had sun tea? Tea bags, glass jug, summer sunshine and time, all combining to create a smooth flavorful brew quite unlike hot brewed tea. (For a great science-y take on sun brew, and why you should actually brew it in the fridge, see this article).
Cold brewed coffee is the same (except better, of course, because it's coffee). The cold brew process does not extract as much of the acidic and bittering agents that the hot process does, resulting in a smooth cup that really shows off the delicate toffee and floral notes which can be volatile or become masked in a standard hot brew. This can also be of great benefit to anyone on a low-acid diet. Cold brewing may let you bring the magical beverage back into your days. On the other hand, it probably won't have that crisp acidity you get from a great cup of hot brewed coffee. Iced coffee, brewed hot and then chilled, will taste quite different from a cup of iced coffee brewed cold. Both results are wonderful, just in different ways.
How is cold brew made? All you need is a lot of coarse ground coffee and water, and a way to filter the grounds out from the final brew. This can be done on a smaller scale in mason jars or a French press, with a filter bag. Here is a neat bit about making a reusable coffee filter bag.
Not being a sewing maven, I use a nifty little gadget called a Toddy to make my cold brew. It consists of a glass pitcher, a coffee-holding receptacle, a filter, and a stopper. Grounds and water go in the top, where it steeps for 12-18 hours. I usually end up going close to a full day because I can never start making the coffee at a decent hour. You can do this on the countertop, or in the fridge. I tend to stick it in the refrigerator, to start the chilling process. I haven't noticed any difference in the results at room temperature or in the fridge, except that your concentrate is already nice and chilled if you steep it in the fridge. When the time is up, just pull the plug and watch the coffee percolate its way into the pitcher.
What you have now is pretty concentrated coffee. It can be diluted to your taste with hot or cold water. The Toddy folks suggest you start with a ratio of 1 part coffee to 2-3 parts water (or milk). Then just add more as you like. Over ice, it makes a very refreshing summer sipper; with steaming hot water it's a smooth and low-acid cup of joe. The concentrate will stay fresh for up to two weeks in the fridge.
At Night Owl, we've found the Guatemala Bella Carmona seems to express the best flavor overall for cold brew, but it's fun to test out other varieties to see the difference. If you're prepared to go out on a limb, the Ethiopia Yirgacheffe with its wild fruitiness is quite nice as well. When pouring over ice, fresher is better. In many cases, you'll notice that store-bought ice tastes better than what you have in your freezer. Old, freezer-burnt ice or ice made from harder, unfiltered water can really bring a stale flavor to your drink.
If you want to try some interesting drink and food recipes using cold brew, check out this link.
Branch out this summer and try some cold brew. You'll find Blake and Joe pouring it out at the King Market on Sundays from 10 to 2, or grab a Toddy or a mason jar and try making your own. Check out the online store: we've just added a cold brew starter kit which includes a bag of coffee!