Cold brew coffee originated in Japan, but has become a hit in many countries where scorching weather makes you think twice about getting your caffeine fix from a hot drink! Iced Coffee was the precursor to cold brew, and was produced by simply pouring an espresso-based cup of hot-brewed coffee over ice cubes; the resultant drink was an insipid and often rather bitter and disappointing imitation of coffee!
Iced Coffee versus genuine Cold Brew Coffee
Coffee beans used for genuine cold brewed coffee are never subjected to heat, which minimizes the acidity of the drink. The resultant brew is naturally more sweet and full of delicate flavors and aromas as a result of the slow brewing process, which generally takes from 12 – 24 hours. Since little dilution occurs, you get a full-bodied and fragrant drink, showcasing the natural characteristics of the particular coffee beans you have chosen.
How to make the perfect cup of Cold Brew Coffee in just 5 steps
Assembling the necessary equipment.
- 1 large bowl – preferably porcelain or glass, neither of which will influence the flavour of your coffee
- A glass jug or pitcher to store the end product
- A large sieve
- A sheet of cheesecloth (a roll of plain paper towel will also work)
- A coffee bean grinder
- Ice cubes
1 Preparing the coffee beans
It is really important to prepare your coffee beans correctly in order to extract every last little bit of flavor. Set your coffee grinder to its most course setting and do a trial batch to check the texture. What you need is a consistency similar to bread crumbs – a finer grind will lead to a cloudy and grainy-tasting coffee.
The amount of coffee you use will depend on personal preference; a good starting point is to measure out 1/2 cup of ground beans for 4 cups of water- roughly 8 parts water to 1 part coffee.
Freshly ground beans always give the best results, but you can also purchase packs of ground coffee beans made specifically for brewing fresh iced coffee.
2 The soaking process
Place your ground beans into a bowl that will be large enough to hold the amount of water you have decided to use (no lid is required). If you are using a French Press, add the grounds directly to your press. In addition to mixing the water and ground beans in a bowl or using a French, you can also use an iced coffee maker which consists of a pitcher combined with a filter to soak the grounded beans. Now gradually add the water in a thin stream and stir gently to ensure all the grounds are thoroughly incorporated. Cover your container with cheesecloth or place the top on your cafetiere, BUT DO NOT PRESS DOWN THE PLUNGER!
3 The waiting process
This is generally the hardest part about making cold brew! The grounds need to steep for at least 12 hours, although 18 or even 24 hours is acceptable. You simply cannot rush this step without seriously compromising your end product, so be patient and have an espresso in the meantime! Leave your bowl of brew at room temperature while your coffee soaks.
4 Straining your cold brew coffee
When you are ready to drink your cold brew, line a large sieve with clean cheesecloth (or paper towel). Place the sieve over your jug and pour the coffee into the sieve. Allow it to drip through until only the grounds are left in the sieve. This process can be repeated if you like, using a fresh layer of cheesecloth in your sieve each time.
If you are using a French Press, NOW is the time to gently press down the plunger!
5Serving your cold brew coffee
Discard the used coffee grounds and cheesecloth. At this point your cold brew coffee is ready to be enjoyed. You can serve undiluted over some ice cubes, or dilute it a little with water or milk, according to your preferences. Some people may like to sweeten it a little, but it's worth trying without a sweetener – you will be amazed at the subtle natural sweetness this brewing method brings to your coffee.
6Refine & Enjoy!
You may have to experiment a little to get the strength of the coffee exactly as you want it. You also need to remember that the long brewing process not only intensifies the flavor and fragrance of the coffee, but also extracts more caffeine than would be the case with hot water brewing – you can expect a more potent buzz than usual!
Your cold brew coffee will keep for up to two weeks in a covered container in the refrigerator. Try adding a little of the brew to your favorite liquor and serving it over vanilla ice cream for a delicious Italian-style Affogato.