Lazy Cold Brew Concentrate
Coffee. Is. Vital. I don't know what it is lately, but my need for caffeine seems to have doubled in the past month. I can't quite put my finger on why, either. I finally get plenty of sleep with minimal interruption by the kid (bless him), and I usually start the day with a small cup of coffee anyway. Should be enough, right?
Wrong. Maybe it's that I'm making the final lap towards 30, or that standing for hours in the kitchen every day is finally taking it's toll. Or maybe we can no longer ignore the fact that our mattress has reached its expiration date and impeding restful sleep. As soon as we're both in bed, we start rolling towards the center of the mattress, and I'm constantly fighting gravity to stay on my side. Whatever the reason, the fact is that I've been hitting caffeine hard lately. But it's been too hot and muggy during these last summer days for warm drinks, and my favorite coffee shops aren't within walking distance. So I've decided to whip up my own cold brew out of desperation.
There are several different methods for making cold brew. Some brewers will slowly drip water over coffee grounds for hours at a time, carefully extracting as much caffeine as possible while leaving a clean, crisp taste (almost like tea). Others will brew coffee directly over ice as a sort of "flash-chilling" technique. And then there's me. I'm lazy. I'll put hours of painstaking work into a pastry but, and don't ask me why, I will never labor over coffee. The five minutes it takes to pull an espresso shot and steam some milk is as much effort as I'm willing to spend. So my method for cold brew reflects my laziness. I'll admit now that it creates a sort of "dirty" brew - thick and dark, which cries out for dilution. But that's why it's a concentrate. I can add as much liquid as I like to it to get just the right flavor, and it doesn't take up as much space in my fridge.
My process is simple. I just coarsely grind the coffee, steep it for 12-15 hours in a large container, the filter it a few times with increasingly fine stainers. The first filter I use is a fine mesh sieve, which removes the bulk of the large coffee grounds. Next, I squeeze the remaining liquid out of the discarded grounds through a few layers of cheesecloth. That way, I don't waste the fair bit of coffee that's still trapped between the grounds. Finally, I filter all of the liquid one more time, which can be done one of two different ways. If you have a French press, using it will save you lots of time and trash. But if not, you can strain the coffee through paper filters set over a sieve or funnel. The concentrate will still be fairly thick at this point (almost like Turkish coffee), so using paper filters will be a very slow process. They will need frequent replacing as they'll get clogged up with fine-grained sludge. But if you have the patience, this method will give you a cleaner result.
When you're done, just chill the concentrate, then dilute it with at least equal parts water or milk, to your liking. That's it. It may not be fancy, and it may not be as crisp and clean as the cold brew you'll find at a third wave shop. But it's mine, and I don't have to juggle a stroller, car seat, and diaper bag to go get it.
Lazy Cold Brew Concentrate
Adapted from Bon Appétit
Yields approximately 5 cups (1.2 liters) of concentrate, which should be diluted with at least equal parts water or milk
Total time: 12-15 hours
12 oz coffee, ground very coarsely (the "French press" setting will work)
7 C (approx. 1.6 liters) water
1 large jar or container (at least 64 ounces, 2 liters)
2 large mixing bowls
Fine mesh sieve
Large coffee filters OR a French press
If you bought whole beans, coarsely grind your coffee of choice on the highest setting. Then pour the grounds into a large jar or container. Add the water and stir to combine. Place a lid on the jar and let it sit in a cool place for 12 to 15 hours. Stir it a couple of times while it steeps.
After steeping, cut two squares of cheesecloth, about a square foot each, and lay them on top of each other draped over a large mixing bowl. Swirl, then strain the coffee into another mixing bowl through a fine mesh sieve, then dump the remaining grounds on top of the cheesecloth. Tie up the cloth and twist it tightly, then squeeze as much of the liquid out as possible into the mixing bowl. Combine this liquid with the previously strained coffee. Wash your jar from the day before - you'll need it to store the final concentrate. Next, choose one of the following two options.
- Pour the coffee into a French press and allow it to settle for a few minutes. Then press the plunger down all the way and pour off the filtered coffee. You may have to do this in stages if your French press can't hold all of the coffee at once. Once filtered, pour the cold brew concentrate into your jar.
- Or, place a paper coffee filter inside of a funnel or mesh sieve, then place that over the jar or another mixing bowl (depending on what fits best). Pour in enough coffee to nearly fill the paper filter, then wait for the coffee to strain through it. This will take a while, and you may need to stir it to dislodge the sludge. Once the paper filter is too clogged to be useful, pour any remaining unfiltered coffee into the rest, change out the filter, and start again. Eventually, you will have gone through a stack of filters, but at least you'll have a jar full of clean cold brew. :)
Once fully filtered, store your concentrate in a jar and refrigerate. It will last for up to two weeks. When you're ready for a glass, dilute it with at least equal parts ice water or milk, and sweeten it with syrup (dry sugar won't easily dissolve in cold coffee). Enjoy!