There are few things more refreshing than a cool, caffeine rich sip of cold brew coffee on a hot summer day. With our summer sun out in full force, here's what you need to know to stay refreshed and caffeinated with your very own cold brew coffee this festive season.
When we talk about cold coffee drinks, it's easy to think of drinks blended with crushed ice, lots of whipped cream and loaded with sugary flavoured syrups. A good old fashioned cold brew coffee is however a much more elegant, stylish and refreshing beverage.
What's the difference between cold brew coffee and iced coffee?
Iced coffee is brewed hot and served cold. You chill the hot coffee by pouring it over ice before serving. The process is relatively quick and is often called flash brewing. The result is a cold coffee drink with the full range of flavours of the hot drink.
Cold brew coffee by contrast, is made by steeping ground coffee in cold water for about 12 to 24 hours to create a cold coffee concentrate. The cold brew method swaps heat for time during the extraction process, leaving you with a concentrated rich smooth drink with very little of the acidity and bitterness that gets extracted at the higher temperatures.
How about the caffeine hit?
Cold brew is known for the caffeine punch that it packs. It's made with a high caffeine to water ratio, and the long extraction time means that much more caffeine is extracted than with conventional hot brewing methods. But you end up with a concentrate, that must be diluted with water, milk or ice, which bring the caffeine levels back down. Despite this, your cold brew coffee will generally have a higher caffeine content than a hot brewed coffee.
Can I make cold brew at home?
Yes! And it's easier than you think. But unlike a cup of hot coffee, making a cold brew does require a bit of advance planning. You will need to start preparing at least 12 to 24 hours before you want to drink it. You do however get to prepare a large batch in advance and drink as much you want until your cold brew runs out.
Making cold brew is as easy as combining water and fresh coarsely ground coffee and letting it steep for at least 12 hours. Then strain the ground coffee out, and voila! You have a batch of cold brew coffee. It really is as easy as that!
It is remarkably simple, but can become quite messy too. Thankfully there are a myriad of nifty equipment options available to take the messy bit of this away. Having a cold brew maker makes straining out your coffee so much easier and less messy. I've tested the Eetrite Cold Brew Coffee Pot, available on the Coffee Notes online store. This is a simple, yet ingenious device with a metal filter in the middle. You pour the water through the coffee in the filter, which keeps the coffee separate from the water, but still in contact with the water so you don’t even need to worry about filtering at the end.
Here's my cold brew recipe using the Eetrite Cold Brew Coffee Pot:
You will need:
- 75 grams coarsely ground coffee
- 1.5 litres room temperature water (preferably filtered)
I love using the Honduran Harmony or the Ethiopian Etude in my cold brews. The truth is that your choice of coffee is really a matter of personal preference. I like the lighter or medium roasts for cold brew. You will probably find others who recommend a darker roast. You should experiment and find what works for you. No matter what you choose, you should make sure that you have freshly roasted and ground coffee.
Whether you buy beans and grind them yourself, or pre-ground coffee, be aware that the grind size is really important. You need a coarse grind for cold brew. I use the same grind size as I use in my plunger for a few reasons. I found that a finer grind doesn't allow the water to flow around the coffee, and also tends to clog up the filter. Also, with a finer grind much more of the fine particles get through the filter at the end and result in a sediment in your cold brew giving you a harsh, bitter, over-extracted flavour. The courser grind allows the water to flow freely around the coffee granules, and extract the sweet flavours we look for in a cold brew.
I like using filtered water. Filtered water is going to give your coffee a softer, smoother flavour than if you were to use tap water, and it may even make the coffee just a touch sweeter, too. But if you don't have any filtered water, tap water will do.
Start by placing your ground coffee in the metal filter. I used the Honduran Harmony in this recipe.
Next pour a bit of the room temperature water over the coffee grounds and allow them to bloom. This is a bubbling up of carbon dioxide when freshly roasted coffee is brewed. Giving your coffee a half minute to bloom, depending on how recently it was roasted, will enhance its flavors.
Finally pour in the remainder of the water until the cold brew pot is full and give the grind a gentle stir to make sure that all the coffee grounds have been wet.
Cover the coffee pot and allow the mixture to steep for at least 12 to 24 hours. I have found that I get the best results after about 16 to 18 hours. Anything more than 24 hours results in the bitter flavours being extracted. You can leave your cold brew to steep at room temperature or in the refrigerator. I've tried both, and prefer the fridge because I get a ready chilled drink at the end.
After 24 hours just lift out the metal filter with the coffee ground and your cold brew coffee concentrate is ready. As an optional step, you can do a second filter through a paper filter. this removes the finest of suspended coffee particles in your cold brew concentrate, and leaves you with an even smoother result. I use a V60 paper filter to improvise this step. It does take patience though, as filtering through paper is slow. I recommend doing this some time before you actually need to serve your cold brew.
Dilute approximately 1:1 before you serve. Taste your cold brew as you dilute, and adjust this ratio to make sure you don't make your brew too weak. If you're using ice, take that into account as that will also dilute your cold brew as it melts.
What can I do with cold brew coffee?
Your imagination is your only limit with what you can do with cold brew coffee. It's a smooth versatile drink, and because you end up with a concentrate, you have a lot of flexibility in how you serve your cold brew. The best part about making cold brew in large batches is that you can store it in the fridge for about two weeks.
Serve as a cold coffee drink
Serve your cold brew on ice as a coffee drink, either black (diluted with water) or with milk. Because of the low acidity and smooth, sweet mouthfeel, people who usually like milk with their coffee can enjoy their cold brew black.
It's simple, refreshing and the smooth sweet mouthfeel will have your guests fall in love with your cold brew.
Cold brew and tonic
Add a bit of tang to your cold brew with some tonic water. Or if you're not into tonic, try soda water and add some muddled mint leaves to the bottom of the glass.
Coffee iced lollies
Pour some cold brew mixed with milk into iced lollie moulds and place them in the freezer for a cool snack that will give you a spring in your step.
Cold brew Mocktails and Cocktails
This is where you can get really creative with your cold brew balancing sweet, sour, spices and spirits to craft drinks that will add a whole new dimension to your festive cheer. Try Gin and Tonic with a dash of cold brew.
Not just Iced Coffee!!
Cold brew is incredible - it's more than just iced coffee. There’s still so much more to enjoy about cold brew if you're willing to think outside the box and get a bit creative. What’s your favourite way to get creative with cold brew coffee? Share your favourite recipe in the comments below!