It wasn't all that long ago that cold coffee was something you only drank if your mug of joe sat out too long. I remember thinking the corporate powers had found another way to up-sell what was previously thought to be unsellable, like they did with bottled water and canned air.
But iced coffee isn't just for girls with giant goggle sunglasses who don't like “real” coffee. It's a separate, delicious entity, the way English Breakfast isn't compared to the best sweet tea of the South.
Iced coffee is a refreshing option when you're looking for something a little heavier than iced tea and less salt and sugar than a soda. A hot, black coffee drinker myself, I find if I need an afternoon pick-me-up I much prefer something like an iced mocha instead of my thick, rich dark roast I drink to open my eyes in the morning.
But if you've ever tried to make iced coffee yourself by using the leftovers in the coffeemaker, you realized it doesn't taste the same as when you order it at a coffee shop.
The reason is surprisingly simple: You can't make iced coffee with regular coffee because it's too watered down.
If you notice, when you order an iced coffee the barista doesn't fill a cup up with ice and pour their hot java over the top, they use coffee that's in a separate container. That coffee has been brewed with a different method that yields more concentrated, and less bitter joe.
That process is known as Cold Brewing, and it's incredibly simple to do at home without any fancy gadgets.
Not only is the coffee more concentrated, it's sweeter and less acidic as well, since no hot water is used in the process.
In a nutshell, cold brewing is steeping ground coffee directly in cold water overnight, then straining.
To start, you're going to need:
- coffee, a dark roast works best
- a container to steep
- a container to pour the strained coffee into
- a filtering apparatus: a paper coffee filter, French Press, a fine mesh strainer, nut milk bag, cheesecloth, etc.
When cold brewing, use 1 cup of coffee for every 3 cups of water. How much you make is up to you.
Step 1: Get yo' coffee in the container
I reuse a gallon water jug to brew my coffee, but if you have a regular pitcher, say one you would use to make iced tea or lemonade, it may be easier to get the beans in.
If you're starting with whole beans, grind them to the course consistency you might use for a French Press. I use a funnel to get the coffee in my jug, but if you're using a pitcher just dump it in.
Step 2: Add Cold Water
Using cold water reduces bitterness and acidity, and allows the flavor notes of the coffee to come through. Add your water to your ground coffee. Shake it up so all of the grounds are saturated.
Step 3: Wait.
Let the water-coffee mixture sit on the counter overnight, for at least 12 hours. Some coffeephiles insist on brewing for up to 24 hours.
Step 4: Strain
After brewing is finished, I like to give the jug a good shake again. Grab whatever straining instrument you have and strain the coffee into your second pitcher. I like to use a glass carafe that I bought at Ikea for $4. Some folks like a two stage filtering process, one to strain the grounds, then they use a paper coffee filter to reduce silt. I skip that step.
Step 5: Chill
You're ready to go! You can start drinking now, or better yet you should chill it in the refrigerator. Full honesty: everyone says to brew at room temperature, but I always just do it in the refrigerator so that it's cold and ready after the 12 hours are up, but that might be heresy.
Total prep time, not including steeping, about 5 minutes.
How to Drink Your Iced Coffee
Remember, the cold brewed coffee is a concentrate, so we need to mix something with it to drink it. I always make iced lattes, that is, coffee and milk, but more specifically iced mochas – coffee, milk, and chocolate.
There are certainly folks out there who add water and ice to their cold brewed coffee and drink it like that, but I ain't one of 'em.
For an iced coffee experience that rivals any cafe give the following a try.
Fill a glass with ice. Pour in the cold brewed coffee until 1/3rd to 1/2 of the glass is filled. Now, fill the rest of the glass with store-bought chocolate milk. I like to give the chocolate milk jug a good hearty shake beforehand so it gets nice and frothy.
Now marvel at your delicious looking coffee swirls in the chocolate.