Summer time. Swimming pools, bbqs, backyards and beaches. It’s synonymous with lemonade and ice cold beer. But for coffee drinkers, summer time means something else that is quite special - cold brew coffee.
Ahhh yes, that smooth, delicious, burst of caffeine that sits so right on a sunny summer afternoon. I mean, really... is there something better than a walk down the beach on a warm morning with a refreshing, invigorating pint of icy cold brew? I can imagine the sound of the ice clinking against the inside of my insulated tumbler as I lift it to my lips. The perfect ratio of water to single origin coffee with just a dab of cream. Smoother yet bolder than a hot cup of filter coffee, lighter and more refreshing than a milky espresso drink.
But what is cold brew coffee? How does cold brew coffee differ from iced coffee? How do you make cold brew coffee? And perhaps most importantly, what sort of coffee should you use to make the best cold brew coffee?
We get you. Time is of the essence, so here is thetoo long, didn’t read summary right up front.
Cold brew coffee is a method of making a room temperature or cold coffee beverage that extracts slowly, delivering a flavorful coffee with a mild acidity and intense caffeination.
Simply put, you can make it by letting ground coffee sit in a cup of room temperature water overnight, but you should probably read that paragraph below for more specific results.
The best coffee to use is something with character. Try a couple different single origin coffees from our collection and decide what flavor profile you like best.
What Is Cold Brew Coffee?
From the research that we’ve done, there is actually a rather time honored history and tradition to cold brew. You can read some lengthy stories about the history of cold brew if it interests you. But, as we know you’d rather be drinking cold brew than reading anachronistic dissertations about sailors and soldiers (or maybe youwould prefer that? Sounds sort of cool.) we’ll just give you the quick and dirty.
Back in the 1600’s, as the story is told, Dutch sailors wanted coffee to take on their trips to Kyoto, Japan. They realized that making a cold brew concentrate and then just adding some hot water to it while they were at sea was the best way to feed their addiction. It’s an oddly similar story to how the IPA beer was created. For that, the English sailors would produce a really strong, hoppy beer that could survive their journey to India. It seems that sailors should get more credit for creating some of the most popular drinks in the world. Apparently much of what we consider a normal, popular drink today was born out of the need to be caffeinated and/or drunk while sailing across the globe a few hundred years ago. But I digress…
So, in one part of the world, this was happening and the Japanese, who were already adept at brewing cold tea (no information available on if they were drinking Arnold Palmers in the 1600s), took what the Dutch had created and used their own knowledge of tea to develop an even better understanding of how to make cold brew coffee.
Meanwhile, as sailors traversed other parts of the globe, cold brew started to popularize across Europe and even in America. Cold brew was an easy way for people living in agrarian towns to keep coffee for a long period of time, just adding hot water to it when they wanted a burst of energy.
Likewise, military commanders realized that cold brew was a perfect potion for their soldiers. It was a high octane caffeine shot that could lift their energy on the battlefield. It was being used in France while fighting for power in Algeria and it was being enjoyed during the Civil War in the United States. Must have been the North that was drinking the coffee, based on the results of the war, but that is not at all based on fact.
So, what is cold brew coffee? It’s nothing complicated at all. Cold brew coffee is simply coffee grounds that have been steeped in room temperature or cold water for around 6-24 hours. That’s it.
What is the Difference Between Cold Brew and Iced Coffee?
This is a simple one and it’s really just in the technique used to brew the coffee. It can be discerned just from the name of each. Cold brew coffee is cold brewed. Iced coffee is coffee that has been iced.
If you want to make an iced coffee, the easiest method is to essentially make a cold Americano. Pour yourself a shot or two of espresso (depending on your preference) and instead of filling the cup with hot water as you would for an Americano, fill the cup with cold water, ice, and cold milk if that’s your thing.
A cold brew is different in that it is never hot. The brewing process ismuch slower and uses room temperature or cold water the entire time. It isn’t just chilling down a cup of coffee, it is actually brewing the coffee in a different way.
What are the Advantages of Cold Brew Coffee?
There are a few advantages of cold brew and all of them will make you excited to start perfecting your cold brew game this summer.
First of all, while it takes a day to make cold brew, opposed to a minute or two to make a cup of hot coffee or espresso, you can very easily make a large batch that will last you all week. For many of us, the so-called “coffee ritual” is a favorite part of our morning routine, but if you’re someone who’d rather have those 10 minute back in your day, you are going to LOVE cold brew.
Just spend 5 minutes on a Saturday afternoon putting the ingredients together in a mason jar, jug, pitcher, whatever you have. Spend another 15 minutes on Sunday afternoon filtering out the coffee grinds. Put a full bottle of your cold brew in the fridge and you’re good to go every day for the week.
Another reason we love cold brew coffee is that it’s strong! Its sort of like having a full pitcher of espresso waiting for you. You can take a quick shot and head out the door or you can dilute it to taste with water and cream. Maybe you like it strong and your boyfriend likes it a bit smoother? You can each create your own ratios when you pour a glass and head outside to read a book.
And finally, a huge advantage of cold brew is that the process removes quite a bit of the natural acidity and bitterness that coffee will have, leaving just a bright, delicious flavor that is refreshing and revealing of the terroir and roasting methods.
How Do You Make Cold Brew Coffee?
Ah yes, the reason that we’re here. You’re almost going to be annoyed when you find out how easy this is. But on the other hand, you’ll be glad you know and you’ll be able to go experiment with different water to coffee ratios as that is the key and is completely subjective, like how spicy you want your Thai food or how much chocolate sauce you want on your ice cream (the answer isso much chocolate sauce).
So here is what you do.
Grind your coffee beans. You’ll want them to be at a medium coarse grind. Probably something just a bit more coarse than you’d use for a pour-over coffee. If you go a bit too coarse, you’ll be fine, but if you go too fine, you’ll have a really hard time straining your coffee and likely end up with a rather silty cold brew - and that is not a good time.
Add water to the ground coffee. This is where experimenting comes in. You’ll add the beans to a container of your choice (think mason jar, pitcher, old lemonade jug). You can use cold water or room temperature water, but the real question is the ratio. We’ve heard anything from 1:4 all the way to 1:8. This means 1 cup of coffee grinds to 4 cups of water all the way to 1 cup of coffee grinds to 8 cups of water. You’ll likely want to play around and see what tastes best to you. Obviously, the less water, the more concentrated the flavor will be. But, that said, if you make a stronger cold brew, you can also add more water, ice, or cream when you are serving it, so it depends on how you plan on drinking it.
Let it rest. This is another place where you can experiment. During this step you can play with both temperature and time. It’s up to you if you want it to rest on your countertop or in your fridge. The colder the coffee is during the process, the longer it will take to extract. Some people let it rest for just 6 hours, while others will say it takes at least 24 hours. Play around with this. See what flavors you find at different points. Supposedly the longer the coffee sits, the more acidity will transfer into the final product, so keep that in mind.
Strain it. The time has come to get those coffee grinds out of the beverage. If you want to do this in the most thorough method possible, we recommend using a fine mesh strainer. Pour the cold brew through the strainer a couple of times. If you don’t have a fine strainer, add some cheese cloth to the mix. Once you’ve done this straining, pour it through a paper filter. This will clear out all the little particles that are left, leaving you with some clean, luxurious, delicious AF cold brew.
Serve it. Drink it straight, mix it with cold water and ice. Mix it with milk or cream. Add some vanilla syrup or orange bitters. Put it to your lips, sips, say “ahhh.”
Here is a video from the good folks at NPR in case you’d rather just watch them explain this for you.
What’s the Best Coffee For Cold Brew?
As I’ve mentioned, cold brew coffee tends to be far less acidic and bitter than your standard hot coffee. Because of this, you really want to work with high quality, single origin coffee. As you likely know, here at Creature Coffee we divide our single origin coffees up by flavor profile. We have oureasy coffees that are more roasty, chocolatey, and nutty and then we have ourplayfulcoffees that are more fruit forward or floral. What do you like? Well, that’s on you. Try one of each and decide for yourself.
One other thing to note, is that some baristas will claim that older coffee beans are better for cold brew, so this can be a great way to use the last 4oz in your bag. Brew up the first ⅔ of your coffee with your Aeropress, pour-over, drip, or espresso, and then make a jug of coldbrew with the rest.
Hopefully this helped you on your way to learning how to make the best cold brew coffee. If you ever have questions, just shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll help you out.
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