The Cold-Brew Method

Posted by William Mowen on

Cold-brew has brought a lot of excitement to the coffee industry. It has grown tremendously in recent years and for good reason. Although the term "cold brew" is used interchangeably with "ice coffee," there are some distinct differences in them.

Brewing Approach

In short, ice coffee is coffee that has been brewed hot and chilled in the refrigerator or with ice. The result is usually higher acidity, more difficulty on the stomach, and a generally thinner taste. 

Cold brew is steeped at room temperature or in the refrigerator for anywhere from 12-48 hours, strained to remove grounds, usually diluted (some methods can yield a concentrate), and then served with or without ice. Some will even warm the coffee or drink at room temperature. The result is a smooth and chocolatey beverage, lower acidity, and generally easier on the stomach (although it can lead some to rush to the restroom due to its concentrated nature). 

Which Is Better: Cold-Brew or Ice Coffee?

No one can objectively state which is better. Coffee is highly subjective, just as is the brewing method. Some may prefer cold brew and some may prefer ice coffee. It is important to consume both to compare and assess which you enjoy, just as with any brewing method. 

 

Cold-Brew Approaches

We're going to briefly cover two brewing approaches that we have found use common items in homes and are the easiest and cheapest methods for you to make at home:

1. Coffee Sock

The coffee sock is our personal favorite. The equipment is low-cost, produces little mess and is very easy to make and clean up. 

2. French Press

The French Press is also a personal favorite for at-home brewers, with a few minor downsides. Due to having a mesh filter, the french press can leave more coffee solids in your cold brew. The major upside is that cleaning is very easy and the brewing overall is quite straight-forward.    

 

COFFEE SOCK METHOD

Items Needed

1. Large vessel

You can also use a large mixing bowl (not recommended as they are difficult to pour liquid out of), the carafe from an auto-drip coffeemaker (vessel that the coffee brews into), or a dispenser water jug. 

2. Coffee sock

These are cotton filters, similar to a cheese cloth. They are cheap and very convenient for cold brew. You can purchase these for less than $15.00 on Amazon

3. Water

If you only have chemical-treated water available from your faucet, we recommend picking up a $0.75 gallon jug from the grocery store, spring water or filtered water. The chemical-treated water will alter the cold-brews taste, regardless of the quality of the coffee used. 

4. Fresh ground coffee

Some argue over which type of coffee to use, such as roast level or coffee type. We have made great cold brew with a medium roast Kenyan Bourbon, a dark roast Sumatran, a light roast Ethiopian, etc. We recommend trying some different coffees or your favorite coffees to see what you enjoy most. 
In General: Preferably grind prior to brewing using a coarse grind. The fresher, the better. Try to use a coffee that has been roasted anywhere from 2 days to 1 month. 

5. Measuring spoons 

6. Stirrer

You can use a butter knife, a spoon, ladle, etc. Any kitchen utensil that will not damage your french press and that is tall enough to reach the bottom of your French Press to stir the grounds.

 

Optional & Recommended:

7. Food scale, alternative to measuring spoons

This will allow for a more accurate brew and altering of your ratios to dial in your preferred ratios. 

 

Instructions

1. Measure your coffee and place into the filter

Shown: 100g grounds

As a starting point, we recommend a 1:10 (100g of coffee per 1000g/1L of water) or 1:8 (100g of coffee per 800g/800ml of water) ratio.

If the coffee comes out too strong for your preference, you can dilute it with ice or water until you reach your desired strength. 1 Tablespoon of coffee is equivalent to roughly 7g. If you don't have a kitchen scale, we recommend using this as a guide. 

2. Place the filter into your vessel of choice and pour water over the grounds

 Shown: 100g grounds, 1000g/1L water (1:10 ratio)

Make sure that all of the grounds are fully immersed, either by stirring the grounds or by shaking/moving the grounds like you would a tea bag. Note: we recommend measuring your water, either with a kitchen scale or with a measuring cup. Adding the filter and grounds to the vessel will also decrease the potential water capacity. So your 32oz mason jar may only be able to hold 24oz of water. 

3. Cover and steep for 24 hours, either in the fridge or on the counter (use caution)

We recommend a minimum of 24 hours of steeping time. Upwards of 48 hours can make the coffee more sour in taste. Less than 24 hours can lead to an under-steeped cup. 
We recommend steeping in the refrigerator. We have steeped on the counter as well but this method has a higher likelihood of souring, becoming contaminated, or potentially molding (not common, but mentioned as a precaution). 

4. Remove filter and strain the remaining coffee

Remove the bag and squeeze the remaining coffee with your hands into the container. This will strain the remaining coffee soaked in the grounds/bag into the container and reduce dripping from the bag as you remove it. 

5. Clean

Turn the bag inside out, remove the grounds either in the trash or into a container for compost, and rinse the bag with warm water. Air dry the bag then reuse. 

6. Dilute, if needed, and chill

Your brewing is complete! You can dilute the cold brew if needed and pair it with your favorite additives (ice, cream, sugar, etc). Cold brew alone is quite smooth and enjoyable. Try it without adding anything prior to see what it's like!

 

FRENCH PRESS METHOD

Items Needed 

1. French Press

You can purchase a cheap French Press on Amazon for around $15.00-$20.00. We DO NOT recommend buying an expensive model. Cheaper models tend to yield the same quality brew and, if you need to replace it at some point, it won't break the bank. But we recommend purchasing one you enjoy!

 

2. Water

If you only have chemical-treated water available from your faucet, we recommend picking up a $0.75 gallon jug from the grocery store, spring water or filtered water. The chemical-treated water will alter the cold-brews taste, regardless of the quality of the coffee used. 

3. Fresh ground coffee

Some argue over which type of coffee to use, such as roast level or coffee type. We have made great cold brew with a medium roast Kenyan Bourbon, a dark roast Sumatran, a light roast Ethiopian, etc. We recommend trying some different coffees or your favorite coffees to see what you enjoy most. 
In General: Preferably grind prior to brewing using a coarse grind. The fresher, the better. Try to use a coffee that has been roasted anywhere from 2 days to 1 month. 

5. Measuring spoons

If you don't have a kitchen scale, you can use measuring spoons to estimate the weight of your coffee. A compact 1Tbsp will yield roughly 7g of coffee. Shown is us measuring coffee is a measuring cup to show what a typical Cup will yield.  

6. Stirrer

You can use a butter knife, a spoon, ladle, etc. Any kitchen utensil that will not damage your french press and that is tall enough to reach the bottom of your French Press to stir the grounds. 

 

Optional & Recommended:

7. Food scale

The alternative to measuring spoons. This will allow for a more accurate brew and altering of your ratios to dial in your preferred ratios. 

 

Instructions

1. Measure your coffee (course grind) and place into the French Press

Ratios: As a starting point, we recommend a 1:10 (100g of coffee per 1000g/1L of water) or 1:8 (100g of coffee per 800g/800ml of water) ratio (shown).

If the coffee comes out too strong for your preference, you can dilute it with ice or water until you reach your desired strength. 1 Tablespoon of coffee is equivalent to roughly 7g. If you don't have a kitchen scale, we recommend using this as a guide. 

2. Pour water over the grounds, fully immersing all of the grounds, and stir

Make sure that all of the grounds are fully immersed, either by stirring the grounds.

Note: we recommend measuring your water, either with a kitchen scale or with a measuring cup. Adding coffee to your French Press will also decrease the volume available for your water.  A 32oz French Press should still be able to hold about 4Cups of water.

3. Cover and steep for 24 hours, either in the fridge or on the counter (use caution)

We recommend a minimum of 24 hours of steeping time. Upwards of 48 hours can make the coffee more sour in taste. Less than 24 hours can lead to an under-steeped cup. 
We recommend steeping in the refrigerator. We have steeped on the counter as well but this method has a higher likelihood of souring, becoming contaminated, or potentially molding (not common, but mentioned as a precaution). 

4. Strain the coffee and pour into a holding vessel, such as a mason jar

After pressing the coffee grounds to the bottom of the french press, pour the coffee into a holding vessel, such as a mason jar. You will not want to keep it in the french press with the grounds as contact with the grounds will allow the cold brew to continue to brew. Mason jars are cheap and easy to use.

5. Clean

After straining and removing the cold brew to another container, remove the press/filter and discard the grounds into a bucket for compost or into the trash. Don't wash these down the kitchen drain; this can cause clogging. You may have to use a spoon to remove the coffee from the bottom.   

6. Dilute, if needed, and chill

Your brewing is complete! You can dilute the cold brew if needed and pair it with your favorite additives (ice, cream, sugar, etc). Cold brew alone is quite smooth and enjoyable. Try it without adding anything prior to see what it's like!

 

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