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Cheap, Easy, and Delicious Cold Brew Coffee

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Masha and I have been having some good laughs recently at the cold brew concentrate phenomenon, where grocery stores are starting to carry small bottles of cold-brewed coffee concentrate for insane sums of money. Sometimes a tiny bottle that will reasonably make 1-2 large cups of iced coffee costs $6 or more. That’s more expensive than Starbucks. (Not aware of this trend? Check out, for instance, Chameleon Cold-Brew…not to mention their startling prices.)

The reason we laugh is that we’ve been making cold brew iced coffee for years now…any time the temperature outside isn’t icy. It’s delicious, refreshing, and takes less time than making a pot of hot coffee. Oh, and it’s cheap.

The reason I’m posting now is because of a fantastic new tweak, thanks to John Hamanchosi at 7 Coffee Roasting Company in New York, via a recent Slate article: mint. It adds a wonderful layer of freshness to the coffee and we’ve become instant fans.

So, here’s a recipe and methodology for making wonderful cold brew iced coffee that is so easy, you’ll have no trouble ensuring that you’re never without some in the fridge (or, skip to the recipe).

Supplies

These are the things you need; if you don’t have these to begin with, you’ll make up the cost very fast in savings compared to getting iced coffee out somewhere.

Non-perishables

  • A grinder. A blade grinder is fine as you only need to grind coarsely. We have this Krups electric blade grinder.
  • A press pot (French press). We have this Bodum 34-ounce coffee press; adjust measurements accordingly if you have a different size.
  • A pour-over filter holder and appropriately sized filters. Really, any paper filtration system will do, this is just easiest as you can pop it on top of your jug. Something like this; don’t forget filters.
  • A container or jug to hold the concentrate in the fridge
  • Something that gives you filtered water. We use this Brita pitcher.

Perishables

  • Fresh whole coffee beans. Get medium-ish roast; look for words like “sweet”, “smooth” and “caramel” in the description of the flavor. They don’t need to be expensive, but buy relatively small quantities (e.g. don’t buy huge Costco bags) so that they remain fresh. You can find great bang for the buck at Trader Joe’s; right now our favorite is actually the green canister of Whole Foods’ Three Bean Coffee. The canister lasts the two of us a week and it’s about $5. I store these in a bean vac, but the one I have has been discontinued; consider storing them in the freezer, or at least in an airtight container without a lot of excess air inside.
  • Cream, half-and-half, or milk: If you want milk or cream, don’t use nonfat. It just dilutes the coffee without adding any creaminess. I recommend at least 2% milk, or a combination of 2% milk and half-and-half.
  • Fresh mint leaves

Recipe

  1. Coarsely grind 2/3 cup of beans and dump the grounds into the press pot
  2. Add a pinch of salt
  3. Add three or four mint leaves
  4. Fill with water to the top
  5. Stir it (I use a reusable chop stick) to get all of the grounds wet and to ensure the mint leaves aren’t stuck on top
  6. Let it sit somewhere for 24-ish hours

We used to start the process in the morning, but it may not have enough time to brew if you finish at night, and if you finish the cycle in the morning it won’t be cold unless you brew it in the fridge (which slows down the brewing process). So, I recommend starting the brew at night. We start the filtering when we start making dinner, which is convenient since we can keep the filtering going (or start the next brew cycle) whenever we have a free 15 seconds while dinner is being cooked.

Once 24 hours have passed, when you start making dinner, press the pot and pour the coffee into your jug via the pour-over filter so that you don’t get grounds/coffee dust in the end product. When you get a few seconds free as you make dinner, pour more into the filter. Once it’s all done, dump out the press pot, rinse it out, and start a new batch. Put the jug in your fridge, and by the morning it’ll be nice and chilled.

The coffee that comes out is fairly concentrated. When drinking it, you can dilute with more filtered water if you like. We don’t, instead using a bit more milk if we feel it’s too strong…but if you prefer drinking it straight or with sugar only, you may want to add water to taste.

The whole thing takes us less than three minutes per day and costs us $5 a week, plus milk (and, over time, water filters), and it’s delicious. Forget the store-bought concentrate.

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