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If you’ve never tried cold brew coffee, you’re in for a treat. Brewing coffee with cold water – though brew may not be quite the right word for the process – produces a cup of coffee that is smooth, rich and full-flavored without the acid and bitterness that often mars coffee brewed in an automatic drip coffee maker or percolator. The cold water extraction process draws out many subtle flavors that are lost when coffee grounds are subjected to high temperatures and high pressure, and leaves behind some of the bitter compounds that can give coffee its sharp, acidic edge.
While you can invest in many different devices to make cold brew coffee at home, you don’t really need any of it to produce smooth, delicious and low acid coffee in your own refrigerator.
Down and Dirty Cold Brew Refrigerator Coffee
All you need for this method of cold brewing coffee is two large pitchers, finely ground coffee and a cloth filter. The fine grind and long “brewing” time allows for maximum flavor extraction.
Put about 40 ounces of cold water in a 2-quart pitcher. Add one cup of finely ground coffee to the water. Stir the coffee into the water with a plastic or wooden spoon, making sure to submerge all of the grounds. They’ll float back to the top – that’s fine. Just make sure that the grounds are evenly wet. Cover the pitcher and put it in the refrigerator for at least 6 to 8 hours but no longer than overnight.
If you don’t have a cloth coffee strainer, line a fine sieve with a double thickness of cheesecloth or clean white cotton. Place the sieve over the second, empty pitcher. Slowly pour the coffee from the brewing pitcher into the second pitcher through the filter. Discard the used grounds – or add them to your compost heap.
Coffee brewed this way will be intense and richly flavored. If you prefer your coffee with less flavor, cut it half and half with water to reduce the concentration. It’s ideal for making iced coffee – just pour and serve. If you want your coffee hot, you can heat it by the cup in the microwave or warm it on top of the stove.
Cold Brew Drip Coffee in the Toddy
There are a number of different cold brew coffee makers on the market that works on the same principle as the down and dirty method. The most popular of these is the Toddy T2N Cold Brew System, which consists of a brewer top, a filter and a vacuum jar to hold the brewed coffee. The Toddy is designed to make 72 ounces of coffee at once, using a full pound of coffee. While it may seem complicated at first, it’s even simpler to use than the two-pitcher method because the filter is contained in the unit.
Cold Brew Coffee Elegance One Drip at a Time
In addition to the bulk methods of making cold brew coffee, there are several Japanese cold brew coffee makers on the market that work on the same principle as a drip coffee maker – but much more slowly. Coffee makers like the Hario Water Dripper ‘Clear’ (Manual cool coffee maker) are considerably more expensive than the Toddy and other cold brew systems, but the brew they make is incomparable. The Hario and the similar Yama Northwest Glass 32-Ounce Cold Brew Drip Coffee Maker are more than coffee makers. They’re elegant, beautiful conversation pieces that make Japanese style iced coffee or coffee concentrate using a precise drip method to deliver cold water at exactly the right rate for your coffee. The directions for use are essentially the same – fill the middle container with finely ground coffee, place ice cubes and water in the top container and adjust the petcock to drip 35 to 40 drops of water per minute. It takes about 4 hours to brew 32 ounces of smooth, rich, low acid coffee with this method – and the coffee makers are absolutely beautiful.