July 10, 2008

Return of the Caffeined

Back in November, I was experimenting with cold-brewed coffee. this led to my epic post "Dangerous Ideas for the Caffeined - Part 1" wherein I detail a cold-brew coffee recipe.

You can read the original post for the details (it's so worth it!) but for reference, I will provide a lightning-fast summary. The Cold Brew method produces coffee concentrate by soaking ground coffee overnight. The concentrate is like cold espresso, ready to be used in any recipe that uses espresso, especially iced lattes (although some folks do add hot water to make an Americano). The ratio is 5 cups of water to 1/2 pound of ground coffee. Let sit overnight. Strain. As detailed in the earlier post.

I mentioned using a French press to strain the coffee. My problem is that the French press I inherited is not big enough for 5 cups of coffee sludge. So I have altruistically devised a method of straining the coffee just so you all would have an easier time with it. That's how much I care about you, the reader.

Click to read the extended entry of this post and see details and pictures.

Once you have let the coffee sit for 12 hours or so, soaking in the water, it's ready to be strained.

Cold Brew

Here you see a half pound of coffee soaking in 5 cups of water in a 2 quart bowl. The grounds have sunk to the bottom by now, but at the beginning of the process they float.

But while this puppy is soaking, you have some time to make a strainer.

Cold Brew These are two 2-quart plastic pitchers I got from Wal*Mart for less than $2 apiece. This is the major expense of my new method.
Cold Brew

Do you see how I can stack them? If you cannot find these exact pitchers, you will need to find something similar. The important elements here are:

  • Make sure that there is something that prevents the pitchers from nesting completely; in this case, the handle keeps the top pitcher from sliding down and filling all of the space below.
  • That bottom space needs to be at least 3 cups. 4 cups would be better. In this picture that bottom container has well over 6 cups of space.
  • Make sure they aren't too unbalanced. They have to be able to sit flat on a table.
Cold Brew You're going to need a drill and a 1/16th inch bit.
Cold Brew

You need to drill about 100 1/16th inch holes in the bottom of ONE of the pitchers.

"But James," you say. "Why can't I just drill one 1/3 inch diameter hole? Isn't that about the same?" Hey, you can do whatever you want. But I'm trying to make a strainer.

Cold Brew About 100 holes looks something like this. How's that for precision?
Cold Brew Clean off the plastic burrs as best you can. I scrubbed this with a copper scouring pad, and that did a good enough job. But it's up to you to make sure you don't eat any plastic. Stack your pitchers with the drilled-out one on top.
Cold Brew

Pour your coffee mixture into the top pitcher. It helps if you were soaking in something that makes it easy to pour. The bowl I was using doesn't make it particularly easy. You can be smarter than me.

Coffee will start to drip through to the bottom pitcher.

I use a grind that is finer than automatic drip coffee but not as fine as espresso.

It takes over an hour for this thing to do its job, so go read a book.

When it's complete, you should have around 3 cups of coffee concentrate in the bottom container. The dripping will have slowed to a stop. You could try pressing or tamping the coffee, but i don't think it's necessary.

Cold Brew After sitting there for over an hour, some very fine sludge has a chance to settle into the bottom of the bottom pitcher. You needn't drink this sludge. If you decant the coffee concentrate into another container (perhaps, a smaller container) the sludge sticks to the bottom of your pitcher. This is an easy way to further clarify your concentrate without using a disposable filter.
Cold Brew

Here you see my concentrate sitting in a quart bottle, which takes up very little space in the fridge, where space is at a premium.

I got a little over 3 cups of concentrate. Delicious!

Enjoy your caffeine responsibly. In the morning, at my house, that means using skim milk to make a latte. In the evening it means Jameson.

But whatever you were planning to do, that's probably fine, too.

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Posted by James at July 10, 2008 1:14 AM
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You still lose me with the Big Bowl o'Coffee. I prefer something closed up.

At work I've jerry-rigged a cold brewing system using two quart containers from Chinese food deliveries and a gold coffee filter I bought at KMart. Bonus points for me for recycling ;)

Posted by: mjfrombuffalo at July 10, 2008 7:42 AM

The bowl has a plastic cover. I opened the bowl to take a picture of the coffee. :)

I would be too afraid that bugs would invade my precious coffee if I left it uncovered!

Posted by: James at July 10, 2008 8:25 AM

I first heard about cold-brewed coffee via one of my favorite radio-based food shows, The Splendid Table. The host did not go into the level of detail that you do, but I got the gist of it. I may have to give this a try.

Posted by: Kitten Herder at July 10, 2008 8:39 AM

"I would be too afraid that bugs would invade my precious coffee if I left it uncovered!"

Just call 'em Protein Crunchies.

Posted by: David Grenier at July 10, 2008 9:39 AM

Could you soak the coffee in a jug to begin with, instead of a bowl? I hadn't thought of it before, but it'd be easier to pour through the strainer that way.

I use a fine-mesh strainer (finer than usual - intended for brewing loose tea) to strain the liquid... at least I did. I haven't done this in a while, and I haven't seen the seen the strainer in a while either!

Posted by: Julie at July 10, 2008 10:13 AM

Could you soak the coffee in a jug to begin with, instead of a bowl?

The bowl was not the best choice; a jug would work better and be easier to pour.

For smaller amounts of coffee, the french press actually worked quite well. But I want to do 1/2 lb at a time so I only have to do this about once per week.

Now that my daughter is starting to get a taste for iced coffee, and is asking me to make her lattes, larger batches are better.

Posted by: James at July 10, 2008 11:47 AM

I use a jug, Tupperware pitcher, or other more cylindrical container. Even with a cover the bowl just seems so *weird* to me ;)

Posted by: mjfrombuffalo at July 11, 2008 8:31 AM

You know what, I tried it with a jug and it turns out that the bowl is much easier to wash afterwards!

The bowl I've used has a good pouring spout and a cover, too. So I'll stick with it. It reeks of coffee now anyway. :)

Posted by: Julie at July 14, 2008 10:06 AM

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