Cold brew is different and - in my humble opinion - superior to regular iced coffee. It takes a little patience to prepare, but the results are certainly worth waiting for.
The most significant difference between cold brew and what typically passes for iced coffee is that cold-brew (like it sounds) never touches hot water...ever.
How to Start - Be Patient
To make cold brew, you steep your grounds in water for hours. My recommendation is 18 - 24 hours - be patient! I've seen recommendations as short as 2 hours - it makes for a very weak brew and is a waste of your excellent coffee. Really what you are making is a coffee concentrate because when you mix it with ice cubes and milk, it will get watered down to the concentration of your typical hot coffee.
The ratio of water to grounds is roughly 4:1. Depending on the size of your container, 4 cups of water for every 1 cup of beans is the typical concentration. The beans should be rough-ground. This would mean a bit bigger than you would typically grind them for your automatic drip machine - think kosher salt. My target size is the size of a French Press grind. Once ground, you will have less than the 4:1 ratio of final product to mix (close to 3/4 cup if starting with 1 cup of whole beans).
If you prefer to do it by weight, you'll want roughly 1oz. of ground coffee per cup of water. Make sure you have a scale handy if going this route.
The Finer Points
The rougher you grind it, the slower it will steep, so keep that in mind. You'll find a grind that yields the flavor you're looking for, but it is a preference so start with one that is more coarse and experiment from there. Finer grinds will produce a more robust coffee, but also be harder to filter. Remember that burr grinders do the best job of extracting flavors - my home grinder is the Breville Smart Grinder Pro which does a great job for brew-style coffee grinding at home.
Bonus Points: Your Water - Yes, Your Water
One note while you're adding the water - if you have a choice - filtered water will produce a better result than tap water. This is true for all of your coffee, but most decent automatic drip coffee makers have water filters these days, so it becomes slightly less important than manual and cold brew methods.
With cold brew, the coffee and water will meet directly - no filtration process - the better the water, the better the result.
Steeping Your Coffee
You have some choices where you can let the coffee steep - in the fridge or on the counter. Leaving it in a more temperature-neutral location tends to yield a more consistent, delicious result. If you run out of counter space and have to use the fridge - give it some extra time.
You'll end up with weaker coffee if you don't. If you can't tell by now, I prefer strong, flavorful coffee!
Filter to Perfection
When you're done, remove the grounds. You can do this by pouring it all through a filter or cheesecloth. I would do it at least twice to make sure you get out all of the grounds.
Another option is to buy a wonderful pitcher that has a built-in coffee filter. I have one of these pitchers from Takeya - it's inexpensive and does the job. It's nice because it lays flat on the counter so you get a nice steeping of the grounds uniformly, it's large enough that I can make a few days of cold brew at once, and it fits in the fridge. There are a number of fancier ones on the market, but honestly, I've been very happy.
A Silky Smooth, Refreshing Jolt
So - back to my point - superior iced coffee. If you make cold brew instead of regular iced coffee, you get an extraordinarily smooth coffee that still retains a full body and robust flavor. You also remove large amounts of acidity so it can be more comfortable on the stomach. This is a big one for me - I drink a ton of coffee - so a break for my stomach can be as refreshing as the temperature change.
Best Beans for Cold Brew
There is no right answer here - this comes down to preference. Having said that, I can certainly give you ours! Nicole and I have done an exhaustive review (poor us!) and decided that of our current selection, we have two favorites for the Summer of 2020.
The Papua New Guinea Medium Roast Coffee and the Costa Rican Medium Roast Coffee are the runaway favorites. Their smooth flavors, versatility and ability to pair well with both plant and animal-based milks in a number of drinks make them perfect for glass after glass of cold brew. For us, the PNG has held a slight edge - but it's purely our preference. The Costa Rican coffee still remains our top seller and our most popular coffee throughout the summer.
Papua New Guinea Medium Roast Coffee
Story of the Roast This coffee is a sweet, medium roast grown in the mountains on the eastern half of the island nation of Papua New Guinea. It can have a bit more oils than coffee from South and Central America... read more
Costa Rican Medium Roast Coffee
Story of the Roast A micro-farmed, slightly-sweet coffee dried in the sun of Central America, this medium roast is a smooth drink with notes of sweet apple, raisin, and honey! In our opinion, this is the best coffee from Costa... read more
Now relax and enjoy!
You're ready for that summer heatwave!