Budget Cold Brew

The art of coffee - Cold pressed and milky - at home.

The art of coffee - Cold pressed and milky - at home.

It's the mid-month of Summer and I think it is time I shared my oft tested and perfected recipe for making cold brew at home and with no more special equipment that a French press that I think most people have at home.

It began as shock registered at the price of cold brew in coffee shops. On average, it costs about $4.50 with tip for about a cup measure of coffee concentrate mixed with water and milk. $4.50!!! I balked. But, it was hot and I was really in need of a caffeine fix and grudging bought one. Even as I sat there sipping the drink and feeling it's thirst quenching effects, my mind raced and wondered. Is there a way to get access to this cheaper?

First, I decided to invest a bit and scout a few more coffee shops to taste the different offerings. So, I tried the major ones around; from Blue Bottle to Counter Culture to Konditori to Venticinque and my own local roastery and favorite Kos Kaffe. They all tasted different, in part due to the beans, but, as I found, largely from the process.

Fresh roasted beans are the secret to a really good cold joe.

Fresh roasted beans are the secret to a really good cold joe.

True cold brew is made as concentrate, steeped for atleast 12 hours, preferably 15, and, then thinned with water and/or milk when served. But, not all places follow this method. Because, it is both time consuming and a fair pricey because you use 4:1 parts of coffee to water by weight or 1:2-ish by volume. When you hear that, it kind of makes sense why it costs significantly more than hot coffee in any form. Yet, imagine your spend if you are twice a day coffee drinker!

My research led me to a variety of ways of making it from using the specialised filtron set to hipster mason jar and pretty much everything in between. The whole point of my exercise was to go cheap, so the former was out. The latter was too messy and suspiciously reminiscent of a hack. So, I decided to try the mainstay of my kitchen, the humble french press that I picked up from IKEA for under $10. Score!

My first attempt was to try and mimic the ratios of the filtron. As I ground the beans (freshly roasted from Kos), I realised that I was up to 5 seconds of grinding and no where near amount was looking for. Reality check. So, I decided to go with what I was comfortable and then tweak. That was about 50g of coffee. Poured into the coffee press, filled it up with water and then set it in the fridge overnight and hoped something would come out of it. Next day, it surpassed my expectations. I was thrilled. It was no concentrate. But, I found that it was thick enough to be thinned with a little milk and thin enough to drink black as is.

Now the fun began. French press typically takes a coarser grind than espresso, and that was my first attempt. For the next, I decided to grind it finer. On my grinder I set it to coarsest "Fine" setting and let it rip for 5 seconds again. This try was more syrupy and stronger. Rather too strong.

Eventually, after a few more tweaks, I settled on using 40g of medium fine grind to a full container of water in the french press, steeped for 12-15 hours. Once strained, I have stored it upto 24 hours even! It is an amazing way of making cold brew in small scale and affordably. To compare, it still uses more coffee by weight than espresso but it is in relevance to the slow flavor building that happens over long stretches of quiet time.

It has now become a staple and nary a day passes that I do not relish a fresh brew chilled and served to myself with relish!


Cold Brew French Press Coffee

As with anything, the quality of the beans that you use really matters here and in fact, even more as the poorer the beans the more acidic the leached flavor will be. I recommend finding as fresh roasted beans as you can and even more grinding it just before use. Even a simple krups spice grinder will serve you better than store ground beans.

When choosing beans for making iced coffee, the rule of thumb is to go for bolder, richer flavors that stand to full roast. Columbian and Guatemalan beans are best suited and likewise, Ethiopian and Kenyan, least. This is because of the higher acidity in the latter that over the long resting process will kill the coffee and make it rather not very palatable, like overbrewed tea.

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40 g medium-fine fresh ground coffee

Enough cold water to fill a regular sized french press

A French Press!

Pour the coffee into the base of the french press

Pour the water in a thin steady stream in circular motions until you reach the top. This action will  begin agitating the coffee grains through the water.

Using a spoon or better the wooden handle of a cooking spoon, stir the coffee until the crema rises. This will be a light brown froth like layer on top.

Place the top of the press into the cup and press gently until it touches the line of water. 

Gently place in the fridge to steep for atleast 12 hours. 

When ready, plunge down the press and pour the filtered coffee into a container.

To serve, add ice in a glass, fill with coffee and pour a bit of milk or cream as needed.