It’s Monday again, a day most people (including myself) head back to work and are not terribly thrilled about it. For many (again, also including myself) this means coffee.

Ahhh...coffee! The nectar of the gods.

Or, if you really need a jump-start – espresso.

Ahhh...espresso! Nectar of the twitchy gods.

The only problem with this is that in the summer, when it’s so blasted hot, drinking hot coffee will just make you hotter.

“But Ghostie!” You cry; “Coffee is always served hot!” Not always, my dear deluded reader. In recent years there has been a rise in cold coffee drinks made available at various fast food and gourmet coffee shops. The coffee is still brewed in the traditional manner, but is poured over ice and tarted up with cream and sugar. All that fat (from the cream) and sugar adds a lot of calories, making your daily dose of caffeine into something closely resembling a milkshake. All that ice also dilutes the coffee once it melts, which affects the taste.

Now, you can do this at home (brew your coffee as you normally would and pour it over ice) which is a perfectly acceptable solution. You could even make your own coffee ice cubes if you don’t want to dilute your brew with water ice. If you are especially good at planning, you can brew your coffee the night before, adulterate it as you see fit, and then store it in the fridge overnight so it will be icy cold in the morning.

There is also another option, one that doesn’t use a coffeemaker at all. You can cold-brew your coffee. You may have never heard of this method, it is not widely used because of the time involved, but it makes a tasty cup of coffee that is actually less bitter and a bit stronger than a hot-brewed cup. All you need is a clean container, coffee grounds, water, and some method of straining out the grounds. (I use a sieve lined with a coffee filter, but anything that will get the grounds out will work fine. If you have a French Press, you can use that.)

I'm using a clear jar, but any container with a lid will work. Large yogurt containers are good; they can be stacked easily if you want more than one batch going at the same time.

Here’s what you do;

Step 1:

Add your grounds to your container.

Like so.

I’m using two scoops (about four tablespoons) each of Folgers Black Silk roast and Cafe Bustelo espresso roast in a quart jar. This sounds like a lot, and it is, but there is a reason for this. The end result will be a concentrate that you mix with cold water or milk to make the final beverage. You could use less to make a weaker brew, but instead of being able to make a half-gallon of cold coffee drinks, you would only have a quart for all your troubles. You could also add more grounds if you wanted it stronger, but the more you add the more water they will absorb and the less actual coffee you end up with. It’s a fine line, really, and I’ve found this amount works best for me.

Step 2 –

Add water to your container.

Like so.

The grounds will float at first; you can either put the lid on, if you are using a container with a tight-fitting lid, and give it a few vigorous shakes, or you can just stir it throughly.

Oooh ... swirly.

There’s a tuft of cat hair on my knuckle because Fearless kept jumping up on the counter to see what Momma was doing and I kept having to get her down until she got bored and wandered off to take another nap.

I dream of ... cheese balls and ponies.

(The cat hair is an optional ingredient.)

Once the grounds have been stirred or shaken in, they will absorb some of the water. You can add additional water if you like.

Like this.

Step 3 –

Put the lid on and wait. You can leave it out at room temperature or stick it in the fridge, I do a little of both. I’ll make the coffee in the morning, after I’ve used the last of the previous batch and cleaned out the jar, and leave it on the counter while I’m at work. Before I go to bed I stick it in the fridge so that when I strain it in the morning it will already be cold. The time you leave it can depend on your schedule, I would recommend at least eight to twelve hours, twenty four is ideal. You can leave it longer than that but it won’t really make any appreciable difference. There’s only so much coffee you can get out of the grounds. Giving it the occasional shake, if your container will allow vigorous shaking, will help. If you are using a French Press to brew in, I recommend removing the inner plunger workings when you put it in the fridge, just as a space saver.

Step 4 –

Using the straining method of your choice, strain the grounds out of the coffee concentrate. As I’ve said, I use a sieve lined with a coffee filter resting over a mixing bowl. The sieve alone would catch most of the regular grounds but the finer espresso grind would go right through and leave a thick sludge in the bowl. If you have a French Press – just pour everything in, depress the plunger, and pour.

A word of caution – most of the grounds will be on the top of the container, forming a thick plug. Either shake the container or use a utensil to break up this plug before pouring or when you try to pour out the coffee (maybe, let’s say, while trying to take pictures for your blog) the plug will be forced out all at once and grounds will go everywhere.

Before straining. You can see the plug in the neck of the jar - the slightly lighter, bubbly-looking band of brown.

During straining. It's best to do a little at the time.

Almost finished straining.

Once as much of the liquid has strained through as you can get to, gather the edges of the filter and twist into a pouch, GENTLY squeeze the remaining liquid out of the grounds as if it were a tea bag. Discard grounds and filter as you normally would.

Once most of the grounds are in the filter you may notice that the volume of the stream dripping out the bottom is reduced. I’ve found that tapping the edge of the sieve or shaking it slightly will help the liquid strain easier. While it’s dripping, clean the container you plan on keeping the concentrate in, either by washing the container you made it in or getting out the container you plan on storing it in.

Step 5 –

Pour your concentrate into the storage container and place in the fridge. You can keep the concentrate for at least a week, but I usually drink all mine in two or three days.

The final product. Notice the level of liquid is lower than before it was strained, this is the amount of liquid absorbed by the grounds. (and some that spilled out when I forgot to break up the plug)

Using this volume of grounds and water produces almost a quart of brew that is stronger than regular coffee, closer to espresso, but with a less bitter taste. If you wanted it very, very strong you could add more grounds after the straining process and leave it for another day. I’ve never done it, but it would be an interesting experiment to try.

The concentrate can be used full strength like an espresso shot, or diluted with water, milk, or creamer. I would not use the powdered non-dairy creamer (or coffee whitener if you live in America’s Hat) in this because the fine powder doesn’t dissolve readily in the cold liquid. If I run out of regular milk or liquid creamer I’ll use the powdered NDC but I’ll dissolve it in warm or hot water ahead of time and let it cool. The same goes for sugar; it will dissolve in cold liquid but it doesn’t like to so it’s a good idea to dissolve it ahead of time. My personal favorite serving method is to mix the concentrate half and half with chocolate milk, it has a nice mocha flavor.

Mmmmm...

Like most things you can do yourself, making cold-brew coffee at home versus buying it elsewhere will save you a lot of money. Even if you use only premium beans you can still make gallons of of coffee for the price of a few cups from a coffee shop.

You can buy fancy cold-brewing apparatus, but the idea is the same; mix grounds and water, wait, strain.

Some set-ups are fancier than others.

The only different between making one yourself out of a jar and buying one of those expensive cold-brewers is the money you spend. It’s also fairly “green” since you don’t use any electricity for brewing the actual coffee, only chilling it. The granola-licking hippies out there should like that.

If you decide to try cold-brewing, please leave me a comment letting me know how it worked for you.

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