Cold Brewed Iced Coffee at Home

by Andie Mitchell on October 14, 2012

cappuccino

Coffee is one of the great loves of my life.

Growing up, my dad drank it religiously. Black with sugar. One cup, two cups, three cups, alongside the Boston Globe. The few times I stole near-simmering sips with a devil-may-care attitude, I was left gargling a bitter, burnt acid.  Chock full o’Nuts will do that to a girl.

coffee beans

Not until high school, when I needed something to swish through my braces after consuming not one, not two, but three Boston Cream donuts, did I consider giving coffee another go. I played it safe with a Dunkin’ Donuts hazelnut iced coffee, whole milk and sugar. Now, if you’ve ever ordered this combination, you know how promising it tends to be. I even bet by now you’ve guessed how the rest of the story goes.

If your guess involved me spilling no less than half of it all the way down my pink and navy new sweater vest, you would be correct. If you also guessed that I did not, in fact, leave Dunkin’ Donuts with clean, publicly acceptable-looking braces, you would also be very, very correct.

Ever the resilient one, I tried once more. No spills, no braces misadventures. And it was,

as happy endings go-

lovely.

Fast forward to now and you will rarely find me without a coffee cup in hand. As I like to tell my friends and family who worry about my caffeine consumption from time to time, coffee is, quite simply, my lifeblood. It is a true joy. A hobby. An activity. A routine. Perhaps living in Seattle gave me an even greater respect for not only the drink itself, but for the whole of coffee shop culture. And as a writer, as a forever traveler, this is all part of the life.

Aside from adventures in new places, where I’m likely to try the local coffee specialties, my drink order is one of two things, always. For chillier days, an Americano (shots of espresso and piping hot water). And for warmer days, iced coffee. To both of these drinks I add whole milk. I prefer it for its richness, its ultra-creaminess. Over years of striving to eat better, more pure foods, sugar became something I slowly weaned myself off of in my coffee mug. Once I became accustomed to drinking it sugarless, it was easy. Now I’d dare say you can taste the full flavor of the coffee more purely without sweetening.

Usually around this time of year, I’d make the switch to hot coffee. It just pairs well with fall. But for some reason, I’m clinging tightly to the iced version. I’m wanting it more and more everyday, regardless of temperature, regardless of the fact that after drinking it I fantasize about slipping into a warm fleece cocoon.

So I’ll go with it for now.

This method of cold brewing coffee is new to me. I’ve been reading bits and pieces about it for quite a while now, and from what I’ve gathered, it’s an ideal way of brewing iced coffee. Unlike the traditional heating process in coffee preparation, steeping grounds in cool water and letting them soak means a cup o’ joe with markedly less bitterness, less of that familiar acidity. It also means that you’re able to taste more of the coffee’s true flavor profile, naturally leading to a more full-bodied drink. I hear you can also get away with using less expensive coffee beans/grounds by using this method, but I’m not yet convinced.

Click here to see the recipe I used. Note: You do not need any special equipment (eg. a French press) to cold brew at home. I simply used a fine mesh sieve (exactly like this one on Amazon) lined with a regular ol’ coffee filter.

The result? A fantastic, well above average glass of iced coffee.

HOW- TO: I used freshly ground French roast coffee beans from Whole Foods. In a big cylindrical plastic container, I combined 1 and 1/3 cups coffee grounds with 4 cups water. I stirred, covered the container with a fitted lid, and let the mixture sit undisturbed on my kitchen counter (at room temperature) for 24 hours. The next day, I placed a fine mesh sieve over a small pot in my sink (to prevent a disastrous mess) and very carefully poured the coffee grounds/water mixture into the sieve. The grounds remained in the sieve and the pure extracted coffee liquid drained into the pot. Now, there was very little sediment in the pot along with my cold brewed coffee, but if there is any in your own batch, feel free to remove the grounds from the sieve and then re-pour the liquid through the sieve to be sure you’re left with smooth, ground-free coffee. This batch makes 8 cups of iced coffee when diluted with water slightly. By itself, it is more of a coffee concentrate- a really strong brew that could use some diluting before drinking. I store the strained mixture covered in a glass pitcher in the refrigerator. It should keep for 5 days.

TO SERVE: I filled a glass with ice, poured the cold brew coffee concentrate about two thirds of the way full, tasted it to see how strong it seemed for my personal taste preference, and then added a little bit of water and a little bit of milk, tasting along the way to be sure I liked the strength.

The coffee was happily free of any bitterness, any astringency whatsoever. The flavors were bold, dark and somewhat smoky, but also more pure, more smooth than what I’m used to brewing on my own. I found that the gentle sweetness of the coffee allowed me to use less milk that I traditionally do.

I am a convert to cold brewing miracles. Come over for iced coffee if you please :)

photos by: kennymatic, puuikibeach

Are you more of a hot coffee person, or do you love iced like I do? How do you brew your coffee?

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Cori October 14, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Oooo … A coffee post, you had my attention immediately! Simple answers to your posed questions: I love hot coffee in cool weather and iced coffee when it’s warmer. A caramel maccchiato hot or iced is my favorite! Except when the Caramel Brûlée Latte is in season and then I’m completely in coffee heaven for a few weeks. I’ve slowly been weaning myself off adding sugar and even more slowly also trying to get used to just straight up lattes, with no added syrups or drizzle either. Baby steps. The straight up lattes I find most enjoyable when I make them at home with my Nespresso machine. My consumption of coffee only started about 10 years ago when we moved to San Francisco, and since its become less of a “let’s meet for coffee” and developed more into my own little personal love/hobby. Might be time now for my afternoon cup of joe! Happy brewing!

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Cindy October 14, 2012 at 12:42 pm

I enjoy both hot (always with foam) and cold coffee. I tend to stick with hot coffee at home because my cold coffee never turns out well. Perhaps I will try your method and get better results.

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Becca October 14, 2012 at 1:19 pm

I love making coffee this way! I drink regular, hot brewed coffee in the winter, but when it starts to get warm out I prefer iced coffee. I always drink it out of a plastic cup with a straw too, almost like buying it from a coffee shop, only much cheaper :)

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Samantha October 14, 2012 at 2:59 pm

I’ve been considering cold brewing coffee for a while now. Haven’t done it yet. All summer I drank cold brew iced coffee from Caribou Coffee. After having that, iced coffee from any other place that uses the drip method is way to bitter and just not good anymore. My taste buds have been spoiled by the smoothness of cold brew. I’m thinking of getting the Toddy system for myself at home. Probably will wait until spring though. I already have a drip machine at home and an Nes Cafe espresso pod machine. I love coffee. :)

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Julie @ Sugarfoot Eats October 14, 2012 at 4:02 pm

When making iced coffee at home, I like to make it the night before so that I can also pour some of the coffee into ice cube trays. Coffee ice cubes so that the coffee doesn’t get diluted as your ice melts!

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Kels October 14, 2012 at 4:56 pm

I use the pioneer woman’s cold brew method, which is pretty much the same as yours. I love it! My absolute fave is what my roommate used to call “Cuban coffee”. We would make sbux French roast in a French press, then add generous splashes of half and half and heaping spoonfuls of brown sugar. Amazing! It incredibly rich and so good, we would eat fruit with it because anything else was too much!
I’m also a sucker for a good glug of coffee mate (chemicals and all..)

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Beth October 15, 2012 at 6:44 am

I use PW’s method as well.

Andie, you really can use cheapo coffee and get a great flavor. I’m a coffee snob and we spend up for coffee we brew the traditional way. But for iced coffee we use Cafe Busso expresso ($3.99 at Target) and it tastes fabulous. I even have a few packages in my Zombie Apocaplypse Economic Collapse food stash in the basement but that’s another story entirely…..

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Tracy October 14, 2012 at 5:19 pm

I think we maybe soul mates. I drink that exactly americano!

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casey October 14, 2012 at 5:29 pm

I think iced coffee is a total New England thing. I know they drink it everywhere now but you can’t even order a cup of coffee here without them asking if you want “iced or Hawt”. I always thought it was just assumed if you order a large coffee is was hot but not here. Do you notice that?

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Jillian October 14, 2012 at 5:49 pm

To answer your question, I absolutely love both! For me, Spring/Summer is all about iced coffee and Fall/Winter is all about hot.

The brewing part of the question is my problem! Ha! My husband and I have a Keurig but have started not liking the taste of the coffee so much, so we bought a drip coffee maker. The issue is that we can’t seem to get the number up tablespoons to water correct. It’s always either too strong or too weak. Ugh!

Help!?

It’s been so long since I’ve used a drip maker.

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Ashley October 14, 2012 at 6:19 pm

I drink so much coffee and I loved the cold brew method so much that I invested in a Filtron system. It’s been worth every single penny and you can make the concentrate either iced or hot. The coffee tastes infinitely better than anything brewed and one batch lasts me (the only coffee drinker in my house) a couple of weeks.

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Nikki October 15, 2012 at 12:53 am

Mmmm, your description makes me want an iced coffee, despite it being freezing here this morning. I’m definitely a hot coffee drinker in the winter (usually a cappuccino) as I need something toasty warm to wrap my fingers around, but love iced coffee on a piping hot day. Unfortunately we get very few of those!

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Megan October 15, 2012 at 6:23 am

When I was a waitress, working a double shift and tired of diet pop (ugh!) I began drinking iced coffee…loved it! However, since then, I was never able to duplicate the flavor, thus I haven’t tried in years….especially since hot coffee just puts the wind in my sails…true, in the Summer I’d probably learn to love iced coffee again, but, somehow, I’ve just stuck to the hot stuff. I would guess it stems from having to get up so early in the morning to have quiet time, before the kids arise…summer or fall or winter, it’s always cool in the dark of the morning and I treasure my hot cup o’ joe :)

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Sheri October 15, 2012 at 7:17 am

Coffeeeee….It’s more than a drink. It’s a ritual. I still brew it in a chemex pot that was a relic of the 60s (it’s a hand-me-down, and is filled with happy coffee memories). I drink hot coffee with milk, or cream, but usually black. No sugar, not ever.
Iced coffee is a completely different beverage. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I became a big fan of iced coffee. Unlike hot coffee, however, it has to be sweetened (splenda/stevia,etc) and must have lots of milk (or cream). It’s more like a meal, or a dessert, but I’m a late convert and just love it. Tried cold brew this summer too- it’s the BEST! Trader Joe’s French Roast for me- worth a try if you haven’t yet.

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LouAnne October 15, 2012 at 7:44 am

Since I began cold brewing coffee, I hardly ever drink hot brewed coffee any more… My procedure is similar to yours except I use a large tea basket I found on Amazon and a mason jar to brew mine… no having to strain the mixture later. I saw the how to on another website…
great stuff.

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Rocio October 15, 2012 at 7:46 am

Everyday when I get to work, one of the first pages I open is yours. I love your writing and your story. You’re a beautiful powerful woman. Thank you for sharing your life with us!

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Katy Brannen October 15, 2012 at 11:53 am

Another added benefit of cold brewed coffee is that because it’s so much lower in acidity, it won’t give you heartburn like regular coffee will (something I put up with quite regularly because of my addiction ;)

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andrea @ my kinda perfect October 15, 2012 at 1:16 pm

I’ve been curious about this for awhile…being a coffee lover who is also just lazy and just busy enough to just stop at the shop instead of brewing my own. My friend Andrea posted this (http://www.piebirds.org/2011/06/how-to-make-iced-coffee.html) awhile back and since then I’ve wanted to try it. Now that two Andreas have recommended it, I guess this Andrea should try it. =)

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tracy {pale yellow} October 15, 2012 at 3:12 pm

I’ve already made the switch to hot coffee, but I’m saving this recipe for the warmer days ahead!

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Jentry Nielsen October 15, 2012 at 3:18 pm

This is so awesome! I always want iced coffee at home, as I live in a place that has not quite cooled off yet and I’ve been craving something refreshing. I have tried it with just coffee on ice, I wasn’t a big fan I’ll have to try diluting it next time! Thanks for the suggestion! :)

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shannon October 15, 2012 at 4:05 pm

as a person who habitually freezes espresso shots so that the ice in my summer iced coffee does not dilute my coffee, I’m going to say cold coffee! I do pretty much the same thing you describe for my regular brew.

However, my favorite way to make coffee has to be the siphon pot (I’ll admit mostly because I get to futz with beakers and a bunsen burner in the process; it just looks cool!). But it also makes a foolproof awesome cup of coffee, with science!!

Here’s a link to my hubby’s blog if you want to see the coffee-with-science method! http://bujiatangbikes.blogspot.com/2012/10/i-will-do-science-to-it.html

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Jennielynn October 15, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Hot in the morning, cold in the afternoon. I’m a Keurig user, so I’ve always used the iced setting for my afternoon drink, but I’m going to give the cold brew method a try!

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Sonal October 16, 2012 at 4:13 am

Lovely post :) I love everything about coffee – the idea, the culture, the shops, the smell but I cannot stand the taste. Lol! So usually when I go out “for coffee” I get a hot chocolate or a green tea and pretend.

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Sable@SquatLikeALady October 16, 2012 at 10:34 am

Would you be so kind as to post about how you weaned yourself off sweetener in your coffee? I am somewhat ashamed of how much Splenda I use O_O

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Kate October 16, 2012 at 11:13 am

Now I’m craving an iced coffee. But I’m also craving the laziness of just buying it. You’ve inadvertently promoted Starbucks in this post :P

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Devi October 16, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Never drank coffee until I moved to Seattle 4 years ago – within the first year I was all about iced coffee (with sugar, whole milk and frozen coffee cubes).

Since our rainy weather started back up the other day: hot coffee (keurig) with a splash of whipping cream and another bigger splach of vanilla flavored almond milk)

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Selina October 18, 2012 at 2:22 am
Dea Varner February 9, 2013 at 11:00 am

OMG!!!!!! I am soooo glad I found this blog and this recipe!!!!! I adore coffee and especially iced coffee! I tend to drink it mostly in warmer months but like you I sometimes just crave it even in the winter!! I love to put just a pinch of Stevia and a little lactose-free milk or now coconut milk ( I can’t drink regular milk, it messes me up badly! ) in with my coffee and lots of ice!!! Can’t wait to make this!

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