September through May, good quality, freshly ground coffee and my French press are all I need when I’m in a coffee state of mind. But in the summer, my efforts failed to satisfy the inner coffee snob inherent in all Seattle natives. My DIY iced coffee attempts (serving a concentrated brew over ice cubes, regular strength brew over coffee ice cubes) proved less than satisfying; watery and sometimes leaning towards bitter. The horrors.
According to Jane Lear, hot brew coffee and cold brew coffees are not only chemically different, but are completely different beverages. “If the water is hot, it extracts more rapidly and completely,” wrote food scientist Harold McGee in The New York Times (7/20/11). “Hot water also cooks as it extracts, forcing chemical reactions that transform some of the extracted substances into other things, and driving some aroma substances out of the liquid. Cold water, in contrast, extracts more slowly and selectively.” Ah, so this is why hot brew coffee turns wretched overnight while the cold brew coffee becomes mellow and smooth with low acidity.
So, the search began for the path to perfect iced coffee preparation. Various methods involved mason jars, fine-mesh sieves or paper filters, concentrating, straining then straining again and then diluting. Or, you can go pro with a cold-brew coffee system for about $30. But, the underlying concept seemed oddly familiar. Why not use the basic French Press technique-but with cold water and more time? I tried it, and it works like a charm. If you have the luxury of extra refrigerator real estate, you may want to let it cold brew for up to 24 hours. If the coffee will be ‘brewing’ at room temperature, 12 hours should be adequate.
- A French press
- 1 cup fresh coffee beans, ground medium-coarse
- 3 cups room temperature water (ideally filtered)
- A wooden spoon
- 12 to 24 hours
- 1 handful of ice per glass
- Fill the French press with ground coffee beans.
- Fill the French press with water (cold or room temperature).
- Stir the water and coffee together until well mixed.
- Cover the filled French press with the top of the press, but do not plunge it.
- Leave it alone for 12 hours at room temperature or 24 hours in the refrigerator.
- When finished brewing, plunge the press to strain the coffee.
- Pour into a tall glass filled with a handful of ice (1/2 to 1 cup).
- Add milk or cream, if desired.
Notes on Coffee Beans:
- Moderate coffee intake is healthy. True, caffeine is a drug. While there is research showing deleterious health effects with high consumption, I have yet to read any research causing me concern about the occasional cup of coffee. In fact, a growing body of research shows that coffee drinkers, compared to non-drinkers, are :
1. less likely to have type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia
2. have fewer cases of certain cancers, heart rhythm problems, and strokes
- Buy good quality and fresh coffee beans. You are already saving $3-$4 per drink. Don’t buy cheap coffee beans! It seems the coffee bean quality and freshness of the grind is even more important with cold brew as the process relies on simple water and time, without heat to aid in the extraction process. On that note, try to use very freshly ground coffee.
- If possible, buy organic. Coffee is a heavily sprayed crop. So, drinking organic coffee may reduce or eliminate the exposure to toxic herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers.
Why Choose Organic Coffee?
- Look for Fair-Trade certified coffee. Fair-Trade not only means thecoffee farmers are paid a fair price and treated well, it also means respectful treatment of the environment. Environmental standards are integral to the Fair Trade criteria. These include:
- Protecting water resources and natural vegetation areas
- Promoting agricultural diversification, erosion control, and no slash and burn
- Restricting the use of pesticides and fertilizers
- Banning use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
- Requiring proper management of waste, water and energy
- Watching caffeine? Choose coffee decaffeinated by the “Swiss Water Process”. Most major brands of coffee use chemical decaffeination process. The “Swiss Water Process” is a patented method and does not use chemicals.
Originally posted on 8/23/13.