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So the weather is, finally, warming up and you might be craving a cooler coffee? Meet Cold Brew Coffee!

Cold Brew Coffee is just Iced Coffee, right?

Wrong. It’s an widespread misconception, but the two are not the same. Iced Coffee is a normal hot coffee poured over ice to cool it down, effectively shock cooling it. It is then diluted even further with either water, milk or both. The whole process takes barely longer than making a cup of cappuccino.

Cold Brew Coffee however, doesn’t use any form of heat at all. The ground coffee is immersed in cold to room temperature water and steeped for anywhere from 12 to 48 hours. What you end up with is a highly concentrated coffee, loaded with caffeine and without any of the acidity that you get with other brewing methods.

There is a third, lesser known method called Cold Drip Coffee. It is quite similar to the Hario V60, but with cold water. The water is dripped into the grounds at a very slow rate, giving the water plenty of contact time with the grounds. The contact time isn’t nearly as long compared to Cold Brew Coffee. Therefor it doesn’t need to be diluted as much and it contains considerably less caffeine.

Cold Brew Coffee: Origin?

Because the various cold coffees have been mistaken for one another for so long, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly who first brewed cold coffee. One theory mentions a large amount of coffee beans left behind in Vienna by a Turkish Army in the 17th century. The Viennese then simply started experimenting with brewing and Cold Brew Coffee was born.

The more likely story however is the one of Mazagran. Mazagran is the name of a fortress in Algiers that was granted to France in 1837. There are several stories as to how the drink ended up with the name though. One version simply says that the French colonial troops drank coffee syrup mixed with cold water at the fortress. A different story is told about the French Foreign Legion soldiers who drank water in their coffee in the absence of brandy or milk, during the siege of Mazagran in the 1840 war. Yet another story says that the French colonial troops near Mazagran were served coffee syrup with water. When the soldiers returned to France, some suggested that café’s serve the beverage, more specifically, in tall glasses.

Things you’ll need

Cold Brew Coffee - Shoppinglist 1

This is what you’ll need for the brewing part of this guide

Cold Brew Coffee - Shoppinglist 2

The second part is merely serving and bottling

An easy way to make Cold Brew Coffee is in a French Press. Although you can use just about any brewing vessel, the French Press makes  it easy to filter out the grounds with the mesh filter on the plunger. Generally you don’t need any extra filtering, and you’d be perfectly fine ignoring the last two points on the list below.

  • Fresh roasted coffee beans
  • French Press
  • Room temperature water
  • Scale
  • Wooden or plastic spoon
  • Funnel
  • Tall glass(es)
  • Ice cubes
  • Cold water and / or milk
  • Storage vessel
  • Decanter
  • Hario V60 and filter, or cone filterholder and filter

Step by Step

  1. Determine the capacity of the French Press
    Measure brewing vessel capacity

    This French Press holds 1L or 1000ml of water

  2. Grind the coffee on a medium fine setting
    Grind beans medium fine

    Slightly coarser than what I normally use in my AeroPress

  3. Add the grounds into the French Press
    Add the grounds into the French Press

    I used a non-permanent boardmarker to mark fifths as a visual aid

  4. Add just enough water to completely saturate the grounds
    Let the coffee bloom with minimal water

    We’re letting the coffee bloom for a bit with just enough water

  5. Stir
    Stir the coffee a few times

    Give it a good stir to properly saturate the grounds

  6. Add the rest of the water
    Add the rest of the water

    Add 4 parts water to 1 part coffee

  7. Stir a few more times
    Stir a few more times

    Fresh coffee will have a crema like layer on top

  8. Put the lid on with plunger in the up position
    Place the lid on the French Press

    Be careful when placing the lid on to prevent splashing

  9. Steep for several hours

    The hardest part, waiting

  10. Put filterholder and a fresh filter on the decanter, rinse the filter and empty the decanter
    Put the cone filter holder on the decanter and rinse a new paper filter

    Rinsing the filter gets rid of the paper taste

  11. Push the plunger down, without compressing the grounds
    Push down the plunger

    To keep most of the sediment in the French Press, press down slowly

  12. Slowly pour the Cold Brew Coffee into the filter
    Pour the Cold Brew Coffee into the filter

    Slow pouring also helps keeping sediment in the French Press

  13. Remove the filterholder and filter from the decanter
    Remove the filterholder from the decanter

    Put the filterholder on a saucer to catch any coffee left in the filter

  14. Fill the glass about 3/4 with ice cubes
    Fill the glass 3/4 with ice cubes

    Ice cubes are optional, but recommended

  15. Add Cold Brew Coffee and water
    Add Cold Brew Coffee and cold water

    Add water to taste

  16. Optionally add milk
    Optionally add milk

    Slowly adding milk makes for pretty pictures

  17. Store the rest of the Cold Brew Coffee in a storage vessel and refrigerate
    Store remain Cold Brew Coffee in an airtight container and refrigerate

    Store in an airtight bottle for up to 8 weeks, this bottle lasted a day

  18. Enjoy!

I have found that using 1 part ground coffee to 4 parts of water by volume, or 80 grams of coffee per liter of water, is a good ratio. The steep time is another crucial part, where longer means stronger and more caffeine. Filtering the brew after steeping is optional, however I do very much recommend it.

The result

Cold Brew Coffee is different from anything I’ve ever tried before. Obviously it’s cold, but afterwards you’ll notice the surprising lack of acidity. It took me a few tries to nail down a decent recipe, but there is tons of room for experimenting. In my opinion there’s only one downside to Cold Brew Coffee, you can’t just quickly make the next cup. Which is why I’ve made a second batch right after bottling the first one.

For now I’ll finish my 4th glass of Cold Brew Coffee and start preparing the next chapter in this series. If there’s a specific brewing method I haven’t covered yet, please let me know by posting a comment below. Questions and suggestions are welcome there as well. If you found this article interesting please share it with friends and / or family.

There are 7 more articles in the Brewing Methods series: The French Press, The Moka Pot, The Vacuum Coffee Maker, Turkish Coffee, The AeroPressHario V60 and Espresso.

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