Monday, August 28, 2006

Cold brewed coffee

For over a thousand years, coffee has been the beverage of choice to countless millions for getting a start on the day. Brazilians love their coffee so much that the term for breakfast there is café da manhã, literally translated as coffee of the morning. The method of brewing coffee has changed only slightly in the past millennium and remains much the same across cultures: steep the beans in hot water to extract their caffeine and flavor.

That changed in 1964 when a graduate student by the name of Todd Simpson developed a method of cold brewing coffee. He went on to develop the Toddy Coffee Maker which at its core is a gravity-fed brewing system. The resultant coffee is much more potent than a normal brew and has nearly 70% less acidity.

My inspiration for trying this method of brewing was my co-worker and friend Lizz. She swears by her Toddy but I wasn't prepared to drop $40 on it and besides, as Alton Brown is fond of saying, there should be only one device in your kitchen that has a single use and that's the fire extinguisher. Determined to find an alternate means of brewing this wonderful concoction, I came up with the method described below. You will need some tools first.
  1. French press with at least an 8-cup capacity.
  2. A strong or medium whole-bean coffee. I used a Columbian blend from Starbucks.
  3. A coffee grinder.
  4. Coffee filters.
  5. Frother (optional)
  6. Purified water (optional)
Fill the grinder with a cup of beans and set it to espresso fine. Pour the resultant powder into the French press and fill it with cold or room-temperature water, preferably purified. Cover the top with Saran wrap and put it in the fridge for 10-12 hours. For the first few hours I used my hand-held frother to keep the grounds from getting too coagulated. When ready, take the French press out of the fridge, and affix at least 2 coffee filters to the reusable metal filter. Slowly push down on the plunger. Due to the amount of grounds, it will probably take up to a minute to push it down completely. Slow is key here.

The resultant coffee will have a higher caffeine content and so it is recommended that you mix at least 1 part coffee with 3 parts cream such as milk or my personal favorite, soy. With just a dash of your favorite flavored syrup you will have a concoction that is on par with what your barista can make. Also, you can store this coffee for much longer so long as you keep it in the fridge. I used a glass container to avoid it picking up any plastic taste.

In my opinion the results have been stellar. My two to three cup per day habit is now just one. And to say nothing of the flavor which is just amazing. I'm looking forward to experimenting not only with its preparation but with its use as well. Coffee martinis anyone?

24 comments:

Dorothy said...

Ha ha... I could've sworn you just said my favorite word, "martini." Can you really make a coffee martini?
OOOOOOOHHHH.... Sean, is there any way you can bring your new contraption down for the HF Christmas party to make some Coffee Martinis?

Anonymous said...

youve really made me want to try this "toddy" method. i dont have one of those fancy coffee presses though. do you think you could pull another mcgiver and tell me how to do it without out that thing. i bet you alton brown could! robin :)

Sean said...

Put the coffee grounds and water in a glass with a pouring spout. After letting it sit for the requisite 10-12 hours in the fridge, pour the resulting liquid through 3 coffee filters into another glass. It'll be a bit tougher but that ought to work.

Jerilyn said...

You have it sit in the fridge, but the Toddy system has it sit at room temp. Is there a reason to have it in the fridge? And thanks for your post--if the cold-brew system is as simple as just coffee & water sitting overnight, I don't see why I have to buy any special tools, but should be able to do that with a jar and some filters.

Sean said...

Since I typically use it over the course of a week, I keep it cold for preservation purposes. As well, I always mix it with soy milk (1/1 ratio) and drink it cold. If neither of these apply to you then it might well work brewing it at room temperature.

Murky Thoughts said...

This French press discovery or repurposing deserves a Nobel Prize or something. I'm all over it! "Repurposing" I feel like putting in quotes, because it's hard to perceive this procedure as a different operation of a French press than what everybody has beeing doing with them forever, but then that's why such discoveries take genius.

About the temperature, though, I must join in the quibbling. I cold brew it at room T, because I imagine that Toddy chose room T over others after trying a range, and because this is all about temperature. We're extracting our brew cold so that the bitter molecules diffuse too sluggishly to escape the grounds in the same large numbers with which they wash into hot brew. But also we want to liberate as many tasty molecules and as many molecules of caffeine as we can while the bitters are dozing. Fortunately molecules of different size and chemistry differ regarding the range of temperatures over which their rates of diffusion are most sensitive to change in water. So you can pick your temperature for the balance components you like in your drink. To the extent the Toddy guy toyed with variations, I suppose the temperature he prescribes is a sort of optimum--at least, among the easy options of the modern kitchen, which includes the fridge.

Sean said...

I finally tried brewing it at room temperature and indeed, the results were quite tasty. But I still store the resultant product in the fridge for preservation purposes.

dorothy.c said...

brilliant! i don't have a coffee press, though, so my version was:

combine coffee grounds & purified water in a large container, cover & let sit for 12+ hrs. pour over coffee filter/drainer set over a cup, and then wait for a long time whilst it drips through.

tada!

Nathan said...

Today I tried cold brewing with a French press without doing any extra filtering (so not pouring it through paper filters or anything; just pressing down the plunger as normally for hot coffee). I don't normally drink cold coffee, and I haven't tried any other cold-brewed coffee, either. So I don't have anything to compare my results to. But given others' descriptions of their results, this method seemed to me to work perfectly well. I searched all over the web for some info on whether you could cold brew just using a French press normally (modulo the longer time for the grounds to steep); but I didn't find anything anywhere, so I just gave it a shot--and it works great!

Anonymous said...

i agree with Nathan. I've been using a cup of new orleans coffee and chicory tht I buy at the store, it's not a fine grind. i put it in the french press, add water, let it sit for at least 12 at room temp, and then strain with french press, no paper filters. And then store in frig. I guess though I should try the method with a finer grind and paper filter to see if there's a difference.

kathleen said...

I bought a French Press at Marshall's for $9.99, so try the kitchen dept of an off-price store like Marshall's, Ross or TJ Maxx.

king1075 said...

We're making our own coffee elixir by putting a pound of course ground dark roast (Our Premium Espresso blend) into a big old pickle jar with 10 cups of purified water. Use minimal stirring and leave at room temp for 12-14 hours. Filter with a big strainer into a bowl and then use a coffee filter basket to put into a pitcher. It takes a half dozen filter changes to get it clear, but you get about 6-7 cups of elixir that can be diluted 1:3. Keeps 2 wks in the fridge.

LawsofNature said...

This is a great idea. I saw the Toddy appliance in Borders yesterday for $38 and already own a french press so I'll try it before parting with the money and trying to find space in my kitchen for a new appliance.
The use of paper filters should be eliminated by using the coarse grind of coffee usually recommended for French Press coffee.

viperhalfdragon said...

wonderfull idea and I shall try it post-haste (<- funny word! , sniggers so sue me I'm a french) but for the comment about the fire extinguisher (and I know it's something someone else said but I'm still going to comment on it) but you can use some fire extinguishers to make dry ice powder and thereafter make ice cream so there, extra use for it yay!!

JT said...

I got a tea pot today -- glass, with a plastic handle and cover, and about 1/2 a cup capacity fine mesh chamber (screen door material?) that drops down into the center of the thing. It works very well for tea, so I'll be trying that with cold-brewing some coffee tonight. I expect it will work very well. If need be, the paper filter can get rid of tiny parts since my grinder may be overzealous.

This is the 2nd time I've seen the tea pot (which was $8 new in box). The first time was in a store in Yoff, Dakar, Senegal, which caters to Europeans... and this time it was at a small international foods market in Denver.

Premier Housewares' Aurora "multi-function teapot", 1250 ml capacity, also shows as a Familymaid 15864 Coffee/Tea Kettle, distributed by Dolar Empire LLC, Vernon, CA, with barcode 8 27680 15864 3

It's round, comes in several colors of plastic around the glass, and is made in China.

See also http://cgi.ebay.com/AURORA-MULTI-FUNCTION-TEA-POT-BY-PREMIER-HOUSEWARES-NEW_W0QQitemZ370150430834

Hope this helps!

Suzan said...

love, love, love the ingenuity. i too, do not want to splurge for the toddy tho i have tasted it's delish results. to further save on purchasing a grinder, you can grind beans in your blender. woohoo

Mike said...

We made it on a slightly larger scale....One pound of coffee ground auto drip, one gallon of water and a muslin bag. We would let the grounds steep for 24 hours. It was tasty and a little more concentrated than the 10-12 hours.

Bennie said...

EXCELLENT idea, I have the french press and the grinder...am thinking that you wouldn't need the finer filter if you do grind coarse as usual with the french press...

spontaneous yoda said...

I was at my favorite coffee bean roaster in Seattle buying beans to make coffee ice cream. They suggested that I brew the coffee "toddy" style. An internet search would give me all kinds of info. So here I am. I have a silly question about proportions though. So you say a 8 cup coffee press. Is that cups as in 8 ounces per cup, or cup as if coffee, I think typically 6 ounces per cup? My Coffee press is 32 ounces. I made one batch assuming normal ounces so my press makes about 5 standard cups put in 2/3 cups group beans and it turned out so wonderfully smooth. But I am wondering if it should be stronger, especially since it is going in cream, egg and sugar. Suggestions?

Sean said...

Anywhere from 6-8 oz per cup sounds good. I prefer mine on the stronger side so feel free to experiment!

Liz said...

I use the 1/3 ground coffee to 1 1/2 c. water ratio, that results in enough for 2-3 cups over the course of the next day. No French press required; just leave it in a glass jar (with the lid on) on the counter at bedtime and next morning pour it through one coffee filter and you're good to go.

Walter said...

I have the toddy, but don't really follow the instructions. I stir and leave it brewing for 24 hours. All the caffeine and acid yeah. I think you can make this coffee in a bucket with cheesecloth or other fabric. Wonderful!

Seven said...

I can't filter it enough through the French Press so I pressed the brew through my AeroPress a couple of times. The results were beautiful!

Michael Baron said...

You can also do this by using a cotton sack. Put your grounds in the sack and let steep (24 to 36 hours at room temp works wonders) and wring out the sack to get every last drop.

If you want to do this large-scale, a bottling bucket from a brewing supply place and a cotton drawstring bag (or a pillowcase haphazardly sewn shut once you put the coffee in) works nicely. With a six gallon bucket you can make about 4 and a half gallons of hightest. Great for parties, picnics, church functions, etc.