Coffee Snob

I'm not one.

Until last year, I could claim that I had never purchased coffee from Starbucks. Their hyper-consumeristic image turned me off, but not nearly as much as their $5 coffee. I received a $10 Starbucks gift card, and so ended that streak. I still only get the Cafe Americano (usually too acidic for my tastes) and the skinny macchiatos. Their iced coffees are bitter and grainy.

I much prefer Bruegger's coffee--iced and brewed--to Starbucks. And beyond purchasing coffee, I much prefer making my own. It's a frugality thing, but it's also a "I don't have to rely on you to have what I want" thing. I need a few constants to lean on.

I've owned every make and model of drip machine out there, from the cheapie-cheapies (Hamilton Beach produces a decent $20 maker) to Bosch and Black and Decker (more bells and whistles without appreciable improvement in coffee flavor). I've had one-cup makers: the Senseo maker produces a nice latte-like froth, but it always tastes old; the Kuerig brewed either too strong or too weak, and I couldn't "pack my own pods" like I could with the Senseo, thus leaving me 100 percent at the mercy of the maker. Try to find K-Cups at midnight in Tennessee. It's not going to happen.

My coffee breakthrough happen in terms of time and temperature. I'm intrigued by the slow-food movement (though neither green-thumbed nor kitchen proficient enough to take advantage of it). My approach to coffee may be considered part of the slow-drink movement. It's not ready in two minutes. It can't make me a gallon of hot coffee in under 15 seconds. But what it can do is produce coffee that tastes like it smells, lasts three weeks (hello, savings), and boasts 60-75 percent less acid than regular hot-brewed coffee.

I started cold brewing with a rudimentary setup: two big glass jars, one kitchen strainer, and a coffee filter. I mixed fresh ground beans with cold filtered water at a ratio of 4:1. (The freshness of the grind is IMPERATIVE. The reason one-cup makers produce sub-standard coffee is because their grounds have been sitting for months.) That's it. The mixture sat in its glass jar for 12 hours, and then I strained out the grounds by pouring the contents of one glass jar into the other, using the strainer with a coffee filter. (It sometimes took two pours to get out all the grounds.) The resulting coffee was pungent, sweet, nutty, and it *tasted* like brewing coffee smells. For hot coffee, I used the brew as a concentrate and mixed it 3:1 before microwaving. (Cold-brew coffee is less acidic than hot brew, but its caffeine content is far higher.) I didn't dilute for iced coffee.

Here, I'll pause to note that I have GERD and have to watch the acid in my food. Tomatoes, chocolate, teas, coffees, and sodas have to be monitored and restricted. Because cold-brew coffee is much less acidic than hot-brewed coffee, I can have more of it, and it lasts longer. I always hated pouring out half a pot of brewed coffee because it had been sitting for a few hours. I've successfully reheated cold-brew a week after making it.

As cost efficient as the two-jar method was, it was clunky. I don't like counter clutter, and these jars were big. Recently, though, I started using my cheapie french press to cold-brew my coffee, and it's the best solution I've found. My french press is nothing special. It came from Target, and I think it was $20. Ironically, I've been grinding Starbuck's breakfast blend (it was on sale). I always grind the beans course (so they don't slip through the mesh), and I store my beans in the freezer.

It's red because that's all they had. It looks like Christmas on my counter.

So far, so good. Tomorrow's batch will be the second one through, and the first batch overbrewed by about 18 hours. Even too strong, it was more flavorful than bitter, and I found that I could enjoy it most iced and cut with some cold water.

I'll still likely grab a Bruegger's iced coffee now and then. I like the spaces, and I like the experience. But cold-pressing coffee--even if it does take 12 hours--offers a different kind of experience, where time, materials, and chemistry combine to make something rich and enjoyable.


Bellatricksy said...

After really enjoying some cold coffee concentrate I was given as a gift, and then realizing how incredibly expensive it was to make habitual, I got Mark to make me some. He mixes grounds and water and heats to 160, and then cools the pot down, and then pours it through a filter into a liter bottle. I can mix it up with milk exactly like I like it, with about a quarter teaspoon of chocolate. Now I can't stand any iced mochas but my own.

Mark once tried buying raw beans and roasting them at home (using an old hot air popcorn popper). That coffee was divine--but it was so strong that I couldn't sleep that night. At all. And I've never had that problem with coffee before.

I'm intrigued by your cold press process--I love regular French press coffee. Mark's gonna look into this process.

This was an enjoyable post!

Casie Fedukovich said...

Thanks! I want to learn more about making this hot concentrate. I know 160 is the temp at which coffee stays not burned. I might have to invest in a thermometer and try that! Thanks for the iced mocha idea!