Summer School: How To Make Cold Brew Coffee

Aug 11, 2014

If you've ever made iced coffee, your efforts may have involved pouring piping hot joe over ice cubes that immediately melt, or sticking your leftover coffee in the fridge. But there's another way. Oh yes.

For this week's Summer School lesson, we get an education in cold brew coffee. It's perfect for the summer, because you don't even need to boil water – but you do need a bit of patience.

"Cold brew involves pouring room temperature water over coarsely ground coffee and letting it sit for 12 to 14 hours," explains Abby Holden, a barista at Burlington's Maglianero Cafe. "And what you get at the end is a concentrate that you can then dilute and add ice, and you've got iced coffee."

Maglianero usually mixes up giant batches of cold brew for mass consumption, but for Vermont Edition, Holden shared a much simpler recipe.

What you need:

16 Tablespoons ground coffee (110 grams beans, if you like to use your kitchen scale & grinder)

- French press or a glass jar

- 4 cups room temperature water (875 grams)

- A thin cloth

- Extra container for storage

1. If you're starting with whole beans, weigh out 110 grams and pour the beans into a grinder.  

Credit Angela Evancie / VPR

2. Grind the beans to a loose, course consistency. If you don't have a grinder, no sweat -- just measure out 16 tablespoons of grounds.

Credit Angela Evancie / VPR

3. Pour the grounds into the bottom of a French press, and pour in 4 cups of water. "As you pour the water, make sure you're getting all of the grounds pretty wet, but not agitating them too much, because that tends to make the coffee a little more bitter," Holden says. 

Credit Angela Evancie / VPR

4. Put the lid on the French press, but don't press the filter down. If you're using a jar, loosely cover the jar -- no need to close it tight.

Credit Angela Evancie / VPR

5. Leave the steeping grounds out on the counter. Do not put them into the refrigerator. "This is called cold brew coffee, but in reality it's more just like room temperature brew coffee," says Holden. "If it was in the fridge it would be too cold for most of the compounds to extract from the ground coffee, and it would probably taste pretty weak."

6. Wait 12-14 hours. In this time, you could probably master the art of kayak rolling.

7. When time is up, lightly press the coffee, if you have a French press. Pour the concentrate into a different container, ideally straining it once more by pouring it through a thin cloth. "The concentrate will tend to be a little bit silty," Holden says. If you're using a jar, pour the concentrate through a thin cloth to strain it. 

8. To mix yourself a glass of ice coffee, add one part water to one part concentrate. Add ice, and enjoy. "Cold brew tends to taste fairly good with cream and sugar, but we totally suggest just drinking it black," Holden says. "It's very refreshing."

Credit Angela Evancie / VPR

9. Store your cold brew concentrate covered, in the fridge, for up to a week. And when you make it again, experiment: "We suggest messing around with the recipe to taste," Holden says. "We have a specific ratio of coffee to water and grind setting that we've decided tastes good, but if you prefer a finer grind, you should totally do that, if you prefer a higher ratio of coffee, you should totally do that too. So just have fun with it."