By: Kyle Johnson
Cold brew can have a naturally sweet taste if brewed correctly. It is also significantly less acidic than hot coffee. As with hot coffee, there are many ways to enjoy cold brew. You can drink it straight or dilute it with milk or water. You can sweeten it with simple syrup or sweetened condensed milk. A breakfast shake of cold brew, milk and whey protein powder is also an option.
Why Cold Brew? By Kyle Johnson
In this article, I am going to go over the why and how of cold brew – from brewing it, to storing and serving it.
First, a note that “iced coffee” is not “cold brew.” Iced coffee is made by brewing traditional hot coffee and then chilling it in the refrigerator and/or adding ice, whereas cold brew is made by steeping coffee grounds in room temperature water for 12+ hours.
A great man once said, “Never half-ass two things, whole-ass one thing,” and if you are anything like me, it is a motto that you live by. So let us take coffee to the next level.
I find that drinking cold brew does not have the same psychological effect that hot coffee does. There is something about the grind, brew, and smell during the preparation of coffee that is just real nice. As Cody Miller put it, “sipping a cup of black coffee is one of life’s rare and mysterious experiences that grows to ever increasing satisfaction the more you practice.” While cold brew does not provide the same satisfaction as hot coffee, it is still damn good. Also, drinking a 205℉ beverage on a 105℉ day is not for all of us.
So, why fix what is not broken? Why give cold brew a shot?
It is delicious
Cold brew can have a naturally sweet taste if brewed correctly. It is also significantly less acidic than hot coffee, which has two main benefits: it’s better for your teeth and better for your stomach. Personally, drinking hot coffee before training gives me heartburn by the time I get to deadlifting; so instead, I drink cold brew.
It beats the hell out of instant coffee
If you’ve made it this far, I am going to assume that you care about the quality of your coffee, and can agree that instant coffee (e.g. k cups) is less than ideal. When in a hurry, I would rather have a good cup of cold brew than a terrible cup of hot coffee.
It is potent
While there is debate around the idea that cold brew is natively more potent than hot coffee, cold brew is easier to make into a concentrate—highly caffeinated coffee that is generally diluted with water or milk before consuming. A little can go a long way.
Cold brew is easy to make. Simply add ground coffee to water, and let steep for 14 to 18 hours. But the devil is in the details. You may find that you prefer a lighter roast over a darker roast or a 14-hour brew time over an 18-hour brew time.
A safe place to start is at 12oz of coffee to 60oz of water (1:5 ratio). If this is too strong for you, you can add water to taste. If it is too weak, use more coffee or less water the next time you make cold brew. I prefer a 1:4 ratio for a strong coffee taste and find 1:10 to be too watery.
You will want to put the coffee grounds into some type of a mesh bag so that you do not need to filter out the coffee grounds from the water – think of this like a big tea bag. While a large portion of cheesecloth can work, I prefer to use grain bags (mesh bags) – typically used with brewing beer – as they are heavy duty, reusable, come in large sizes, and include a drawstring that will keep the bag closed while it is brewing. You can pick up a reusable drawstring bag at Amazon.com for about $10.
You can brew a very large batch of cold brew inside of a clean drink cooler, then transfer to a smaller container for storage and consumption, or smaller batches inside of a pitcher or other container, and serve directly from it. Make sure that the opening to the brewing container is large, as the coffee grounds will swell as they sit in the water. And, when your brewing time is up, remove the coffee grounds before you store it.
Just as you keep a log of your strength training, you should keep a log of your cold brew, tracking the variables (bean source, duration of brew, bean grind, bean roast, and coffee-to-water ratio) of each brew, and adjusting just one variable at a time in order to achieve the perfect coffee for you.
Most people, including myself, use a dark roast with cold brew, but my advice is for you to “drink what you like,” as the roast has a huge impact on the flavor of the cold brew.
Ideally, you are purchasing whole beans, then grinding them at home using a burr grinder, just before brewing. If you do not have a burr grinder, the next best option is to purchase beans from a local coffee shop and have them ground for you on the spot. A good automatic burr grinder is worth it and will run you at least $100. Or you can go the manual route, save yourself about $70 and get some assistance arm work in while you make your coffee.
Whether you grind your beans at home or have them ground for you, you will want a coarse grind. As with traditionally brewed hot coffee, the grind size is proportional to the brew length: the shorter the brew time, the finer the grind. As the coffee has a lot of time to brew, you do not need the additional surface area provided by a fine grind. An espresso, which is brewed in a few seconds, uses a very fine grind, where-as cold brew, which takes 14+ hours to brew, uses a coarse grind. Additionally, the coarse grind helps to make cleanup easy.
While my style of cold brew could be best described as one of neglect, anywhere between a 14 hour and 18 hour brew time is just fine.
If you are looking for a potent potable, you should not let brew for longer than 18 hours. Instead, you should vary the ratio of coffee-to-water in order to achieve the desired potency of your cold brew.
Extras and How to Serve
You can experiment with adding raw vanilla beans, chicory root, cinnamon or chili powder with the beans while brewing.
After steeping the coffee for 14 to 18 hours, remove the bag from the container and dump the grounds. Cold brew must be kept cold, and it will last between one and two weeks while refrigerated.
I believe that good hot coffee is similar to a good steak: you should not smother a good steak in A1 sauce, and you should not drown good hot coffee in sugar and cream. But that is not the case with cold brew – while cold brew can stand on its own, it shines when mixed with milk, simple syrup, chocolate, or any other number of things.
As with hot coffee, there are many ways to enjoy cold brew. You can drink it straight or dilute it with milk or water. You can sweeten it with simple syrup or sweetened condensed milk. A breakfast shake of cold brew, milk and whey protein powder is also an option.