Friday, May 13, 2011

Coffee and me

I was a late adopter where coffee is concerned. As in, I am firmly ensconced in my mid-40s and have only been drinking coffee for a little over two years.

No one I knew really drank it while I was growing up, you see. Maybe my grandparents, but I didn't eat breakfast with them very often. I think my mom may have been a coffee drinker, but she mostly indulged at work as far as I knew. My dad was a tea drinker, and so was I.

I WANTED to be a coffee drinker, though. I so wanted to be part of that club, especially in college. This was long before Starbucks and various other coffee houses invaded the universe, incidentally. Coffee drinkers had to get their fix at home or in greasy-spoon diners. The coffee was black, served in a small (by today's standards) ceramic mug or Styrofoam cup, and usually accompanied by a cigarette. During exams my dorm would offer free coffee in the lobby for anyone pulling an all-nighter, and the caffeine junkies would descend like locusts.

I tried a sip, a couple of times. It tasted like burnt bean juice. I added sugar. It tasted like SWEET burnt bean juice. I added cream. It tasted like Kahlua vomit. I could not do it, y'all. I just didn't like coffee. And I was okay with that, for years and years. Once coffee exploded all over the place, with a Starbucks on every corner and painfully hip independent coffee shops lining the sidewalks in-between, I kind of felt like a rebel, all counter-culture and stuff. "Yeah, go on and guzzle your coffee, you sheep! I'll be sitting over here, quietly sipping some herbal tea and basking in my moral superiority! Take that!"

(It didn't help that I was forced to give up caffeine years ago for medical reasons. Much like non-alcoholic beer, there didn't seem much point to decaf coffee. Why drink something that tastes bad AND is drug-free, for crying out loud?)

Okay, this story is getting long and rambling so I'll cut to the chase. A couple of years ago, I tried coffee again. It was winter, the weather was cold and gross, and I was trapped in the human Habitrail that is my local IKEA store. Also I was hungry and thirsty, I wanted something warm, they had decaf, and it was free. The planets may also have been in perfect alignment, I'm not sure, but something was different (menopause hormones? brain tumor?) because this time I LIKED THE COFFEE. I liked it very much. It actually tasted pretty dang okay.

So then I went right out and bought some (decaf) coffee beans and a Melitta cup-top drip brewer thingie, which led to a coffee grinder and a French press, which led to a ridiculously convenient-yet-expensive Keurig coffee maker. And the rest is history.

Except! Somewhere along the way, when the weather here in Texas was 100 degrees for  weeks in a row and the very thought of drinking a hot cup of ANYTHING nearly made me spontaneously combust, I developed a fondness for iced coffee. Except, again! I couldn't quite get it right. I tried brewing over ice, but that was gross and watery and never cold enough. I tried brewing hot coffee and putting it in the fridge, but it was bitter and seemed like an energy waster.

That's when I discovered cold-brew coffee. And I figured out how to make it. And I have never looked back. Cold-brew coffee is amazing! You don't have to heat anything! It brews itself overnight! It's so easy! Let's make some!

Here's all you need for step one: coffee, a coffee grinder if you're a whole-bean kind of gal/guy, and a container.

I like this coffee.
And this grinder.

What we're actually making here is a coffee concentrate, so you'll want to brew it extra strong. I used enough coffee for 18 cups.

Then I dumped the ground coffee into my container (that's a Slom jar from IKEA -- serendipity!) and added six cups of cold, filtered water.

We have a Brita pitcher so I used that as my water source, but you could certainly use bottled water. Or heck, use whatever water you usually use to make your coffee. It'll probably turn out just fine.

Then just let it sit on the counter overnight (or for about 12 hours). You'll want to give the jar a stir or shake or swirl at some point so all the coffee grounds settle at the bottom instead of floating on top, but that's all there is to it!

Phase two happens the following morning, and you'll need this: your container of coffee and water that's been brewing overnight, a funnel, a coffee filter and another container to hold the filtered brew (that's a Slom stoppered bottle from IKEA! it matches my jar! and the funnel is from IKEA, too! they should totally be paying me to write this, but they're not).

So, just rig yourself up a little funnel/filter jobbie and pour in the coffee/water!

This is sort of a frustratingly slow process, but in the end you're left with a jar of coffee grounds for your garden (don't feed these to your rabbit; I'm pretty sure that would be a bad idea) ...

... and a bottle of liquid gold.

This will keep in the fridge for at least a week. Maybe longer; mine is always long gone by then.

Coffee made this way tastes soooooo smooth AND it doesn't require any heat or electricity (er, except for the grinding, if you did that). You can drink it cold over ice (diluted with cold water or not, depending on how strong you like it), add hot water and drink it hot, use it in recipes calling for strong brewed coffee, mix it into a cocktail with some Kahlua and/or Bailey's, bring it on a camping trip, wash your dog with it, whatever you want!

Me, I like it like this: over ice, undiluted, with a teensy drop of vanilla syrup.

Aaaah. Perfect!


  1. OK I've recently started drinking iced coffee and haven't figured out the process quite yet. I LOVE the filter and funnel configuration. I think you just revolutionized my coffee.

  2. When I was in college (back in the Dark Ages of the 70's) all that existed on campus were coin machines that dropped the cup, then the awful liquid into the cup. I never drank it. At home, my parents were Instant Coffee drinkers. I never drank that either.

    Then I got my first job and they made fresh pots of coffee all day long and I LOOOVED it.

    I may try your tutorial. I don't make tasty iced coffee, I'm tired of paying McD's for iced coffee and I refuse to pay the extortionist prices at StarYouKnowWhere.

  3. HHmmm, I recall reading somewhere else ... I also recall promising myself to try it ...
    I never did.
    But it does sounds delicious.

  4. Yeah, go on and guzzle your coffee, you sheep!

    While I'm over here sipping my tea. Damn, I'm a b.a.

  5. I've had coffee once in my life. I think I was around 11 years old and my dad was trying to warm me up after I was out in the cold too long. I remember I barfed it back up all over his hand. I never tried it again.

    Coffee has always seemed like a lovely ritual, though! And with a drop of vanilla syrup? That's gotta be good!