Cold Brewed Iced Coffee: The No-Sweat Morning Pick-Me-Up

I’m a coffee drinker.  It took me awhile to develop the habit, but I am now well and truly hooked.  In fact, a while back I decided to take a 2 week break from coffee as I felt I was overly addicted.  While at least it’s not to the point that I get a headache or anything when I shut off the coffee intake, I was certainly more zombie-ish in the morning than usual.  And cranky.  So I’ve made peace with my addiction.  When I moved down to Houston and away from my beloved coffee maker, I got myself a Keurig.  I love it.  For one person, I think makes a lot of sense.  It’s so easy, and I like getting to try all the new flavors.  I’m particularly looking forward to seasonal flavors this winter.  Of course, with the heat index breaking 100 degrees here on almost a daily basis, hot coffee has its drawbacks.  Enter iced coffee.

I used to make iced coffee with instant coffee and cold water.  Simple enough, but shockingly bitter.  Then I ran across this recipe for Cold Brew Irish Coffee, which introduced me to the idea of cold brewing.  By the way, if you’re thinking about making the above recipe, I’ll warn you that while it’s good, the end product tastes more like coffee-infused whiskey than whiskey-infused coffee.  It’s strong.  Anyway, cold brewing looked easy enough.  You basically just steep the grounds for a long time at cold temperatures, strain, and you’ve got your coffee concentrate.

Most of the recipes I found for cold brew coffee recommended a 4:1 or 4.5:1 ratio of water to coffee by weight.  Lacking a scale, I went looking for volumetric ratios.  I found a reference to 1:1, but it failed to specify if the coffee is in bean form or grounds.  That said, I decided to try a few ratios.  I just got a bunch of mason jars, which seemed a perfect vessel for my experiments.Iced Coffee - 3 jars

Note: flourescent pink labels are optional, but recommended.

If you can’t read the picture, I went with a 1:1, 1:1.5, and 1:2 ratio of coffee to water.  In each case, I used 1/2 cup of grounds (which by the way, are recommended to be on the coarse side), and the appropriate amount of water. I mixed it up last night, and pulled it out this morning.  Then it was just a matter of filtering out the grounds .  I used a very fancy tool to accomplish this:Iced Coffee - FilterYep, it’s a paper coffee filter in a pint glass.  Oh, and a rubber band.Iced Coffee - FilteringObserver the goodness at the bottom of the glass.  I got 1.5 oz, 4 oz and 6 oz of concentrate from the respective mixes.

Now be warned, this stuff is pretty bitter.  If that’s how you like your coffee, by all means, down the hatch.  For most people however, this is the time to dilute with some ice-cold water.  I’d start with a 1:2 ratio of concentrate to water, and then adjust it your tastes.  I think my go-to mix will use the 1:2 ratio to make the concentrate, and then dilute 1:1 with water.  But I’d encourage you to find what works for you.  I think that this morning I ended up drinking about 6 cups of coffee (or 3x my normal).  But it was for science.  And I’ve got another couple batches steeping.  One is my new normal, and one is that plus some vanilla extract.  We’ll see how it turns out.

Iced Coffee - End ProductFor the hard-core enthusiast, you can even make the cubes out of coffee so as not to dilute the flavor. 

For those of you who like iced coffee, I think this is just as good as anything you find at a coffee chain.  And while I haven’t run the numbers, I’m guessing it’s a lot cheaper.  So enjoy your caffeine fix without the heat until the weather turns back to the cool side.  Which around here might be December.


The Drinks of Summer

There is some seriously glorious weather outside today.  High 70s, slight breeze, low humidity.  It’s a day to be spent outdoors.  Which is why I am writing this post from the deck with a cold beer at hand.  And not just any beer mind you, but perhaps my favorite summer-specific beer of all time.

I’m fairly open minded when it comes to trying beer (aside from most of the offerings from Budweiser, Coors and Miller), so I have no aversion to trying a beer that is a little outside the normal.  So when I saw Shiner’s Ruby Redbird the first time, I was intrigued.  Shiner holds a special place in my heart.  Going to college in Texas, my formative drinking years included exposure to such Texas brews as Lonestar, St. Arnolds, and Shiner.  Shiner, at an extra $1.50 a six pack, was one of the “nice” beers to be had.  The original Shiner Bock is a decent beer, but honestly I think I drink it more for nostalgia than for the taste.  But their summer seasonal is something different altogether.

Described on the label as “BEER BREWED WITH TEXAS RUBY RED GRAPEFRUIT JUICE AND WITH GINGER AND NATURAL FLAVORS ADDED”, I was curious as to how it would play together.  I love grapefruit, and ginger provides a nice refreshment… but in a beer?  Turns out it works great.  It’s an incredibly crisp and refreshing beverage.  The ginger note comes through first: like a cool fire the grows on your tongue.  Your mouth feels like it’s waking up, and then the acidity of the grapefruit kicks in, providing a bit of tartness.  Finally, the solid beer-bitter hops finish the taste, rounding out a very nice beer to enjoy on a hot day.  While it’s definitely a less traditional style, it definitely still tastes like a beer – this is no beer-graprefruit shandy.

The warmer weather also means that the venerable Gin and Tonic is making a more frequent appearance in my drink rotation.  And while I enjoy this classic three note chord of gin, tonic and lime all year round, it just seems to taste better while staring at the sunset on a warm summer evening.  Plus the quinine in the tonic means that it’s medicinal, and it should be consumed frequently to ward off malaria.  Now I’m a Tanquery fan myself, and Tanquery 10 if someone else is footing the bill.  Best mixed strong with lots of ice in a nice tall glass the way the British did as they conquered most of the world.

And then there’s the house special.  Our signature cocktail.  The Lemon-Basil Gimlet.  Quite possibly the best cocktail I’ve ever had.  It starts out with a sugar syrup flavored by steeping it with scads of basil and lemon peel.  Then mix the syrup 1:1:1 with fresh lemon juice and gin.  Serve cold.  Imbibe frequently.  The floral herbaciousness of the syrup really works well with the range of botanicals used in most english style dry gins, and the lemon juice gives it a refreshing tartness on a hot day.  Give it a shot, I bet you’ll love it.

Lemon-Basil Syrup (from Gourmet July 2007)

  • 4 cups packed fresh basil sprigs
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 9 x (4″ x 1″) strips lemon peel

Bring all ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Let stand at room temperature, covered, 1 hour, then transfer to an airtight container and chill until cold, about 1 hour. Strain syrup through a sieve into a bowl, pressing hard on and then discarding solids.

In related news: once the basil plants get some new leaves, I plan on giving this a shot with some house-infused basil vodka!

So grab you favorite warm weather drink and head outside!