Monday, May 17, 2010

Cold-Brewed Coffee

Coffee and I have a long history together. I started seeing Coffee back in college, after watching my mom consume three cups a morning regularly while I was growing up. I'd been denied the pleasure, and since she took it blacker than black, and often reheated, I didn't mind so much. There was a sort of check-out system in place in the kitchen - once you'd been in there for a couple of minutes, Mom would demand to know what you were doing, which made me feel like I had to account for each grain of sugar (not to be wasted on drinks that would only stunt my growth anyways!)

College, though, was another story. Coffee hung out at the convenience store, with all the cream and sugar I could stir in, and I greedily tried every flavor I could find.

After the first couple of years, though, I started to fear the ulcer I was sure to get by slurping down coffee by the cupful and stressing over a combination of schoolwork, part-time work, and helping a sick friend over a difficult term. So I broke up with coffee, told him I couldn't see him anymore, and switched to cocoa. Only to find out that I hadn't been super-stressed at all, I'd just been over-caffeinated. The heart palpitations, the blood rushing through my veins, the thump-thump sound in my ears - all a reaction to the caffeine.

And that's about how things stayed until I moved back to Oregon several years ago. Eugene being a mere half-day drive away from Seattle, the coffee culture has permeated. I resisted for some time, but losing my job and taking a new one in an office that didn't provide hot water and tea at the flick of a switch led me back to temptation. Over the intervening years, I managed to stay ulcer-free, although I still have problems with caffeine. And isn't it lucky that they make coffee in decaf?

This is one of my favorite discoveries since picking up coffee again, and something we invested in a couple of years ago: a cold-brew system for making coffee extract. Cold-brewed coffee is less bitter and acidic than hot-brewed coffee or espresso, and each batch lasts up to a couple of weeks in the fridge.

To make this, you'll need a cold-brew filter. I use a Toddy brand system, and I'm honestly not sure who else makes them. Once you buy the carafe and plastic filter, the only part that needs to be replaced regularly is the filter insert - and with proper care, each insert will last a season.

Follow the directions in the cold-brew guide. This usually means wetting your filter down and inserting it and the stopper, then posing the brewing container over the carafe. Add a cup of cold water, followed by a half-pound of coursely ground coffee. Add 4 cups of cold water, followed by the other half-pound of coffee. Add 3 more cups of water, making sure to wet down as much of the coffee grounds as possible. Wait 5 minutes. Top off with one last cup of water and wait. Ten or twelve hours later, pull the stopper and let the coffee drain into the carafe. Dump the grounds (or compost, if you have a compost container handy) and rinse out the brewing container.

You now have a carafe of coffee concentrate. Recommended uses:
  • Pour a few tablespoons of concentrate into a mug and top with boiling water for hot coffee.
  • Freeze concentrate into ice cubes, use as above.
  • Pour concentrate into about 1/4 of a glass. Add ice and top with water for iced coffee.
  • Pour concentrate into about 1/4 of a glass. Add ice and top with chocolate milk for an iced mocha.
  • Create your own concoction!
This year, I'm planning on trying some coffee-based marinades.

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