Forget the beach. Don’t think about the pool, drinks on the porch or games in the lawn. Leave the grill untouched. We all the know the best part about summer is iced coffee.
But let's be honest: not all iced coffees are equal. I have a memory from when I was young. I was at the house of a family friend, being watched during the day. It was a warm summer day and after running around outside I wanted a cold drink. Knowing that there was some sweetened iced tea in the fridge, I grabbed a pitcher that I assumed contained just that. Imagine the disgust of a boy, a picky eater at that, taking a sip of iced coffee when he was expecting some nice sweet iced tea. All I remember is a muddy, bitter, and burnt flavor before my whole world crashed down before me.
Okay, slight exaggeration.
But it was pretty awful: perhaps a pitcher of Maxwell’s brewed then set in the fridge to become a murky lagoon of bitter, sharp caffeination. There’s a lot of coffee out in the world like that, and some may know that there is a better way. For those of you who don’t, I’m afraid I might become a little preachy, for there is another way.
|I tried doing it on coffee bags, ya know, for continuity sake,
but the effect was less than stunning and the footing less than stable.
Picture by MonsieurLui is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0
Enter cold brew coffee: a coffee that can sit for a few days and still taste amazing, a coffee that won’t punish your taste buds with punches of repulsion, a coffee that will taste like ice cream once you add a little cream and gives you a caffeine kick you’d expect only from cartoon mules in old timey commercials. Cold brew is coffee brewed for awhile, ideally 12 hours, at room temperature then filtered. To make iced coffee out of cold brew, you usually water it down to taste, as the cold brew itself is pretty potent.
|This is Todd. He once drank a pint of straight cold brew. He hasn’t been the same since.
Picture by bark is licensed under CC BY 2.0
You might wonder what magic happens when you let your coffee sit over night. Surprisingly, it has very little to do with elves. Let’s just say that when coffee grounds and water get to hang out with each other in a nice environment for awhile they become fast friends, making inside jokes, finishing each other’s sentences and whatnot. As a result, there’s no bite, a velvety smoothness, and loads of joyous caffeine. Cold brew keeps very well, making large batches ideal for us coffee shops, but you can make small batches at home.
The process is easy: take one part coarse ground coffee, 4.5 parts cold water, let sit for 12 hours then filter with a sieve (you can also find more detailed instructions here). You’re now ready for a summer of delicious coffee. Although any bean will work, we favor our Brazil, or a blend that's Brazil heavy. Cold brew has a wonderful mouthfeel, but it does tend to mute some of the more delicate flavors, so using a coffee that already produces a sweeter, creamier brew will be extra fantastic. In other words, don't break out the Ethiopian for it. If you absolutely must have some iced Ethiopian coffee, I recommend starting here for a list of other great ways to make iced coffee. Whichever method you choose, make sure it's good. The Maine summer is short, and there's no point wasting it on bad iced coffee.