reinventing the wheel

Messing with what works.

Messing with what works.

Last summer, the NY Times ran a column on the wonders of cold-brewing coffee. I vaguely remember reading it at the time, but I promptly ignored, presumably sticking it in the same mental recycling bin as the ramblings of how greenmarket vegetables are so unbearably superior to anything you’d ever find in a produce store — you know, the City People Discovering Green Beans Don’t Come in Cans file. (Also, not everything from the greenmarket is ineffably awesome and better; some of it is just dirtier and more expensive.)

My normal summer routine is to make a pot of regular coffee (Zabar’s dark espresso), let it sit for ridiculously long in the French press, then strain it and stick it in the fridge overnight. A pot of coffee can last me two-three days iced (hot, I’ll drink it all in one sitting), which is aces for both convenience and cost effectiveness. Another reason I haven’t bothered with most of the iced coffee ‘recipes’ — why mess with what works?

But, a year later and Deb from Smitten Kitchen tried it and I have a great deal more respect for her than most of the loopy types who populate the Times‘ dining section. So even thought I still think this is a needless complication of an otherwise simple process, I decided to give it a whirl.

The ‘recipe’ is simple: 1/3 cup grounds (two scoops for me, which is what I normally do for a pot) to 1.5 cups water. Since the culinary lab here at AAE is Soviet-era in technology, we are using an old takeout container.

Strangely, our results were not affected.

Shockingly, it looks the same at the start and twelve hours later.

Maybe Soviet-era is a little generous. Let me introduce to you the Coffee Sock. Or Coffee Condom. Or Reusable Coffee Filter or whatever the actual name is of the piece of cloth through which you pour water and coffee grounds and coffee emerges from the other side. Rubber band handle attachment and mental cinch for repairs not included.

Excuse the blur; keeping the filter over the cup and taking a picture was largely beyond my coordination. Using the timer setting was only considered after the fact.

I ran the coffee through the filter twice, as per directions, and then transferred it to a glass jar and stuck it in the fridge; this was the one day I woke up with a sore throat and opted to make hot coffee in the press. The taste test was put off for a day.

There’s a discussion in the Times post about ice cubes and Deb’s pictures are full of them, but I refuse to put ice cubes in my coffee; if I wanted it diluted and weak, I’d make it diluted and weak. I get a dark roast and use a French press, a combination that produces only one effect: industrial strength coffee.

I normally do the same proportions of milk and coffee for iced and hot, but this was supposed to be concentrated stuff, so I made cafe au lait instead of adding water. The results… nice. Even with the milk, there were definite caramel notes and no bitterness and it was all very good.


I like bitterness. I like strong coffee. I don’t consider “mellow” an attribute to be sought after in my morning joe. I take it with milk and no sugar and I don’t want all of the sharpness cut by sweetener or hazelnut or cocoa or whipped cream. I don’t do “coffee drinks.” And this is perfect iced coffee for people who do. Which may or may not be the same people who only like alcoholic beverages that don’t taste like alcohol, while I’m a whiskey and stout kind of girl.

I will admit that this was fun and definitely something to do if you like coffee drinks or want to be a snob about where your single-source beans have come from and whether or not they passed through a monkey’s digestive tract first. But it’s not something I’m about to convert to, let alone become a preacher for in the fashion of the Times column. I’ll stick to my abrasive version. In short, my first instinct was correct.


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