Much like shorts, day-drinking, and actual sunlight, iced coffee has become one of our culture's key harbingers of summertime. We drink a lot of it around here. But those giant, sweaty cups come at a surprisingly high price, and every summer seem to drain a lot of money out of our budgets that could be going towards other essentials like beer, or rent. It doesn't have to be this way.
Specifically, it doesn't have to be relegated into the category of "things that are just never as good if I make them myself." Sure, you can just resort to sticking your leftover pot of morning coffee in the fridge and waiting around til the next day for the "iced" version, but again, it doesn't have to be this way. For advice on how to get this right, we spoke with Kyle Lind, the barista at Skytown Cafe's newly opened espresso bar The Counter, who was kind enough to walk us through the process. Trust us when we say that it's all much easier than leaving the house.
Obviously. And this part shouldn't be too complicated if you've ever made coffee before — give your beans a somewhat course grind (about the same that you'd use for french press coffee), and use this time to do your measuring. Lind, like many baristas, adheres to the "Toddy" method of full immersion cold brewing (so named for a specific brand of cold brew equipment), which advises a water-to-coffee ratio of roughly 4 to 1, which can always be diluted after the fact. Here, Lind used 400 grams of Plowshare beans with 4 liters of water. If you had any lingering questions about why iced coffee always leaves you so much more wired than anything else, consider them answered.
For this step, you'll start by pouring half of your water over half of your grounds in whatever container you'll be using for storage (any big, re-sealable jar will do fine), and letting it sit for 30 to 60 seconds. "When you roast coffee you create a lot of carbon dioxide inside of the bean, and when you grind coffee and pour water on it, all of that wants to escape, like when you pop a bottle of champagne," Lind explains. "So by grinding it, pouring water on half of it and giving it a few seconds, you give that carbon dioxide a chance to let out into the atmosphere, and you allow the water to completely saturate the grounds instead of having air pockets."
Fresher beans give off more carbon dioxide and can use a little more time, but after about a minute, you can add the rest of your grounds and water into the mix.
This is the truly easy part, aside from a little bit of pre-planning. Essentially, you just let the coffee sit, at room temperature, for as many hours as you want. Toddy brewing generally requires between 12 and 24 hours of steeping, and for the Counter's blend, Lind leaves it for 18. "Most of this is just a function of personal preference and taste. You can kind of 'set it and forget it,'" Lind says. "If you use a finer grind, you'll want to steep it for less time, and give a courser grind a little more time. You can also use less coffee and steep it a little longer... the process is very forgiving."
Lind did note that if you decide to let it steep in the fridge, you'll need to let it sit for twice as long, because cold air slows down the steeping process. Other than that, there's essentially no way to get this wrong.
If you have specific equipment for this, all the better, but you'll be fine without it. "The thing that I like about the Toddy brewing method," Lind explains, "is that it doesn't really require any special equipment. Once this brew is all finished, I strain it through a paper filter in a colander."
"You can do it at home really simply — you can use a jar and a regular coffee filter, I've used paper towels in a pinch, a french press — anything will work, and since you're using a course ground, the filter doesn't need to be too serious."
Drink it all right now, make a larger batch and save it to impress your friends, we trust you know what to do here. "Part of the reason cold brewing is so great to do at home, is that if you have a decent coffee and you just let it sit, you'll be able to make this amazing thing that will keep in the fridge for a couple weeks. You can even use it to make ice cubes," Lind added. With this as an option, we may never drink normal coffee again. At least, not for the next four months.
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.