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I saw that Starbucks recently added cold brew coffee to their menu, to the tune of 4 dollars / cup. I wasn’t surprised at the price. But I was surprised that this was on the menu. What does it mean? It means that cold brew coffee has moved out of fad territory, into trend territory. I hate to say it, but when Starbucks adds it to the menu, it is something that is going to be with us for the long run.
I have traditionally drank my coffee hot. Iced coffee never appealed to me, not even in the summer. It just seemed weird that something would taste like coffee, but be so cold. Cold brew coffee, on the other hand, is not iced coffee and shouldn’t be confused. Cold brew coffee means that it was brewed over an extended period of time with room-temperature or cold water. In fact, it can be served hot. ”Cold brew” makes reference to how it was brewed, not how it is served.
Naturally, there is all kinds of gear available for you to make excellent cold brew coffee for yourself at home. It would probably be worth it in the long run, rather than to pay 4 dollars per cup. But, I’ll save you even more money. I’ll explain to you how you can make cold brew coffee for yourself at home with nothing more than your french press and typical way of using it.
1) Clean your french press (press pot).
2) Grind your coffee coarse, just as though you were going to brew it in the french press as you normally would. Also grind as much coffee as you normally would, depending on the size of your french press pot.
3) Empty your coarse-ground coffee into the french press.
4) Add filtered room-temperature or cold water to the french press. Use the same amount of water as you normally would, depending on the size of your french press pot.
5) Without pressing the press down, put the french press (with coffee and water together) in the fridge. Leave it there 12 hours.
6) After 12 hours, remove the french press from the fridge, and press the ground coffee and sediment to the bottom of the pot. What you’re left with above the filter is cold-brewed sediment-free coffee.
7) Empty this coffee into another container. I use a mason jar with a screw-lid. Keep that other container in the fridge.
8) Voila! You have a container of cold brew coffee. Serve it on ice.
There are any variations to what I’ve laid out above. Here are some that I’ve become familiar with:
- You can vary between room-temperature and cold water, for brewing. I’ve used cold water. Regardless, I put it in the fridge so it’s going to get cold eventually. That brings me to the next variation – some people do not brew it in the fridge for 12 hours, rather they leave it on the counter to brew at room temperature.
- Try different coffees. The point of cold brew coffee is to mute a lot of the coffee’s acidity, so that its other characteristics can emerge in the cup. The ideal cold brew coffee would be one rich in flavor “hidden” behind a wall of acidity that not everybody likes. The cold brew process mutes that acidity.
- The 12-hour brew time is very subjective. I’ve heard of it brewed as long as 18-24 hours. Experiment with us to decide what you like best. I’ve observed that the longer the brew time, the lighter the color of the coffee.
Question: There is a certain taste and smell that “cheap” coffee has once it’s brewed. Diner coffee has it, for example, or anywhere that sells lower-end coffee. However, sometimes, I will buy a bag of premium coffee beans i’ve never tried, and it has THE EXACT SAME TASTE! how is this possible?? personally, i always buy premium coffee and have a couple favorites. but sometimes, out of laziness, i will go to a store that is closer that sells, “premium coffee” for say, $12/lb and it tastes no better than the cheap stuff. as soon as i brew it, that smell wafts from the pot and i’m disappointed! do you know what i mean?
Thanks for the email, and I know what you mean all too well. There are so many factors that can contribute to that stale coffee flavor, and you’ve touched on some. Let’s look at three of them.
- Diners: I doubt most diners spend a lot for their coffee or the gear or the process they use to brew coffee. In this case, it could be cheap coffee, a cheap brewer, or the water they use. I’m not sure if diners ever served good coffee. A diner is a place that I would expect would advertise how cheap their coffee is – that’s a good sign not to expect much. I don’t want a cheap steak, and I don’t want cheap coffee.
- “Premium” coffee: Unfortunately, there is no regulation on use of the word “premium”. It could be anything, and might even be stale before you buy it. This is a tangent, but you’ll often see “Kona blend” coffee, capitalizing on the popularity (and expense) of coffee from Kona on Hawaii’s Big Island. But the “Kona blend” only needs to have a small amount of Kona coffee, and the rest of the blend is anybody’s guess. I bring that up, because “premium coffee” means even less. If the package doesn’t explain what “premium” means, then it probably doesn’t mean anything.
- The gear and water: Based on the information you’ve provided, this is my guess for where you could make big improvements in the coffee you make at home. You mention trying different coffees but getting a familiar stale aroma. You can make the most of even that cheap coffee by using the cleanest water you can. I’ve noticed hotel room coffee go from undrinkable to “not bad” just by using bottled water instead of tap water. Also, the coffee machine you use could be the problem. It might not be sufficiently heating up the water, for instance. I use manual coffee brewers like a french press or a chemex (pourover). If you’re using a drip brewer, I’ve always recommended the Cuisinart or for a little less money, a Black and Decker.
I hope that helps!
Several years ago and after much trial and error, I finally cracked the code on how to make good coffee when you’re camping.
This week, I am moving from my apartment in downtown San Diego, formally known on Foursquare as San Diego’s Best Coffee. Forgive me, I don’t like Foursquare, so I have fun with it.
When I first moved to this apartment from Portland, Oregon, and before the delivery of my precious coffee bar gear, I was without for a whole week. It reminded me of when I first moved to Portland from Canada, and went for more than a week without the ability to make good coffee. In both cases, I had to rely on mediocre local coffee stands with their bankers’ hours.
As I type this, I have both apartments, the old and the new. There is some touch-up and last steps needed before I fully move to the new place although most of my things are already there, and until then, I’m in the old apartment with the basics only. Here is how to make good coffee in a situation like this:
- French Press: While I’m ‘camping’ out in the old apartment, I have electricity and water, and that means a working stove that can boil. This is not only a great way to make coffee, but an incredibly simple one.
- Good coffee: Of course. I usually have two good coffees on hand at any given time. One of them has been moved with everything else to the new apartment. The other is on hand here at the old apartment.
- Grinder: The burr grinder stays with me. I thought about shipping it to the new apartment and using one of the propeller grinders that I keep on hand for an emergency, but there’s no need. A burr grinder is not a large kitchen appliance. This is a variant on the camping advice, where there is no power (although a fire to boil water) in which case I would grind all of the coffee that I need in advance.
Folks, that’s it. For my third move in as many years, I’m finally enjoying good coffee. Whether you’re camping, moving, or simply preparing good coffee for yourself at home, the guidelines of making good coffee are not complicated. You simply need to do a little planning in advance, and make coffee a priority.
I just spent the day in Portland, Oregon. I moved to San Diego from Portland about six months ago, and I’ve missed Portland ever since. I’m not a Portland native, but it quickly became an important part of my life. Today was a chance to tour the city and my old favorite spots before meeting friends later tonight.
Here are the top four reasons that you need to visit Portland, Oregon:
1) It is the coffee capital of the USA!
Even if you want to side with Seattle or San Francisco as the country’s coffee capital, you can’t deny that these three cities together have set the country’s coffee landscape. Portland has excellent and unique roasters almost a stone’s throw from wherever you are in the city. When you’re here, don’t bother with the many Starbucks locations. Those are for tourists. If you insist on a chain, go with Dutch Bros, a Pacific Northwest chain of espresso stands where you’ll find friendly service and amazing coffee every day.
2) It is the beer capital of the world!
OK, I’m taking some liberties here. It does have more breweries within its city limits than any other city in the world. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 30, more than any other city. It’s a city that appreciates a personal and well-crafted beverage.
3) It is a quietly trend-setting city.
I felt so welcomed by the people of Portland when I moved here, and I didn’t know a soul when I arrived. They are modest, and will never admit (or are possibly unaware) of the trends they’ve set. There are literally hundreds of food carts in the city, and the trend was definitely made famous here – you’ll have difficulty finding an episode of Eat Street that doesn’t spend time here. And if the country appreciates craft beer and care-roasted coffee more now than years ago, Portland is one of the reasons why.
4) It’s just a fun city.
The city’s unofficial motto is “Keep Portland Weird”. Spend some time here, and it won’t take you long to understand why. Record numbers turn out for the city’s annual Naked Bike Ride. Spend time downtown, and you’ll see something weird, whether it’s a clown on a unicycle with a completely straight face, or a man in a dress singing opera (and well). Everything is just a little off, and it’s awesome.
The biggest complaint about Portland? The rain. I say get over it. If it gets you wet, you’ll dry off when you get to where you’re going. And when the sun is shining, I don’t know too many places more beautiful. Portland will always have a special place in my heart. I’ll always enjoy visiting.
As a coffee lover, you owe it to yourself to visit the mecca!
According to the Lumosity “brain games” app on my phone, my memory isn’t great. Combine that with the fact that I brew by more than one method at home, and that my burr grinder has 18 different settings, it’s a wonder I can make good coffee at all. Many coffee lovers struggle with what grind setting to use. If you only brew your coffee one way, I have good news. You’ll only need to remember one of the settings below. Set your burr grinder to that setting, and never change it.
If you brew by more than one method and have a memory like mine, I’ll give you a quick explanation of the science of grind settings that hopefully helps you remember the right setting for your brewing method intuitively.
If you have a propeller grinder rather than a burr grinder, I strongly suggest making the small investment in a burr grinder. Check back in a few days, where I’ll have a separate post written that I hope helps you realize the great benefits that proper grinding has on the flavor in your cup.
An Easy Guide
- Espresso maker or Aeropress: Use the Fine grind. I don’t suggest messing with degrees of Fine. Move the dial all the way to fine.
- Drip brewer or pourover (Melitta or Chemex): Use the middle grind. When you buy pre-ground coffee at the grocery store, this is usually the default way in which it was ground for you.
- Press pot (French Press or Bodum): Use the Coarse grind. Same advice as with Fine – just move the dial all the way to coarse.
Since I have every brewing method mentioned above available to me, it can get confusing. To help you understand why settings differ by brewing method, here’s a primer. The longer the brewing method, or longer the water is going to be in contact with coffee, the coarser a grind you need. If you used a fine grine in your French Press, you would “overextract”, or draw too many solids from the coffee and have a drink more like sludge.
Conversely, if you used a coarse ground coffee in your espresso maker, the water is not in contact with the coffee long enough to draw enough solids from the coffee, making you a weak coffee. Imagine in this example, the coffee at a microscopic level. It is ground coarse, so each piece is bigger. The water extracts solids from the surface area of the piece, but isn’t exposed to it long enough to get at the solids deeper than the surface.
Drip brewed and pourover coffee falls in the middle, and calls for a medium grind.
Mind your grind! It’s important to the flavor in your cup.
Originally published on July 15, 2011
Webmaster note: Last Memorial Day long weekend, I attended my first outdoor music festival in years, the Sasquatch Music Festival in The Gorge, Washington. As you might imagine, I was responsible for making sure that everybody drank good coffee in the morning. It reminded me of the post that you’ll read below. I used to think that one had to sacrifice quality with coffee while camping, but thanks to the press pot and however you boil water while you camp, you can make good coffee. I thought you might enjoy this post as the camping season is upon us!
If you like camping, I don’t need to tell you that we settle on many things. Sure, we may grill meat over charcoal instead of gas and talk about how awesome it is, and yes, breakfast somehow tastes better when you’re roughing it than when you make it in a kitchen.
But, one thing we definitely settle on is our coffee. At least, I used to. Because the addict in me would rather drink awful coffee than no coffee, and energy drinks have only recently popped up everywhere, it was standard to bring instant coffee, sugar packets, and powdered whitener on camping trips. It’s a terrible combination and I was sure to drink less coffee but it was something instead of nothing.
One year, one of the big grocery store coffee brands had introduced “coffee packets” which looked like tea bags and sat at the bottom of the cup. You’d pour hot water on it, let it sit, and then remove the packet. I thought this was the answer to coffee on camping trips but learned soon enough that it was really just more instant coffee in a perforated packet.
This year after everything was packed and I stared at my coffee bar waiting for the answer to hit me…it did!
French Press coffee brewing (sometimes called the Bodum from the brand name) is for many, the best way to brew coffee. Click here to learn more about the French Press brewing method. The short explanation is that you pour hot water over coarse-ground coffee that sits at the bottom of a container like the one you see above. After a few minutes of exposure between the coffee and water, you press a filter downward to hold all the ground coffee at the bottom so that everything above the filter is great brewed coffee.
I thought, how ironic could it be that one of the best ways to brew coffee in your kitchen might also be the best way to brew it while camping. As long as I bring coarse-ground coffee that I’d grind before leaving the house (and which would keep fresh well enough in an airtight container over the couple days that I’m camping), and the French Press itself, all I need after that is water heated over the fire or gas stove, and a cup to pour it in.
The setup is to the left. Coarse-ground coffee measured out of my ceramic airtight container and deposited into the press. Water brought to a near-boil (don’t pour boiling water on coffee!) and poured into the press. Wait a few minutes, press the ground coffee down with the filter, pour into your cup.
It’s worth repeating…how ironic when we settle on things while camping that one of the best ways to make coffee is the same in the campground as it is in the kitchen!
This May 4th, I will be attending the 2013 CoffeeCON in Chicago, IL, both as a coffee lover and as an official blogger. I’m excited to share everything I learn with fellow coffee lovers.
My day’s schedule and workshops are shaping up as follows:
9:10 – 11:40 AM: For the Love of Coffee
George Howell, founder of the famous Coffee Connection in Cambridge, MA, and owner of Terroir Coffee, leads an intensive 2.5 hour coffee tasting workshop. This is a huge hole in my coffee game, being able to pick up and describe flavor accents.
12:15 – 12:45 PM: Chemex Lab
I have two different size Chemex pitchers at home. I have the official instructions on how to use them, but it’s no comparison to a professional display of do’s and don’t's. I will come home a Chemex master (right now, I’m more of a Chemex journeyman).
1:00 – 1:50 PM: Coffee Sustainability
Christy Thorns, Director of Sourcing and Quality Control for Colorado based Allegro Coffee Company, a subsidiary of Whole Foods Markets, leads a discussion on coffee quality and sustainability. Christy presents an overview of the variables and conditions that lead to great coffee, and the importance of supporting long-term economic and environmental sustainability in coffee growing. I am very pumped for this presentation.
2:00 – 2:30 PM: French Press Lab
Just like the prior Chemex Lab, I get a professional presentation of the do’s and don’t's of my personal favorite brewing method, the press pot.
3:00 – 3:40 PM: Coffee on the Road
Oh heck yeah! A presentation on how to enjoy great coffee when you’re on the road away from home. I am away from home much of the time. As I type this, I’m staring at a cup of hotel room no-brand decaf coffee. I can’t wait to share with you, the lessons I learn on how to enjoy great coffee while traveling.
4:00 – 4:40 PM: Olfactory Development
As if the prior For the Love of Coffee segment won’t already be a quantum leap for my coffee tasting skills, this workshop will focus on using the sense of smell to identify and appreciate flavor characteristics in coffee.
I’m pumped! A day of coffee education and being surrounded by coffee professionals from each step in the supply chain. Just three days away!
Like anything perishable, coffee needs to be kept fresh. Freshness equals flavor, and you get the most out of your coffee’s flavor when you keep your coffee fresh. An opaque airtight container at room temperature is the best way. I’ve used the same kitchen canisters for coffee that many use for tea or spices, where the lid contains a latch that shuts the container, and a rubber band under the lid to form an airtight seal when shut.
BeanSafe takes it a step further. It is a canister, and it contains four latches and a rubber lid to form an airtight seal. The feature that makes this unique, and beneficial for coffee specifically, is the one-way valve built into the lid.
- The BeanSafe Pressure Release Valve is built into the center of the lid. It uses a combination of a silicone membrane and a perfectly round glass ball built into the lid, that together permit CO2 to be released when pressure inside the container builds up. CO2 is a natural by-product of coffee. It is released naturally as the coffee expires (and eventually goes stale), and it is produced when you brew coffee. The one-way valve does not permit air from outside to enter the container, which would accelerate the coffee going stale.
- The valve never requires cleaning, maintenance, or replacement.
- The standard kitchen canister contains a single latch on the lid, and a hinge so that the lid remains attached to the canister when open. As a minor inconvenience, this can make a cannister awkward to clean. With four latches on the BeanSafe, the lid detaches completely, and in my opinion, the cannister cleans easier for that reason.
- To my last point, the detachable lid is great. However, four latches instead of one makes potential for four different things to go wrong instead of one. When I pulled my BeanSafe out for the second time, I could see that one of the four latches had not properly shut. I would have noticed that with a single latch, but did not notice that one the four was not latched shut. This meant I did not have an airtight seal, and my coffee was expiring at a fast rate until I noticed.
- Your typical set of canisters in different sizes will provide you with opaque (relatively) airtight storage, and run you about $25 for the set. A single BeanSafe container will cost you $20.
Is $20 a lot of money to pay to keep coffee fresh? No, it’s not. A canister lasts a LONG time, and the BeanSafe valve is something unique that controls air into and out of the canister, and in a way the typical kitchen canister does not. It will provide the same freshness for tea, spices, and ground coffee, as well as coffee beans.
Learn more about BeanSafe.
Question on the French Press, my primary method right now: it seems to me that there’s no real point in “upgrading” a French Press, that they all work pretty much precisely the same. Unlike a drip coffee maker which has so many brands and variations, a french press is a french press – you just press down. Am I missing something? Interested in your perspective. Thanks!!!!
- Monte Mallin
Answer: Monte, I really appreciate the email, and the nice words.
The French Press is my favorite method of brewing coffee, and you hit every reason that I feel that way. Simple, effective, no need for bells and whistles. I’ve got good news: you’re not missing anything. Keep enjoying great coffee!
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the French Press, or Bodum, or press pot method of brewing coffee, click to learn more. To summarize this brewing method, you steep your coarse-ground coffee in hot water for four minutes, and then “press” the ground coffee to the bottom of the pot so that everything above the filter is nothing but great coffee.
Of your choices for brewing coffee that require a little more work than the drip brewer, I find the French Press to be the most simple while still producing amazing results. A great and consistent cup of coffee every time. The image at the top of this post is the Bodum 8-cup (roughly 4 servings of “mugs” of coffee). The best price and service that I know for getting this coffee maker online or retail is from Cooking.com at $39.95.
If you’re used to making full pots of coffee, the image to the left is the Bodum 12-cup, available from Cooking.com for $59.95. You can click either image for more information, or either of the links below:
My favorite way to brew coffee is by press pot, which also goes by proper names like the French Press, or the Bodum – which is actually the name of the company that made the brewing method famous among coffee drinkers.
I was introduced to the French Press by my brother, who explained to me that it was recognized for superior brewing to the drip brewer. At the time, I didn’t know enough about coffee to appreciate the quality it produced with just a few extra steps over the drip brewer. I do now!
If you aren’t familiar with the press pot brewing method, click here to learn more. If you want to learn more about buying a press pot to make great coffee at home, the most competitive price for a Bodum press pot that we know is at Cooking.com.
If you are familiar with the French Press brewing method, here are some little tips that have made big differences in the coffee that I make. If you already knew all this, congratulations, you are probably making great coffee at home.
1) Boiled coffee is spoiled coffee. You probably already knew that, but to be on the safe side, let your water sit for 30-60 seconds before pouring it onto the coffee from the boiling point. I was simply waiting for the boil to stop before pouring. This is still hot enough to risk spoiling the coffee, especially when I wait ten minutes before taking my first sip of the scalding hot coffee anyway. Give it time even after the boil stops before pouring.
2) Let the coffee steep in the hot water for FOUR minutes. The fact that I was setting my timer for three minutes for so long is just proof that when you do something the same way for so long, you forget to question it. The proper brewing time for the press pot is four minutes.
3) Stir the hot coffee and water after it has been sitting for a minute. I used to pour the water and immediately put the plunger over the pot, waiting for the timer to go off. Again, the water is piping hot, so there’s no hurry to cover the pot with the plunger. What you see after you pour the water is a very light brown foam that forms over the coffee as it settles at the top of the water. This is called the “bloom” and is the result of outgassing of CO2 from the coffee – a natural product of brewing coffee. After a minute of steeping, you ensure a more even brew (and complete outgassing) when you stir the contents of the pot, instead of leaving the coffee to float at the top of the water for the full four minutes. After this stir, I then put the plunger in place and wait for the timer to go off.
4) When the timer goes off, push the plunger SLOWLY. I’m as anxious as any caffeine addict for my first cup of the day. But, use some finesse and push the plunger slowly. It will ensure no ground coffee slips through the plunger and into your cup.
The final “advanced” step of French Press coffee is one that I haven’t invested in yet. If you are not immediately drinking all of the coffee from the press pot at once, the remainder should go into a thermal container rather than sit in the press pot. Sediment, and possibly even ground coffee, will end up in your second cup if you let it sit in the press pot rather than have it sit in a thermal container until you are ready to drink it. I should know – that’s what will keep happening to me until I invest in one. That’s next!