So far in this series, we have covered a detailed definition of cold brew, it’s history, and which coffee to start out with. Once you have your coffee decision made, it’s time to jump in and make your first batch. It’s really not that scary.
Originally I was going to write about adding water and waiting for it to steep in two separate posts. But these two aspects of cold brew decide so much. They go together like hot cocoa and marshmallows. Mmm.
Cold brew can be as simple as scooping coffee grounds into a pitcher and covering with water. But how much water is correct? That depends on how concentrated you want your brew to be.
There are two ways to go about this: Ready-to-Drink Coffee and Coffee Concentrate. We’ll cover the pros and cons of each, and how to do them.
Let’s start with Coffee Concentrate:
First of all, when we say “Coffee Concentrate”, we’re referring to a coffee product that is made to have a stronger than normal flavor under the assumption that the consumer will then cut the coffee with water, milk, or cream. It is not normally meant to be consumed on its own.
Although we have seen a few coffee shops advertise a “Cold Brew Shot” of coffee concentrate to give the drinker an instant jolt of caffeine. It doesn’t taste great.
Most of the bottled cold brew products you see on shelves these days are coffee concentrates. Concentrates are popular because a little bit can go a long way. If you’re mixing the concentrate with water or cream, you could conceivably get 12 coffee drinks out of a 12 oz. bottle of concentrate, depending on your preferred strength.
You can make a coffee concentrate by:
- steeping coffee for an extended period of time
- steeping a large amount of coffee in a small amount of water
- steeping coffee over and over with fresh grounds until it becomes concentrated
Now, I know you want to know which one makes the best coffee. And the truth is, it depends on your own preferences and schedule. The bottom line is, with one of these methods, you can make it work. Any way you slice it, you’re only spending a few minutes on prep.
With Ready to Drink cold brew, it’s a little more simple:
The average pitcher of cold brew can steep overnight and be ready to drink in the morning. A good place to start is an 8:1 ratio of water to coffee. If you leave 1 cup of coffee grounds in 8 cups of water for roughly 12 hours, it will be an acceptable strength and flavor. A 6:1 ratio is a good starting point if you like your coffee strong.
That being said, the stronger you want your coffee, the more time it will need to steep. You could also use less water if you’re in a hurry, but then you’ll end up with less coffee. And nobody wants that.
As long as you understand the balance between waiting time and amount of water, you’re in good shape. If you want to nitpick, yes, you could use fancy filtered natural glacial spring water that was blessed by a village shaman several thousand miles away. But we haven’t found the need to go that far.
Next time, we’ll walk you through the straining/filtering process.