Cold brew coffee is a hot trend these days and you're not alone if you'd like to enjoy this tasty drink at home. Before you slap your cash down on the counter for a consumer cold brew appliance, there are a few very important things to mull over.
How much do you want to spend?
Brewing coffee without heat isn't rocket science. All you really need is coarse coffee grounds, water, time and gravity. A method to strain spent grounds from your drink at the end can also help. Some people simply cold brew with a plastic bucket, a kitchen sieve and a roll of paper towel.
For a less spartan experience, thankfully you don't have to splurge all that much. Unless you plan to buy a ground-breaking piece of hardware such as the upcoming $299 FirstBuild Prisma (converting roughly to £230 in the UK and AU$400 in Australia) then $20 to $50 is about what you should expect to pay.
Time is a huge factor
The biggest ingredient to making cold brew coffee, besides water and beans, is patience -- and lots of it. By nature the lower the water brewing temperature, the lower the rate at which coffee compounds will leach into the solution -- a process commonly referred to as extraction . This is why a batch of cold brew typically takes 12 to 24 hours before it's ready, and a pot steaming drip just five or six minutes.
In this case that's a good thing since if done right, proper cold brew has a sweet, syrupy taste that's rich, complex and never bitter. Bitterness is a telltale sign that too much coffee essence has escaped into your brewing water (known as over extraction). In terms of cold brew, slow and low is the tempo.
Strong, weak or a lot
Some cold brew products are designed to make big batches of coffee concentrate at a time. The $50 (roughly £40, AU$65) Oxo Cold Brew Coffee Maker, $40 (roughly £30, AU$55) Toddy Cold Brew System and $40 Filtron Cold Water Brewer are good examples. All three make concentrated cold brew in carafes ranging from 24 ounces (0.7 L) all the way up to 36 ounces (1.1 L).
Now consider that the manuals for these brewers suggest cutting 1 or 2 ounces of their concentrate with 7 to 8 ounces of water, ice or milk, and you begin to understand why you might save some in cold storage for later. The concentrate can last up to two or three weeks in the fridge.
Be willing to get your hands dirty
Making your own cold brew is usually messy business. For best results you'll have to grind your own beans or at least get fresh grounds at your local roaster or grocery. Either way cold brew calls for two, four, even five times the amount of coffee grounds you typically use for ordinary drip. That's a lot of beans to handle and increases the chance for spills and making a big mess.
I've found that the Oxo Cold Brew Coffee Maker, thanks to its thoughtful and stable design, minimum of parts and a mechanical decanting switch instead of a basic rubber stopper greatly reduces the potential for mayhem. For that I'm willing to spend a little extra.
Cold brew, French Press or both?
Many coffee drinkers prefer the taste of strong French Press to sweet cold brew coffee. You don't need to settle for one or the other though when products such as the $60 (roughly £45 and AU$80) Espro Press P5 can tackle both tasks with great results.
The P5 is more pricey than basic French Press products from popular coffee maker Bodum and others. It uses a clever dual filter plunger to strain gritty coffee bean bits from its brewed coffee. Still, traditional press brewers can do both hot and cold brewing so if you'd like to take the frugal route this path is available too.
No matter what cold brew coffee style gets you revved up, however, a little thought to what type of beverage and appliance will go a long way toward happy shopping.
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