I have been a big fan of cold brewed coffee since I first tried it. I learned about this method from a Washington Post article on the Toddy, which is a great device for cold brewing coffee. The article described the smooth, but full flavored cup that cold brewing produces and I had to give it a try. I ordered a Toddy and we have been brewing with for about 3 years. The Toddy makes it really easy to produce a large batch of coffee concentrate. Place the filter pad in the bottom, plug the drip hole, throw in a pound of coffee and then add 2 quarts of water. You then wait 2 hours and drain into a carafe. The concentrate can then be mixed with milk or cold water for a great iced coffee or with hot water. It can keep in the fridge for two weeks.
I was hooked on this system. Mixing the concentrate with milk produced an extra tasty iced coffee. This may sound weird but the taste comes close to matching the smell of fresh coffee as any method I have tried. The other great part is that you can use normal pre-ground, regular old Foldgers and still get great results. You don’t necessarily get a very complex flavor “profile” with lots of different notes, but you do get a very strong coffee flavor. It taste almost like melted coffee ice cream… in a good way!
All of this joy came to an end when my Toddy brewing bucket developed a small crack that caused it to leak. Luckily right around the same time someone gave us a French press as a gift. It produced a great cup of coffee, but one that was quite different than the Toddy. As summer rolled around, I yearned for a good cup of iced coffee, and not the watered down kind that comes from pouring hot coffee over ice.
Luckily it eventually dawned on me that cold brewing coffee doesn’t required special tools. The real magic is in letting the coffee and water sit together. The Toddy’s real strength was in making it easy to strain a lot of coffee. While pondering this I realized that the French press was also good at straining coffee grounds, and I set off on a path of discovery. Actually all I did was calculate backwards the water/coffee ratio in the Toddy recipe, throw it in the French press and then gave it a try in the morning. To my surprise I was able to easily filter out the coffee grounds and the resulting concentrate produced a great cup of coffee. I originally started measuring the coffee out by weight, but then got lazy and used volume. So far my results have been great! My French press is not big enough to make a full pound of coffee, but I find that even though the concentrate can be stored for 14 days, it does start to taste stale towards the end. The smaller batches taste fresher.
Cold Brewed Coffee Using a French Press
- French press (my Bodum one holds about 3 cups, I think)
- 1 cup coffee (I just drip ground, crappy coffee. I have seen coarse ground recommended for cold brewed coffee. Feel free to experiment and try better coffee and a coarser grind. Add a comment if you do.)
- 2 cups water
- Pour the coffee in the press and then add the water. On my unit the water and coffee comes right up to where the plunger would start. Depending on how strong your coffee is you may want a little more or less water.
- Stir the coffee with a wooden spoon of chopstick. You want to make sure all of the coffee grounds are wet. Wait, about two minutes and stir again. Some of the grounds should now settle to the bottom instead of all floating at the top.
- Wait 12 hours. I have seen other recipes that say it should be good after 4 hours. I have also other recommendations that after 15 hours or so, you start to extract some of the bitter flavors from the coffee. I usually aim for over night.
- Press down slowly on the plunger. Pour out the concentrate into an airtight container. You might want to avoid pouring the very last part, it might be a little murky.