Brewing iced coffee at home

July 28, 2011

Thanks to this heat wave, we’ve been making a lot of iced coffee in the café to keep our customers cool. We frequently get asked how to make a great iced coffee at home, so I thought I’d give you a few tips.

There are several approaches to making good iced coffee at home. The bottom line, though, is that you want to brew a stronger coffee than you would drink hot, since it will get watered down with ice and milk.

The easiest way to make iced coffee is to brew extra coffee in the morning and let it sit out at room temperature during the day. This does not directly address the “stronger coffee” issue, so here are a few other ideas.

  1. AeroPress
  2. Cold extraction
  3. Automatic drip – adding more grounds
  4. Coffee ice cubes

All three brewing methods make a stronger cup of coffee, so that when you add ice and milk it still has a great flavor.

Typically what I do at home is use an AeroPress, which makes a strong cup of coffee to begin with. The AeroPress is a manual brewing method that combines a press with a filter and a small amount of pressure, meaning a fuller extraction of your coffee, meaning a stronger cup, which is great for iced coffee.

The AeroPress, made by the company that makes the Aerobie Frisbees, is a small unit with a rubber gasket on it. When you press the plunger, you use air pressure to ensure uniform extraction of the grounds. (In a drip filter, the water drips through a pile of grounds, meaning the grounds in the center get used more than the grounds at the edges.) An espresso machine uses high pressure. Since the AeroPress is manual, the pressure is significantly lower, but enough to create a fuller extraction of the grounds.

With the AeroPress you can make a single cup at a time. Even with the fuller extraction, I still use a high ratio of grounds to water. It’s a great, great little coffee maker, perfect for camping. It’s light-weight, plastic and practically indestructible.

In the café, we make a cold extraction using the Toddy method with a regular French press. You can certainly do this at home, too. With the Toddy method, you steep coffee grounds in cold water for an extended period of time. (We start with cold water, but leave it on the counter to steep.)

From Wikipedia: “The cold-press process requires grinding coffee beans at a coarse setting and soaking those grounds in cold water for a prolonged period of time, usually 12 hours or more. The grounds must be filtered out of the cold water after they have been steeped using a Toddy Cold Brew System, paper coffee filter, or a French Press. The result is a coffee concentrate that is often diluted with water or milk, and can be served hot, over ice, or blended with ice and other ingredients such as chocolate.”

When we do our cold-extraction, we use 3 ounces of grounds to 24 ounces of water, which is a lot of coffee for that amount of water, and let it steep overnight. In the morning, we just press the grounds to the bottom. This method extracts a really smooth flavor that’s highly concentrated. We brew iced coffee using our normal method and then add the Toddy to it to boost the flavor and offset the dilution from ice.

The last brewing method is using your auto drip coffee maker with more grounds. At home, if you’re making a normal pot of coffee, add twice the amount of grounds as you normally would. That way, you are ensured a strong cup of coffee that will stand up to ice and milk.

Another trick is to make ice cubes with your leftover coffee and use those as the ice in your iced coffee. It may not make it stronger, but it certainly won’t dilute your coffee either. We used to do this in the cafe when were first started out, and could handle the volume.

Now, our volume is too great to justify the time and the freezer space. We go through 20 to 30 pounds of ice a day. We’d spend all our time making coffee ice cubes! For home, thought, this a good (and fun) solution, especially if you’re brewing extra coffee in the morning and letting it sit out during the day.

One final note: I add soy milk in my iced coffee. I don’t use soymilk in any other type of coffee, but I like the sweetness and nutty richness it adds to iced coffee. Just a touch though!

How do you make your iced coffee (when you’re not visiting us in the café, of course!)?

Emeran

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