Cold brewing . . . not just for tea

When I was out at Mount Holyoke for my class earlier this summer, one day at lunch I was raving about iced vanilla lattes from the Thirsty Mind, a great coffee & wine bar across the street from campus. I commented that they were so easy to make (espresso, milk, ice, vanilla syrup) that I might have to get an espresso machine so I could do them at home so I didn’t bankrupt myself this summer. A classmate then started talking about a method of coffee brewing that one of her coworkers employs in the summer – cold brewing — which makes strong coffee that he calls “sludge.” She sent me his recipe a couple of weeks after classes ended, and I experimented with it early last week, I think.

The basic premise is that you let the ground coffee soak for several hours (if not overnight) and then strain off the grounds. The coffee is stronger and supposedly has less caffeine than if you brew it the regular way (not a concern for me). One enterprising Cornell grad has made a system for doing this (The Toddy Coffee Maker), and while it’s very appealing to me to go out and buy this, I feel like I could rig something up myself, and I may start keeping an eye out for something I can mod at Target or haunting yard sales for useful bits of coffee makers and french presses so I can channel my Dad and duct tape together some strange contraption.

In any case, I’ve made one batch so far, and it’s working well for me. The recipe my classmate sent called for one pound of coffee, ground fine, and one quart of cold water. One evening, I took a 12oz bag of ground Starbuck’s French Roast that I picked up at CVS and started out with the correct proportion of water (3 cups). I was a little unsure about this ratio of coffee to water — I had looked at the Toddy website and they called for a lot more water than this. I needed to let it brew for 24 hours, so I figured I’d see what it looked like the next morning.

Sure enough, the next morning, I had damp coffee grounds. I did some more math and added four cups of water and mixed it up. This brought me in line, proportionally, with what the Toddy people recommend. I let that sit and strained it out the next day, using a complicated “I’m just like my Dad” system of coffee filters, a funnel and a small mesh colander. (I didn’t measure how much coffee that made.) I stuck it in the fridge to chill and a day or so later came home with a bottle of Torani vanilla syrup stuff.

As for the latte, I’m measuring the syrup and coffee in a shot glass and mixing it in a pint glass. I use two shots of coffee to a 1/2 shot of vanilla (it’s strong). I add some skim milk and mix, fill the glass with ice, and top it off with some more milk and a splash of half and half. Yum.

Anyway, the complicated mess of straining this has been totally worth it so far. I’m keeping track of how many lattes it makes and I can keep you posted if you’re curious. Prior to this I was going down a dangerous path of frequently finding myself scheming about detouring to a coffee shop to get an iced latte. Now I can just have one when I get home, which is much cheaper. 🙂

It occurs to me that if I were to procure some vanilla vodka and Bailey’s, I’d have a lovely cocktail option. Hmm . . .

Can you tell the lab is basically empty today except for moi?

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