True Brew: Cold Drip Iced Coffee Recipe

cold-brew iced coffee

Thanks to those of you who discovered this blog through through Chow, Serious Eats and Blogging New Orleans. After detailing the perils of my CulinaryCorps/Katrina service trip, I’m ready to move on to the highlights of New Orleans cuisine. When you think of New Orleans food, you probably gravitate towards gumbo, neon-colored king cake or funny French things like etouffee. Not coffee, right?

Among New Orleans’ many food secrets is cold-brew coffee. It’s as low-tech as you can get: no coffee maker, French press or special equipment is needed. Heck, you don’t even need electricity. Just combine coffee grounds and cool water in a bowl. After 12 hours, strain the solids out, and iced coffee is at your call — no extra chilling required. Yes, you need the long soak, but prep it before you go to bed, and coffee will be waiting for you in the morning. Once you try it, you’ll see how backwards it is to brew coffee with hot water and then wait for it to cool down.

“Heat brewing releases acids and oils, and as the coffee sits in the refrigerator, the bitterness intensifies,” according to a NY Times Magazine article. Cold-brew coffee is 67% less acidic, making it smooth, rich and naturally “sweeter.”

Cold-brew coffee concentrate
Cold-brew is so common in New Orleans that you can buy syrupy coffee concentrate at neighborhood supermarkets, as well as Whole Foods.

For better or worse, I can now enjoy coffee! For the longest time, regular cups would dehydrate me like crazy. I switched to decaf, and still no dice. The culprit, as I found out, wasn’t caffeine. It was the acid. I also would take my coffee unsweetened, since sugar somehow made it sour (the exception: coffee from Dunkin Donuts and Oaxaca, Mexico). Again, the culprit was the acid.

For an authentic experience, try a coffee-chicory blend from Cafe du Monde, French Market or Blue Bottle Coffee company. During their civil war, the French ran short on coffee, so they used chicory as an extender. Chicory is the root of the endive plant. It tastes chocolatey, is caffeine free, cleanses the blood and improves your liver’s health.

Note: today’s Times article on cold-brewed coffee is purely a coincidence. The NY Times Magazine ran a similar (but better) article way back in May.

Cold-Brew Iced Coffee Recipe

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 12 hours

Yield: 1 1/2 cups coffee concentrate

Serving Size: 1 cup

Cold-Brew Iced Coffee Recipe

Scaled down from a Blue Bottle Coffee Company recipe, as appeared in the New York Times Magazine

Ingredients

1/5 pound dark roast coffee and chicory, medium ground (about 1 cup)
2 cups cold water
Ice
Milk

Instructions

  1. Put coffee in a nonreactive container, like a stainless-steel bowl. Add 1/4 cup water, stirring gently to wet the grounds, then add remaining water, agitating the grounds as little as possible. Cover and let steep at room temperature for 12 hours.
  2. Strain coffee concentrate through a medium sieve, then again through a fine-mesh sieve.
  3. To make iced coffee, fill a glass with ice, add 1/4 cup coffee concentrate and 3/4 to 1 cup milk, then stir. To make café au lait, warm 3/4 to 1 cup milk in a saucepan or microwave, then pour into a mug and add 1/4 cup coffee concentrate. (Concentrate will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.)
http://www.sugoodsweets.com/blog/2007/06/iced-coffee/

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52 Comments »

  1. kathryn said,

    Thanks for the recipe! What sort of container do you keep the concentrate in when you have it in the fridge?

    June 28, 2007 at 6:09 pm

  2. Jessica said,

    Hi Kathryn, I actually put it in a portable coffee cup because it’s small and has a pourable spout.

    June 28, 2007 at 11:24 pm

  3. coffee lover said,

    Hi Jessica — thanks for this, found it on Google after reading the NYT article. As an ex-New Yorker, I can say that’s typical New York — half the article is about author’s pretentious friend but they never tell you how to MAKE the stuff (I was going to try about 1 part whole beans to 2 parts water, just as a guess). Thanks again!

    June 29, 2007 at 10:00 pm

  4. Auston said,

    Hey thanks,
    I too was sucked in by the NYT article and tried to make it in a French press but lacking the proper proportions, it came out weak. Thanks for the recipe.

    June 30, 2007 at 9:52 am

  5. Marcy said,

    Another suggestion for iced coffee – freeze some of the concentrate into cubes before adding concentrate and milk. As elsewhere in summer, but especially here in Scottsdale, it’s a race to enjoy an iced drink before melting ice makes it watery. (Personal pet peeve – menus and signs proclaiming “ice coffee.” Isn’t it silly how tiny things can bug you?) I’m off to find a coffee-chicory blend – thanks for the recipe!

    June 30, 2007 at 11:05 am

  6. Becca said,

    @coffee lover & Auston

    Say what you will about the NYT but the recipe was there, just in a separate link. This is the way the NYT does its food articles online: description on one page, recipe in another.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/27/dining/276drex.html

    July 1, 2007 at 12:38 am

  7. radish said,

    I read your piece and the article – both were great and informative! I am definitely trying the cold brewed method – if not for the taste, then for the acidity factor – I’ll do the first batch tonight and see!

    July 1, 2007 at 8:02 am

  8. Vermonter said,

    Thank you Jessica Su and bloggers! I also found you — via Google — due to frustration with the no-proportions NY Times piece. I’ve been planning a special dinner that includes iced coffee. Now I can’t wait to spring this method on friends who will deeply appreciate it. So glad to have found this wonderful blog.

    July 1, 2007 at 9:23 am

  9. Magpie Ima said,

    I love my iced coffee as much as the next girl (if not more) so I was intrigued when I first heard the cold-brew buzz. A few of the local coffeehouses are using this technique and it is indeed yummy. Thanks for sharing the method–I’m looking forward to making my own.

    July 2, 2007 at 11:35 am

  10. Cool Brew said,

    Thanks for showing the Cool brew bottle…

    We can ship anywhere if anyone wants to give it a try.

    http://www.coolbrew.com

    July 2, 2007 at 12:00 pm

  11. lizbeth said,

    I recently tried cold brewing my coffee and I it is great! You may not need to go out and buy a french press, but if you already have one on hand from your hot brewing days, I highly recommend using it for cold brewing. After leaving it set overnight, I press the plunger and voila! No need to double strain.

    July 3, 2007 at 9:27 am

  12. Magpie Ima said,

    So I made my first batch of cold brewed coffee last night: 2 C ground coffee and 4 C water. I poured it through my gold coffee filter which worked perfectly. And it was really, really good. But here’s my question: who can afford this? Two cups of ground coffee for three glasses of iced coffee? Should I be diluting? The strength seemed perfect as it is. Am I missing something?

    July 3, 2007 at 9:05 pm

  13. Jessica "Su Good Eats" said,

    Magpie, are you kidding? I add 1 cup of milk to 1/4 cup of coffee concentrate. You have a strong stomach to drink it straight up! Um, it’s still cheaper than Starbucks, right?

    July 3, 2007 at 9:09 pm

  14. Becca said,

    I tried it and have to agree with Magpie. First I did the suggested ratio but it was like flavored water. So I tried a 1 to 1 ratio of water and coffee but it was still really weak. But if I do more coffee it becomes really expensive. I don’t drink Starbucks, I drink home-brewed at 2T per cup. This is like twice that.

    July 3, 2007 at 10:09 pm

  15. Magpie Ima said,

    Hmmm…maybe the key is to fill it out with lots of milk? Unfortunately I can’t drink straight milk. I used about a tablespoon of half and half, but a cup of milk would be really hard on my stomach–much worse than all that coffee. It was really tasty but I think it will have to be more of a splurge than a habit.

    July 3, 2007 at 10:29 pm

  16. Jessica "Su Good Eats" said,

    Magpie and Becca, you’re brewing it at room temp, right? If you leave it in the fridge, it won’t be as strong. I don’t like milk either, so I use soy milk.

    July 3, 2007 at 10:37 pm

  17. Becca said,

    Yes, I just leave it on the counter. Maybe I just like my coffee too strong! This morning I did about 3/4 coffee to 1/4 water/milk and it was about the strength I like. I might try the milk idea although a cup of milk each day would be a lot for me too.

    July 4, 2007 at 10:14 am

  18. Kelly said,

    Becca, you can try diluting it with water. I dilute mine with hot water and then add steamed milk to taste. You could also try hazelnut milk…it adds a nice flavor.

    July 4, 2007 at 12:17 pm

  19. Becca said,

    Kelly, I have the opposite problem, though. I find diluting it makes it too weak and so have to use more of the coffee which ends up costing too much.

    July 4, 2007 at 12:34 pm

  20. Kelly said,

    Maybe you could add more Chicory? Chicory is less expensive than good quality coffee.

    July 4, 2007 at 12:38 pm

  21. Becca said,

    That’s a good idea, Kathy, I may do that. Today I had it at full strength with just the amount of milk I usually have in coffee. It was perfect! Which is too bad because that makes it twice as expensive. But I have a new idea which is to steep it longer. I’m going to try 14 hours next time and move up from there.

    Thanks for giving me this forum, Jessica. :)

    July 5, 2007 at 7:29 am

  22. Linda said,

    Years ago friends introduced me to a cool-brew coffee extract, which they mixed with hot water to make ‘instant’ coffee. It was great. I recently learned that the Burger King coffee is made with extract, so always ‘fresh brewed’/ My question: my friends had an apparatus for cool brewing–basically a container for pound of coffee and water to sit overnight; the thing had a filter and a stopper at the bottom, so after 12 hours, the stopper could be removed and liquid filtered down to yield extract, which was stored in refrigerator and used to make ‘instant’ coffee. Great flavor, no acid. Anyone know of such an apparatus available now?

    July 9, 2007 at 8:46 pm

  23. Liz said,

    Linda, that sounds like a Toddy coffee maker—we gave my mom one for Christmas a few years back and she still loves it. Check out toddycafe.com

    July 10, 2007 at 1:46 pm

  24. Linda said,

    Thanks Liz. The Toddy is it. And I’m still a little amazed that these things have not become more known and popular.

    July 11, 2007 at 7:29 am

  25. Roberta said,

    Can cool brew work for those of us who drink our coffee black (either iced or hot I’m a purist)?
    How would you suggest that I amend the recipe?
    Thanks in advance,

    July 12, 2007 at 1:46 pm

  26. Kathie said,

    OMG!!!! When I was a child back in the 50’s my aunt always had a glass caraffe filled with coffee concentrate. Lately I have developed a craving for “Iced Coffee” and can find none like she made—except for now—I think the trick is going to be the Toddy coffee maker. THANX

    July 22, 2007 at 2:47 pm

  27. Ruth said,

    Could I prepare one cold brewed cup at a time? Use a couple of tablespoons of ground beans for one mug of coffee, let it sit for 12 hours, strain, drink…? I’m not sure what the benefit of creating the concentrate is since I drink only one cup of iced coffee in the morning. Seems to add more steps.

    July 30, 2007 at 7:49 pm

  28. kelly said,

    Ruth – I think it would be easier for you to brew a whole batch than to do it cup by cup. The beauty of the cold brew method is that you can store the concentrate in the frig for up to 2 weeks.

    July 30, 2007 at 11:48 pm

  29. Brenda said,

    I mail ordered the cool brew once and I have to say I was extremely disappointed. Let’s just say you can put the coffee in a pesticide bottle, but you can’t take the pesticide taste out. It didn’t taste natural. Maybe it’s the artificial ingredients. It’s a Toddy maker for me now.

    August 6, 2007 at 9:48 pm

  30. Kelli said,

    I just stubmled onto this post and can’t wait to try it. Thanks Jessica for sharing the tips to great iced coffee.

    August 12, 2007 at 9:55 am

  31. Donelle said,

    For those wondering about the weakness, the type of coffee you’re using could influence the strength. Coffee in the US is often a lighter roast, which may cause the coffee to taste weak if you cold brew. A darker French or Italian roast may have more flavor. Organic and shade grown varieties also tend to grow longer and may have more flavor.

    August 14, 2007 at 4:39 pm

  32. ted said,

    I am surprised no one asked yet, but how fine do you have to grind the coffee? I use a french press (coarse grind) and a regular flat cone drip (finer grind). When I use the coarse grind in the flat cone drip I get much weaker coffee. I would imagine the same is true for cold brewing. Has anyone experimented with this?

    August 16, 2007 at 9:34 pm

  33. javamama said,

    I worked in a coffee shop once that made their iced drinks with toddy. If I remember correctly, we used a Hazelnut Espress Roast ground coarsely, added sweet n low and 2% for the cappucino drinks and powdered Nestle for the mochas. (The proportions and directions given above sound about right.) BTW, I have looked everywhere for that special espresso roast and have not been able to find evidence it ever existed :( Those in the know about the toddy would buy the toddy makers for their homes, basically a glass carafe with the strainer/filter on it. This was the best coffee drink ever and I am sad that more coffee shops use powdered mixes instead of going the extra mile for the iced coffee drinks they sell.

    August 19, 2007 at 8:18 pm

  34. Coffee lover said,

    http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art36082.asp

    I tried Cool Brew and loved it…the bottle is great as I get portion control….16 drinks for 6 bucks.

    http://www.coolbrew.com

    August 20, 2007 at 7:05 am

  35. Angeline said,

    Coffee sometimes gives me a stomach ache, and someone told me its because of the high acid in the coffee. I no longer have this problem, but I’ll definitely have to try this cold brew coffee with less acid.

    August 27, 2007 at 3:42 pm

  36. Amanda said,

    I have been searching for just the right proportions of water to aribica coffee. I love the iced coffee, but cannot afford to buy it out all of the time. I will experiment with this recipe in my Toddy maker. Thnx!

    September 4, 2007 at 7:37 pm

  37. Julia said,

    I made this over the summer and became utterly addicted to it. I had a jar of concentrate in my fridge at all times, and a smaller nalgene bottle with an inch of frozen coffee in the water in case of emergency iced coffee action. Thanks for posting this.

    December 26, 2007 at 3:43 pm

  38. Mitch said,

    Anybody got any ideas on ways to flavor this? And what sort of coffee to use? Because i don’t know, but so far I haven’t found this amazing, despite trying it a multitude of ways. I’m currently using Cafe Bustelo. And experimenting with a little dark cocoa powder.

    June 20, 2008 at 8:16 pm

  39. Kathy said,

    We tried to make cold coffee, but it was not yummy. Used coarse ground coffee, used ice and cold water, soaked it 12 hours, but had trouble with straining.
    How do you strain a large bowl of coffee grounds, slowly? We had another bowl and tried putting a wire strainer over that and using another cup to pour one in to the the other. THe end result, was lots of Coffee, very thin, bitter. Not syurpy mixture. If you don’t have the Toby at the moment, how do you strain a pound of coffee? I WOULD LOVe to hear ideas
    Many thanks!
    Kathy

    June 24, 2008 at 10:32 pm

  40. Jessica "Su Good Sweets" said,

    Kathy, I line a wire strainer with a coffee filter and put that over a funnel, which goes into a jar. My coffee is so coarse though that I could get by without the filter.

    June 29, 2008 at 10:33 pm

  41. Lilo said,

    Those of you getting bad-tasting coffee are most-likely using inferior-quality coffee! Evenso, when I’ve used good-tasting coffee for hot brewing, it does NOT necessarily make a good cold brew! So you need to find the best one to your particular taste. Example – there’s an excellent espresso I love hot; but when I tried it cold-brew, it was horrible. I couldn’t believe it was the same coffee.
    And an equally important suggestion: ORGANIC!! :) And fair-trade, if you please :D

    July 27, 2008 at 4:14 pm

  42. CH said,

    I looked at both Toddy and Filtron cold brew makers and went with the Filtron. 2 REASONS:

    #1 I like the small heavy felt filter pad for yielding the “cleanest” concentrate (filters to 1 micron) and I don’t even use the paper filters included with set.

    #2 The 1 1/2 liter Lexan decanter has a snap lid. Whole thing FULL bounced to the floor from the fridge once and not one drop leaked! A variety of decanter sizes are available too.

    Re: Grind – a fairly course ground is recommended. A finer grind would take DAYS to filter. 3/4 lb coffee is max for the Filtron holder and yields slightly more than 1 qt of concentrate. Concentrate can be stored 4-5 weeks at room temp and more than 6 weeks in the refrig.

    Some folks brew a 2ND batch using the same grounds and less water, then combine the two brews which stretches their $$’s.

    Love the Filtron!

    August 29, 2008 at 11:35 am

  43. joel (coffee snob) said,

    i like my coffee hot…but I like the idea of less acidity in my brew…so i’ve been experimenting w/the cold brew method. But for all those who have tried cold brewing and thought that it was ‘thin’ or ‘weak’ i can tell you why. but first, we need to define a term: ‘Full Bodied’ refers to the way a beverage (whether wine or coffee) FEELS in the mouth and really doesn’t have anything to do with the strength of flavor. (whole milk, for example is more ‘full bodied’ than skim).
    Coffee beans are loaded w/natural oils…and guess what? the ‘acid’ in coffee…is the fatty acids found in that oil. so when you cold brew to get less acid, you actually get less oil (the oil is where the acid is).
    Unless you add fat back into the mix (via adding milk instead of water to the final cup), you will have a ‘shallow bodied’ cup of coffee.
    of course, milk is high in LACTIC ACID, so you’re replacing one group of acids for another.
    Soy may be an option to give it some ‘body’ … but now they’re saying that a high intake of soy can be bad for the guys…so…what can you do?
    it comes down to taste and preference…personally, I like a good strong (hot) cup of coffee w/just a touch of sugar…and…heavy cream. mmmmmm.

    September 1, 2008 at 11:06 am

  44. John said,

    Check out http://www.hourglasscoffee.com. This is the coolest coffee maker I’ve ever seen and it makes my favorite coffee….cold brew. I can’t wait to take this camping!

    November 12, 2008 at 2:19 am

  45. Kathleen said,

    My French Market Coffee doesn’t drain into the glass decanter. I used the thick felt filters that came with the Toddy. I tried stirring, but that didn’t help. How can I get the coffee strained?

    February 17, 2009 at 7:46 pm

  46. katie said,

    Tip: If you want a sweeter version add a teaspoon or more of sweetened condensed milk! it’s so tasty!

    April 26, 2009 at 8:57 am

  47. Allie said,

    I’m so excited to see a post about coffee concentrate! I’m addicted to Cool Brew and it’s so much cheaper than going to starbucks every day. they even have decaf.

    May 27, 2009 at 3:32 pm

  48. jim oliver said,

    I’ve been purchasing cold brew by the quart at Cash and Carry, a formerly wholesale food outlet, now open to the public in Salem, OR. It tastes great but I think I’ll try my hand at a home cold brew! Thanks for the info!

    June 7, 2009 at 2:30 am

  49. Paula Willis said,

    I’ve used the toddy cold brew about every 2-3 weeks for years with Cafe du Monde or CDM coffee with chicory. It makes a wonderful dark brew. Try diluting the concentrate with half water and half almond milk. With a little sweetener, this is Yum. As far as filtering, the only problem I ever had was when hubbie stirred the batch when setting it up. According to the Toddy instructions, this causes the finest grounds to settle and clog the filter. Other than that, make sure you run plenty of water through the filter after use, preferably in the opposite direction that the coffee was filtered through.

    August 5, 2009 at 2:08 am

  50. Alesha said,

    Thanks for keeping this post up. I found it trying to figure out how to rework my cafe du monde, which just tasted horrible from my dripmaker. I used my old french press to cold brew all night. This morning, I added raw cream to the bottom of my coffee cup, plunge the FP and poured coffee about half way in the cup. It tasted wonderful for iced coffee! But I added 1 cup warmed water and it tastes perfect for warmed coffee too! Thanks for everyone’s comments… even if I am a little late in finding the post… And using the FP was brilliant! Easy easy easy!

    August 20, 2010 at 8:07 am

  51. Dude said,

    The FN did a show in New Orleans and wound up at the Blue Bottle where they showcased their coffee drip apparatus. Basically they dripped water at 88 drops per minute into a container that held the ground beans. The coffee flowed/dripped out the bottom, so no long soak. It was like Walters laboratory from Breaking Bad.

    Over 12 hours that comes to around a gallon of juice. I forget the actual time they used but it was more that 12 and less that 24 hours.

    I just thought I’d point out a different technique.

    September 8, 2010 at 12:35 am

  52. Calico Cat said,

    Soooo smooth. I never thought!

    October 8, 2010 at 2:58 am

2 Links to this post

  1. bluno.org » links for 2007-06-30

    [...] True Brew: Cold Drip Iced Coffee Recipe the espresso machine died… need… coffee (tags: coffee) [...]

    June 30, 2007 at 6:25 pm

  2. a few new staples in our house « Truth In My Pocket

    [...] with this iced coffee, i’m having a pretty good day (just of note, iced coffee is an OLD staple for me, but this [...]

    April 12, 2010 at 8:35 pm

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