Smooth and sweet, rich and chocolatey, full-bodied with a heavy mouthfeel — that is how avid coffee drinkers often describe cold brew coffee. Cold brew coffee also has lower acidity and less of the sharpness of hot brew coffee. What’s more, it is often significantly less bitter than the typical cup of hot java.
If you’re curious about cold brew coffee, why not make yours at home? For best results, use high-quality coffee, preferably a medium-roast single-origin speciality coffee, and try one of these extraction methods.
Immersion brewing is exactly what it seems. Place your coffee grounds in a container filled with tap (neither hot nor cold) water to make your cold brew. Let it sit from six to up to 24 hours. After the requisite amount of time has passed, use a strainer to remove the grounds from your coffee, and there you have it — your tasty cup of cold brew coffee. Quite easily done, you might say!
You can start immersion brewing without any specialised equipment. Just use anything on hand to serve as your coffee immersion container. As long as it can hold your immersion without leaking, it will work.
You also have two options when adding your coffee grounds. The easier way is to add the coffee grounds to the water then let the mixture sit. After steeping, you can filter out the grounds to get your coffee.
The better way is to put the grounds inside a filter bag (the finer it is, the better) then suspend the bag in the water to let the grounds steep. This method is better because it keeps the coffee grounds separated from the water. It also improves extraction because the grounds are suspended rather than allowed to settle at the bottom of the container.
You can improvise your coffee filter bag. Use part of a cotton pillowcase or a cheesecloth. You can also use paper filters. Another idea is to get one of those organic cotton coffee socks to hold your grounds for steeping in a jar of water.
To improve your chances of getting clean coffee (i.e., one devoid of gritty, grainy coffee grounds), you can strain the coffee again (even multiple times) before consumption.
Use your French press as an immersion chamber. The great thing about French presses is that they have an inbuilt filter. For cleaner tasting and less muddy coffee, however, you can improvise by adding more filters and straining your coffee afterwards.
True cold brew fans can also buy specialised cold brewing equipment. Two brands come to mind, Toddy and Filtron, which are essentially immersion buckets on top of a jar for storing the steeped coffee.
The best way to find your preferred cold brew recipe is to experiment with different water-to-coffee ratios and steeping times. For stronger coffee, add less water to every part of coffee.
Water-to-coffee ratios will also change depending on the coffee you’re using. Check the coffee packet to see if the coffee producer has a recommended water-to-coffee ratio.
To start, you can try this basic recipe from Handground. Weigh 340 grams of coffee beans and grind it to setting six on a manual coffee grinder. Put it inside your filter bag, your coffee sock or the inbuilt filter of your cold brewing equipment. Next, fill your immersion container with 71 ounces or 2012 grams of water for a 6:1 water-to-coffee ratio. Let it steep for 17 hours and 33 minutes and enjoy.
Now, this is a far superior method of cold brewing. Unlike immersion brewing that could lead to muddy flavours and gritty textures, the ice drip brewing method yields very clean coffee with far more nuanced flavours. It’s like pour-over coffee, except you use iced water and the pour-over is stretched over hours.
Ice drip brewing involves a three-tier setup. Cold water (preferably iced) is placed inside a container that goes at the top. The water then drips slowly but consistently from the water container and into the coffee grounds container underneath.
As the water drips into the coffee container, it extracts sugars, flavour compounds and lipids from the coffee grounds. The water then eventually drips into the coffee carafe beneath the coffee grounds container. The entire brewing process can take from six to 24 hours.
It is not as easy to improvise the equipment needed for this method. You will need a specialised three-tier contraption made especially for ice drip brewing, and this equipment could be expensive. Some of the ice drip brewing brands that readily come to mind are Yama, Cold Bruer, Nispira, and Dripo.
However, if you are enamoured with cold brewing, an ice drip cold brew tower is worth the investment. If you want consistently clean, balanced coffee that is more viscous and more complex than immersion brews, choose ice drip brewing.
If you have a Yama tower, you can use the following recipe from Handground to make a starter ice drip cold brew that you can later tweak according to your preferences.
To start, weigh out 229 g of coffee beans, then grind it to medium coarseness (setting 4.5 on your manual coffee grinder). After placing the coffee filters at the bottom of the coffee canister, pour the coffee grounds into the coffee container, give it a shake to level the coffee, and cover the same with a filter.
Next, load 93 ounces or 2,636.51 g of ice and water mixture (mostly ice with about 200 ml of cold water) into the water container, then carefully place it at the top of the tower assembly. Next, saturate the coffee canister with water, then set the drip rate to one drip for every one and a half seconds.
Try cold brewing. The best thing about it is it produces low-acid coffee that’s great for those who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease or those who have sensitive stomachs.
The ice dripping cold brew method makes the best cold brews. Try the Mexico Anaerobic Pink Bourbon, Peru Finca Paraiso Anaerobic, or any other single-origin speciality coffee and experience first-hand how ice dripping can elevate your coffee experience. If you wish to buy coffee beans, Dubai single-origin coffee distributor Three Coffee is a good option.
Drew Dennehy is the co-founder of THREE Coffee, one of the region’s leading specialty coffee companies, headquartered in Dubai. His passion for coffee has led to the pursuit of career opportunities around the world from New Zealand and Europe to the United Arab Emirates. Drew’s goal is to enhance coffee experiences and ensure the industry is sustainable at every level. “We will achieve this by telling the story of the farmers who make each cup possible.”