Smooth Alchemy or Black Gold??

Black coffee & a latte at The Tuckerbox, VTI have minimal recollection of my introductory sip of this blackened beverage, but what I did learn from this “ah-ha” moment was: I would forever be adulting with my coffee in hand.

My mother would make green tea with honey when I was growing up (what seems like 40 years ago), but the first time that I tried coffee.. nope, can’t remember anything about it – good or bad! There is a very solid chance that it was loaded with white sugar and whatever flavor of creme was within arm’s reach.

This is how I knew coffee for more than a decade, so for many years I amped up this caffeinated beverage with tablespoon after tablespoon of white table sugar – because that’s what I saw people do, and creme because that was just the standard that I knew, that’s just how I assumed this black beverage was consumed back in the ’90s.

I thought that the black from the coffee is what brought about stomach issues, my uncle even developed issues – I truly believed that it was from the way he drank his coffee: black; and by the pot! With this in mind, I added more pumpkin spiced, or peppermint heavy creme and artificially sweetened, fake everything to my brew.

Around the time of my 18th Christmas, I was given my first coffee maker;

it was a combo brewer – coffee and espresso in one (not so compact) machine. I loved it! I made coffee all throughout the day just because I assumed that’s how the American public managed to tackle their hectic day.

I would brew my own coffee, go out and meet friends over a coffee, drink coffee for something cold, or for warmth. I traded in coffee for hot mulled cider and the occasional tea, but during my twenties I (as they say..) ran on coffee.

When Ciara and I decided to go cross-country (I had already been drinking my coffee black with no sugar for several years!), I managed to grab a morning cup of joe when we stopped to refuel the Honda, which conveniently was primarily morning time. But when we were in the desert, forest, anywhere that did not have the convenience of “already dripped” coffee, I had to rethink.

Unfortunately this rethinking brought me to the worst time period of coffee consumption of my life, “rock bottom”, as someWhole Bean and Ground might call it; I had opted for a jar of Folgers Instant, which never fully incorporated into the mediocrely warm water that was rushed to a boil on our Coleman travel stove. Point being: it tasted kinda nasty, looked kinda gnarly, and left my teeth all tinted brown from the silt left over from the lack of blending. This persisted several months too long while on the road.

When we got back to New York I vowed “Never again! Not going to do drink that nasty shit ever again!”

I still had my regular Mr Coffee for my early work schedule since it had a fancy timer feature. Luckily this 10pm – 7am logistics job did not last long (and come to think of it – I’m not sure if I ever drank coffee at this overnight job – 2 Red Bulls and I regretted both of those decisions with a stomach that felt as if I just fed it battery acid and artificial sweetener).

I had my actual coffee maker for no more than a few weeks in New Hampshire, taking up valuable space on the counter tops in our tiny kitchen. The coffee maker began spitting water and was all bothered by mineral deposits from years of hard water, toward the ends of my fraying frustration – I picked it up and threw it off the second floor patio, letting it shatter into 10,000 pieces on the concrete slab below – okay, that most definitely did not happen – but my mind envisioned someone overly dramatic, which I have been known to be from time to time.

Electric coffee maker out, in with the manual French Press style I had always adored but never knew how this fancy glass cylinder/spring/mesh on a stick combination worked – come on, I drink coffee, I’m not a sorcerer when it comes to brewing it!

Beans in the grinder

Over the next several months, I continued to develop quite the morning ritual:

1. wake up, 2. feed the cat, 3. boil teapot water, 4. four scoops of fresh ground coffee goes into the French Press, 5. wait for water to boil as I listen to my cat slurp up her meaty-breakfast, 6. water into the French Press, covering the grounds, 7. wait 2-3 minutes for nature to infuse that water with coffee-goodness!, 8. stir the water/coffee ground combination, 9. let it sit for 2-4 more minutes (or until I remember that I am not yet drinking my coffee..), 10. start plunging those grounds, 11. drink my dang coffee that I waited and worked so hard for .

Making morning coffee using the French Press method has forced me to slow down, take a deep breath, a long slow sip and think about what I’m tasting because this is the one time I allow myself to drink coffee (95% of my days: coffee once in the morning, occasionally a coffee after dinner if we go out to eat or if we go to visit Tuesday – who turned me on to the Art of French Pressing toward the end of About to press the cold brew2017). I prefer this as I don’t feel like I need coffee halfway through the day, I’d prefer coconut water or something to hydrate because typically: “Coffee First, Then Run” is how my mornings tend to unravel.

I had heard Ciara mention several times, and then saw several recipe advertisements for Cold Brewed Coffee; in fact, unknowingly to me, I had this “cold brew masterpiece” from the local Stewarts convenient shops (and loved the boldness of it!), but I did not understand at that time, there is a whole art to Cold Brewed Coffee – and more patience of course – I was all in to give this crazy foodie fad a whirl!

Ciara has always opted away from standard coffee because of its acidity, choosing healthier chicory/mushroom/herbal coffee blends or opting for tea altogether!

“So is this just regular coffee brewed using regular water in place of hot, or what?”

I have been confused on this for too long now, so let my try to answer some of those questions!

Iced Coffee is typically brewed with hot water and left to cool down, or can have ice cubes added after cooling, thus creating a potentially watered down beverage.

Cold Brewed Coffee is brewed using a coarse grind (part of the reason I grind all my own beans) and room temperature water, steeping for a longer time.

From all of my reading on the topic, I have gathered that it is the heat from the water used in standard coffee brewing processes which embolden the bitter flavors, and draw out the acidity of the bean. Naturally, not using hot water would not leech acids and bitter notes into the final brew. Make sense? Starting to!

Higher caffeine in cold brew or just more of a potent brew?

The votes are up in the air whether the process of cold brewing the coffee beans seeps more caffeine into the water or not, I have heard of several theories: typically cold brewing requires more ground coffee ({1cup = 8oz, 1/4cup = 4tbsp} 2.5tbsp/1cup water for regular coffee, 4tbsp/1cup water for cold brewed coffee) and left for a much longer time to steep. I have found recipes stating anything from “overnight in the fridge”, to a strict 12hr, all the way up to 20hr in the steeping (sleeping) phase. Equal Exchange Black Silk Espresso

Let’s make this fandangled mathematic coffee concoction, so just chill out and get everything ready to brew the cold:

  1. 64oz Ball Jar w/ lid (my jar technically holds 8 cups, I’ll just fill up to the 7 cup line to give space for coffee grounds, OR use two 32oz wide mouth ball jars and just split the grounds and water equally!)
  2. 2 cups of coffee beans (my local Co-op score is directly to the right.. Equal Exchange Organic Black Silk Espresso) – coarsely ground (anybody doing the math would note this should be 1 3/4cup coffee, I’ll be getting crazy with 2cups ground coffee/7cups water)
  3. 7 cups filtered room temperature water
  4. French Press to filter out coffee grounds (unless you opt to use the coffee filter and cheese cloth technique!)
  5. Your favorite cup to drink your new cold brew coffee out of
  6. 4-8oz of your favorite plant-based milk
  7. Cinnamon, nutmeg, any spices you might want to try!

“So, you mean I don’t microwave the water?”

We have a generic activated charcoal water filtering system that produces some fine drinking water (we remove some mineral content as we use the same water to brew our Kombucha!). So you’re going to need some good, regular ol’ water – and about 7 cups of it depending on what size brewing vessel you have. I have done both: 64oz with 2 cups of coffee grounds, or so it’s a bit easier to maneuver around in the fridge – 2x 32oz wide mouth jars with 1 cup of grounds in each (or maybe you don’t want 2 jars, no worries! Just make 1 jar – this is your cold brew in front of you after all,

make it how to like – but try it this way first to see if you want it stronger or weaker and tweak it from there!!

Two cups of coarsely ground coffee/espresso bean goes first into the dry 64oz jar, then the water starts to get added (water first will make the grounds clump initially (not the end of the world, you’ll just have to mix longer!), even worse with a damp to wet jar, the grounds won’t want to mingle with the water so you’ll be scraping the sides of your Ball jars as you fun!). Fresh press and beansWe have anything from wooden chop sticks (my go to!) all the way up to flat wooden mixing spoons, so hopefully you have something to get all your grounds incorporated (if you’re using 32oz jars, cap them and just shake it, like a salt shaker!).

Realistically all you have to do once you think the grounds are mixed up, cap it, or keep the cap on if you never took it off after the shake-session, and place it in the fridge (or on the kitchen counter if you have the luxury of more space than we currently have), go to sleep, go to work, go take your dog for a long walk, just forget it is there! Checking it constantly won’t help it along, and it’s doubtful that you will catch the brew color changing or anything (if you do, seriously, let me know, grab a photo.. that would be a new one!)

If I start it at night, I like to open the jars up and give it a little stir before going on with the rest of my day, just to make sure all of the grounds are in fact saturated and giving their best to my soon-to-be coffee water!

When it is convenient and nearing the 15-20 hour point is when I open them up for good, one last stir with the chop stick and carefully pour into my french press. Slowly and carefully send the meshy plunger down and pour your new cold brew right into a mug/glass to drink, or back into another ball jar to sit for up to another 2 weeks in the fridge – just be sure to get those coffee grounds out!

*On a quick side tangent*

Some folks either prefer to not use a french press, or just don’t have a french press – which is completely understandable – I believe I got mine for around $12, it’s made of glass with a plastic base – totally works for my needs! If you have cheese cloth and a coffee filter – it is possible to put your coffee grounds into the coffee filter, fold it up and wrap it in cheese cloth (essentially creating your own coffee “tea bag”. I just use a french press – but there’s another idea for all the problem solvers out there!

Depending on my mood and where I am, I can be found sipping on my fresh cold brew either straight up black – or with the addition of a bit of cashew milk (I find cashew milk by far the creamiest, but almond, oat, flax, coconut, hemp milk are all perfectly delicious!!). If I want something warm then I’ll heat up the nut milk – not the coffee (just personal preference, I really couldn’t say if heating cold brew re-activates the bitterness/acidity, why? Because I just have not tried it!). Cold brew by the fire!

If you are someone with a kitchen full of spices, feel free to add in some herbal goodies,

cinnamon/nutmeg are both excellent, even perhaps some maca powder or Runners High Herbal recovHerb Plus+ up in that mixture? Sounds great to me!

I hope this helped turn you on to another delicious method to enjoy your coffee beans. Heck – maybe it helped convert a coffee-intolerant reader into a cold brew enthusiast! At the time of writing this – I have only made a handful of batches, so if I find the most irresistible combination – I will surely post my findings here and let you know! And like-wise – if you tweak my recipe and find something that I should try, be sure to comment below and let me know! I’m in no way a cold brew expert – just a guy who found a better way (maybe even healthier? Heck yeah!) to enjoy the ordinary coffee and wanted to share!

Enjoy the cold brew, be sure to share often – and have an epic day!