You, Too, Can Cold Brew
coffee, chilled out
Coffee can be intimidating. Perfect pourover takes time and finesse, and decent espresso is impossible without some expensive hardware. If you want great coffee with minimal effort, turn to cold brew.
"Cold brew coffee is just one way to make iced coffee," notes Sarah Walsh, owner of Lawrenceville’s Caffè d'Amore. Many iced coffees are made by simply brewing strong hot coffee, then pouring that over ice. But as the name suggests, cold brew does not use heat, instead steeping coffee grounds in cold water the way you might brew a pitcher of iced tea.
Not everyone embraces the method. "There are mixed responses to how cold brew tastes," explains Walsh. "People who like cold brew describe it as smooth and balanced...people who don’t like it describe it as flat." Because hot water pulls more compounds out of the bean than cold water does, cold brew coffee is indeed less nuanced than its hot counterpart. But the lack of heat also means that some of the undesirable acids and oils are not extracted, making for a rich drink, free from unpleasant bitterness.
Regardless of your personal palate, cold brew does offer a few undeniable advantages. The cold brewing method results in less acidity, so it’s ideal for people with stomach issues that normally make coffee off-limits. Cold brew is also convenient, ready to grab from the fridge and drink anytime. And above all, cold brew is
NEED TO KNOW
Use good water. Quality beans are essential, but remember that a cup of coffee is almost entirely water. At the least, run your water through a Brita filter or a similar system. Don’t grind too fine. A medium to coarse grind is ideal for cold brew, providing adequate surface area while remaining manageable when it comes time to filter.
Brew strong. Aim for a concentrated final product, since you’ll dilute it when serving. Though you should experiment, a ratio of two to three cups of water for every four ounces of coffee is a good place to start.
Don’t steep too long. 12 to 24 hours of steeping time should give you ideal extraction.
Use the right equipment. If you’re new to cold brew, you can use stuff you’ve already got. A French press works well for a small batch, or you can use a large jar for steeping and a standard coffee filter for straining. If you get serious, however, you’ll want to invest in a proper system. You can’t go wrong with a set-up from Toddy, a leader in cold brewing for more than five decades.
Drink it fresh. Cold brew should keep in your fridge for up to two weeks. Like any coffee, however, it will be best immediately after brewing.
So you’ve gathered the equipment, waited patiently for a day or so, and strained out a few cups of rich, robust concentrate. Now what? "Cold brew is really versatile," says Walsh. No matter what, you’ll want to dilute the powerful concentrate by adding water and ice to taste. For a mid-afternoon treat, add a bit of cream and sugar, or whip up a flavored simple syrup.
Cold brew concentrate is also a great modifier for cocktails, perfect for your next boozy brunch. And if you’re ever short on time to brew your morning cup, just combine a few ounces of concentrate with boiling water. With some basic tools and a bit of knowledge, you can have a jar of cold brew concentrate in your fridge all summer. When those dog days start to feel a bit too long, cold brew provides a smooth and delicious afternoon jolt.
Cool Spots for Cold Brews If you need your fix on the go, check out one of these excellent Pittsburgh shops.
5400 Butler St., Lawrenceville
This friendly shop makes great cold brew (using locally roasted Commonplace beans) and an array of specialty drinks. Plus, you can grab a jar of concentrate to take home.
120 Meyran Ave., Oakland
One of the newest additions to the local scene, Redhawk boasts a cozy shop and ahip coffee truck. Try a Vietnamese Cold Brew made with sweetened condensed milk.
5001 Penn Ave., Garfield
Artisan is an art gallery, tattoo parlor, and café all rolled into one. Their bright and lively cold brew is made with beans from Michigan’s excellent Madcap Coffee.
Common place coffee
1501 Buena Vista St., North Side
This Mexican War Streets hang hosts food trucks on Thursdays and Fridays. Neighbors treat it like their second kitchen (and dutifully return their cups).