Weekend before last, I met a friend down on Magazine Street for lunch. I had a little bit of time to kill, so I stopped at a coffee shop called French Truck Coffee. The storefront was simple, but it was yellow on the outside, and that really caught my attention. The couple in front of me ordered iced coffee, and it sounded so good, I ordered some too. She asked me if I wanted it New Orleans-style with milk and sugar. I’m not doing sugar, so I opted out of the sugar.
I asked the barista at French Truck what was New Orleans-style iced coffee. She explained that it was made with their cold brew, and she turned around to point at some bottles behind her head. I thought it was interesting, but it wasn’t until I took my first sip outside that I got curious about how you would cold brew coffee. I was a Barista at Starbucks for a short stint before I went to graduate school, and we made our iced coffees with hot coffee that was chilled. Our iced lattes were made with fresh-brewed espresso that was combined with cold milk and iced. I just never liked the acidity and bitterness of iced coffee, so I was never a fan. But this cold brew was different… without even adding sugar.
I’ve seen cold brew coffee concentrate in the refrigerator case at Whole Foods. I thought it was silly to buy pre-made coffee concentrate. My experience with coffee is that it gets worse with time, so why would I want to trade convenience for bad taste. It never tempted me at all. But, now I am a bit curious. This past weekend in Bay St. Louis, I had an iced latte, and it was awful. So, I was reminded about the cold brew method, and I started wondering if I could make it at home. A Google search came up with a recipe for cold brew coffee and explained that when you cold brew coffee, the acidity and bitterness is left in the coffee bean. You end up with a great tasting, smooth coffee. It sounds easy. You put the ground coffee in a container with cold water and let it sit for 12 hours on the counter. Then you strain the coffee grinds out. The resulting ‘coffee concentrate’ needs to be mixed with either water or milk in a 1:1 ratio or to taste.
Hmmmm …. okay. I decided I would make some when I got home. It’s easy enough. I threw my Starbucks French Roast in my french press coffeemaker and stirred it up. It’s now sitting on my counter brewing. However, in my research, I found several tips that caused me to speculate that my impulsive cold brewing today might not turn out that great. I read that the best coffee for cold brewing is coffee with chicory and that the beans need to be ground just right. Mine are ground at the factory, so who knows if they are ground correctly. Another tip said the darker roasts don’t brew up as well. So, even though I’m trying my own brew, I picked up a container of CoolBrew coffee concentrate at Whole Foods when I was out getting my Greek yogurt. If mine is nasty, I have a substitute. I have a hankering for some good iced coffee, and I’m going to get it one way or another.
The concentrate is somewhat expensive at $9.99 for a one liter container, but the bottle says it will prepare 32 servings of coffee. When you consider how much a pound of coffee costs, it’s not too bad. CoolBrew has all kinds of flavors, and I got the mocha flavor since it’s my favorite coffee drink. A glance at the label assured me there is no sugar in it. There were several brands of cool brew coffee at Whole Foods, so I looked them up. Two – CoolBrew and N.O. Brew– were both from New Orleans. So, this cool brew is actually a New Orleans thing. CoolBrew started making their coffee in 1989, and N.O. Brew was in business before Katrina hit. So, this isn’t a new phenomenon like I first thought.
Another Google search led me to this blog on Japanese-style iced coffee. The author claims that he didn’t like the cool brew coffee he was getting, and he fell in love with Japanese iced coffee when he was in Japan. The way they make theirs is they brew the coffee hot in a ‘pour-over’ style, but the hot coffee drips directly onto ice so that it never turns acidic. I may have to try this, too, just to see the difference. I don’t really need any kind of special tools for any of these cool brew methods which is nice. I have everything I need right here.
I’ll keep you posted on the experiment. One thing’s for sure, hot coffee will not feel good in the hot summer here. I’m going to have to figure out a way to get my fix without breaking into a sweat. And I definitely want to go back to French Truck and buy a bottle of their cold brew. It’s the one that got me hooked in the first place.
Has anybody else had any experience with cold brewing coffee? Got any tips?