Thursday, August 6, 2009

Cooking: Cold-Brewed Coffee

Cold-Brewed CoffeeI like coffee. I like the way it tastes, I like the ritual of making it, I like the caffeine, I like the activity of drinking it.

This doesn't mean, however, that I drink a lot of coffee. I like to have three or four good coffee beverages a week, and that's it.

When I say coffee beverage, I'm not talking these days about elaborate concoctions with flavored syrups (really not much more than sugar), caramel (sugar), chocolate (more sugar) or even dairy.

Black. Straight espresso, drip or iced americano.

One thing I've learned is that when you drink coffee black, it needs to be really good coffee. That's not really a problem here in the Puget Sound region—good coffee roasters are everywhere. I'm also looking for organic, shade-grown, and "fair-trade," again, not a problem to find these days.

Recently, I've found my taste buds responding to different stimuli as a result of some major dietary changes we've made, and the double espresso I had been enjoying at the local coffee house just didn't sit well on my tongue. It suddenly seems too acidic, too tannic. What to do?

I haven't solved the problem of my weekly coffee house indulgence, but at home I've started cold-brewing coffee, and I'm really liking it.

Cold-brewing coffee couldn't be easier: simply combine ground coffee with cold water and let it sit awhile, then filter it. Here's the technique I've been using, which makes delicious coffee.

Cold-Brewed Coffee
makes enough for 2 cups of coffee or 2 iced coffees

1/3 cup medium grind coffee (caffeinated or decaf)
1 1/2 cups cold water (use filtered water for really good coffee)

Combine ground coffee and water in a jar with a lid. Give it a stir and let it sit at least three hours, and up to twelve. Strain through a coffee filter. Store the coffee extract in a glass jar or bottle in the refrigerator.

To use, mix half and half coffee extract and either hot water or cold water. This recipe is easily doubled or tripled.

Cold brewing coffee doesn't extract the acids from the coffee beans the way hot water does, so if you like the acidic bite of traditional coffee, you might not care for cold-brewed. If, however, you're looking for something with all the flavor but much more mellow, give cold-brewing a try.

By the way, if you garden, put the coffee grounds in your compost or simply bury them in the garden. They also make an excellent mulch for acid-loving plants like rhododendrons, Japanese maples, and blueberries. Studies have shown that coffee grounds may also reduce slugs, who can't handle the caffeine.

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