This is but one installment of 37 Things a Man's Gotta Do This Summer, our annual compendium of everything worth seeing, doing, eating, drinking and generally making time for in your neck of the woods between now and September. Stay tuned all month for more.
At some point this summer, you will be tempted to shovel a few ice cubes into a pot of hot joe and call it "iced coffee."
And then you will swiftly resist that urge, and do things the right way.
Genuine cold brew — as in brewed cold, not brewed then cooled — is a delicate process.
Thankfully, there are a ton of ways to make it work, eight of which we’ve compiled today to help you prepare for the dog days.
From simple recipes to ready-made cold brew pouches to fizzy (and boozy) alternatives, here’s how to keep your caffeine fix chill.
The DIY recipe and vessel
We use a French press for our homemade cold brew. You just need medium-dark or dark roasted beans, a grinder (go coarse), a 4:1 water:ground bean ratio and patience (let that cool java steep for 12-24 hours — recipe here). Since we’ve broken several glass French presses, we’d recommend something like this stainless steel number (available now) or a "no-mess" Rite Press (which, sadly, won’t be delivered until August).
For easier DIY cold brew: Birch Cold Brew Kits
For something a bit more cold brew-dedicated, these kits (just launched from the New York specialty coffee house) come with three reusable pouches/filters, ground coffee and detailed instructions.
Your cold brew package: Wandering Bear
At twice the caffeine, this organic, fair-trade, straight-back cold brew will keep you powered on summer’s most dogged days. The brand’s new subscribe-and-save option means you’ll never run out, and you can buy the brews as individual packs or through a larger bag-in-box option that provides 16 cups (thanks to the packaging, it’ll also stay fresh for weeks).
Your cold brew spirit: Mr. Black
A newly imported spirit from Australia, the just-released Mr. Black is produced from 100% Arabica coffees and tastes fantastic neat — honestly, like a good cold brew with a bit more kick. Not syrupy or too sweet, it also makes for some fantastic cocktails, including espresso martinis, coffee Negronis and “White Mike” Russians:
- 45ml Mr. Black
- 15ml Vodka
- 90ml Macadamia milk (or non-dairy alternative)
Build in a pint glass. Enjoy.
Your cold coffee soda: Keepers Citrus Coffee Soda
This citrus-y coffee drink delivers an energetic buzz that lasts for a few hours (sans the usual summer coffee sweats) while staying light and refreshing. Available now for preorder, only a few dozen cases are going out (alternatives: the like-minded Matchless Coffee Soda and, if you’re in LA, Fizzics sparkling cold brew in self-chilling cans).
Your instant iced coffee: Starbucks VIA Iced Coffee
Yes, yes, not technically cold brew. But these’ll do in a pinch. We’ve been using these slightly sweetened pour-and-serve java packets for years, and the convenience and price can’t be topped. They’re also better than 90% of whatever passes for “iced coffee” in your local bodega.
Your coffee geek alternative: Flash brewing
We recently took a coffee-brewing class at Toby’s Estate, one of Brooklyn’s finer small-batch roasters (and you can too … if you live in New York). Our teacher, Andrew Valentine, spent a good hour "pouring" over the nuances of home brewing. We left (caffeine) sweaty and excited.
His preferred cold java method is … well, fast. It’s called flash brewing.
"For flash brewing, you can use basically any pourover brewer (V60, Chemex, Clever, etc.) and get a really great beverage," he says. "Flash brew, unlike cold brew, retains a lot of the delicate acidity of the coffee which adds to how bright and refreshing it is in the cup. Basically what you're doing is substituting half of your total water weight with ice and extracting hot coffee directly over it."
So it's relatively quick to make, and you can start with hot water. Do note: You'll need to make the grind slightly finer to make sure your brew time stays above three minutes. But can use any kind of coffee for this. Andrew prefers "a nice Guatemala" bean. "That sparkling and refreshing acidity in balance with the sweetness is unreal," he notes.
To flash-brew using a Hario V60, incorporate:
- 23g coffee ground medium/medium fine
- 180g beverage-quality ice
- 180g hot water
Rinse filter and add 180g ice to Hario server. Add ground coffee and pour 60g of water to help it "bloom.” Wait 40 seconds and then pour 60g more water. Wait 30 seconds and then pour the remaining 60g water. If the grind size is right, the total brew time should be between 2:30-3:00. Garnish with a lemon slice if you're fancy
If you insist on cold brewing, Valentine has some notes: "KitchenAid makes an amazing option that is unbelievably easy to use. For me, the most important part of brewing cold brew at home is the serious note taking. Your extraction times and grind size are going to have huge effects on the finished product, and it's important to create some data to find what you like and how to achieve it consistently. Start by grinding some coffee coarse, add water, and then let sit for 12 hours or so. Write down your parameters and make small changes to either dose, water, grind size or steep time and see what happens."
Don’t worry, it's fun. As Valentine says, "It's okay to turn your daily coffee into a delicious science experiment."
For more on cold brew, check out our illustrated guide.