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The Hottest New Beverage is Cold (Cold Brewed Coffee, that is!)

iced coffee 

I love coffee – hot in the morning or with a dessert, iced in the afternoon or to cool off on a hot day.  Whereas soft drinks, even diet soft drinks, have been shown to have a multitude of negative effects on health, from increasing risk of type 2 diabetes to osteoporosis, coffee (in moderation) has been shown to have a positive impact on health.  Coffee is rich in anti-oxidants, which help the body eliminate the free radicals that cause inflammation and cell damage.  Studies out of UCLA and Harvard both showed an inverse relationship between coffee consumption and risk for type 2 diabetes.  Studies have also shown moderate consumption of coffee helped protect against heart failure, lowers risk of liver cancer and lowers incidence of liver cirrhosis, and even helps patients with Parkinson’s control movement.

Unfortunately, some people cannot partake of this heavenly beverage, because acids in the coffee exacerbate their acid reflux.  Enter cold brew.  Remember in chemistry class when you learned that heat helps increase solubility?  For example, trying to dissolve granulated sugar in a glass of iced tea is an exercise in futility, but it readily dissolves in hot tea.  The same holds true for some of the compounds in the coffee bean.  When coffee is brewed hot, many of its acidic compounds are soluble and enter into the final beverage.  When coffee is brewed cold, the flavor slowly diffuses into room temperature or even cold water over a period of 12-24 hours.  Because of the lower temperature, many of the acidic compounds that were present in the hot brewed coffee are no longer soluble – resulting in a smoother, less acidic brew, that some even find to be sweeter than the regular hot brew.  Because of the lower acid content, people who might otherwise not be able to tolerate coffee, may now be able to enjoy it and all of its benefits.  In addition, because of the sweeter taste profile, the need for sweetener is lessened (which is good, because sugar won’t dissolve in it anyway.  If you do need sugar, you will have to make a simple syrup – directions below).  I usually need cream and sugar in my hot coffee, but this cold brewed coffee is so good, I drink it black.

The best thing is – because of the cold brew process, this coffee stays fresh longer, so you can actually make a bunch of it and keep in the fridge all week.  No more rushing around in the morning, trying to hurry up and brew your coffee before work.

How to make it:

Step 1: Put coarsely ground coffee in desired container and fill with filtered water.  America’s Test Kitchen recommends 1 cups of grounds to 4 cups of water for a concentrated brew.  Leave at room temperature or refrigerate for 12-24 hours.

cold brew coffee 2

Step 2: Filter out the grounds.  Take a strainer, lined with a coffee filter, and put it over the receiving vessel.  Slowly pour the coffee into filter.

*Although you don’t need any special equipment to cold brew, if you have a French press, it will make the easier since you can just press it like you would a hot brew.

cold brew coffee 3

Step 3: Dilute with either cold or hot water (depending on whether you want iced or hot coffee).  Before adding any milk or sweetener, taste it.  You may find (like I did) that it is just perfect how it is.  However, if you so want to add a little sweetness to it, you can add a little simple syrup (recipe below), sweetened creamer, or if it’s cocktail hour – a little Kahlua or Grand Marnier couldn’t hurt (if you’re over 21).

cold brew coffee 4

Simple Syrup

Simple syrup is equal parts water and sugar.  You must heat the water in order to dissolve the sugar into it.  Once made, you can keep it in the fridge for up to 1 month.

In a small saucepan, heat ½ cup sugar with ½ water until it comes to a boil.  Turn heat to low and stir until all the sugar is dissolved.

Flavored Simple Syrup

If you really want to live large, nothing is more luxurious that a flavor-enhanced simple syrup.  Although there is no end to the types of flavors you can make, for coffee I would recommend the following:

  • Vanilla – split open a vanilla bean and scrape out all of the beans and put in the cold water and sugar. Then throw in the vanilla pod.  Once you have turned off the heat, let the vanilla continue to infuse its glorious flavor for about 20-30 minutes.  Strain out the pod and voila!  You have vanilla simple syrup.  (Hint: Don’t throw your vanilla pods away!  Once they’ve dried out, throw them into a container of sugar.  The vanilla flavors will infuse into your sugar and now you will have vanilla sugar).
  • Cinnamon – with the holidays coming up, hints of cinnamon seem to be everywhere. No reason it can’t also be in your simple syrup.  Throw a couple cinnamon sticks in your sugar water and repeat the process you did for vanilla.