Sunday, October 9, 2011

It's still summer in my coffee cup

Yes, I am well aware that if is officially fall. I wore pantyhose last week and the menfolk in my house already have twice set the fire pit ablaze in our backyard.

This time of year I usually, reluctantly, stop my ritual of freezing coffee cubes for my daily fix. Usually, I return to hot chai. But not this year. Not yet.

I have given up freezing coffee cubes, but I am still firmly entrenched in my morning routine. The difference, and perhaps the reason for my continued interest, is that I've learned how to make a cold-brew concentrate that reduces the acidity while producing a bountiful exilir that's about as simple to prepare as it is to enjoy.

While I didn't deploy Larry's Beans for this batch, I did learn the trick during a recent tour of the company's uber-sustainable business near downtown Raleigh. Their site-roasted coffee is terrific, their ethic is responsible, and their staff -- led by the charismatic Larry himself -- makes you feel even better about buying local. Whether you're local or not, next time you need coffee, consider Larry's Beans.

That said, since Tim has been enjoying Larry's rich Ethopian and Mexican blends for breakfast -- and I still had an unopened tin of Trader Joe's respectable fair-trade Bolivian Blend, which I've used before and like, that's what I used.  I followed the simple ratio they used at Larry's to make a massive cooler of cold-brew coffee for the open house: 1 pound of coarsely ground coffee to one gallon of water.
Larry enthusiastically shows off the repurposed
cooking oil that fuels their delivery vehicle.
Since I'm the only who likes iced coffee here, and I only consume one travel-mugful daily, I halved that sum to use 8 ounces of freshly-ground coffee to a half-gallon of water. Make sure the container you choose is large enough to accommodate the grounds; I barely made it with the jar shown.

Use a funnel to make sure every crumble of coffee all gets into the jar; I found a canning funnel is perfect for the task. Stir between grinds to incorporate and make room for the next addition.

When done, refrigerate at least 24 hours, swishing the jar a few times whenever you get curious enough to check on progress. Next day, strain well into a clean jar. I use a jelly bag to catch all the grounds, then rinse and repeat. If you don't have a jelly bag, use several layers of damp cheesecloth or, if all else fails, damp white paper towel (avoid colorful printed varieties) in a colander. The resulting concentrate is decadently aromatic and lusterous.

Use about 1 ounce of concentrate per 6 ounces of water. I use an old measure saved from expensive chai mix to transfer 2-3 scoops into a tall travel mug filled about a third of the way with ice, then top with water -- be sure to leave room for a good glug of milk. I also add a generous shake of stevia per mug to sweeten.

I got creative with my first batch of concentrate and hope to share a success story in a few weeks. I had about two-thirds of a bottle of a middling brand tequila leftover from a canning project. I read that Patron recently introduced a coffee-infused brand, so I figured, why not? I added 4 ounces of concentrate and 3 tablespoons each of coarsely ground coffee and sugar. I shook it faithfully for a few day then tucked it away to do its thing. If anyone I know receives some as a holiday gift, you'll know it worked, 

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