Cold brewing is an incredibly simple way to brew your favorite summer sips. In the summer, I am ready to try anything to avoid turning on my stove. But keeping the house cool isn’t the only reason to cold brew your coffee and tea. Cold water extracts different flavors and brews mostly without bitterness. Harold McGee explains this well: "Hot water also cooks as it extracts, forcing chemical reactions that transform some of the extracted substances into other things, and driving some aroma substances out of the liquid. Cold water, in contrast, extracts more slowly and selectively, produces a simpler extract, and doesn't change the original flavor substances as much." Specifically with coffee and tea cold water extracts fewer catechins (a flavonoid that tends to have a bitter or astringent taste) and caffeine. So if you are looking to cut back on your caffeine, or enjoy a late afternoon iced tea, cold brew is a great choice.
How dark your coffee is roasted will change how successful your cold brew is. A light roast will be very sour and otherwise flat in flavor. This is a time when you really want to choose a dark roast. This will result in a lovely, chocolatey cold brew. If you want to use a light roast (or if that’s all you have), you can still make iced coffee. Use a pour over method and simply fill the vessel you are pouring into with ice.
The ratio you find most often when you search for cold brew coffee recipes is 1 cup of coffee to 4.5 cups of water. I actually prefer the slightly stronger flavor and more adaptable ratio of 1 to 4. The resulting brew is very strong and most will suggest diluting it to taste with water. If you love very strong coffee, the dilution of the melting ice may be enough.
If you like your coffee sweetened, you can either use simple syrup or add a spoonful or so of sugar at the beginning of the brewing process.
To make your cold brew coffee, measure 4 cups of water into a large mason jar and add 1 cup of ground coffee. Shake to combine and let it steep on the counter for at least 12 hours. If you will be leaving it for longer than that, pop it in the fridge.
Cold brew is a great method for any tea and even herbal tisanes. The very delicate teas, like green or white tea, which tend to get bitter from over steeping are the perfect choice for cold brew because that bitter flavor will never develop no matter how long the tea steeps. Black tea is, of all the varieties, the least successful. I think this is because we associate black tea with the tannins that are not present in a cold brew tea.
The ratio is 1 Tablespoon (or 1 tea bag) per quart of water. For herbal teas and black tea you can double the amount of tea used for a stronger flavor. Simply measure the ingredients into a mason jar, stir to combine and refrigerate for at least 5 hours.
You can add ingredients to your tea for different flavors. I have always loved the idea of peach or mango iced tea, but often the flavorings they use to evoke those flavors don’t translate into the fresh fruit flavor I want. However, muddled citrus peel, chopped fruit, herbs like mint or lavender, honey or sugar if you want it sweet will give you a crisp and refreshing flavored tea. If you will be adding milk, add it as part of your liquid at the start of the brew. That way instead of watering it down, the flavor will be infused into the milk.
The method we use for cold brew lemonade uses this recipe from seriouseats.com. The process is very similar to Oleo Saccharum, a very old recipe for citrus syrup where you take just the zest of the fruit and muddle it with sugar. This sits at room temp for about 4 hours while the oils in the zest break down the sugar into an incredibly flavorful syrup. The recipe linked above does the same thing, but uses the whole lemon peel instead of just the zest. So not only are you creating a delicious lemonade syrup, you finally have a use for all those lemon rinds you used to just discard. You can also use this maceration technique for other fruits. It’s a particularly nice way to make berry syrup since you lose a lot of the bright flavors when you cook them.