As summer comes to a close, most people stop thinking about iced coffee and consider a nice Pumpkin Latte (yes, I do participate in that flavor craze!). Not me, I love iced coffee and require it year round!
The trouble is finding good iced coffee. It is not about savings or cost, not about convenience or availability. It is all about flavor! Now don’t get me wrong, I do not profess to having a highly sensitive palette. I am lucky if I can tell what herb my wife includes in her glorious cooking.
BUT I DEMAND COFFEE THAT TASTES GOOD! COLD BREW COFFEE IS THE ANSWER!
It cannot be bitter. So after months of researching every coffee blog I could find, I finally determined that my best bet was to make my cold brew coffee at home. And the best way to do it was to use the Filtron Cold Water Coffee Brewing System. Earlier this summer, I wrote about purchasing such a system. Join me now as I document the process and my findings in my saga.
Ultimately, the most important ingredients in cold brew coffee are the coffee and the water. Both have to be high quality or any less than ideal tastes will come through in the product. We can skip discussing what water to use since everyone has different qualities of tap water, with those of you in NYC likely to use what comes out of their tap. The rest of the country should look for something filtered, I use the dispenser from my refrigerator and am quite pleased. Should I get bottled water? Maybe, maybe not. That is a whole new set of experiments to figure out which I like best.
What about the coffee you might ask? Well, that is somewhat subjective too because everyone has different tastes when it comes to their cup of joe. I went with Trader Joe’s Bay Blend since I have easy access to Trader Joe’s and loved Bay Blend long before I started this quest. The important thing to note is that TJ Bay Blend is whole bean, as are many of the coffee blends sold by Trader Joe’s. That is a good thing, since you want to grind this as close to brewing as possible for the freshest product. Additionally, you want to use a course ground. It works out easily for me since TJ has a grinder right next to the coffee aisle. So when I want to brew a batch, I just get a freshly course ground batch of Trader Joe’s Bay Blend.
So we have covered the water and the coffee that I work with. I can’t overstate how important the coffee is, I did experiment with a few flavors and this one was the easy winner. That leaves the actual equipment needed to bring this all together. I went with the Filtron Cold Water Coffee Brewing System as sold by Amazon. I read all the reviews for several systems and the Filtron just seemed to have the best combination of features and minimal negative reviews. So I invested $43 to start along with a $7 container of coffee. The kit includes the plastic 2-piece container system, one wool filter, one green rubber stopper, a grounds guard, and two paper filters.
You start by placing the green stopper in the bottom of the main tub. This prevents the liquid from flowing out while it is brewing, and is easily removed when it is ready to be drained. You then insert the wool pad that is about 2 inches wide in the bottom of the main tub (this goes on the inside). The wool pad needs to be wet, and is supposed to be stored in the plastic container full of water in the refrigerator when not in use. Now some reviewers have complained that it got moldy, but after two months, I have had no problems.
You then insert the “optional” paper filter in the tub, pushing it down into the corners. You get 2 with the kit, so I tried it with and without the filters. The only use is to make cleanup easier, since the wool pad in the bottom stops any grounds from coming through into your final brew. I searched for a kit of filters, and Filtron does have them on their website, but I decided to lower my per filter cost by going through Amazon. The difference is 36 filters for roughly $14 with shipping on the Filtron site versus a bit more than $20 for 250 on Amazon. The ones on Amazon are a bit large, but I just fold down the top. What I didn’t realize is that 250 of these large filters take up a ton of space. I keep a small amount in my pantry, the rest get stored in the linen closet. At 1-2 brews a week, that is still more than 3 years worth.
Now comes the best part!!! You then put your freshly ground coffee into the main tub (with or without paper filter) and insert the grounds guard above it (after leveling the coffee). Best I can tell, the guard keeps things from shifting around as the water fills. Not 100% sure about that, but I just roll with the proven process here!
Next, you put the smaller tub on top of the main tub. It is notched to just sit right on top, no issues. Just remember that the hole in the bottom lets water into the main tub….this is important when you are filling the small tub up and don’t have your finger covering the hole….trust me! There are two lines in the water tub, one for 16 ounces of coffee, one for 12 ounces. This seems to be the two industry norms for coffee can sizes. My coffee is a 12 ounce can, so I fill to the lower line. I did measure once and it is roughly 51 ounces of water going in (to brew in 12 ounces of ground coffee).
THAT IS IT! NOW THE 24 HOUR COUNTDOWN STARTS UNTIL YOU HAVE AMAZING COLD BREW COFFEE!
Fast forward one day and it is time to extract that nectar that sustains me! Cold brew coffee! It could not be simpler. While holding the main tub over the Filtron supplied (and perfectly fitted) carafe, you pull the green plug from the bottom of the tub and place it on top of the carafe. THAT’S IT! 30-45 minutes later, you have roughly 30-35 ounces of cold brew coffee concentrate.
Now, before I continue on how I use the concentrate, let me say that you can make a second, smaller batch out of the same grounds. Using half the amount of water you did the first time (about 25 ounces for me), you plug up the bottom of the tub and put the water in the water tub on top. No other effort needed! It drains down into the main tub and makes more cold brew coffee nirvana! In my opinion, you put in half the water since a bit of the coffee has been extracted from the grounds. I do not see any kind of difference in the two batches. All I know is that in 48 hours, I have a combined output of about 48 ounces of cold brew coffee concentrate that lasts me about 5 days.
So, what do you do with the concentrate? Well, that is simple….make some amazing coffee. Now you have only heard me mention iced coffee, but you can heat this up as well. The first step is to dilute it. Remember, this is a concentrate, and it tastes strong. I generally use a 1 to 3 ratio, 1 ounce of concentrate with an extra 3 ounces of water (same water from the refrigerator, otherwise why bother). I have another carafe that holds 64 ounces that I have marked at the 16 ounce point and at the 64 ounce point. I put in 16 ounces of cold brew coffee concentrate and then fill to the top line with water. DONE!!!!! From there, you can make excellent hot or iced coffee.
I am so pleased with this process and it was worth months of tinkering. I drink a lot every day and it never tastes bad. I struggle to drink any other coffee, it just doesn’t taste good at all. Your results might vary depending on the water, the coffee, and your ratio. And 24 hours is what Filtron says, you might be able to get away with 12, or stretch it to 48. Have fun and experiment!
Speaking of experiment, I got creative with the concentrate recently. I decided to make coffee pancakes, and they were amazing.
I swapped out half of the necessary water needed for my mix and replaced it with the concentrate (not diluted!). OHHHH EMMMMMM GEEEEEE! So good. I even mixed in a few chocolate chips and took them to the next level.
I hope you have enjoyed joining me on the saga I embarked upon months ago. It was so worth the effort. I did make a video of the preparation part of the process, just hit play.