Iced coffee always seems to taste perfect when you order it at a place like Starbucks, but making cold brew iced coffee at home is easier, and cheaper, than you would think. If you already have been making coffee at home you may already have the essential tools you need to make the perfect iced coffee.
The first and most important thing you will need is a French press to strain the coffee. A percolator or an auto drip will not work for making the cold brew iced coffee. The reason is that you do not want to brew hot coffee, chill the coffee, and then create iced coffee. It will taste like old, bitter coffee, and nobody wants that. Well, some people may like that style of coffee, but for me, and probably you, you want a great tasting coffee. The whole process can be broken down into four basic steps that you’ll master in no time. But first, we’ll go over the details you will want to know before you make your first cold brew iced coffee at home.
The original Bodum coffee maker.
The French press I use is made by Bodum. The reason I like this for cold brew is that the mesh filter always works to press the grounds without getting any grounds in your pressed coffee. I’ve used cheaper coffee presses and I have found that the mesh tends to wear out after a few months. This is the only moving part in the press, and the mesh is what usually wears out first. I have been using the Bodum press for over 5 years without any problems. The one I use is a single serve size, but any size will work. If you don’t have a french press, don’t hesitate to get one just for making the cold brew coffee. You can make great hot, unfiltered coffee in the French press as well. That is the reason why most people will own a French press.
The type of roast will depend on what you prefer as an iced coffee. It will also depend on what you are trying to recreate. If you are going for a replica of a Starbucks iced coffee that you normally order, you would go with that roast. The Blonde roast is a great light roast. Pike’s Peak is the standard. I prefer the darker roast like French Roast because the milk and sugar make the coffee less dark tasting. Because you would be making this as a cold brew, the harshness of a dark roast will not be as harsh as a hot coffee made with the same dark roast. You do not need to get any special roast for the cold brew iced coffee because the same roast you use to make hot coffee can easily make the cold brew. Espresso roast is probably the only roast I would not use because of the dark roast quality.
The next thing you need to know about is how fine or coarse the coffee grounds should be for a French press. If you have a coffee grinder at home you would want to make the grounds very coarse for the French press. This is because the mesh of the French press can let the coffee get through when you press. I would not use ground espresso because the coffee grounds would be too fine for the French press. Unless you prefer lots of grounds in your coffee. Store bought ground coffee can work, but eventually you will want to control the coffee grounds.
You should add MORE coffee grounds to the French Press for cold brew than you would use if making a regular cup of coffee. The concentration ratio will depend on how strong you like your iced coffee. I’d go with about TWO tablespoons of coffee grounds per 8oz of water for a strong concentration.
The temperature of the water you add to the French press should be cold water. Room temperature is fine, but cold is best. Some people will use spring water or filtered tap water. If you notice the difference in tap and spring water, go with the one that tastes the best to you.
A good tasting water will result in a good tasting coffee.
How long will you need to let the coffee sit in the cold water before you can press the French press and FINALLY have your iced coffee? Overnight is the best way to get the perfect cold brew iced coffee. If you cannot wait that long, you could try for a 12-hour cold brew. If this is your first attempt at making the iced coffee this way, I would just go for the overnight method. You could let the coffee sit longer, but not more than 24 hours because the taste will lean towards being stale.
The final step before you can leave the coffee overnight is to stir the coffee grounds in the water. You would want to do this when you first pour the grounds into the French press with water, and then a few hours later if you can. Not essential, but would be helpful in getting a full strength brew. I usually just leave the press unpressed at the top of the container as my cover for the cold brew. If you do not want to do this you can use plastic wrap. If you use a larger French press you can brew enough to make two or more iced coffee drinks. Details on the overnight process is mentioned below in the coffee making process.
The next day… finally! Time to pour the cold brew and make your iced coffee. The grounds will have floated to the top after sitting overnight. Make sure, before you pour, to have a large enough glass to contain the ice, the coffee, and the milk, with room enough to stir. Give the grounds one final stir before you press and pour out the coffee over ice.
Bodum French press just after taking out of the refrigerator from sitting overnight, just before stir and press step.
Often, an iced coffee will have sugar. I would add this in the glass after pouring in the coffee, but before you add any milk. Regular sugar will work, but if you have something liquid like agave, this is better because the sugar will blend more easily with the coffee. You’ll find that regular sugar is more difficult to blend with the cold coffee. Artificial sweetener also works and blends easily into the cold coffee. I’d use whatever tastes best to you. It is, after all, YOUR coffee.
For milk you have a lot of different choices. Traditional milk, soy milk, almond, milk, oat milk, cashew milk, or coconut milk. For non-dairy I would choose unsweetened soy milk for a vegan cold brew. Note: if you choose sweetened soy milk, you should add less sugar in the step before the milk. If you like the vanilla flavor for your iced coffee, you can use a vanilla flavored soy or almond milk. Oat milk has a thicker milk/oat taste and I wouldn’t use this, at least not on your first attempt at making this drink. Flavored creamer would also work well, provided you want a flavored iced coffee. These most often contain sugar, so if you use one of the creamers, you should skip the sugar step. Coffee mate has some great flavors like Italian Sweet Creme, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Caramel Latte, Pumpkin Spice (when in season), Toasted Marshmallow Mocha, traditional French Vanilla, Creme Brulee, Cafe Mocha, and Coconut Creme. The creamer is thicker than the milk options, so if you like your iced coffee with a thick flavored texture, then try the creamers.
Step 1 – Add coffee grounds to water in a French Press
Step 2 – Stir the coffee and leave it sit overnight
Step 3 – Stir the coffee before pressing, and pour into a glass with ice.
Step 4 – Add your sugar, and milk and stir.
That’s pretty much it. Easy to make with minimal effort with a French press. Once you fine-tune your process you’ll get a cold brew iced coffee just like you would get at a Starbucks. The taste will be nice and smooth.
The finished drink – cold brew iced coffee made with a French press at home, complete with ice, soy milk, and sugar.
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