A step-by-step guide from master brewer Jamie Rogers
Iced coffee is one of those things that sounds too good to be true. It’s caffeinated. It’s chilled. At best, it’ll lower your risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s; at worst, it won’t do you any harm at all. And here’s the real kicker: Iced coffee is so easy to make at home, you can brew it in your sleep.
But don’t break out the French press just yet. We turned to Jamie Rogers, founder of Pushcart Coffee in New York City, to find out how to get a café-worthy brew at home. Below, his four-step guide to pouring the perfect cup.
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Cold Brew or Don’t Bother
If you’ve ever stuck hot coffee in the fridge and called it iced, you’ll know it just doesn’t match up to the stuff at your coffee shop. The difference? A barista worth his grounds will always opt to cold brew. “It’s our preferred method at Pushcart,” Rogers says. “A good cold brew is a really well-balanced cup of coffee. It’s not bitter, and it’s got a really interesting complexity of flavor you don’t usually get by just pouring hot coffee over ice.”
What equipment will I need?
Filtron and Toddy both make appliances for the home brewer—but if you’re not ready to commit to a full cold brew system, you can hack one yourself with a decent coffee grinder and a filter to put the grounds in.
So how do you do it?
The first rule of cold brew is to grind your coffee beans coarse and directly into a filter. Don’t be shy here—if you normally use a French press, you’ll need to grind a little coarser than seems wise. (Larger grounds, Rogers explains, allows water to circulate easily, so they’re evenly saturated.) Then, set the filter in a container of room-temperature water—about one ounce for every 0.15 ounces of coffee—leave it overnight on the counter, and let the cold brew method work its magic.
How long is too long?
Don’t go beyond 18 hours. After that, Rogers says, “you really hit a point of over-extraction, and then your coffee just starts to taste sour. It doesn’t have that same full-bodied flavor.”
What if I don’t use it all?
While hot coffee will go flat in after a few hours, cold brew is made of sterner stuff. On your counter, it’ll keep for about a day; refrigerated, it’ll be there for you all week long.
But if you really must …
In a pinch, we’ll forgive you for starting with hot coffee—as long as you brew it double-strength. If you’re at the office, for example, use twice the amount of grounds you normally do, run a batch of water through, and put it on ice. “It’s not ideal,” Rogers warns, “but it’s just the best you can do with what you’ve got.”
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Tone it Down
The initial cold brew will leave you with a hair-raising, balls-to-the-wall coffee concentrate. Some brave souls among us actually drink it as is—but chances are, you’re going to need to cut it with something milder.
As a general rule of thumb, Rogers recommends a 1:1 ratio of cold brew concentrate to water. It doesn’t get much easier than that.
Make it a latte.
Feeling daring? Swap milk for water and turn your concentrate into a brew latte. “It’s not going to be as robust as an iced latte at a coffee shop,” Rogers admits, “but it’s going to be a really nice, milk-based drink.” A proper iced latte, on the other hand, calls for a shot of espresso and milk in about a 1:4 ratio.
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Sweeten the Deal
When it comes to iced coffee, granulated sugar doesn’t cut it. Honey and agave are both popular alternatives, but Rogers’ sweetener of choice is a simple syrup, made with one part boiling water and two parts sugar. Whip up large batch, and it’ll last almost indefinitely in the fridge without separating.
Don’t stop there.
Once you’ve mastered a basic simple syrup, it’s time to go rogue. The folks at Pushcart add a bit of lavender, but a scraped vanilla bean, handful of mint, or basil leaves are all fair game.
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Take it to the Next Level
So you made your cold brew concentrate. You drizzled your simple syrup like a pro. Now, it’s time to break out the big guns.
Double up on cold brew.
Reserve extra cold brew in an ice cube tray and pop it in the freezer. Then, when you’re ready to head out for the day, drop a few cubes into your travel mug. They’ll keep your coffee cold—and you’ll never have to worry about watered-down cold brew again.
Take the edge off.
There’s only one thing better than iced coffee: boozy iced coffee. “A dark rum or bourbon can work really well with a cold brew,” Rogers says. “There’s no reason you couldn’t do all these creative things to get to that cup you really enjoy.”
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