Over the last few years, most of us have become cold brew converts.
Not only has this easy-to-make concentrated coffee taken cafes and coffee shops by storm, replacing iced shots of espresso for many of us, it has also revealed itself to have pretty much endless culinary potential.
What I’m saying is cold brew is great and incredibly versatile.
During the summer months, I like to keep a couple of big mason jars brewing in my fridge so I can pour myself a glass of cold brew and imprecisely top it up with water and ice, or if I go for a hike, I can do the same in a thermal bottle. When I have to work away from home, I take just the concentrate and water it down when I want to drink it (because it’s a concentrate, cold brew doesn’t take up much space on a journey as long as you can get water wherever you’re going).
Okay, so far, that might sound great, but it doesn’t sound versatile, and what was I banging on about the culinary world for?
Well, have you ever heard of the Scandinavian fave coffee and tonic? How about a simple espresso martini? Cold Vietnamese coffee? Coffee popsicles? Cold brew coffee cake? Cold brew caramel sauce?
You have now!
Since cold brew is such an easy-to-make treat with an incredible array of uses, I’m not only going to tell you how to make the best cold brew but also my favorite ways to use it. Sound good?
Then let’s start with the basics
1. Making Perfect Cold Brew Coffee
I’ll go into a few options for cold brew equipment later, but for a basic functional set up all you need is a large mason jar, a fine-mesh sieve, and either some muslin and an elastic band that fits the mouth of the jar or a simple paper coffee filter.
You will also need coffee beans, a grinder and either a measure you know well or a set of digital scales.
2. The Water and the Coffee
For a 1-quart mason jar you’ll need about 3oz of coffee. That’s 1.5 cups of coffee when it’s coarse ground. The ratio is easy here — you need twice as much water as coffee. So, if your coarse-ground coffee is 1.5 cups you need 3 cups of water.
As this is a simple ratio, you should be able to work out how much coffee you need for any vessel pretty easily with just a little trial and error.
Pour your coffee and water into the jar, then give them a stir. Let the mixture sit out of the fridge for 5-10 minutes before sticking the lid on and refrigerating.
3. The Steep
Advice for cold brew steeping time ranges from 10-24 hours.
In my experience, making your cold brew mixture in the evening and drinking it the next morning work perfectly fine. With such a long steep, times don’t have to be exactly.
Anything over 12 hours and you have a strong concentrate. It continues to get even stronger up to 24 hours, beyond which it may verge towards muddy and bitter.
For context, Starbucks brew their cold brew for 20 hours.
And I’ve definitely left mine a good 25ish hours before remembering I need to strain it!
4. Straining the Brew
When you’re ready to strain your coffee concentrate, simply place your fine mesh sieve over a pitcher or jug. Then, spread your muslin over the mesh or place your coffee filter over it.
Carefully, pour the cold brew mixture over the DIY strainer you have just assembled. Give it time to drip into the jug or pitcher, including letting the sieve sit for a while once the wet grounds are in it so that the last of the liquid can make its way through.
And there you have it, cold brew!
5. Storing the Cold Brew
You can keep your cold brew in a pitcher with a lid in the fridge, or in anything you can seal.
Personally, I usually just rinse out my mason jars and refill them with strained cold brew concentrate.
Your cold brew will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, though it tastes best within the first 7 days. Mine never lasts 2 weeks, but luckily it’s always easy to make more!
6. Serving the Cold Brew
Cold brew is a concentrate, so it’s much stronger than coffee. It’s more like a cold espresso.
While it can be drunk on its own over ice (I like to do this and let the ice melt slowly), most people mix it with an equal amount of water.
Put some ice in a glass, half fill with water, top up with cold brew. There you have it, a standard glass of cold brew.
Of course, this is only one of oh-so-many ways to enjoy cold brew.
Let’s look at a few more, starting with coffee drinks.
Whether you like sweet and milky coffee drinks or strong, almost savory beverages there are cold brew options for you.
Coffee Drinks with Cold Brew
These are all variations on a theme.
The basic principle is simply replacing the water you would usually use to dilute your cold brew with a milk of your choice.
You can use almond, soy, even coconut milk if it takes your fancy!
Homemade simple syrups or good quality store-bought syrups are a great addition.
Black Coffee Drinks
Of course, a plain black cold brew over ice is great, but even coffee traditionalists want to jazz it up sometimes.
If you love the flavor and kick of black coffee and don’t want that drowned out, there’s still plenty you can do to modify it for weather, occasion, or mood.
On a hot day, mint is a surprisingly refreshing addition to black cold brew. Just make sure you don’t add too much as it ends up medicinal. Muddle a couple of leaves with ice before you add your cold brew and water.
For something more exotic (and some might say romantic) you could try rosewater simple syrup or even just a couple of drops of rosewater.
Don’t be afraid to experiment, and let me know if you come up with anything original and amazing!
Cold Brew Ice Cubes
Isn’t it annoying when the ice in your perfectly balanced cold brew melts and your drink ends up just brown water?
That’s where cold brew ice cubes come in. Simply freeze a portion of your cold brew in an ice cube tray and use the resulting coffee ice cubes just like you would normal ice.
Remember, though, you’re adding coffee to your drink! Reduce the amount of liquid cold brew you use, or you’ll be bouncing off the walls.
Sweet and Milky Cold Brew Drinks
Beyond taking on the latte, what can you do with cold brew, milk and a few additions?
Here are a few of my favorites…
1. A Simplified Vietnamese Coffee
Traditionally, Vietnamese iced coffee is strong hot filter coffee that is brewed right over a glass of ice. Condensed milk is then stirred in.
But you can recreate the flavor easily with cold brew. Simply mix cold brew concentrate with about half a tin of condensed milk, over ice. Leave a little room in case you want to add a little water, as both these ingredients are pretty strongly flavored! The ice should melt a little as you stir, though, lengthening your drink.
Vietnamese coffee is notably strong and bitter. The condensed milk takes the sting out of the coffee’s tail, creating a drink that’s almost chocolaty or custardy to the taste.
2. Cookies’n’Coffee Extravaganza
One of the joys of cold brew is that, because it’s concentrated, it’s strong enough to stand up to a whole bunch of intense flavors and textures.
This drink is almost a milkshake and totally personalizable with your favorite flavors, and yet the coffee still comes shining through.
Mix cold brew and heavy cream over ice, and drizzle in chocolate and caramel sauce. Next, crumble your favorite cookie on top. Add whipped cream, then more cookies.
Okay, but where does the ‘personalizable’ come in?
Well, if you like a thin mint then add a peppermint syrup. If you like a good old fashioned choc chip cookie, shave dark chocolate over your drink.
The possibilities are endless. This is a great drink for making grownups feel like kids again!
Including hyperactive screaming and running around from all the caffeine AND sugar if you’re not careful. Don’t drink too many in a row!
3. Choco-Peanut Frappe
This one uses the coffee ice cubes I told you about earlier.
Simply blend cold brew ice cubes with milk of your choice, peanut butter, chocolate syrup and, if you like things sweet, a little honey.
You can add whipped cream if you like, but without the cream, it’s actually reasonably healthy despite feeling super decadent!
This is another one you can experiment with. Maybe try a different nut butter or even another flavor of syrup.
Black Coffee Based
Lots of coffee lovers aren’t into sweet, milky drinks. In fact, I’m one of them.
I love a dessert-like coffee as a treat, but they’re not my bag day-to-day.
Don’t worry, though, there are lots of options for cold brew based drinks that are intensely coffee flavored and skip the cream.
1. Lemonade Cold Brew
This might sound a little wild, but a carbonated lemonade is great mixed with cold brew over ice.
It’s a refreshing twist on iced coffee, perfect for a summer day in the garden!
In fact, cold brew and soda is a growing trend at the moment — try other sodas too and see what works for you and your tastebuds!
2. Cold Brew Tonic
Though it sounds similar to cold brew and soda, this combo was created in Sweden and has spread around the world in the last few years. And though it’s super refreshing and a little fizzy, it isn’t at all sweet.
Simply combine cold brew and good quality tonic water over ice. Add a slice of lemon. Enjoy how incredibly sophisticated it makes you feel!
3. Cocktails With Cold Brew
Coffee is a strong flavor, so it can hold up to the equally strong flavors of the booze world. Smokey Scotch or sweet bourbon is great with a cold brew base, as is herbal vermouth or toasty deep mescal.
And if you like your cocktails sweet, well, what goes better with coffee than cream?
Here are a few cocktail ideas, but don’t be afraid to try your own combinations or put a spin on a classic with a cold brew twist.
4. Cold Brew Martini
A cold brew adaptation on the cocktail hour classic espresso martini, the cold brew martini couldn’t be easier to put together. In fact, it makes more sense than the espresso version because the coffee element doesn’t have to be made on the spot or cooled quickly.
Simply pour 2oz cold brew, 2oz vodka, a little simple syrup and 1oz of coffee liqueur over ice in a cocktail shaker. Then shake, strain and serve in a martini glass. To keep things extra classy, top with a few espresso beans.
5. Jenever Joe
If you like the cold brew and tonic trend, you’ll love this. It’s light on the cold brew so as not to overpower the gin and prosecco that make up most of the drink.
Shake 3oz of gin with 1.5oz of cold brew and ice. Add 3oz prosecco and about ½ a teaspoon of brown sugar. Stir, and pour into a chilled martini glass.
6. Cold Brew Sours
If you want to be a bit more traditional, make a whiskey sour. If you like the brown sugar flavors of your coffee to shine, try rum.
Darker coffee is best with rum, while a medium roast works with whiskey.
To assemble the drink, combine 20z cold brew, 2oz of the brown liquor of your choice, ½ oz of brown sugar simple syrup and the juice of half a lemon over ice. Shake, serve over fresh ice with a twist of lemon.
7. Amari Cocktails
Amari are Italian bitters, basically herbal liqeurs. A few you might know are Campari, Amaro and Aperol.
If you like the bitter notes of coffee, then a smoky liquor, cold brew and amari cocktail is perfect for you.
I like 1oz mescal and 1oz Amaro to 2oz cold brew, but this is a very customizable drink. It’s all about drawing out the bitter and smoky elements of your cold brew through the booze you choose.
A Few Final Words
These are some of my favorite uses for cold brew, but I’m sure you have your own. Or you’ll discover some on your cold brew journey!
Personally, I intend to learn more about using cold brew in cooking myself.
I know it’s great added to a caramel sauce, and makes excellent popsicles!
As always, I want to find out more. So let me know when you find a great recipe and I might just try it out and add it to the list.
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