Photographed by Alice Gao.
It's hard to know when my relationship with coffee went from "a beverage I enjoy, amid a number of beverages I consume regularly" to "thing required for life," but there's no going back. In college, and even in my first job out of school, I would have coffee most mornings, but some mornings I just wouldn't. I would skip it, and be totally fine. Now, the first thought that crosses my mind as it emerges from the depths of sleep is simply, "COFFEE," in full, bold letters.
During the winter, I drink regular hot coffee, either brewed at home or at the office. But a dangerous thing happens when the temperatures creep up: I start drinking cold brew, and once I do, I hit a point of no return. Once I start sipping it, I can't go back to hot coffee until the weather dips.
I could sing the praises of cold brew all summer long, but there is one downside: the cost. In the winter, my coffee costs hover under $5 a week. (Or nothing at all if I'm drinking the coffee at work.) But, as soon as a heatwave hits it's up to $5 a day after tip and — if I'm really being honest — there's probably a day or two where I get multiple cups. That's $40 a week. I don't even want to let myself realize how much that shakes out to over a month, or even a full summer. [Editor's note: thats $480 over the course of 12 weeks.]
The secret, as it turns out, is just waiting. I have tried various cold brew recipes floating around on the internet before, and it's amazing how many variations can exist of "combine water and coffee grounds and let sit for a while." Some call for fine ground, some call for coarse. Some tell you to refrigerate the the brew, some say to leave it at room temp. Sometimes you got a ready-to-drink beverage, other times, a concentrate. No matter what, however, I seemed to wind up with something that tasted weak or watered-down. Now, however, I feel like an actual wizard.
I can't overstate the level of accomplishment I feel after letting a bunch of coffee sit in a jar for a few days. The recipe itself is simple: one pound of course-ground coffee, 2 liters of water, 48 hours. I strain it twice, once in a sieve and once through a coffee filter to get rid of the really fine sentiment. Then I put it back in the jar and refrigerate it, and I've got around a week and a half's worth of cold brew.
I use a light roast coffee, and have been buying a cheap blend at Whole Foods for $4.99. For those keeping track at home, that's less than a dollar per serving. Over the past month, I've caved and bought cold brew a few times, especially when walking around on the weekends, but my weekday coffee costs have gone down from $25 to $5 with very little effort. The one real and present danger is that, with it easily accessible, I can make myself several cups a day.
It's only mid-June, but, so far, I've managed to resist the temptation. By my own estimates, I've saved close to $80 already, and we've barely had a day over 80 degrees. Summer may not be in full swing yet, but I'm prepared — with jars and jars of coffee slowly brewing on my kitchen counter (and under my desk at work). Summer, do your worst. I'm ready.
If you, too, want to feel like a money-saving, cold-brew wizard, check out the recipe below. It's truly easier than you'd think.
Cold Brew Concentrate
1 lb. coarse-ground coffee (French press roast is usually best)
2 liters water
1. Mix the coffee ground and water in a large container. (Plastic is fine, but will leave flavor behind so it will probably become your designated coffee Tupperware going forward. I use large glass mason jars.) Cover and store at room temperature for 48 hours.
2. Strain the concentrate from the grounds, first through a fine-mesh sieve and finally through a filter for the last bit of remaining coffee grounds. (I strain it through the coffee filter in my Chemex, but a basket-type coffee filter placed in a sieve is also find).
3. Mix 1 part coffee concentrate to 1 part water or milk. Adjust to taste and enjoy.
Photographed by Alice Gao.