I Don't Know What Exactly Makes This So AMAZING but I Do Know I Always Want It In My Mouth
A correctly-prepared glass of cold brew coffee will do three things to you:
- Ruin iced coffees and iced americanos forever
- Put you at risk of a massive heart attack
- Change how you look at coffee
Cold-brew coffee isn’t just a hip way to order coffee that’s not how; cold-brew refers to how it’s prepared. Instead of brewing for a short time with hot water, it’s brewed for a long time – half of a day – with cold or room temperature water. The result is, well, it’s brilliant.
The difference between the two methods makes all the difference depending on what final temperature you’re looking for. Truly cold-brewed coffee over iced doesn’t taste like any coffee you’ve ever had. It’s impossibly smooth and completely devoid of bitterness. There’s no need for milk or sugar at all but add the two and it’s truly decadent, like a $5-dollar shake. Let it sit in ice too long and it’s still perfectly drinkable.
It’s also got 632 times as much caffeine per ounce as hot coffee. At least it feels that way. My first encounter with cold-brew was a bottle of Stumptown in Portland, Oregon at a fantastic sandwich shop. The woman ringing the group up stopped when I put the bottle on the counter, looked me straight in the eyes, and asked, “do you drink coffee regularly?” I smiled and answered affirmatively. She warned me, “be careful with this stuff, it’s very strong. Really, really strong.” She wasn’t kidding. 10 ounces and I was chattering the entire drive back to Seattle. I’m surprised I wasn’t thrown out in the first 15 minutes.
Cold-brewed coffee is my favorite way to consume this dark, wonderful beverage. Like espresso, you can cold-brew any coffee but some beans are better than others. When I was cruising through the Blue Bottle inventory online, I noticed a cold-brew kit, complete with instructions (incredibly simple), 1 pound of a special blend of beans (unfortunately no details could be found online), and a bag of roasted chicory (I had no clue at the time what that was exactly). I was intrigued. I bought it straight away.
Roasted root chicory has been used for a long time as an addition to or substitute for coffee all over the world. The reasons for this range from economic (cheap substitute used during the Civil War) to epicurean (“New Orleans style coffee” is coffee with chicory added, hence the name of this kit) to medicinal (“chicory is well known for its toxicity to internal parasites“). It’s a part of coffee lore that I was not familiar with and excited to explore.
Instructions with great photos are here. Grind the coffee coarse, add the included chicory packet, and let it sit at room temperature in 2.5 quarts of water. What you end up with is 4-5 cups of dark, syrupy concoction that will keep for a week in the fridge. That might not seem like a lot if you imagine yourself drinking this 8oz at a time. Remember, though, that you’re using ONE POUND of coffee for this volume. Treat this nectar like espresso and serve it up 2 or 3 ounces at a time. To get a full glass, add water and/or milk to thin it out. You’ve been warned.
So, how does it taste? In a word: great.
This cold brew is a little different from others I’ve had in the past. I typically drink this dark, delicious beverage with a splash of milk, rarely if ever so I add sugar to my coffee. This one was good with milk but much better with some brown sugar in it. The directions recommend simple syrup so anything sweet really brings all the flavors together. You just need enough to offset the extra bitterness.
There was the distinct bitterness that came from the chicory but, in this drink, I think it adds that little something extra. The concentrate, as advertised, was very strong so I didn’t drink it straight except for a taste. By itself, it’s just too much to handle. This is to be expected when you’re using over 14 grams of ground coffee per serving.
The caffeine concentration was a little hard to get used to at first. Most cold-brews I’ve tried can be half coffee, half 2% milk or less. This one needs to be mixed like espresso, 2 – 3 ounces max plus water and/or milk. I mixed a few too strong and, while delicious, I was wired for hours. I’m a fast caffeine metabolizer and, despite drinking coffee regularly, am fairly sensitive to the chemical. I had to be careful.
The directions say that the concentrate lasts 5 – 7 days. At 5 days, I could tell that the flavor was degrading a bit (bitterness coming through stronger) but I added a bit more sugar and was fine with it.
Overall, I was very pleased with it and looking forward to ordering another batch before summer.
I was out of the Three Africans I ordered along with the iced kit so I thought I’d try a scoop of it hot mixed with the chicory. I wanted to see if the higher temperature yields a poor result.
I ground just under 1/4 cup of the beans on fine, added 1/8 teaspoon of the roasted chicory, and brewed the ground, brown pile in an Aeropress.
The coffee itself is quite smooth but there is a faint but lingering bitterness that comes through. It’s not all-together unpleasant, I’ll say that, and I wonder if that’s either the chicory doing it’s thing or maybe out of its temperature comfort zone.
The brew is easy to drink, especially with a splash of half-and-half. It’s earthy and rich, medium-bodied and consistent throughout. It’s hard to tell exactly what the chicory adds but you can tell it’s there, both in the smell and in the taste; there’s something a little different about this cup. I would not use less than 1/8 teaspoon or else you won’t be able to tell it’s there. More than that might bring out more bitterness but that would be good for some. I think I (accidentally) got it right.