This post originally appeared in the June 15, 2020 edition of The Move, a place for Eater’s editors to reveal their recommendations and pro dining tips — sometimes thoughtful, sometimes weird, but always someone’s go-to move. Subscribe now.
For years I detested cold-brew coffee. The miraculous black liquid was too easy, too chuggable, too casual compared to the satisfying effort required to brew hot coffee at home. And the flavor of cold brew, one could argue, is thin, one-note, and honestly not as complex as the subtleties produced by brewing with near-boiling water.
But I’ve recently come around to cold-brew coffee during the pandemic, mostly because there are days when the thought of having to fire up the kettle — or heading out to a coffee shop that’s still open and serving right now — is just too much effort. Mainly, I’ve realized how simple it is to brew cold brew at home. The tools are basic. The method is straightforward. There’s just no reason not to make your own damn cold brew.
All it takes is a pitcher, some coarsely ground coffee, water, and a way to filter things out. I measure out 6 ounces, or about 1 ¾ cups, of ground coffee and add 4 ½ cups of water to a water pitcher (170 grams of coffee to 1,100 grams of water). Cover it up for at least 16 hours in the fridge, then filter it with a mesh metal filter or even your pour-over coffee brewing device and a paper filter. The filtering part takes some time, but the result is about one quart of concentrated cold brew.
In this era of maximizing leftovers and stretching at-home cooking projects, cold brew is one of the most versatile things to have ready to drink or use, and it holds up particularly well: The stuff lasts for around two weeks in the fridge. Mix with water or cut it with some milk. Add it to cocktails for a double dose of fun. Heck, you can even add hot water to the concentrate for a low-acid morning cup o’ joe.
The best part of making your own cold brew is the price. It’s less than $1 a serving instead of the $3 or $4 at a shop. My brother-in-law, Frank, who works at a prominent local LA coffee company, tells me the dirty little secret of coffee shops: Almost every cafe uses old beans for their cold brew (even if they’re outside their ideal freshness window, the quality of the end product really doesn’t drop that much). Of course, you can’t turn low-grade stuff into smooth, chocolate-y cold brew. It’s still best to use some nice-quality beans, but don’t stress about how fresh they are. Which brings up a good point: In another lockdown austerity move, you could go ahead and use up those old coffee beans for your cold brew. You’ll likely barely taste the difference between that and something you just picked up from a cafe.