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Perfecting the Cold Brew

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Summer is right around the corner, and with it hot weather. And hot weather means cold drinks. The season of drinking hot coffee exclusively is over, and it's time to break out the iced renditions of your favorite caffeinated beverages: iced lattes, iced americanos, and, the holy grail of iced coffees: cold brew.

Cold brew coffee is as deliriously delicious as coffee can be, and there's actually a scientific reason for that. When hot water reacts with coffee grounds, many of the oils contained in the beans are released. It is these oils that are responsible for the notoriously bitter flavor associated with coffee, as the oils contain large amounts of acid compounds. When these acid compounds meet the tongue, they give the imbiber what is known as "acid shock;" the acid (and therefore the bitterness) is so strong that it prohibits the drinker from being able to taste the subtler flavors and notes in the coffee.

If you've ever wondered why hot coffee often smells better than it tastes, that is why. You smell all the flavors, but the acid denies you from experiencing them. With cold brew coffee this problem doesn't exist, which is why there is a much wider array of flavors present (it also means there's significantly less acid, which makes a cup of cold brew a lot healthier than its hot counterpart).

Perfecting the Cold Brew

Thankfully, perfecting the art of the cold brew isn't very difficult at all. Here is all that you need to know:

Pick the Right Beans

Since you're going to taste nearly every note available in your cold brew, you really need high-quality coffee beans. Don't worry, good beans don't need to break the bank, and you certainly get what you pay for. High-quality gourmet coffees or single origin coffee beans will give you the best taste, and organic and fair trade blends are highly recommended. You also want to pick a blend that has notes and flavors that you enjoy the most; a mild roast if you like floral and fruity tones, or a dark roast if you like rich, caramel flavors.

Get the Grind Right

The most important part of the grind is not actually the size, but when you do it. If you have a coffee grinder, be sure to buy whole beans, and don't grind them until you're ready to make your batch of cold brew. If you don't have the option of grinding your own beans, that's okay, but the results won't be as good. The longer the beans are ground before being used, the more they will dry up, and the less flavor they will have to infuse your cold brew.

That said, grind size is important, too. You want your cold brew to be relatively coarsely ground, which keeps it from getting too bitter.

Find the Right Ratio

The standard ratio for cold brew coffee is one cup of coffee grounds to four cups of water. You can play with this ratio if you like, but it's best just to stick with the recipe, and dilute the end product if it's too strong for you.

Use the Right Water

One thing you want to avoid at all costs is using distilled water when making cold brew coffee. Distilled water lacks all the minerals that help a great cup of coffee taste great. Filtered water is the way to go if you want a truly excellent cup of cold brew.

Let it Sit

Unlike a cup of hot coffee, you can't simply make a glass of cold brew in a few minutes. You need to be patient with your cold brew coffee, or the end result will greatly suffer. Let it sit for about 12 hours, either in the fridge or at room temperature, before you strain it.

Strain it Twice

There will be lots of silt hanging out in your cold brew, so straining it twice is the way to go for the smoothest glass possible.

Have Fun With It!

While it's impossible to beat a basic glass of cold brew, there are also lots of options if you want to play with your mixture. You can add myriad different ingredients to the brewing process, such as cinnamon sticks, ground nutmeg, and brown sugar. You can reheat the cold brew to make a latte, or use it in cooking. But, most importantly, you can pop it in a glass with a few ice cubes, head out into the sun, and enjoy one of summer's greatest treats.


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