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Bored with brewing your French press coffee the same way every time? Most people only associate this brewing device with hot coffee. And those people would be wrong. Say hello to French press cold brew.
At a glance:
What is a French press cold brew?
Cold brew is a method of brewing coffee that actually originated in Japan hundreds of years ago. Unlike iced coffee which is usually brewed at a higher temperature before being cooled down, most cold brew drinks are extracted at chilled or room temperature for many hours.
How does it compare to normal coffee?
Brewing coffee at hot temperatures extracts the flavours more quickly. This process also extracts the acidity from coffee faster than if it was brewed at lower temperatures. What this means is that cold brew coffee takes many more hours to extract flavours.
The taste profile of French press cold brew is also different. These coffees often have lower acidity levels, which affect the taste of the coffee. When done well a cold brew will also extract less of the bad tasting notes people associate with coffee such as bitter flavours.
To give you an example, let us consider a coffee I have previously reviewed, the Colombia El Carmen by Rave Coffee.
This coffee had a fairly sharp, citrusy acidity when brewed hot and drunk without milk. When I put milk in the chocolate notes shone through.
By contrast, the coffee tasted much stronger when I made view a cold brew due to its heavy concentration. Despite this the fruity acidity had been much reduced and I found it much more refreshing and easier to drink this way once I had watered down the solution.
Drinking this drink with milk was a delight and was very easy to drink without milk due to its light body and mellow flavour.
Experimenting with your coffee.
As with hot brewing, you may find that some coffees taste better than others. Coffees that may have been a regular staple may not taste as good when cold brewed. Strangely enough, coffees you may have avoided may end up tasting better than you remember with this extraction process. Try a few of your regular coffee beans and see how they taste.
In addition to the Colombia El Carmen I also cold brewed another one of my favourites, the Yayu Ethiopian Forest Coffee by Union Roasted. The smooth but fruity acidity of this coffee is what makes this coffee so special. Unfortunately the extraction process reduced this acidity and made the coffee more flat. Its Bourbon biscuit tasting notes were not as pronounced when drinking it with milk either.
The key take away here is not to get disheartened when starting out for the first time. Cold brewing is no different to hot brewing in that there are several variables to consider before making the coffee that tastes right for you. Choosing the right coffee bean is just one of them.
As to which bean you choose, many prefer a darker roast due to its richer flavours as cold brew does not tend to extract as many subtle flavours. You may prefer the taste of difference roasts however and so it is more of a matter of personal preference.
Play around with the coffee ratios and brewing time to see how that affects the taste of the coffee. Using more coffee will obviously make it taste more intense. Brewing the coffee for longer will draw out more of the acidity. Recommended brew times are a minimum of 12 hours due to longer extraction time but I’ve seen up to listed 24 elsewhere.
Pros of French press cold brew coffee.
Before you jump in and make your own recipes, let me break down some great benefits to brewing cold brew coffee.
- Cold brewing extracts less of the negative flavours you sometimes get with coffee if it is done right.
- It is less acidic than hot coffee and is gentler on the stomach.
- Brewing this way is a lot more forgiving than brewing your coffee hot.
- Making a cold brew is super convenient. Once you’ve put the coffee in the water you can sit and forget about it till it is done. You can also make batches big enough to last a whole week.
- Great on a hot day with some ice.
- Cold brew coffees are often sweeter in taste and more mellow than its hot brew cousin.
Cons of cold brew coffee.
- Finding the right coffee can be hit and miss.
- Extraction times are a lot longer.
- You may end up extracting less of the good stuff you enjoy in other coffees.
How to do it + tips.
There are two ways of brewing cold brew coffee. One of them involves cold water dripped over a bed of coffee. The other involves the coffee being brewed in water at chilled or room temperature. In this article I am going to show you how to do the latter.
5 steps to making French press cold brew:
1: Grind your coffee.
2: Use 130 grams and 900ml of cold water.
3: Leave it for at least 12 hours at room temperature.
4: Push down the French Press plunger to separate the coffee beans.
5: Pour your coffee into a container and put it in a fridge.
Before you rush to make your coffee, check out the below details to make sure you know how to make the perfect coffee. If you are feeling a bit adventurous, check out some of my recipe ideas.
Getting the right equipment.
You will need a coffee maker that utilises ground coffee beans and some way of filtering out the coffee at the end. Given the amount of time it takes to make a cold brew, I prefer to use a coffee maker that is able to contain a large jug of water so that I can get several cups of coffee out of it. For this article I used an 8 cup French press. This is a relatively inexpensive and versatile coffee maker but there are several cold brew coffee making devices if you want to go down this route instead. A big benefit of using a french press is that it is so versatile. If you do not feel like a cold brew coffee then you can make a hot coffee instead.
Unless you get pre ground coffee you will also need some kind of coffee grinder. The benefit of pre-ground coffee is that it is convenient but it also comes with the trade off that it is less fresh. If you choose to go for a coffee grinder then the best option to go for is a burr grinder. This will give you a more consistent grind than a blade grinder, which often results in more inconsistent and bitter coffee flavours. If you are put off by the cost of electric burr coffee grinders then there are also budget manual grinders available as well.
Finally, an option but recommend step is is to use a set of scales to weigh your coffee. Knowing how much coffee you are using will allow you to experiment with optimum flavours for a more consistent and satisfying coffee.
If you are grinding your coffee then you will need to use a coarse grind. Take this into account if buying ground coffee. The reason you will need a course grind is that the flavours extract more slowly. If you use a finer grind then you could risk extracting more of the negative flavours (such as bitterness) more quickly. You may wish to experiment with how course you want to grind your coffee depending on how you like your coffee.
If you have read other articles about cold brew online you will find many different ratios quoted about how many coffee you should use. Ultimately there is not really much of a definitive answer as it depends on how you like your coffee. For this article I used a ratio of 1:8 and you may to use this as a starting point.
One important point to bear in mind is that cold brew is much more concentrated than hot brew coffee due to its longer extraction time. If you lower the ratio of coffee to water then the coffee taste will become even more concentrated.
Putting sugar in your coffee.
Cold brew coffee usually tastes sweeter and so it may be worth tasting your first brew without sugar if you are usually accustomed to doing this. If you still want to put sugar in your coffee then using something sweet in a liquid form is best.
Putting normal sugar in a cold brew coffee will leave you with a gritty mess. At chilled or room temperature the sugar will not dissolve and leave most of the taste profile unchanged. I like to put liquid caramel when I want something sweet but anything similar will work as well.
Cold brew recipes.
Looking for different recipes to spice up your coffee routine? Check out these killer recipes to take your coffee game to the next level. All these coffees can be brewed anywhere between 12-15 hours (or even longer) depending on how strong you like your coffee.
Black Coffee Cold Brew
Ingredients: Black coffee, Ice.
You’d be surprised at how good black cold brew tastes even if you are not accustomed to drinking black coffee. Make sure to dilute the coffee before you drink it and put some ice in it to give it that refreshing taste.
Condensed milk cold brew.
Ingredients: Coffee, 1 can of condensed milk.
This drink will give you a sickly sweet hit when combining the sugary flavour of condensed milk and the smooth flavour of the cold brew coffee. You can use any type of coffee bean for this receipt but I personally would use a darker roast to let the richness of the coffee shine through the sweetness of the condensed milk.
Lemonade Cold Brew.
Ingredients: Coffee, lemonade, ice.
Coffee with lemonade? Yep that is right. If the combination of those two together do not feel right then do not fret. Cold brew coffee is very refreshing. Mix it with ice and the sweetness of the lemonade and you get a heavenly combination you probably never knew existed. Kick back, close your eyes and imagine you are on a beach far, far away.
Baileys cold brew.
Ingredients: Coffee, Baileys, ice.
Perhaps not one to try first thing in the morning. Simply mix a shot of Baileys with some diluted cold brew coffee and ice. The creaminess of the Baileys will compliment the coffee well and the alcohol will give you a nice kick. Not for the faint hearted.