Cold brewed iced coffee: a cure for the 3 o'clock slump

Cold brewed coffee, where have you been all my life? I know, there’s been quite a buzz, ha ha, about the cold infusion method of brewing coffee of late, but it went right over my head. I swear it was the stultifying consequence of humidity. A few weeks ago, such was the extent of my body’s lethargy that I seriously considered making a doctor’s appointment. Furthermore, everything above the neck was cotton-infused, an effect I also ascribe to the three H’s. But now, thanks to you, iced coffee, I think I am cured.

To backtrack, for full disclosure, I should tell you that I experimented with what I call the Decaffeination Project. Not too long ago, in a period of high stress, I wondered if my daily morning caffeine habit (a homemade latte) was in some way exacerbating the high anxiety of the dramas that whooshed in every time I opened the door a crack. Wary of headaches, I came up with a gradual withdrawal plan: drink the usual cup of coffee every other day for a few weeks and substitute a very pleasant herbal tea on off days. Taper off until coffee was history.

Time passed. Aside from making a beeline to my beloved espresso machine every morning before I remembered that, duh, I don’t do that anymore, nothing really happened. I didn’t feel less anxious; the Universe in all its wisdom was making sure of that. My energy level felt a teensy bit smoother, and I patted myself on the back for being able to do without something I thought I could not. But really? What is the point if I feel the same? I could find no rationale to support giving up coffee. I am not one to go all Puritanical about food. That’s just dumb. And so I decided that I would drink it now and then, when I felt like it.

After the third day of unproductive sloth last week, I resolved it was time to medicate with coffee. I made a cup of espresso and diluted it with milk and ice. It definitely worked its magic. I was back! Thank you, caffeine. The only problem was that I didn’t like it. After all those months of cossetting my palate, the coffee was as jarring and brash as a boom box on a beautiful beach.

Enter the chilly brew.

Radio surfing on a long summer drive, I stumbled upon a description of the cold infusion method of making coffee. At home, I let my fingers do the googling. I found several methods, all pretty much the same.

The New York Times gives dead simple advice: stir coarsely ground medium-roast coffee with some water in a jar, wait 12 hours, strain, dilute and drink. Dan Souza from

America’s Test Kitchen has more precise, if not slightly more complicated, instructions.

I went the simple route, using Tanzanian coffee. I had visited Gibb’s Farm twice with my friends Judi and Rick from Thomson Safaris  (before and after they bought it and made it even more beautiful) and every once in a while they bring me some coffee. It is, in my opinion, the perfect candidate for the cold infusion method.

Iced coffee made this way is everything it is cracked up to be: the toasty flavors are round and smooth and go down as soothingly as the sound of gentle waves on a beautiful beach. So long boom box, hello cold-brewed iced coffee.

This is a no-fuss method. You could play around with proportions of coffee to water, and with the fineness of the coffee grounds. The grounds will sink to the bottom of the jar, so pour the coffee off the top carefully when you strain it the first time and leave the grounds behind in the jar. For the second straining, I use a tea strainer lined with a piece of paper towel—there are not too many grounds left to filter at this point.

This method results in a concentrated brew, which needs to be diluted to taste. I like to add quite a bit whole milk and a little sugar, even though I never drink hot coffee with sugar. It’s a treat. And though I’m kind of a purist, the recipe invites improvisation: how about adding some cinnamon sticks or chai spices? You could also make Vietnamese style coffee by adding sweetened condensed milk, being sure to leave the coffee fairly strong.

You just can’t go wrong!

Cold brewed iced coffee recipe
Makes 1 cup, or enough for 4 servings of iced coffee

1/2 cup coarsely ground medium-roast coffee
1 1/2 cups cool water

1. Stir coffee and water together in a jar. Let stand for 12 hours at room temperature, or longer (up to 24 hours.)

2. Pour coffee through a fine-mesh strainer into a measuring cup, leaving the grounds behind. Discard the grounds and rinse out the jar.

3. Set a tea strainer over the jar and line with a piece of cheesecloth or paper towel. Strain the coffee again into the jar. Refrigerate until ready to use. It should keep for several days in the refrigerator.

For iced coffee, fill a glass with ice. Add 1/4 cup of brewed coffee and dilute with water or milk to taste. Add sugar and a pinch of salt (Dan Souza’s suggestion), if you like.

Posted on August 6, 2013 and filed under Drinks.