cold-brewed coffee

Saturday nights I tend to don my insomniac hat. See, Sundays are the one day of the week I don’t set an alarm. It is my day to “sleep in” while the Mr. stirs and tends to the girls. I cherish those lazy mornings, when I rise around 8:30 or 9:00am—a big contrast to the 6:00am I wake every other day. The problem is my mind and body have become adept at running on 6 hours of sleep, and just as I’m about to settle into bed around 11:00pm, I get hit with a second wind.

Secretly, I enjoy this ritual. Everyone is snuggled, all cozy in bed. The house is silent, and it’s a rather peaceful way to say goodbye to what has usually been a hectic week. I force myself to bed no later than 2:00am, so in the end my “sleeping in” doesn’t grant me more dreamtime. But the reprieve from my weekly morning activities is a very welcome one.

I know. You’re wondering why the heck I’m talking about lazy Sunday mornings when it’s Monday and we’re all back to the grind. Frankly, next to my girls waking up in a good mood, there’s no better greeting to the day than a perfect cup of coffee.

This is where I should perhaps put an asterisk, right? When it comes to coffee, tastes vary wider than the mood swings of a teething two-year old. So, let me correct myself by saying this is my perfect cup of joe. I prefer a smooth cup, not weak, but mornings can be tough enough, and I don’t need my first sip to be a struggle too.

I’ve been tweaking this recipe for about a month now, and if you’ve never tried cold-brewed coffee, you’re missing out on a sublime and smooth coffee experience. For lack of a better term the coffee just tastes so clean and pure. Does that make sense? Not a trace of bitterness. And the no-brains required in the morning is a plus too. The whole set-up is done at night and when you wake, there’s the sense of security knowing it’s waiting for you.

The very first time I used Smitten Kitchen’s recipe which was from the New York Times. After a few passes, I decided the strainer method wasn’t the best way to go. Even using a coarse-ground grain as directed, it consistently left a grainy residue that rose to the top of my cup. Finally I decided to go with my initial hunch and pulled out the French press. I tried the small one-serving pot first, and after a week or two decided that, for the summer at least, I was a cold-brewed coffee convert. I stepped up to a larger press, and make extra to plan for coffee concentrate ice cubes the next day.

Something unexpectedly also happened.  A rich-looking crema, reminiscent to that of a hand-pulled espresso, rose to the top, though it does dissipate after a few cups are poured, and whipping out my camera at 6:00am isn’t where my priorities lie. Perhaps another sign of a perfectly brewed cup of coffee?

Pour. Stir. Press. Repeat. 

Yep, that’s my life—sounds terribly static, but I thrive on the predictability. It leaves me free to handle all the other unexpected things thrown my way. And those almond scones you see above, well, that’s a recipe for another day. I figured you’d want to ease into the work week.

cold-brewed coffee

makes 3 double-strength cups

Depending on my mood, I drink this cold, over homemade coffee ice cubes, or hot with steamed milk—either way means I dilute it with equal parts milk (1:1 ratio, for example 4 ounces coffee with 4 ounces milk). Sometimes I simply heat and drink it full-strength for an espresso-like experience (as pictured above). As for the grind, medium works best if you’re using the press method as directed below.

Oh, and one more thing, you need a scale. This recipe was the impetus for me to grant a spot on the counter for mine. I finally got tired of reaching into the drawer a million times a day.

42 grams drip-ground coffee (medium-textured)

3 cups/24 ounces/675 ml cold water

Add the coffee to a French press pot. Pour in the water and stir. Do not skip this step or else the grinds will not steep properly. Trust me, I speak from experience. Cover with a plate or rest the press cover on top, but do not plunge. Let “brew” at room temperature for 8 to 10 hours (I find the last 2 hours don’t make a huge difference but don’t want you setting your alarm just to push the press down—that’d be plain silly).


  • Jennifer Jo

    This past week I made a half gallon of cold-brewed coffee concentrate. It’s totally addicting since there is no prep work needed when the pick-me-up-NOW mood strikes.
    I grind my coffee quite fine and then strain it through a cloth. Couldn’t be easier!

  • Jean

    I’m not a coffee drinker but I was compelled to comment because I enjoyed reading your post. I also can understand what it means to have the perfect cup of coffee in the morning, though for me, it’s tea. I’ve never heard of cold-brewed coffee before…I think I’ll have to try this for my husband. Thanks! 🙂

  • Jennie

    Jean – Radish (see commenter above you) mentioned she uses a cold-water brewing method to make iced tea too, maybe if we ask “pretty please” she’ll post it for us.

  • Kristen

    That picture caught my eye. I love the mood captured there!
    And, I’m not coming on her to advertise a product, but it is funny that you mentioned this. Last week, I received in the mail something called the Toddy cold brewed coffee “system” (It is more of a contraption) Anyway, I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve heard good things about it. I have yet to try cold brewed coffee because it honestly sounds strange to me, but if you love it it might be right up your alley! However, after reading your raves about cold brew, I am going to have to just try it now. I’ll probably be a fan for life!

  • Heather @ Side of Sneakers

    I’ve never even heard of cold brewed coffee, let alone try it- and I’m a coffee nut!! Sounds great though, I need to give it a try one of these days when I’m not in an exhausted morning stupor 😉

  • PortolaCoffee

    I love cold brewed coffee and i am thrilled that you wrote about what an amazing cup it can make! Of course…the freshest beans from a local coffee roaster (pretty much found in any city) can also make all the difference! Cheers to you for highlighting how important the brew process is to making the perfect cup!

  • Dixie Caviar

    Love your blog!
    I’m envious of your career — I’m just beginning my foray in the food world (with the end goal of teaching), and it’s bloggers like you that I look up to!

  • Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction

    This sounds great… I have a French press that I don’t use very often, but I’ll have to go dig it out and give this a try. I love iced coffee in the summer, though, so I’m sure it will be a perfect treat in the morning!