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Use the Cold-Brew Method for a Perfect Cup of Iced Coffee

There is nothing like a cup of really good iced coffee on a warm summer day. You know you are in for a treat when the barista hands you a cup filled with liquid that sparkles like a dark diamond. Taking that first refreshing sip, the flavors slowly blossom, starting with the robust, toasted notes of the coffee beans and ending with a slightly sweet flavor that lingers on your lips. There is no need for sugar or milk; with one sip, you are totally in the moment.

Unfortunately, brewing iced coffee seems to be a science that not all baristas have figured out. One day it will be perfect, and the next day it’s a total disappointment. I started to wonder if there was a fool-proof way to make it at home.

If you have ever tried making iced coffee, you know that pouring a freshly brewed cup of hot coffee over ice is not great. The biggest problem is how to keep the rich flavor of your coffee without the ice watering it down. If you brew an extra-strong pot to balance out the melting ice, or let your coffee cool before drinking, you risk a strong and bitter aftertaste.

The trick to creating that fresh-from-your-favorite-cafe flavor requires a little patience and a new approach. Skip the coffee pot altogether, and let your coffee grounds soak in cold water overnight. This cold-brew method not only brings out the natural flavors of your coffee beans, but saves you from a watered-down or bitter drink!

Coffee Grounds

When choosing a coffee, keep in mind that how the beans are ground will affect the taste of your coffee. If the grounds are too fine, the flavor ends up bitter and strong. If the grounds are too coarse, you end up with a coffee that is mild and flat.

For cold brewing, you want medium grounds with a consistent texture. Blade grinders are great because they are inexpensive and readily available, but they can be tricky when you're trying to get an even finish. Burr grinders are much better, but way more expensive. Thankfully, most large grocery stores have burr grinders in the coffee aisle, so you can grind your beans when buying. Make sure to keep your beans or grounds in an air-tight container, and store away from heat and moisture. Do not refrigerate coffee that you use daily, as moisture will cause the coffee to deteriorate.

If all this sounds overwhelming, fear not! I have tested this recipe out multiple ways, and found that, for cold brewing, Chock Full o’ Nuts (which is available at your local grocery store) is as good as, if not better than, some of the more expensive beans I have bought at specialty stores. Start with something you know, and experiment from there.


Coffee is 98 percent water, so make sure you choose a water that is clear of impurities or taste. If there are any strong odors or chemical smells, like chlorine, choose bottled or filtered water instead. Always use cold or room-temperature water when cold brewing.

Preparing and Serving

Preparing: In an empty jar or carafe, add two tablespoons of ground coffee. Top with 1 1/2 cups of water. Seal container, shake gently, and transfer to refrigerator. Let the liquid sit overnight (10-12 hours) to steep.

Straining: Place a fine mesh strainer over a kitchen bowl. Line with a coffee filter or sheet of paper towel (this will help minimize the clean-up time and keep any small grounds from getting into the coffee). Slowly pour the coffee mixture through the strainer and filter to separate out the grounds. If there are any grounds left in the jar, wipe clean and rinse.

Serving: Add half a cup of ice to your original jar, and pour the coffee back in. You now have the perfect cup of cold-brewed iced coffee! Depending on how you like your coffee, add milk and sugar and enjoy.

Photo by Betsy Milne/www.bohorustic.com

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