Warning: This is going to be a loooong post, as I am crazy passionate about cold brewed iced coffee. Plus it was written while jacked up on cold brew, which will explain some but not all of the rambling! But you will be rewarded with a recipe, a source for instant cold brew, and a list of places that serve it in Chicago. As of yesterday, it ‘tis the season for iced coffee here in Chicago. So, grab a cold brew, settle in and read on…..
Cold Brewed Iced Coffee….is there any other way? That is a rhetorical question. Or if you insist on the answer, it is “no”. Wait, “NO!” There is no other way to make or drink iced coffee, besides cold brew. I was converted a few years ago at the café. One of our cooks, Cara, said that Stubbs Coffee (no longer in business) made cold brewed iced coffee and it was a million times better than coffee that was hot brewed and cooled down. I was like “Ya, right.” Rachel, our baker, concurred with Cara and vouched for how amazing it was. Well, Rachel has amazing taste in food and drink and drinks a TON of iced coffee, so I figured I better go check out this cold brew. Cara and Rachel were right. It was absolutely amazing. It reminded me of drinking wine. You could taste the terroir, the “sense of place”, and all the nuances of the bean. It tasted of chocolate, of blueberries, of caramel. There was no bitterness, only richness and depth of flavor. It was a completely different animal. I think an amazing tasting would be to cold brew two or three coffees from different origins and taste the nuances. I am confident that they would taste completely different.
It turns out that cold brewed iced coffee is less acidic than regular coffee. It has 60% less acid than hot brewed coffee. Why, I don’t know. That might be a question for Neil or Jake at Crop to Cup. Want to weight in here guys? Because of this fact, it is the only coffee I can drink. I had to ironically give up coffee when I owned the café, as the acid was killing my stomach and had me doubled over in pain; not conducive to a morning rush at all.
It also happens that “cold brew”, which I am now officially shortening it to, has more caffeine than regular coffee. Tangent- I guess the grammatically correct way of describing this method of brewing coffee would be cold brewed iced coffee. But since when am I ever grammatically correct? I incorrectly and some would say obnoxiously call it “cold brew ice coffee”, dropping the “ed” on brewed and on iced. I overheard someone say how it was their pet peeve when people said “ice coffee” That is should be “iced coffee”. Whatever. Hope they don’t read this blog! They probably don’t. Ok, back on track. Cold brew has a ton more caffeine in it. Again, why, I don’t know? Jake? Neil? I can attest to this in a few ways. #1- that even Rachel, the caffeinated chef, couldn’t drink it after 3:00. Wow! Potent stuff! #2 – it gets me so jacked up, it is not even funny. I am talking head buzzing, heart pounding, talk a mile a minute, jacked up. Maybe it is because I don’t drink it that often, I don’t know, (Neil? Jake?) But watch out when I do. I end up writing super long blog posts that barely stay on subject! Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Jeff, if you are reading this, you should not drink three of these either!
Now, the big question is, where do you get this amazing drug? That’s the hard part, at least in Chicago it is. Not many places cold brew ice coffee. Why? Because it is time consuming, a batch needs to “steep” for 12-24 hours, it takes up a lot of room, we used to have six eight quart containers steeping at one time at the café, and your yield is half that of hot brewed coffee, which equals double the food cost. So, if you do find it somewhere, be ready for a higher price tag. Believe me, it is worth it. Once you taste it, you will seek it out and never go back to the regular stuff, or iced Americanos for that matter; just not the same. It’s funny, I love Chicago, but it is so behind in so many ways. We are finally catching onto the coffee culture, but cold brew, not so much yet. Cold brew is a given in places like Austin (that place is sooo cool.) and Seattle and Portland. You can also find it many places in LA and NY. It’s funny, when I ask if places cold brew, they usually look at me funny, which either means “Yes, of course, is there any other way?” Or”What the hell does that mean? “
Ok, where to get it in Chicago.
Café Asado – This is the best ice coffee I have found in Chicago. They roast their own beans and know what a good cup of coffee should taste like. And they are not in a hurry at all. Good coffee takes time, you know.
Floriole – Everything they make tastes amazing and they do everything the right way. It doesn’t matter how long something takes to prepare at Floriole, just so it tastes good. Rachel is now baking and consuming cold brew at Floriole :)
Chava Café – It is a super cool, modern café that serves amazing food, one of the partners was formerly from Nomi. This is not your standard café fare. Whenever I head up north, I stop here for my fix.
Southport Grocery – Not only do they sell lots of great local artisan products and serve a great breakfast and lunch, they also make cold brew. Get one of their amazing chocolate toffee scones to go with it. You won’t be sorry.
Buzz Killer Espresso – They feature a rotating roster of bean roasters from all over. Cool looking shop, They also brew Rishi tea also (my fave). But no decaf in sight! I guess hipsters don’t drink decaf anyways!
The Grind – Always packed coffee shop in Lincoln Square that also serves pastries from local businesses. I have been stopping here on my way to work. My boss can see it is my eyes when I have sucked down one of their potent cold brews. And then I clean the entire shop while chattering away the entire time. (She has learned to block me out!)
Coffee Studio – Andersonville’s modern coffee shop that is serious about their coffee drinks. They were in Bon Appetit touted as one of the best boutique coffee shops. Their cold brew was seriously excellent. Great rich flavor. It is what cold brew is all about.
Miko’s Italian Ice– The little walk up windows in Bucktown and Logan Square cold brew their ice coffee and have been doing it that way for at least a decade. You can get an amazing Italian Ice here or a cold brew ice coffee.
Believe it or not, Caribou also cold brews! I have not had an ice coffee from there, as of yet, but my hubby told me about it. Nice to know if you are in a pinch.
The Knock Box in Humboldt Park used to cold brew. I don’t know why they stopped. It is a cute unpretentious café that makes for a great atmosphere for hanging out.
Places I wish had cold brew, Lovely Bakeshop, Star Coffee Lounge, and Ipsento. We use Ipsento’s beans. They roast them on site and I think they are one of the best roasters in town. They are not fancy or hip, but their coffee is damn good.
Please let me know if I missed anyplace. I would love to add places to my excel list!
Ok, I’m not done blogging yet! Here is where I tell you how to brew this wonder drug yourself! It’s super easy. It is just messy and there is no instant gratification, as it takes 12-24 hours to steep. Now they sell a cold brew toddy maker for $30, but it is totally unnecessary. You need no special equipment at all to do this at home, except a strainer and some coffee filters. A French press makes it easier, but you don’t need one. I don’t have one.
Ok, here goes, dump 1 cup of coarse ground coffee into a container, pour in 4 cups of water, stir, let sit for 12-18 hours, filter through a coffee filter and strainer, pour over ice, enjoy!
Really, It is that easy. I will say, it is very messy. The filtering process is not pretty. You get lots of silt. That is why I use a coffee filter in a strainer. You sort of have to stir it up. It is not a fast process. But you waited 18 hours for this damn coffee, you can wait a little longer! The yield for a 4 quart container is about 2 quarts, after filtering.
So how much does this cost to make at home. Ooohhh, I’m not so good at math, I’ll have to run the numbers by Laurent, the math whiz hubby, who counts in Chinese under his breath! It’s funny to listen to. With Laurent’s fancy math, accounting for ice taking up 30% of your glass, etc., etc., home brewing ends up costing $1.00 per 16 oz glass. This is definitely not as cheap as hot brewed coffee, but cheaper than getting one out.
Here is another alternative. Cold Brew concentrate from New Orleans. New Orleans is king of cold brew ice coffee from way back when. Laurent was just there recently on business. I made him bring me some of this stuff home. I had read about it on the internet. It is cold brewed coffee and chicory. It comes in a container that lets you measure an ounce. It is the same type of container that is used to package gasoline additive or sanitizer, so don’t store them close to each other or you could make a fatal mistake one bleary eyed morning! This stuff is pretty good, not as good as freshly steeped cold brew, but not bad at all. And it’s not messy. And it is cheap. A 500 ml container is $5.50, plus shipping. The math whiz computed this to cost about .30 per 16 oz glass, if shipping cost $5.00. Super cheap and not messy at all. Go for it!
So, this was my ‘ode to cold brew ice coffee. (It’s my ‘ode, I’ll grammatically slaughter the words however I like, thank you!) Really, give it a try. You won’t believe the difference. And now I’ve given you three ways to get your fix on. You will become addicted, I promise.
Here is the info in an organized manner for you people who can’t follow my rambling! You’ll get the hang of it, as you read more of my blog. Or you’ll just nod and say “yes dear” like Laurent has learned to do!
Cold Brew Ice Coffee Recipe
(I usually triple the recipe)
1 cup coarsely ground coffee
4 cups water
Put coffee and water in container. Stir.
Let steep 18 hours, more or less.
Filter into clean container through a strainer and coffee filter or a French Press. May need to filter twice.
Go to www.coolbrew.com and order your cold brew with chicory for easy breezy beautiful instant iced coffee.
Stop by one of these fine establishments in Chicago.
Café Asado – 1432 W. Irving Park – 773-661-6530
Floriole –1220 W. Webster – 773-883-1313
Chava Café- 4656 N. Clark – 773-942-6763
Southport Grocery – 3552 N. Southport – 773-665-0100
Buzz Killer Espresso –1644 N. Damen – 773-366-8377
The Grind – 4613 N. Lincoln – 773-271-4482
Coffee Studio – 5628 N. Clark – 773-271-7881
Miko’s Italian Ice – 1846 N. Damen and 2234 N. Sacramento – 773-645-9664
Caribou Coffee – www.cariboucoffee.com for locations
Have a great ice coffee season.