How to make cold-brew with an AeroPress

Note from Margaret: I’m thrilled to welcome Benji Walklet as a guest contributor to Coffee Cantata! Benji runs The Coffee Concierge, which is a fantastic resource for all things coffee – machine recommendations, coffee reviews, and cool experiments like this one. Check out his writing (and videos) at http://www.thecoffeeconcierge.net.

In the world of coffee, there is probably nothing more “in” right now than cold brewed coffee. There are now entire rows in cold beverage sections of grocery stores dedicated to this hot (figuratively), yet cold (literally) coffee drink.

While these ready-to-drink cold brew coffees can be pretty hit-or-miss in terms of quality, there is one thing all of the major brands have in common: they are expensive.

I understand that cold brew coffee is generally more concentrated coffee, but this doesn’t mean that you should have to shell out $4 for a small 10-12 ounces bottle or carton of the stuff.

So why not make some cold brew coffee yourself? Great way to save money, right?

Only one problem…you’re not interested in buying a special cold brew coffee maker like the Filtron or the Bruer. And hey, I don’t blame you.

This had me thinking: “what if I could make cold brew coffee with one of my existing coffee makers?”


Making Cold Brew with the AeroPress

I figured the AeroPress would be a great coffee maker to experiment with because it already makes some of the best coffee in the business with hot water; plus, I could steep the coffee in cold water for as much time as I needed using the inverted method.

With AeroPress in hand, I got started.

First Test: for Speed

My first test was an ambitious one, and I kind of knew what the result would be before I even started. But I was curious nonetheless.

I started with 13 grams of coffee ground to a medium-coarse level. I then dumped the ground coffee into the inverted AeroPress and added water until the concoction reached the top for 182 total grams of water. I stirred, then attached the filter cap with pre-wetted filter and waited… for 10 minutes.

The result was basically swamp water. Murky, tastes like alligator, etc.

Here’s a quick video of what it looked like:

OK, Forget Speed

Clearly, 10 minutes would not be enough. If anything, I needed hours, which came as no surprise given that all of the ready-to-drink cold brews out there are steeped for at least 12 hours.

This time, I added 20 grams of coffee.

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With inverted AeroPress on my gram scale, I then dumped the ground coffee through the handy dandy AeroPress funnel.

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Just as before, I added my cold, filtered water. 184.2 grams to be exact. This gave me a 9:1 water to coffee ratio.

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I then gave the coffee sludge a rigorous 15 seconds of stirring.

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Finally, the pre-wet filter and filter cap were screwed onto the top.

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And then I waited, this time for 18 hours.

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The Result

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I was pleased with the result, despite the fact that I only got one cup of cold brew out of the 18 hours it took to brew.

The coffee really didn’t taste any different from a typical cold brew coffee (I’ve tried a lot). It was refreshing, had nice body, and plenty of delicious coffee flavor.

In the end though, it was only one 6.5 ounce cup of cold brew for a whopping 18 hours.

But before you go and write this off as a pointless way to make cold brew, consider how you could make a nice large batch of AeroPress cold brew with just a few added minutes and materials.

Making Large Batches of Cold Brew with the AeroPress

It’s simple, really.

Take a large pot, grind more coffee and add more water using the same 9:1 ratio and steep time (you could even go a full 24 hours if you want).

Remember the funnel? Yeah, this one:

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After 24 hours all you have to do is pour it into the inverted AeroPress ~190 grams at a time. Then flip, and press into a larger container. If you don’t have a larger container, press into a glass and then dump the concentrate into a glass bottle, pitcher, or carafe.

I like to keep my cold brew in glass milk jugs.

Since the AeroPress is incredibly easy to clean and its filters are cheap, you will basically only be adding a few minutes to the total process.

Dump your coffee puck, re-add your unfiltered cold brew coffee to the inverted AeroPress, and get to pressing!


The Economics of Making Your Own Cold Brew

Just for kicks, I decided to do a quick little math problem comparing the cost of a ready-to-drink cold brew to DIY cold brew via the method outlined above.

Ready-to-drink Cold Brew

Cost: typically $4 for 10-12 ounces of cold brew coffee.

Time: a trip to the grocery store

DIY Cold Brew

Cost:

Bag of quality whole bean coffee: ~$16 for 12 ounces (340 grams)

340 grams/20 grams (for 6.5 ounce cup of AeroPress cold brew) = ~9, 12 ounce bottles of ready-to-drink cold brew

$16/9 = $1.77 per 12 ounce bottle of DIY coffee

Time: ~18.25 hours (but really only 15 mins of actual labor)

In conclusion:

OK, I’ll be the first to admit that was some funky math…and full disclosure, math was never my strength. But by my calculations you can save a little more than $2 per 12 ounces of cold brew if you make it yourself with this method. Sure, it will cost you a waiting time of about 24 hours, but if you’re saving that much money and getting that much cold brew, I think you’d agree that it’s totally worth it.

I’m going to make a large batch with the method described above. I’ll keep you posted.

Until then, good luck!

P.S. Thank you to Margaret for letting me post on her awesome coffee blog!

Benji Walklet’s love affair with coffee didn’t begin until he graduated from college and decided he wanted to learn how to make a Mocha. After some trials and tribulations with bad equipment, and a growing affection for black coffee and straight espresso, he began his quest to make the perfect cup of coffee without making a trip to the local coffee shop. You can join him on his coffee quest at The Coffee Concierge, where he reviews and experiments with coffee and coffee-making equipment.

Review: Verve Coffee Roasters Guatemala Los Santos (Santa Cruz, California)

Verve. This might not be a word I associate strictly with music, but it’s the name of a once-legendary record label, as well as a pretty good now-defunct band from the UK (who later had to change their name to “The Verve,” which still sounds odd in my head… it’s like saying “The Vivacity” or “The Happiness”).

Verve Coffee Roasters is one of the most respected coffee roasters in the United States; they regularly make “best of” lists like this one from Thrillist of the 10 best coffee roasters in America. They offer free shipping with no minimum purchase, which is definitely a plus! I spotted this bag at B2 Coffee during a recent trip to San Jose and did a little happy dance; my friend who was with me died laughing. I’m not apologizing, though!

Whole beans: Hints of mango, tea, and rose petals.

V60: This cup had sweet citrus flavor with a tropical note. I tasted tea-like tannins on the finish, as well as the richness of nougat.

AeroPress: Juicier brew with a smoother feel. Flowery aromas dominated, with less fruit flavor/aroma.

Chemex: Marshmallow and nougat flavor, with orange on the finish.

French press: Overwhelming nougat flavor and aroma. Richest texture. No fruit/flowers.

Summary: A light, delicate cup that has a lot of natural sweetness. The immersion methods had more nougat flavor while the pourover methods had more fruity flavor. All were tasty!

From the roaster: Zesty and tropical in nature with flavors of navel orange, mango and chewy nougat. Los Santos delivers a punch and has a lengthy finish of caramel sweetness.

Verve Coffee Roasters Guatemala Los Santos

Review: Ascension Peruvian Silk Blend (Dallas, Texas)

I don’t visit too many coffee shops in Dallas regularly, but Ascension is one of my favorites when I do go out for a cup. You can taste the great care that they put into their craft in every drink you receive at their cafe. They feature various roasters from time to time (I had my first taste of Intelligentsia’s Black Cat here in the form of an americano), but they seem to be especially known for their own roasts. I happened to come across a three-day old bag of this Peruvian Silk blend at the 75/Lovers Ln Central Market, so I decided that this would be my first bag of Ascension that I would brew at home. Based on this experience, it will definitely not be the last. Yum!!

Whole beans: Mild aroma.

V60: Toasted marshmallow led to pear and vanilla flavors. Lovely!

AeroPress: I ended up drinking this in its concentrated form. This coffee started really sweet and morphed into a bold, spicy acidity – sort of like when you have a taste of a really good apple pie. The first flavor was of buttery sweetness, and as you savor, cinnamon apple takes over. The finish had a hint of green grape.

Chemex: Extremely smooth… less flavorful overall than the V60 and AeroPress cups but this was a cup that made me go back for seconds. Such a nice balance of caramel and fruit flavors.

French press: Wow, vanilla!!! At the risk of being cliche, this cup was as smooth as silk. The body was so rich, it was like I had added cream (though I hadn’t). This coffee had fewer flavor notes in it than the other methods but the vanilla flavor was ridiculously delicious.

Espresso: I pulled several shots of this just to see what would happen. It was like an even more concentrated version of what I got with the AeroPress, but with more lemony, bright characteristics. The cinnamon apple was definitely there but the shot was overpowered by acidity verging on sourness, at a variety of temperatures. Not my favorite flavor profile in an espresso – I think I’ll personally stick to this as a coffee. However, I could definitely see the appeal for people that prefer bright, fruity shots.

Summary: I would love to drink this coffee alongside a dessert: pie, ice cream, cake. Though I didn’t care for this blend as an espresso, all four pourover/immersion cups of this coffee were delicious to the point where I can’t choose a favorite. I would definitely buy this again and again!

This particular coffee is not currently offered online, but it is available at the Central Market location in Dallas and the Ascension shop in the Design District if you’re local to Dallas.

Ascension Coffee Online Store

Review: Coal Creek Coffee Company Burundi Dukorere Ikawa (Laramie, Wyoming)

Coal Creek Coffee Company is based out of Laramie, WY. I had not heard of this roaster before Alison sent me this bag, but upon visiting their website, I am already inclined to like them for a couple of reasons. One, they have blends with amusing names like Gods Must Be Crazy (which sounds delicious!!) and Troublemaker. Two, they sell bags in 8 oz sizes, which is nice for people like me that rotate between a lot of different coffees.

They have the following quote front and center on their homepage:

You are not a serious coffee drinker if
you are still buying your beans from the supermarket.

I feel admonished, and I don’t even buy my beans from the supermarket (well, except for an occasional trek to Whole Foods in an emergency, and I only buy fresh local roasts)! I’m sorry! I’m sorry! Wow, they really do take their coffee seriously.

Note: This coffee was almost six weeks old when I did this tasting, so the flavor profile I’m tasting today will likely be different vs. experiencing it fresh.

Whole beans: The bag, once opened, had a muted scent to it, but after I ground some of the beans, the general aroma was a bit like gingerbread. Not very strong, though.

V60: My first impression of this cup was that it was slightly bitter, but it rounded out after a minute with a nice creamy finish. It didn’t have much in the way of flavor/aroma, though. It just smells “like coffee.”

AeroPress: Same as V60 with a slightly thicker consistency. Tastes like coffee.

Chemex: The cup smelled just slightly like marshmallows, but again, it tasted like coffee.

French press: This cup was thick with a slightly dry, powdery finish. There might have been a faint taste of Whoppers (the malt-ball candy, not the burgers!), but it was extremely subtle.

Summary: At the time of this tasting, this coffee tasted pretty generic. I got little to no flavor other than “coffee,” but I suspect some of that was due to the fact that the coffee is six weeks old. I am very willing to try this roaster again to find out, though! Coffee that tastes “like coffee” isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I don’t think that was what this roaster was going for with these beans. I think I’ll have to try the Gods Must Be Crazy blend when it comes time to try this roaster again — with a name like that, I can’t resist!

From the roaster: A bright coffee with flavors of raisins, cooked apple, and malt. Medium-light body.

Coal Creek Coffee Company Burundi Dukorere Ikawa

Review: Publik Coffee Roasters El Salvador Calera Blanco (Salt Lake City, Utah)

Thanks again to my friend Alison for sending me this bag!

Publik Coffee Roasters took their name from the Dutch word for community, with the idea that coffee is something that brings people together. This bag did not have any tasting notes on it, so I went into this with no preconceived notions about what flavors and aromas I would smell (I would later get the info from the company’s website).

Whole beans: Delicate, shy aroma. Not very fragrant. Once ground, however, it definitely asserted itself. I smelled raisin, nectarine, and a whole lot of dark chocolate.

V60: As I was brewing this cup and the water was saturating the grounds, the kitchen started smelling like I was baking brownies. Once I tasted the cup, my immediate thought was, “this tastes almost exactly like chocolate milk.” Keep in mind, I hadn’t added ANYTHING to the coffee other than hot water. It wasn’t a very full-bodied cup, but the flavor was very intensely chocolaty. I couldn’t really taste anything other than chocolate… the fruit flavors I detected in the ground beans were not coming forth.

Just for kicks, I added a splash of whole milk. SO CHOCOLATY. I’m sorry I don’t have more descriptive words for this – what synonyms can there be for chocolate? I felt like I was drinking a glass of Nestle Quik (but less sweet).

AeroPress: Not a bad cup, but I didn’t detect anything particularly distinctive about this coffee brewed this way. It tasted like coffee. Smooth, but pretty one-dimensional. I didn’t even taste chocolate.

Chemex: Light, milk-chocolate flavor with just a hint of raisin.

French press: The most full-bodied of the bunch (not surprisingly), it tasted more like dark chocolate vs. milk chocolate, with a really creamy flavor. As it cooled, slight notes of nectarine and caramel started coming forth in the cup.

Summary: Here’s another coffee that will please chocolate fans. The V60 makes the coffee so sweet, you’d swear it was chocolate milk (especially if you actually add milk). The french press makes a richer, more complex chocolaty brew.

From the roaster: Aromas of cherry, cocoa powder, and nougat give way to flavors of dark chocolate and soft caramel in the cup. As it cools, the cup anchors in a juicy peach acidity and clover honey sweetness.

Publik El Salvador Calera Blanco

Review: Huckleberry Roasters Phantom Limb Blend (Denver, Colorado)

The next three reviews are thanks to my lovely friend Alison, who surprised me in the best possible way by sending me a box full of coffee to try! Thank you, Alison!!

Huckleberry Roasters, based in Denver, roasts on Mondays and Tuesdays and only ships out whole bean coffee to preserve freshness as long as possible; they will not sell pre-ground beans. Unlike most roasters, that sell 12- and 16-oz bags, Huckleberry sells 10 oz bags. Pro or con? That depends. Odd sizing can be an adjustment, particularly if you go through a lot of coffee in a short period of time, but I like the smaller sizes because they allow me to try more coffees without worrying about them going stale (or having to freeze them). It can be more expensive in the long run, however, if you have to buy many small bags. I wish more roasters would offer a range of sizes, so that you can buy whatever quantity that best suited your needs.

In addition to being coffee geeks, I suspect the two guys that run this company are music nerds. The single-origin coffees were just named after the countries and regions they come from, but the blends were all named after songs. I could be wrong, and perhaps “Blue Orchid” and “Phantom Limb” don’t refer to the White Stripes and Shins songs respectively, but “Mean Streets” definitely is a reference to the song by the band Tennis. They even have Tennis’s tour dates on their site.

Since I’m also a little bit of a music nerd, I made sure to brew this coffee with “Phantom Limb” playing in the background. Heck, why not?

Whole beans: Strong scent of hot cocoa. Very comforting! I was expecting a little more fruity brightness than I got. The dominant aroma was definitely chocolate with just a little bit of blueberry. Once ground, the chocolate scent got even stronger.

V60: The flavor was mostly of cocoa powder with a little bit of blueberry and lemon. Very smooth and easy to drink. I enjoyed the multiple layers of flavor.

AeroPress: This cup definitely turned the treble up. Blueberry and the flavor of dark chocolate dominated overall. Medium to full body.

Chemex: Lighter in body but similar in flavor to the V60. Sweetest aroma of the four – smelled like agave nectar.

French press: Hot cocoa-esque with just a hint of fruit.

Summary: The roaster’s tasting notes make me think it would be very fruit-forward, but the coffee in the cup was definitely more weighted toward chocolate, in all of the preparations. I enjoyed the bit of brightness provided by the lemon and blueberry flavors that were present, as it made the coffee more interesting. The website indicates that this coffee can vary in flavor a lot as the seasons change and they adjust the blend, so it’s possible that if I have this blend again in six months, it would taste very different.

From the roaster: Expect jammy, fruity sweetness, tangy brightness, and a syrupy body.

Current Blend:  All Ethiopian: Adado Natural Process Yirgacheffe, Ardi Natural Process Sidamo, and a washed Yirgacheffe Gr. 1 ECX lot.

Current Tasting Notes: lemon brightness, floral aromatics, blackberry, subtle cocoa.

Huckleberry Roasters Phantom Limb Blend

Review: thirty-thirty Coffee Co. Kenya Kirinyaga (Peoria, Illinois)

This is the last selection in my most recent shipment from Craft Coffee. I feel like I have been drinking a lot of African coffee lately (and there are still more African coffees to come in the pipeline!), but I am also learning that there is so much variety in the coffees from this continent that I am not likely to get bored anytime soon.

thirty-thirty Coffee is an independent coffee shop in Peoria, Illinois. I was curious about their name, and according to their website, “The name thirty-thirty Coffee Co. derives from the fact that the vast majority of gourmet specialty coffee is farmed between 30 degrees north and 30 degrees south of the earth’s equator. Bearing that in mind, it is within these latitudes that thirty-thirty Coffee Co. will acquire its beans.”

Whole beans: Unlike the other African coffees I’ve been sampling recently, I don’t smell anything fruity or floral. It smells similar to brown sugar and maple syrup. Now I want oatmeal!

French press: Not as sweet in the cup as the smell promised. This coffee has a taste of celery on the finish. I like vegetables, but not in my coffee. Blech.

Chemex: Pleasantly tangy. Maple with a nice dash of lemon flavor. Light body.

AeroPress: Smooth, rich cup. Smells like butterscotch pudding with just a hint of citrus. This method definitely brought out more of the maple flavor and less of the fruit.

V60: Sweetest cup of the four. Medium body and nice balanced flavor!

Summary: This was unlike any other African coffee I’ve had up to this point. Very pleasant to drink, except for that note of celery in the French press. The V60 was my favorite cup of this batch.

From the roaster: butterscotch, dark amber maple syrup, clementine, meyer lemon

This coffee is not currently offered online.

thirty-thirty Coffee Co.

A general guide to single-origin coffees

One of the more fun but frustrating parts of getting into single-origin specialty coffee is trying to figure out where to start. Let’s say that you have resolved to start buying specialty coffee, and you pop into your local specialty coffee shop. You are overwhelmed by the array of bags on the shelf. What do you choose?

The following chart is by no means complete; I have not included EVERY coffee-growing country/region on it, as it is not meant to be a comprehensive list. Instead, it’s meant to be a starting point for those who are interested in buying single-origin coffee. You might run into coffees that buck the trend every now and then, but if you know for instance that you want coffee that has cocoa/chocolate flavors, at least you’ll know to start looking at Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Ethiopia (natural-processed).

Obviously, this is a very simplistic look at coffee. Not all coffees from one country will taste the same, any more than people from one country act the same. Heck, even people from the same families don’t act the same a lot of the time! However, these are the common generalities I’ve found thus far on my coffee journey, and it can give you an idea of where to start when shopping if you’re looking for a specific flavor profile.

For those that are into wine, it’s like finding out the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) differences between a chardonnay and a riesling, or between a zinfandel and a beaujolais. It’s great fun getting to know the different personalities inherent in each country/region/farm.

Don’t be afraid to ask your friendly local barista for help. It’s part of their job to know the different flavor profiles of the beans they have for sale. Talk to them and get their advice about what each varietal has to offer.

If you are not somewhere where you can ask someone for help, carefully read the tasting notes printed on the bags. Most craft coffee companies get pretty detailed regarding what to expect in each brew! You’ll want to be looking closely at the bags anyway, because you’ll want to be sure that the coffee you’re buying has been roasted as freshly as possible. Stick to coffee roasted within the past two weeks for best flavor, and avoid coffee that only has a “best by” date.

Enjoy your tasting journey!

Download the PDF here: Handy-dandy chart to Single-Origin Coffee

Review: Summer Moon Organic Sweet Hearth (Austin, Texas)

My dear friend Julee brought me this bag from a recent trip to Austin, knowing I would be intrigued by the workings of this roaster. Summer Moon Wood-Fired Coffee Roasters is a company that does everything old-school. They built their brick hearth by hand, one brick at a time. They use no electricity or modern technology in the roasting process; just a wood fire (oak) and a hand-turned roasting drum. They know the coffee’s done when the coffee tells them it’s done, via sight, smell, and sound.

This coffee was labeled as a medium roast on the bag. When I opened it up, I raised an eyebrow because I felt that the contents of the bag had bypassed “medium” and were beginning to venture into what I would consider a medium-dark stage, due to the sheen of oil on the beans. There are no official standards for “light” or “medium,” so every roaster is free to define it as they wish, but it was a bit past what I would consider to be a medium roast. I would be afraid to see what a dark roast from this roaster looks like.

From left to right: a light roast from Joe’s Coffee, a medium roast from Stumptown, and a “medium” roast from Summer Moon. Note the deeper color and oily sheen to Summer Moon’s medium vs. Stumptown’s.

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Whole beans: Smoky. Nutty. No trace of any origin characteristics to my nose. The bag says the beans come from Honduras but I would never have known that from the smell – to me, it just smells like dark-roasted coffee.

V60: Notes of toffee with a medium-bodied finish.

AeroPress: Consumed via the traditional brewing method as a coffee concentrate, it was smooth and had a nice fullness to the body. This would be a good canvas for adding milk/sugar and flavorings.

Chemex: Strong note of roasted peanuts. Light body (the filter likely caught most of the natural oils). Reminds me of a PayDay bar but not as sweet.

French press: Fullest in body, with a smooth finish and a smoky taste.

Espresso: I tried pulling this coffee as an espresso shot at a couple of different temperatures to see what would happen. Luckily, I got the right grind size right off the bat but the flavors ranged from bitter (at 201 degrees) to just okay (at 199). I didn’t see too much potential in this as a straight espresso, as it was rather one-dimensional for my taste, but I’m pretty sure with a bit more experimentation I could get a smooth, “comfort food” espresso shot out of it that would work fine in a milk drink.

Summary: This coffee was definitely roasted on the dark side of medium. It “tastes like coffee,” and would be pleasing to anyone looking for a smooth, uncomplicated brew that is not acidic.

From the roaster: Traces of almond and sweet brown sugar finish.

Summer Moon Sweet Hearth

Review: Lift Coffee Ethiopia Kochere (Riverside, California)

Here is another selection from Craft Coffee. This coffee reminded me a lot of the Three Ships Konga Ethiopia Yirgacheffe that I reviewed back in March. Both are natural-processed Ethiopian heirloom varietals, and the beans are quite lightly roasted and smaller than typically seen.

Whole beans: Bright, juicy berry aroma. It smells like a mix of tart blueberries and raspberries. Once the beans were ground, they got super sweet and it smelled like blueberry muffins. Yum!

French press: Once the slight plasticky scent that I find common to natural-processed Ethiopian coffees dissipated, I tasted a lot of cocoa powder and raspberry. A little tart and bright, but the most dominant flavor was the rich depth of cocoa. Very juicy cup.

Chemex: Very little cocoa in this – it had a thin body that smelled like raspberries. It also had a hint of floral character. I could definitely taste the hibiscus.

AeroPress: I got even more cocoa in this cup than in the french press cup. This had very little if any fruit character to it. Very smooth, but I felt it was a bit dull compared to the other methods.

V60: This cup struck a nice balance between the Chemex and french press cups with a cleaner, drier finish.

Summary: Lively, bright coffee with lots of red berry flavor. My favorite of this batch was the french press rendition, as I thought the dichotomy between the cocoa and the raspberry notes was very nice. The Chemex cup was also delicious!

Notes from the roaster: Floral scents of hibiscus reveal bittersweet flavors of raw cocoa and ripe gooseberries.

This coffee is not currently offered online.

Lift Coffee Roasters