You can stand in line every morning for your $3 pick-me-up, or you can take charge and cold-brew an iced coffee better than anything you'd ever get from a barista. Here's how
By Mark Kirby
No one seems to understand why iced coffee costs so much more than the regular stuff. Sure, some theories exist: that it's more labor-intensive, that plastic cups are more expensive than paper ones. But on an unseasonably warm spring day recently—when people were lined up out the door of the Starbucks across from my office, waiting to buy iced coffees that cost 30 percent more than hot ones—another idea occurred to me. Namely, that coffee chains and convenience stores had converged on a simple truth: Like flip-flops and sundresses, iced coffee is one of the undeniable pleasures of summer. And regardless of how high the price, people will just pay more for it.
Well, coffee barons, your days of ripping us off are officially over. Making iced coffee from scratch requires less effort than brewing it hot, and if you do it right, you'll produce a smoother, richer, less bitter concoction than anything you'll find in stores. The secret is to steep low and slow: Put your coffee grounds into a stainless-steel pot or a French press and leave them in cold water overnight. The coffee flavor seeps into the cold water, so you get none of the bitterness that often accompanies brewing beans at high temperatures. You end up with a concentrated mixture so dark and potent it's practically opaque. If you make a large batch of the concentrate, you can leave some at home for the mornings and take a pitcher with you to work, where you'll be the envy of co-workers still paying that extra cash for inferior brew.
Here's how I do it:
• Pour about a third of a pound of freshly ground coffee into a 48-ounce French press.* (This makes a much stronger coffee concentrate than some recipes, but I prefer it that way; you can always weaken a strong concentrate by adding water.)
• Fill the press with cold water and stir to wet the coffee grounds.
• Place the French-press lid over the coffee (don't press the plunger) and leave at room temperature for at least 12 hours. The longer you leave it, the stronger the brew.
• Press down the plunger, pour the concentrated coffee into a pitcher, and place in the refrigerator.
• Dilute each serving of coffee 1-to-1 with ice-cold water (use more water if the coffee's too strong), pour over ice, and serve with milk and sugar.
* If you don't have a large French press, just put the coffee in a stainless-steel pot and pour the water over it. Use half a pound of coffee to half a gallon (64 ounces) of water. After 12 to 24 hours, pour the concentrate between 2 pots, dumping out the residual grounds after each pour until there's very little sediment remaining. Then, to remove the finest grounds, pour the coffee through cheesecloth or a sieve before it goes into the fridge.
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