It’s summer once again and one thing we’ve been noticing over the past few summers is that the weather just seems to be getting hotter and hotter. Air conditioning is a godsend to help alleviate the effects of exacerbating heat but we have to deal with the fact that AC isn’t around all the time especially if we want to spend the day outside. As pleasant as having the sun out, staring at blue skies and not needing to bundle up like an eskimo, the summer does have some drawbacks to it.
One of these drawbacks, especially for ‘coffeecionados’ like us, is that drinking a nice, hot cup of coffee in the heat isn’t quite as nice. I mean the taste of that warm, perfectly brewed cup should satisfy our palates and reward our bodies with pure caffeine pleasure, but the effect on our overall body temperature coupled with the external forces of overwhelming heat are not an ideal combination. The solution, some who do not understand the necessity of drinking finely brewed coffee, should be, “Mix your coffee with cold water or refrigerate it or throw in some ice cubes into the saucer you drink coffee out of.” Well, it’s really not that simple. BRACE YOURSELVES…, we’re going to get a little scientific.
The science of extracting the coffee flavors, the caffeine and aromas are dependent on the water temperature. When temperatures are higher, more coffee molecules are released into the solution and this places the ideal temperature for extraction at 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit. Aside from extraction, the time and efforts it takes to dissolve coffee into the solution is dependent on temperature. Just like when you need to boil tea to dissolve it into water. Putting ice cubes into a brewed cup of coffee will only cause the ice cubes to be overwhelmed by the heat, thereby causing them to melt immediately and effectively water down and ruin what once was a nice cup of coffee.
Given this situation, the coffee geeks of the world pooled in their brainpower and came up with a few solutions for excellent iced coffee to become a reality. Several methods have been proposed and a neat new coffee making machine dedicated to iced coffee called a coil is about to be launched later this year. Some of the methods coffee revolutionaries have come up with involve nitrogen to flash-cool coffee while getting rid of most of the oxygen in the keg containing the coffee. Oxygen is the archenemy of coffee and erodes the flavor, taste and aroma of any form of coffee through a process whose name you’ll never figure out, oxidation.
But since we want you to enjoy the benefits of perfect iced coffee at home, let’s focus on 2 popular brewing methods that can be done at home with existing coffee equipment you already have. The first one is something I mentioned in an earlier article and that is the French Press. The French Press can be used to create cold brew coffee. Cold brew coffee uses water at room temperature to extract the coffee granules and allow absorption into the water. As discussed in the Nobel-prize winning paragraph earlier, the extraction factor is proportional to the temperature of the water. So to overcome the drastic change in temperature, two variables are changed when making a cold brew. The steep time is drastically extended from 4 minutes for hot water to, wait for it, no really, you will have to wait for it because it’s going to be anywhere from 12 hours to 24 hours. The other variable that needs to be considered is the ratio of coffee grounds to make a cold brew work. Since the target is to make a concentrated cup that will be diluted with ice or milk, the ratio goes from 1:16 for hot water brewing to a staggering 1:8. This simply means that to fill a 32oz cafetière, you’ll need 4 oz of coffee grounds versus 2 oz for hot water.
The concentrate that is done after 12 hours is amazing though. Cold brew coffee has a fan following for the smooth flavor it brings and the lower amount of acidity because the coffee has had the chance to steep longer. For people with acidity problems in their stomachs but refuse to obey doctor’s order to cut coffee, this is the solution you are looking for. Cold brew also goes very well with milk. In fact, the concentrate is sometimes mixed with some water and ice cubes made of milk causing a yummy surprise once melted. The downside of the cold brew method is that tediously long steep time and the cost of spending more coffee beans.
The next method of making iced coffee at home is inspired by the same masterful hands that perfected cutting raw fish into perfect tasty tidbits, the Japanese. This method called crash-cooling uses the drip brewing process versus the immersion brewing for a cold brew. Using a pour over is essential here to make it successful as the dripping coffee is cooled instantly and separately causing the ice to remain intact. In this method, the water input is divided between the hot water used to extract the coffee normally and the amount of ice you put in the decanter or carafe. As the coffee drips into the ice it instantly cools and the result, once completed, is iced coffee.
The advantages of this method is that you get your cup of coffee right away without waiting 12 hours and risking hibernation by then. Also, experts swear that this method preserves the aroma and flavors of how coffee really should be. This method is particularly popular with people who went black coffee and never came back. The downside is that the same acidity as hot coffee is present and this brew needs to be consumed fairly quickly or oxidation will come and ruin your drink. Bad oxidation.
I hope this will help you brace for that one setback the summer usually ushers in. At least that’s one less thing to worry about, one major less thing that is considering coffee is an essential part of our lives. Enjoy the summer, everyone!