Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Iced, Iced Coffee


Before we go any further, I should warn you that I love ridiculous rap songs from the 90's. Actually, I like almost all 90's music. "Ice, Ice Baby" is one of my favorite songs. I'm technically too young to claim it from my era. I was little, but I remember the "cool older kids" listening to it. I saw MC Hammer in concert last year, and I plan to see Tone Loc and Young MC performing together this fall.

This should explain why I make so many lame slang references.

Back to the topic at hand, it's getting warm outside! Here in Tennessee, we have finally hit the 90 degree mark for the first time since September! As you know, I'm addicted to coffee. Does the heat slow my addiction down? NO! I just have to turn to another format of my drug of choice - iced coffee.

Now, even though I'm a coffee lover, I don't get into super complicated methods. I like strong blends of coffee, and I like quality. However, 90% of the time, I use a Keurig (I know, I'm not eligible to call myself a coffee snob) to make my coffee.

In the mornings, I'm frantically running around to get out the door on time. I'm curling my hair while applying makeup. Then I spend unnecessary time tending the burned place on my head and getting mascara off my cheek. I'll usually resort to wearing anything that doesn't need ironing, but struggle to find shoes to match. While I have 5 minutes left before I have to leave, I'll start my coffee brewing in the K-cup, feed the cats, and grab something quick (a Larabar, yogurt, and/or fruit, or a smoothie on a good day) to take with me while it's brewing. Wait, where are the cats? Oops, one trapped herself in the closet. Add rescuing cat to the agenda. Finally, cats rescued, coffee brewed, and out the door!

It's stressful just thinking about it. So no, I don't have time for a complicated coffee method. My husband doesn't drink coffee at all, so I only need to make a cup at a time. I do, however, use my reusable filter in my Keurig and buy bags of a good, bold coffee. I usually get a blend by Starbucks or a gourmet blend at Fresh Market or wherever. As long as it's strong and good quality, I don't care. I have a French press and coffee grinder, which I use every now and then. It just takes too long.

The problem is I haven't had much success in the iced coffee area. I've tried making it hot and adding ice, which waters it down and alters the taste. I've even tried the premade cartons of iced coffee, which are WAY too creamy and sweet for my taste, almost like chocolate milk with a little coffee mixed in.

Since summer is just about to start, I need a solution. This weekend, I decided to test out a couple of methods to enjoy better iced coffee after spending time in the heat running, gardening, and shopping.

Quick Fix: Coffee Ice Cubes

It seems logical that to have iced coffee that isn't watered down, I could use freeze coffee into ice cubes instead of water. So Saturday afternoon, I made an 8 oz. cup of coffee (I happened to have a bag of Starbucks Caffe Verona - a dark blend), and poured it into an ice cube tray.

After about an hour, it was more or less set up.

I placed about 5 ice cubes into my to-go cup, and brewed another 8 oz. coffee into it.

The 5 ice cubes didn't do the trick to cool the coffee. I didn't want to deplete all of my coffee ice cubes, so I used a few regular ice cubes.

You could use whatever cream and sweetener you prefer. I've been using Coffeemate's Natural Bliss. It probably isn't great for you, but doesn't have quite so many chemicals.

The result? Not bad. Not as watered down as using only ice cubes from water. Not a bad method to use if you really want iced coffee and you're in a time pinch. Not coffee shop blow-you-away amazing, though.

Make Ahead: Cold Brew Coffee

Since the first method was "just okay", I scoured the interwebs for a better solution to perfect my Funky Cold Barista skills (I warned you). And wouldn't you know it, I found a solution on the Pioneer Woman's blog. I don't get a lot of time to watch TV, but I love catching a few minutes of Food Network from time to time. Ree Drummond is so down-to-earth (reminds me of families I knew growing up in Wyoming), and her food always looks amazing!

You can find her well-informed, detailed article here.

She uses a cold brew method to create a cold coffee concentrate that you can keep in the fridge in a pitcher. Now as you know, I don't do complicated methods, so I was skeptical. It turns out this method isn't complicated and doesn't require sophisticated equipment at all.

You can find a pitcher especially made for this purpose. This one is reasonable in price and I'm thinking about getting it. However, this weekend I didn't have the pitcher, and just wanted to try it before purchasing anything. Using the Pioneer Woman's instructions, I pieced this unsophisticated contraption together. Since I'm the only coffee drinker around here, I scaled the recipe WAY down.

All I used were:
  • 1 cup ground coffee (ideally a bold blend - I used the Verona again)
  • 5 cups water (many websites recommend a 3:1 ratio of water to coffee to make a concentrate. When pouring a glass of iced coffee, you have to add extra water to the glass.  I wanted coffee that was strong but ready to go without having to add water, so I tried a 5:1 ratio. You can experiment to find what works for you.)
  • Large container
  • 2 coffee filters (a cheesecloth or possibly even paper towels could work)
  • Strainer/colander
  • Pitcher
The evening before I wanted to enjoy iced coffee, I combined the coffee and the water together in one big container.

I gave it a little stir, and popped it in the fridge overnight.


The next morning...

About 20 minutes before I was ready to enjoy the iced coffee, I got out the water/coffee mixture.

I got my pitcher ready. My colander was WAY too big for the job, so I found this old hand-me-down tool. I'm not sure what it's called. Perhaps an antiquated strainer of some sort? Whatever it is, it fit just right over the pitcher.

I placed two coffee filters inside the strainer.

Now it was time to gently and carefully pour the water/coffee mixture into the strainer, and let the mixture flow through the filter. It took about 15 minutes to slowly make its way into the pitcher.

Coco isn't supposed to be on the counter, but as the reigning queen of the house, she had to inspect what was going on.


15 minutes later...

The coffee in the pitcher was ready to pour into my to-go cup! Since it's already cold, it doesn't need much ice. I put about 3-4 cubes into my to-go cup, and filled with coffee.

Again, I flavored it up with CoffeeMate Natural Bliss. Probably a tablespoon or two. I didn't measure.

The result? I liked it! It was bold, fresh, and flavorful! Thank you, Pioneer Woman, for changing my life!

If it's too strong/not strong enough, try different coffee/water ratios to suit your taste.

It was easy to do, and now I have half a pitcher of iced coffee to use through the week. All I have to do now is pour and go! Now that I know I like this method, I think I'll make a double batch next weekend to fill my pitcher. As long as it's contained in the fridge, it should last at least 2-3 weeks (according to the Pioneer Woman). I may look into buying the cold brew pitcher now.

If there was a problem, yo I solved it...

Now to relax on the front porch with Real Simple or a book!

Do you enjoy and make iced coffee? What methods have you tried? What worked best for you?


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