Normally, when someone tells me that they have purchased a yard compost tumbler, I think, “Congratulations, you just spent $100+ for a large plastic bucket on stilts that you could have constructed yourself using one of the plastic barrels commonly found in the nearby creek from the local bottling, chemical, or [insert your own] plant down the road.” Nevertheless, I commend them on their intention to compost – however hasty or aesthetically-driven their decision.
In the States, my husband and I worshipped a different plastic bucket. Purchased from a kitchen store during a GOOB sale, we scored our normally $40 cold brew coffee maker for half the price, with some extra filters and plugs thrown-in. It was plastic, but it was necessary.
The first sip of coffee from our maker had us smitten. The twenty-four hour brewing time yielded a powerful coffee concentrate with more of the jolt coffee provides. Without the heat, next to no acidity was developed during the brew, bearing a flavorful cup of joe with a smooth finish. Couple this with the convenience factor – the coffee concentrate keeps in the fridge for about 12 weeks (if it’s not consumed before then) and can be enjoyed hot or cold – and we were hooked.
Month after month, for nearly three years, we scoured Nashville for the best beans, usually opting for the ENCM blend created by Nashville’s Bongo Java to support our favorite nonprofit. Brewed all at once, one pound of coffee lasted us about a month. Life was good.
Before leaving for Korea, we prepared ourselves for what life without coffee would be like. I was a little relieved that the decision to kick my java habit would be made for me; we both were excited about delving deeper into the world of tea. The week before we left, we pried our beloved cold brew coffee maker from our fingers and entrusted it with a friend, vowing to reclaim it after two years.
Upon arriving in Korea, we were amazed to discover that the tea shops that we had envisioned on every corner were replaced by coffee shops. Fortunately for us, coffee had exploded in Korea after the Korean War, and was therefore treated as a necessity. Unfortunately for us, that coffee was instant, and therefore not real. Everywhere we turned, instant coffee packets were staring us in the face. At restaurants, we were served tiny cups of instant after our meals. And instead of pots of burnt coffee in our schools, baskets of instant coffee packets littered the counters.
Many coffee shops that we tried had coffee that was a little on the weak side, just a couple of steps up from instant. Even after discovering a handful of quality coffee shops in our area that advertised “hand-drip” coffee, we were then faced with the hefty price tag of single origin “real” coffee: usually between $4 and $6 a cup. Although this isn’t a far cry from what we would pay at a coffee shop in the States, we were used to our cold brew coffee every morning – for a fraction of the price. You may be wondering why we didn’t just get a pound of coffee beans and a regular coffee maker. Coffee makers are quite pricey in Korea, viewed somewhat as a luxury item. The same goes for coffee beans, with the price sometimes tripling what we would pay in the States. Also, we were used to brewing a pound of freshly roasted beans at once.
While visiting the States a few weeks ago, a friend introduced us to a quality roasting company. Feeling savvy, I assured my husband that I could fashion my own cold brewer out of plastic ware we had around the house, and we purchased a pound of beans to take back with us to Korea.
Once home, I raided my cabinets for anything that remotely reminded me of our cold brewer. None of my plastic bowls set nicely on top of each other, and I realized I lacked the tools needed to create the drip holes for the top and bottom compartments. After several dead ends, I spied a lidded glass jar on my counter. Hanging behind the jar was a fine mesh sieve. I forgot about my double-decker compartments back in the States, and decided to give the glass jar a go. Twenty-four hours later, my husband and I had lovely cups of coffee, with the same flavor that we had become accustomed to in the States. I stopped pining for my cold brewer, and realized that maybe the plastic wasn’t as necessary as I had thought. In fact, like the pricey compost tumbler I had come to despise, my cold brew coffee maker was nothing more than a glorified plastic bucket.
Making Cold Brew Coffee
Tip: For the best tasting coffee, choose beans that were roasted no more than five days before brewing. This goes for regular hot brewing, too, although cold brewing can make even the cheap supermarket coffee taste better (slightly). Also, none of that putting-coffee-in-the-freezer-to-store-for-later stuff. It does not keep your coffee fresh, but instead dulls much of the flavor. It is better to cold-brew the whole pound at once than to save some for next month.
First, finely grind your coffee beans and measure the grounds. You will need four cups of water for every one cup of grounds. Next, choose a medium to large glass container with a lid. You can use plastic also, but plastic absorbs so many smells, that I recommend glass for the sake of your plastic ware and your coffee. My glass container holds about eight cups, so I brew two cups of grounds at a time.
Place your grounds in your glass container and pour the water on top before securing the lid. Give the container a gentle shake to ensure that the grounds and water are mixed well. Place the container in a cool place away from direct light for twenty-four hours.
After twenty-four hours, it’s time to strain your brew. A fine mesh sieve works well, but you can also place a cloth in the sieve before straining. I enjoy the coffee dregs, so I just use the sieve. Strain your coffee into another glass lidded container and place it in the fridge. You can then reuse the coffee grounds for a second cold brew batch. The second batch will be slightly weaker than the first, but you can combine the two strengths and simply use a bit more concentrate when you prepare a cup of coffee.
To enjoy, pour two or three ounces (use can use more or less depending on the desired strength) of concentrate into a regular size mug. For iced coffee, fill the rest of the mug with ice and cold water. For hot coffee, fill the rest of the mug with boiled water. My husband and I take our coffee with almond milk and a touch of honey. However you take your coffee, enjoy!
For more information about the ENCM blend, or to place your order, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.