Saturday, July 30, 2011

How a Total Stranger Changed My Life (or, How To Make the BEST Iced Coffee)


If you know me, you know I love coffee. I mean I LOVE coffee. I cannot function without coffee each morning. I've given up MOST of my vices. I stopped smoking (ten years ago as of July 15, by the way), I eat healthier than ever, I exercise... a LOT. I don't drink very often anymore, and when I do it's usually no more than two drinks - usually only one (except on the rare occasion - and mostly because I'm not willing to deal with the excess calories). Coffee is my last vice - and by God, I'm not giving it up.
Coffee cheers me up, it calms me down, it keeps my fingers out of the chips bag and makes me a better person. It reduces my risk of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and gallstones. Of course, having had my gallbladder removed due to HUMONGOUS gallstones probably does more to lower my chances of gallstones... 

Wedding Cake Coffee in New Orleans - and yes, they were both for me.

My old standby, Starbucks skinny vanilla latte, in Louisville.

I love iced coffee (New Orleans again) just as much...

I consider the first day of Pumpkin Speice availability at Starbucks a national holiday.

I'm not kidding, folks - coffee is a very important part of my life. For Christmas last year, Mom gave me a Keurig and I use it every morning - and it gets a heck of a workout on the weekends. I have an espresso maker that my father-in-law gave me for Chtistmas the year before and it's my favorite for making treats for myself - mochas, lattes, etc. I also have a grind and brew Cuisinart coffee maker that comes back out to play whenever we have company that is smart enough to want a cup of coffee.

But there was still something missing - I can make all of my favorite coffee treats at home... as long as they're hot coffee based. But I really love iced coffee and frappucinos. I've tried a million "knock-off" recipes to make my own frapps at home, and some of them were pretty good - but they're just not the same.  If you just make coffee and pour it over ice you get coldish watery coffee. Which is not yummy. Making a pot of coffee, allowing it to cool and then sticking it in the fridge will get you cold coffee - but hot brewed coffee that is then cooled tastes... off. Not sure how to describe it, but it has something of an muddy taste? Does that make sense? I used to keep a pitcher of coffee in the fridge, but I never finished it because it wasn't as good as I wanted it to be - it was more or less good enough for making a frapp if it was a flavored frapp. But a good strong iced coffee? Fugettabout it - gotta head to Starbucks if that's what I want. And that's what I want when it's a hundred fricking bajillion degrees out.

So imagine my unbriddled joy when I saw this post on The Pioneer Woman's blog. (She has great recipes and witty observations - but really I go there to check out her photography. It makes me want to live on a ranch. Okay - not all of them do, but most do.)

So I gathered my supplies - not much to it, a pound of coffee and a large container. I poured the coffee into the big container...

I used Dunkin Donuts Original blend this time, but you can use any coffee of course. For iced coffee, generally, you don't want to use a light roast. The cold reduces the tongue's ability to detect suble flavors - so strong is good. (That's why Europeans make fun of Americans for drinking their beer cold... but I digress.)

Every last little bit...

And then add 8 quarts of water - you can mess with the ratio of water to coffee to suit your tastes. This is PW's suggestion so I went with it. I may make it a bit stronger next time, or try with a darker roast coffee. Or even a flavored coffee.
Also - most coffees are packaged in 12 ounce bags, so use 6 quarts of water if that's the case. Make sure to give it a gentle stir to make sure all the coffee is saturated.

Looks good already, doesn't it? Then you just let it sit for 8 hours or more. Just sit... cold brewing... for eight hours. Eight loooooong hours. Yeah, so I went to Starbucks for an iced coffee while I waited. Sue me.

Anyway - when the cold brew process is complete, you'll need to strain it into a container. Of course, I took this opportunity to buy a beverage dispenser that will sit in the fridge dispensing cold coffee all day every day!

Put a strainer over your container, and then cover it with a couple of strong paper towels or cheesecloth.

And voila!

The BEST part is that I now have iced coffee sitting in my fridge, patiently waiting for me every morning. I don't have to make coffee, I don't have to rush through Starbuck's drive-through, I don't have to settle for the yucky coffee at work. It's AWESOME!

(Note the bottle of Skinny Girl Margarita in the bottle holder, J brought that home for me the other day after I passed on margaritas for dinner the night before because they were too high calorie. Good husband, huh?)

Here it comes...

But now I have a pound of used coffee grounds. I hate to just throw them out. Does anybody have any suggestions on what I can use them for? I know they're good for plants, but I'm not growing anything this year... so any other creative suggestions?