So Thanksgiving is right around the corner.
I know, I’m feeling it too – that twist in your chest when you think of the heated arguments that will crop up around the dinner table (even after everyone promises not to mention politics), the turkey that still has an hour to cook even when you put it in at 5 AM, the brother-in-law who absconded with the bottle of good scotch and hasn’t been seen for an hour – the pressure to pull off a, if not a flawless, than at least bloodshed-free Thanksgiving Day is high, to say the least.
What’s a winning strategy then? Do as much as you possibly can before the big day to lighten your work load when the inevitable emergencies crop up. One bit of prep I like to take care of days before is getting the coffee ready. You can too – all you need is a good cold brewing technique and you can stock enough coffee to fuel the most cantankerous crowd of holiday guests.
I like to get my beans at a local shop that gets small-sourced batches from sustainable coffee farms. While ethical beans are a big draw for me, what I really love about the shop is their cold brewed coffee (on tap, even – a nice bonus) that percolates all day above the coffee bar. It’s mesmerizing watching the water drip a second at a time into the grounds, followed by the “brewed” coffee dripping out at a similar rate underneath. I always envied their setup, so when I came across the Cold Bruer system, I was more than a little intrigued.
But before I get started with the Cold Bruer, I need to grind the beans. The bag of fresh-roasted Ethopian beans gets a spin in Capresso’s Infinity Conical Burr Grinder. I’ve resisted burr grinders for years, stubbornly sticking to the little red blade grinder I’ve been using since the ’90s. The problem with blade grinders is that they provide a grind that’s inconsistent and is ill-suited to slow extraction processes like cold brewing, leaving you with a brew that can be silty and bitter. Capresso’s burr grinder ensures an even grind that doesn’t heat up the beans (which can kill even the best freshly roasted coffee). What’s nice is that there’s a wide range of grinds to choose from, even within the various sizes. You can tweak the size of the grind considerably—from ultra-fine for Turkish coffee, to super coarse for regular drip brewers. For cold brewing? I want something that’s right in the middle of the medium grind range.
Once the beans are ready, I can get the gear together. Cold Bruer uses a similar setup to my shop’s, just scaled down for the countertop. After assembling the top glass “tower,” you fill it with your favorite coffee, then insert the valve, and insert the whole assembly into the carafe. Then you fill the top with ice and water. Adjust the valve so that the cold water is dripping onto the grounds at a rate of about 1-drop-per-second and you’re done. Fill it up with extra ice occasionally, and in around twelve hours, you’ll have 24 ounces of strong cold brewed coffee. The lid for the tower has two parts, so you can insert the middle section into the carafe, creating an airtight seal. Shove it in the fridge and you’re done. The cold brew will keep up to two weeks (not that it’ll make it that long).
If you’ve never made cold brew or, like me, you’ve only ever made it via the “immersion method,” where you dump grounds into a French press and let it steep overnight, the coffee the Cold Bruer method delivers is revelatory. You know all those silly marketing notes on bags of coffee where they say a bean is more “floral” or “chocolatey?” Well it turns out they’re not entirely made up! With properly cold brewed coffee, you can truly taste the difference between a medium roast and a dark roast, between an African bean and a Latin American bean. Even using standard Trader Joe’s beans, I could tell a marked difference between coffee brewed in my French Press and coffee brewed in the Cold Bruer.
That’s not to say the Cold Bruer is perfect—there are proprietary paper filters you use on top of the grounds, and the silicone insert and lid can be stubborn when you’re trying to get them to sit properly. Plus you have to keep an eye on the flow rate and whether or not there’s still ice in the tower. But these are all minor annoyances when you take into consideration that it produces the best cup of coffee you’ve ever made at home.
So now that you have some 20-odd oz. of cold brew sitting in your fridge, how are you going to satiate the masses that need something to cut the ultra-sweetness of your Aunt Jean’s pecan pie (which is practically swimming in corn syrup and brown sugar)? Luckily, Cold Bruer makes a brew that’s a little stronger than what you’d usually get from a drip machine. So your best bet is to thin it out with cream and serve it cold, or heat it up with a bit of hot water. Capresso has a great solution for this as well. Their H2O Steel Plus water kettle can boil up to 57 oz. of water to a max temperature of 212 degrees. Even nicer, it can keep your boiling water ready to go for up to 30 minutes. If you start your water boiling as you start plating out dessert, you can have the kettle coast and then, when you need a cup of hot coffee, add a little bit of hot water to each cup – I prefer about half as much water to coffee for the perfectly warmed cup.
With a little bit of preparation, whether or not there’s coffee for your holiday guests can be one less thing that you have to worry about. You can learn more about the Cold Bruer (including instructions on how to make an even stronger cold brew concentrate) on their website. The Cold Bruer, plus the Capresso Infinity Conical Burr Grinder and H2O Steel Plus kettle can all be found on Amazon.
Thanks to Cold Bruer and Capresso for providing samples for this article. Opinions are my own.