Cold Brew Coffee Recipe

"Cold brewing coffee is an excellent brew method for a smooth yet robust cup. It can be used to save time during a busy week and works right alongside your meal prep routine."

This statement by Ryan Fletcher, Young Buck Founder and personal mentor, is one of the few statements I agree with him on in this article. That’s not to say I don’t value his perspective on brewing cold brew. In fact, reading this got me thinking about cold brew. Ryan’s perspective, coming from his background as a barista, makes so much sense and I’m glad this article challenged me to do some research to learn more about the chemistry of making cold brew.

"Our cold brew recipe may be unique. This is because it is our opinion that the best flavors of coffee are extracted at higher temperatures (ask your barista). We use a hybrid recipe that begins hot and finishes cold. This brewing method produces a concentrated liquid that can be poured over ice and cut with milk without tasting watered down."

What Ryan describes above is technically not “cold brew” but rather “ice coffee”. As a barista by trade and craft, he understands the intricacies of heat extraction and how to manipulate those elements to get the flavor profile he wants. However, using heat in brewing creates different chemical reactions in the product than cold brewing, and some of those chemical reactions make huge differences in the coffee, especially in regards to acidity and caffeine efficacy.

Ice Coffee vs. Cold Brew

I won’t spend too much time on my personal anecdotes, but one of my earliest memories about coffee is when I was about 5 years old. My mother saw “ice coffee” on the menu at a restaurant and ordered it. When it came, she recoiled at the taste, complaining the restaurant didn’t know how to make ice coffee and instead had just poured hot coffee over ice, delivering a watered down and worthless beverage experience. But when my mom made ice coffee at home, she’d brew a regular percolator of her favorite hot coffee, let it cool, put it in a pitcher, and stick it in the fridge. This method (a simplified version of Ryan’s method) may not taste watered down, but it will be more bitter than true cold brew and it will not give you a fraction of the caffeine boost of cold brew coffee.

How Heat Extraction Affects Coffee

Brewing ground coffee with heat releases acids within the coffee, imbuing it with a quality historically considered inherent to coffee, its bitterness. When extraction occurs without heat, the coffee has a more robust flavor and mouthfeel. Instead of being brewed with hot water and gravity or steam, which are the fastest ways to brew coffee, cold water is fully saturating the grounds and then the coffee essentially extracts from the inside out, never releasing the acidity. It comes out so sweet, it doesn’t even need milk or sweetener. Also, caffeine is a heat-sensitive chemical, so when you brew with heat, you dramatically reduce the caffeine content of your coffee. Cold brew coffee has the highest concentration of caffeine of any naturally produced coffee product, usually at least twice as strong as a double-espresso. (Read about this in Food & Wine)

Here is the cold brew recipe that we serve when we’re at events and markets these days.

Young Buck Cold Brew Technique

Step 1: Ratio

I use a ratio of 4 oz liquid to .20 oz coarse ground coffee. Most people make their cold brew much “stronger” (a higher ratio of coffee grounds to liquid) and use it like a concentrate. I feel like that wastes a lot of coffee that never gets extracted. I’d start with your normal ratio, see how it comes out. If you think it could be better, adjust accordingly.

Step 2: Grind

The general rule is: the longer a coffee spends extracting in liquid, the coarser the grind should be. So how coarse depends on how long you intend to brew it, and what you’re brewing it in (we’re talking about water in this article but you can also cold brew in milk – look for a future article about that).

If you’re steeping it for 24 hours, grind it at the coarsest setting. I usually do a 10-12 hour brew and I grind it coarser than for a pour-over, but not the coarsest setting.

I want the grounds to be too big to stick to my finger, but not so small they’ll be hard to strain out of the coffee.

Step 3: Cold extraction

Pour water into your coffee, stir it up, cover it and stick it in the fridge. It’ll be ready to strain and serve tomorrow.

Jar method. The simplest way to make delicious cold brew is to pour your ground coffee into a jar and pour your water in. Stir it for a second to be sure it isn’t clumping, put a lid on it and stick in the fridge. It’ll be ready in about 10 hours.

French Press. I usually use a French Press to make my cold brew. It’s as easy as a hot press, but after I’ve stirred the coffee and pushed the plunger down just enough to get the coffee under the water, I stick the whole thing in the fridge for the extraction period.

Cold Brew Kit. If you have a cold brew kit, your grounds go into the sock and you tie it up tight, so grounds don’t leak out, and put it into the jar. Pour the water in and stick it in the fridge for the extraction period.

Step 4: Service

After sitting in water for so long, your grounds are saturated and delicate, so you want to be careful not to agitate them too much (so they don’t break up into smaller grounds and get through your strainer, bringing bitter pieces of the plant fiber with it). Don’t stir it, now you just want to pour the brew out of the grounds.

Jar method. Pour the mixture out of the jar through a strainer lined with folded cheesecloth, into another jar or vessel. You may have to strain several times to get most of the grounds out.

French Press. Do not fully press the plunge or you may agitate the grounds. Push it gently down until you feel it break free of the grounds and sink into the liquid trapped below, then carefully pour the coffee out of the press and through a strainer lined with cheesecloth to get the grounds out.

Cold Brew Kit. Remove the brewing sock with the saturated grounds from the jar. Try not to squeeze the saturated sock, it’ll have the bitter parts of the coffee in it. Put your jar of cold brew in the fridge. It’s ready when you want it.

Your cold brew will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Pour yourself a cup and sip it before you put in cream and sugar. You’ll be surprised how sweet it comes out!


Ryan’s Ice Coffee Recipe

Step 1: 

Measure 16 oz of water and bring to a boil on your stove top or in a hot water kettle.

Step 2: 

Measure out 4oz of coarse ground coffee on a scale. Pour ground coffee into the bottom of a 32 oz or greater glass container. Or to eliminate final step use a large fine mesh cheese cloth to create a 'tea bag' for the coffee. If you go this route be sure to keep the cloth loosely fitting around the coffee. If it is too tight around the coffee the water will not be able to contact the coffee properly.

Step 3: 

Once your water has begun to boil, remove from heat and pour over coffee grounds inside your container. Pour water in 3 increments stirring between each. Steep for ~30 - 45 minutes.

Step 4: 

Measure 16 oz. of cold water and pour into your steeping coffee until nearly full leaving room to stir one last time. Seal container with a tight fitting lid or plastic wrap and move to refrigerator.

Step 5: 

If you did not use cheese cloth to brew, open your container after 12 - 24 hours and strain. Do not stir or shake before straining as the coffee will settle to the bottom and you may be able to simply pour your cold brew off the top into its final storage container. Serve over ice or with milk.

If you did use cheese cloth, open your container and remove cheese cloth and drain without squeezing. Coffee is now ready to serve.