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A caffeine addict’s guide to summer coffee drinks

By Olivia Van Guinn, June 25 2021—

Let’s be honest, Starbucks is expensive. If you’re reading this article, you’re probably just as afraid as I am of tracking how much money you’ve spent on iced coffee. So instead of cutting down on coffee — because that’s not happening — why not get so good at making your own coffee-based drinks that you’ll have more fun getting it at home? 

This is my guide to using the most affordable coffee makers to make the best possible at-home coffee-based drinks. You’ll only need two things — a French press and an AeroPress, both cheap, easy and capable of making some fantastic coffee. Keep in mind that although these are recipes that I’ve tried and made work for me, it takes a lot of trial and error to find what you like best when it comes to coffee. Play around with grind size and measurements. The fun of coffee is in experimentation.

COLD BREW

For this one, we’re using a French press. The French press is an easy-to-operate and affordable coffee maker that makes the brewing process as easy as possible. It’s also the best and easiest method for making a great cold brew concentrate.

  1. Use a medium-grind coffee.

Most people will tell you to use a coarsely ground coffee, but here’s the thing — you’re making cold brew concentrate. The intention with coarsely ground coffee is to limit contact between the water and the surface of the coffee grounds to limit bitterness. This creates a weaker concentrate that you will have to combine more of with less water. If you use a medium grind, the concentrate will be stronger and you will have to combine less of it with more water. Therefore, a stronger concentrate yields more cold brew for less effort, which is why we use a medium grind.

We won’t fuss about roast too much for simplicity’s sake, but I’d personally go for a medium-light roast.

2. Add a 1:7 ratio of coffee to water in your French press.

I usually use 50 grams of coffee and 350 grams of water. Once you dilute this, it will yield two servings of cold brew. Use room temperature water. Using hot water will create more initial bitterness, which isn’t a bad thing — just something to experiment with.

3. Do not put it in the fridge.

Cold brew is the worst named drink of all time. It is not brewed in the fridge. Every time you brew cold brew in the fridge, God snips a year off your life-expectancy. Don’t do it — or try it and see why you shouldn’t. Put the lid on the French press — don’t plunge — and place it at room temperature somewhere on your kitchen counter. 

4. Leave it alone for 14–16 hours

Most likely, this means overnight. I like to make my cold brew around ten o’clock at night, relax, read a book, fall asleep, wake up around noon and have it ready.

5. Plunge

Now you have cold brew concentrate. The French press is notorious for making a silty coffee with bits of grounds still in it. Some people like this — and if you do then it’s ready. I prefer a cleaner coffee, so an extra step I’d add is to run the concentrate through a paper filter or AeroPress. 

6. Dilute

This is mostly to taste. I know I hate when recipes think I have the confidence to know what tastes good, so my personal preference is around 1:1 concentrate and water — but I’m notorious with my friends for liking strong coffee. Don’t forget to serve with ice.

What you have now is a basic black cold brew. Keep in mind that this is a very caffeinated drink. Each serving uses 25 grams of coffee. For comparison, an espresso shot uses 9 grams of coffee. If you’re not used to caffeine, do the iced coffee recipe first. Also, you can drink a cold brew black and have a great drink, but for those of us who like to indulge, try:

Maple Cream Cold Brew: add 1 tbsp of maple syrup and 1 tbsp of Maple Latte coffee creamer.

Crème Caramel Cold Brew: Add 1 tbsp of caramel, topped with frothed milk or cream.

Cold Brew Float: Add one scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Irish Cream Cold Brew: Add one shot of Irish Cream.

ICED COFFEE

Iced coffee uses a different method of brewing that extracts a different flavour profile from a cold brew. Additionally, this method only takes a couple of minutes as opposed to overnight, so it’s great if you’re whipping up something fast for friends. For this, you’ll need an AeroPress which is a relatively cheap coffee maker — mine was $40 — that you can get at most specialty coffee shops or HomeSense. I’ll assume the instructions on the box have told you how to use an AeroPress, so I’ll just give you the recipe.

  1. Use a medium-grind coffee.

This is not what you’re supposed to do, traditionally. However, a good coffee grinder is expensive, so I’m assuming you’re working with pre-ground beans and I’ve adjusted the recipe for the same grind as the cold brew. Again, you would preferably want to use a medium roast.

2. Use 20 grams of coffee to 60 ml of hot water.

The water should be just off the boil. When this is combined, stir to help the coffee grounds and water meet each other. I like to do this with the AeroPress upside down so I don’t lose any water, but you can get good results either way.

3. Set a timer for 2 minutes right after you pour in the water.

Now relax and let it rest.

4. Swirl the chamber and wait another 30 seconds.

This helps all the grounds settle to the bottom.

5. Plunge into a mug.

Don’t plunge too hard or too soft. The weight of your forearms resting on the top should be enough.

What you have now is an espresso shot — I’m kidding. It’s not a real espresso shot because real Italian espresso requires an insanely specific and intense amount of pressure that can’t be replicated for under hundreds of dollars. However, you do have a perfectly good espresso-strength coffee shot at home for forty dollars — not bad.

Where do we go from here?

Iced coffee: Add milk and sugar to the hot concentrate, then dilute with water to taste — about 150 grams of water to start. Add ice — keep in mind ice will water down the drink — and enjoy!

Iced latte: Add about 5 ounces of milk and ice.

Iced espresso: Add a splash of milk or cream.

Espresso affogato: Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream — experiment with flavours.

That’s eight specialty coffee drinks you can make at home for a fraction of the coffee shop price, plus the fun of learning a new skill. Remember to taste each recipe carefully the first time you make them because you may have to adjust. For coffee that’s too bitter, use fewer coffee grounds and brew for less time. If it’s too sour, then the opposite. Also remember that coffee is a really fun hobby that generations of people did by exploring the possibilities.

The coffee world may seem full of rules and regulations, but really, the distinction between a latte and a cappuccino changes with every website I look at. The bottom line is that as long as it tastes good to you, there is no wrong way to make coffee — just have fun.


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