In episode 6, host Brendan Hanson is a bit under the weather but still put together a basic episode on cold brew equipment. Whether you’ve never tried cold brew coffee and want to try making it at home, or if you’re already a cold brewer and want to scale up your production – this episode discusses various ways to cold brew using simple items you can find around your house to small retail brewers up to large stainless steel brewing systems.
Highlights & Takeaways
If you’ve never had cold brew, it’s easy enough to make some using items you can find around your house.
Cold brew (as a product / category) has yet to be truly defined, so we define it as follows: “cold brew coffee is any coffee that is steeped at room temperature or below for an extended period of time”.
Episode 6 Transcript
Hey there, welcome back to the Drips & Draughts podcast. As always, I’m Brendan Hanson and I’ll be your host today. In this sixth episode of the Drips & Draughts podcast, we’re going to be talking about cold brew equipment and the type of equipment that you can use to get started cold brewing. Before we jump in and start talking about all the equipment that can be used for cold brewing coffee, I think we should first kind of try to define what cold brew coffee is. For the last few years that I’ve been working in the draft beverage Industry and now particularly the draft coffee industry, I’ve talked to a lot of people and some people say, “Yes I cold brew coffee. I serve cold brew coffee,” and I’ve come to find out their version of cold brew coffee is basically just coffee that was a brewed hot and then chilled either by pouring it over ice or by dumping it into some sort of vessel and refrigerating it.
Depending on who you talk to, there’s probably a ton of different definitions of cold brew coffee and what cold brew coffee is but for the purpose of this episode we are going to say that cold brew coffee – We are basically going to use the definition that we put forth in our eBook The Ultimate Guide to Cold Brew Coffee and Serving Coffee on Draft. We are going to say that
Cold brew coffee is any coffee that’s steeped at room temperature or below for an extended period of time. Basically coffee that’s brewed by replacing heat with time.
With that in mind, we’ll be looking at equipment that will allow us to both brew and filter coffee without adding any heat to it.
Who is this episode for? Pretty much anybody really, maybe you’ve never tried cold brew coffee and you want to try it; this episode will be great for you. Or maybe you tried cold brew coffee and now you want to make it home. This episode is great for you as well.
If you want to get started cold brewing with the absolute minimum investment you can probably just head into your kitchen right now and you’ll probably be able to find enough stuff to make your first batch of cold brew. It’s very easy to do and it can be done with absolutely minimal equipment. If you want to make a small batch and just test cold brewing out for yourself, what you’ll need is something to hold your coffee and your water, your coffee grounds and your water, something like a mason jar or a carafe or maybe an old pickle jar that you still have the top for, really anything that will hold water.
You will also need a strainer and maybe a paper coffee filter or you don’t have a paper coffee filter a paper towel could do the job as well. If you happen to have a muslin bag or something that you could insert into the jar, it could make your job easier but it’s not necessary. To get started cold brewing, what you’re going to do is you are basically going to put about four ounces of coffee into your mason jar or your jar or your carafe and add about two and a half cups of water for every four ounces of coffee that you add. Then once you’ve got the coffee and water into the jar, you are basically just going to cover that and let it sit at room temperature or in your fridge for 12 to 24 hours. Now that can be a topic of debate, where or what temperature to steep the coffee yet. I’ve always done room temperature though I know a lot of people will do it at certain temperature at about 36° Fahrenheit in the fridge and that’s something you can test out too.
If you have two jars, leave one on the counter overnight and leave one in the fridge. Do it for the same amount of time and see if you notice any taste differences. Once you hit your desired steeping time whether that will be 12 hours or 24 hours, you are basically going to open your jar, pull your strainer outline it with either a paper filter or a paper towel and hold that over another jar, a secondary jar or maybe into a bowl to catch all the strained coffee. You’ll just slowly dump all your cold brew concentrated coffee grounds into the strainer and wait for it to filter out. If you filter it into a bowl you can then transfer it back into the jar to store it in your fridge or if you filtered it into another jar you are ready to go.
Now a question that will probably get a lot after release in this episode is, what type of coffee bean should I use and that’s not something that we’re going to try to answer today. Should I use a light rush or should I use a dark rush should I use a blend, should I use a single origin and that’s something you’re going to have to figure out for yourself. Let’s say you made your cold brew, you did it at home in a mason jar and you loved it and you want to make more. You want to step up just a little bit, not too much but you want to have more on hand at home. Toddy makes a great system for this. They make a great home system. It’s just a small plastic carafe for steeping your coffee grounds and it comes with a glass carafe as well for draining the cold brew concentrate into and storing in your fridge.
This is a great system for home users and it’s especially great for testing different roast levels, testing different blends of coffee, testing just anything you can really because before you step up to the next level where you start making gallons of cold brew and maybe serving cold brew on draft like I did at home, you want to know that you like the product you’re going to be pouring before you make two and a half gallons or five gallons of it and that’s exactly what I did before I started filling up kegs with coffee. I did a lot of testing and once I found my favorite blend, my favorite bean, that’s when I dialed it up and wrapped it up and started filling kegs. I think my first batch I yielded about six and a half or seven gallons of coffee.
I put about four [gallons] into a five gallon keg and I put the remainder into a two and a half gallon keg. The five gallon keg I basically just used to serve flat cold brew and in the two and a half gallon keg, I pumped that thing full of beer gas. I didn’t know at the time that the beer gas would eventually carbonate the coffee but I pumped it full of beer gas and I serve that one nitro style basically so I could pour it like a Guinness. How did I do my first large batch of cold brew? I just did what I call bucket brewing. I pulled out a bunch of my old homebrew equipment. I had a seven gallon plastic bucket. I had a mesh bag that I had for just keeping grains and I basically just put all my coffee grounds into this mess bag and I dropped that into my plastic bucket and I filled out with water, put a lid on it and let it sit for 12 hours.
Little did I know at the time that there was a whole lot of work that was in front of me after doing that. I found out that the mesh bag really didn’t do a very good job of filtering the grounds and that there was a lot of sediment coming out into the bucket. As I was draining it, I was draining it through my Toddy system to use the felt Toddy filter and after the coffee ran through the Toddy filter it was then going into the keg. It was a little more complex than I wanted it to be but it worked. It was one of my first times doing it in a large batch in a large situation like that and for what it was for the equipment I was using, it turned out pretty well. It was sometime after my second or third time doing this process that I started thinking there has to be a better way to do this and that’s when Cary and I started — Cary by the way for those who may not have listened to the show before is my brother, my business, partner and my co-host who has not co-hosted yet. He’s yet to make an appearance but hopefully one of these next episodes will get him on here.
Anyways Cary and I started looking at all of our other brewing equipment and trying to figure out a way that we could make large batches of cold brew easier. I think my biggest problem with the bucket method that I was doing with the plastic bucket and mesh bag and then going through the secondary filter and then putting it into the keg finally, was cleaning that mesh bag. Cleaning the bag out after it was used. They would get so nasty and so brown and then there’d always be grounds that were stuck in it that were hard to get out, coffee grounds just staying in there. I was always worried about it from a sanitary standpoint and that’s when we started looking at all of our stainless steel gear. It was when we started looking at that stainless steel gear that we decided that we would try to make a stainless steel filter basket and that brings us to the final piece of equipment that were going to discuss today and that’s the Cold Brew Avenue stainless steel brewing systems.
These systems are basically everything you need to do a large batch of cold brew from steeping to filtering; to filling whatever vessel you’re going to put your cold brew in, whether that’s a bottle or a keg. These systems are entirely stainless steel so they’re durable. They come with a stainless steel filter basket that’s high micron so they do a very good job of filtering. Then you’ve also got a dip tube and a ball valve that allows you to start and stop the flow of coffee when you decide to drain the system. On the end of the ball valve there’s a little barb that you can attach to a hose to that makes filling kegs easy also makes filling growlers or jars or any other type of jug very easy. I think my favorite part of the system is just the ease of cleaning it compared to the mesh bag and the plastic bucket. You can make it look like new every time. All you need is a hose with a sprayer on the end, turn your basket upside down, rinse it out, let it dry, rinse the vessel out and you are pretty much ready to go. Since we’ve been using these systems we’ve made a couple iterations already. We’ve gotten a lot of feedback from the other people who use them and we are really just excited about the system. Cold brew is still such a new market in so rapidly growing still that there’s probably going to be a lot of change over the next one to three years in terms of processes — how cold brew is made. I’d like to see if the cold brew process can be speed up, meaning taking it down from 24, or 16, or 12 hours, down to 6 or 8 hours. Or that might not even be a possibility.
As this market grows, as more people begin cold brewing and experimenting, we’re obviously going to learn things. From what I have seen in the coffee industry, so far, it’s very similar to the beer industry. In that the larders are very open and willing to share methods, processes, and just information in general to help grow the industry as a whole. It’s a very exciting time for coffee.
All right. I’m feeling a little bit under the weather today. I don’t know if you can hear it in my voice. I think that’s going to wrap up this episode. We’ll be back next week with an interview with Blake Wilmer from Deaf Can! Coffee in Jamaica.
If you didn’t check out last week’s episode, go back and check out Episode 5 where we talked with the Elijah Elliot from Red Hat Coffee in San Diego.
Thanks again for joining us. We look forward to seeing you next Friday on the Drips & Draughts Podcast.