For many, summer is prime time for crushable craft beers and crisp rosé. But my own refresher of choice on steamy days — and year-round, basically — is a tall glass of iced coffee. Whenever I try to make one at home, however, it’s a watered-down, flavourless concoction that fails to satisfy.
As it turns out, the way I’ve been doing it — brewing a pot and then pouring the piping hot liquid over a glass brimming with ice cubes — is all wrong. The trick, says Elias Vastis, owner of Toronto’s Hula Girl Espresso, is nailing a more precise ratio: namely, three parts ice to one part water.
Let’s say you’re using a classic coffee maker and carafe. Vastis would put six cups of ice (place the cubes directly in your carafe), two cups of water for brewing (which you’ll do directly over the ice) and 80 grams of coffee grounds. (Vastis favours his coffee stronger, but you can tweak the amount of grounds to your liking.) The quantity of ice will cool the temperature of the coffee in a flash, but you’ll still be using hot water to actually make the beverage, which is key.
“To extract the oils and flavours from the coffee, you need hot water,” Vastis explains. “But by brewing the coffee over ice [at this ratio], you’re creating a very concentrated flavour profile without diluting it.” Needless to say, for best results, use high-quality beans, preferably from a local shop. Once you’re done, pop it in your fridge until you’re ready to enjoy.
Another common method is steeping your cold brew: Make your coffee in a French press with cold water, and then allow it to sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Vastis says this is fine if you’re at home, have the patience and feel like experimenting, though he personally favours the hot-water method. “I find that steeping can [result in] a little bit of a stale flavour,” he says.
From there, customize the coffee to your liking. If you like sweetener, try a bit of simple syrup, honey or maple syrup, Vastis suggests, since granulated sugar won’t dissolve properly in cold liquid. For an Instagram-worthy bevvy, you’ll often find people drizzling chocolate or caramel syrup along the interior walls or rims of their glasses, though Vastis warns the flavour will be harder to mix in if you go that route.
Although the café owner prefers his own coffee black, adding a bit of frothed or foamed milk or cream (or dairy alternative) can elevate your brew and cut the bitterness. A hand-held frother will do the trick, but if you don’t want to buy an extra tool, you can use a blender set to a low speed or even a martini shaker (though this will take much longer and won’t get as foamy). You’ll know the milk is done when “it’s fluffy and stops expanding,” Vastis says. Then just pour over your drink and enjoy an at-home iced coffee that will actually hit the spot.
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