Cold Brew Coffee

So I've got this enormous f*ing Mason jar. Like, two gallons enormous. In winter, I use it for too-big batches of soup. (Or, rather, abundant, exultant, seasonally-appropriate batches of soup I'm then too lazy to divvy out into individual quart bags to freeze and then dip into during the Midwest's annual arctic chasm of despair, even though that's what They Say you should do, in the same wayThey Say you should do all your cooking on Sundays, then you've got all your meals ready for the week. I don't know where these clowns get their Sundays, but that's not how life works and we all know it. For every Sunday I spend meal-prepping like a good little homesteader, I spend about six other Sundays doing cool stuff with my husband and son, like taking naps. CAN I LIVE.)

This jar lives in a closet that's close to the kitchen, but not IN the kitchen. Consequently, the theme for this closet is Seldom Used but Truly Useful or Just Expensive Kitchen Implements. Other things I keep in this closet include:

  • Our stand mixer.
  • Two food processors:  the big one with the semi-busted locking mechanism, and the small one with the mostly-busted motor.
  • My grandmother's kitchen knives, packed away in cardboard sleeves that smell like her basement/a library (equivalent)
  • The remnants of Jack's infanthood, mainly consisting of the pacifiers he rejected after a blissful 5 month love affair, various bottle accessories, and glorified ice cube trays for homemade baby food.
  • An impressive collection of grilling tools, all amassed within the last three months. Not coincidentally, this is the same amount of time that Danny has known how to smoke meats on the grill.
  • The Le Creuset pitcher (works the same as a lesser pitcher, I assure you) that we got as a gift and that I really only ever use to water the slowly dying fig tree in our dining room.

In the warmer months, this jar taunts my inner home organization/minimalist lifestyle guru by taking up space but not being used. I love having cool stuff but I hate clutter. I am the person who triumphantly purges her closet one day and spends the next day moaning to my dog about how maybe that dumb boxy top was actually still cute. I've almost gotten rid of that Mason jar on several occasions, but instead I just contemplate a new circle of Kitchen Storage Purgatory for it. (Available levels remaining: Tier 1, not necessarily doomed:  bottom back shelf of random pantry cabinet whereI keep dry goods and decorative napkins [who the hell am I?]; Tier 2, will be forgotten for at least 360 days:  in the basement closet with the disposable plates, plastic silverware, and other things that become trash at parties; Tier 3, goodbye forever:  in the basement utility room crawlspace under the stairs with the luggage.)

Last summer, I made iced coffee at home the (apparently) totally wrong way:  by making a pot of hot coffee, letting it cool, then decanting the contents into jars or bottles to keep in the fridge. They Say this is bad. But last summer, if I had heard one more aphorism from any of Them about how to do anything, from getting a three-month-old to sleep though the night to making my damn coffee, we all would have had bigger problems than proper extraction and acid levels.

This summer, I'm working with a bit more bandwidth. That gentle giant of a Mason jar gets an almost-weekly workout. By dumping in a ton of coffee and filling the rest with water, I've goofed around with a handful of cold brew recipes. This has resulted in zero instances of bad coffee, only good coffee and SLAMMIN coffee. Below is the recipe for the slamminest version, but I also invite you to play around with this ditty until it suits your tastes.

This sort of concoction is basically my dream recipe and also foolproof IF you stick with the following two principles:

  • Don't measure stuff. It's coffee and water. (And maybe a few spices tossed in.)
  • As long as you end up with coffee that is too strong for your preference, you have succeeded. You're going to add ice, or stretch it out with water or dairy, and in that step you can dilute it to your liking.

I've done straight coffee, and I've infused it in the past too. I like throwing in a cinnamon stick and a few whole cardamom; you could add a star anise or a scraped-out vanilla bean from a previous use.


  • About 1 pound coarse-ground coffee - preferably bought and ground fresh that day (I just get bulk coffee and grind it at the store)
  • Cold water
  • Any "sweet" spices you want, like cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, or part of a vanilla pod (all optional, but if you do use them, they should be whole, not ground)

Special equipment: a huge jar with a lid or other large food-safe container with a lid. Smaller, quart-size jar(s) or other reusable containers for fridge storage.


Combine the ingredients in the vessel of your choice and stir to make sure all of the coffee (and spices, if using) has been submerged. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer or sieve. Bonus step that will result in an even smoother coffee: strain the resulting coffee through a paper coffee filter to get out all those little solids.

This should result in fairly strong coffee that will invite dilution with ice, milk, half & half, or nondairy milk. If you live to make the pretentious break out in hives by sweetening your coffee (I do!!), I'd recommend agave nectar here for its superior dissolving qualities in cold drinks.

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