Food on Friday: Iced coffee (no, seriously)

Someday I’ll write a novel where caffeine is banned as a controlled substance, because most people I know, including me, are addicted to it at one level or another. (Tom Standage’s book Around the World in Six Glasses is not the first work to suggest that the Industrial Revolution was strongly helped along by the shift of the typical working class drink from beer and spirits to tea and coffee (improved sanitation and the importation of the latter two from the Indies).)

Coffee was never my caffeine delivery vehicle of choice until a few years ago; the unsugared, black coffee my dad drank when I was a kid didn’t have much appeal. Even in high school and college I mostly stuck with soda (the amount of Mountain Dew I drank in a day back then would curl your hair). Like many people, the rise of Starbucks and of “coffee drinks” rather than just plain coffee sucked me in. It had all the sugar of soda, but in a coffee format! What’s not to like? Plus I can get out of the house and stare at my laptop screen or blank notebook page amongst others, rather than alone.

Going to the coffeehouse all the time gets pretty pricey, however, and I was thrilled when my brother and sister-in-law were nice enough to buy us a Keurig coffeemaker last Christmas. Since I’m the only coffee-drinker in the house it’s been really great to have, and makes pretty decent coffee as far as I can tell. I can throw a little sugar and soy milk in there and pretend I’m at a cafe but it’s cheaper.

Recently one of the blogs I follow had a link to The Pioneer Woman’s cold-brewed iced coffee recipe. I am no coffee connoisseur, but I do know the thing about iced coffee is that you can’t really just make coffee and pour it over ice, because then it’s very watery. You need an espresso-type liquid rather than an American coffee strength. I had most of a bag of ground coffee leftover from a recent trip, so I figured I’d give it a try. I fourthed the original recipe [2 quarts water, 4 oz coffee] and let it sit for 12 hours or so before I drained it. Which leads me to my main problem with this approach – it’s messy as heck. I ended up with coffee grounds everywhere – my counter, around my trash can, all over my sink while rinsing out the pitcher I brewed in. Maybe you’re more coordinated than me and can avoid this, but beware.

The recipe did result in a nice, strong and concentrated coffee which worked well iced with some milk (or the hazelnut Coffeemate also left over from the trip, purchased by someone else, I will note, which means it has no calories, right?). I would never make it as suggested in the original recipe – 1/3 of a glass full of half-and-half and sweetened condensed milk is too sweet for even me the sugar-lover. At that point, why not just eat a donut and pound a Red Bull rather than pretend you’re drinking coffee for the coffee?

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