Hack for making cold brew coffee and lattes at home
November 11, 2019 9:42 AM   Subscribe

We would are working on getting financially fit and we need to cut our coffee budget. I am interested in making cold brew coffee and lattes at home so that we can ditch Starbucks. Any tips on the best cold brew system to buy? And, an inexpensive and easy to use latte maker? I heard about Aeropress, any thoughts and advice?

What is the difference between the Toddy and the Ovalware systems?
posted by TRUELOTUS to Food & Drink (32 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I have a Toddy and I like it but if I were starting now I would just use a mason jar (or pitcher) and a nut milk bag.
posted by mskyle at 9:49 AM on November 11, 2019 [4 favorites]

I spent several summers making cold brew coffee using a mason jar and this pour-over coffee filter holder. You don't really need anything more complicated than that. IME cold brew lasts for a couple of days in the fridge before it starts to taste old.
posted by quaking fajita at 9:50 AM on November 11, 2019 [4 favorites]

You don't need a system to make cold brew, you just need a large glass jar (think mason jar) and a filter. You need a coarser grind, so either buy in the bulk section at a store where you can choose your grind, or buy from a coffee shop. Add about 7 spoonfuls of coffee to mason jar, fill with cold water (filtered preferred), close, shake, leave in a cool dark place for 18-24 hours. Pour through filter (I use my regular coffee pot with a filter), then rinse grinds out of jar and pour it back in. Add to ice-filled glass, put the rest in the fridge.
posted by DoubleLune at 9:52 AM on November 11, 2019 [4 favorites]

I also had a toddy and liked it, it’s a fine choice, but now I just use mason jars filled with the ratio of water and grounds I want, steep for 24 hours in fridge and then pour through a regular no. 4 paper filter like you use for drip coffee. I find it to be easier than the slightly fussy toddy filters.
posted by skewed at 9:54 AM on November 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

You're going to need to define your terms: what end result are you looking for. Starbucks uses their own language for a bunch of different drinks, so breaking out what exactly you're looking for can help reign your search in a bit. Are you just looking for coldbrew with cream? Do you need a foam? All variants are possible at home, it just depends on exactly what you're looking to construct.

To answer your subquestion, the biggest difference between toddy and ovalware systems is the filter; I have no firsthand experience, but ovalware seems to use just a metal filter whereas toddy uses a wool filter (a problem if you're vegan). The ovalware system seems more expensive than it needs to be, the same functionality can be gained from a french press (but both these setups tend to allow for fines to migrate to the brew, resulting in a bit of a gritty cup; plenty of people don't mind, but I'm not a fan). I have used toddy systems before, and prefer them.

The best cold-frothing mechanism I would look to a Nitrogen-cartidge ISI whipper (not to be confused with nitrous whipper, which uses no2, to produce whipped cream), which will get you damn close to hot frothed milk/cream, but cold.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:54 AM on November 11, 2019

We use something very similar to this and it works a treat. I've had it for at least seven or so years.

An important thing to note is that if you really want to save money when you're doing this, don't buy fancy coffee. Cold brew uses up a lot of grounds compared to making yourself a cup of hot coffee, I think a regular-size bag of coffee will give me about three pitchers of cold brew. I like to splurge when I'm making hot coffee at home, but my uneducated, unscientific opinion is that the reduced acidity of cold brew means that the quality of the coffee isn't as important, so I usually just use Trader Joe's medium roast. I know the grounds are supposed to be a special coarseness for cold brew, but I just buy it pre-ground and as a daily (but not especially refined) iced coffee drinker, it has always tasted good to me.
posted by cakelite at 10:10 AM on November 11, 2019

Easier way to make cold brew than just using a mason jar: get a french press. Put your ground coffee and cold water in there in the early evening, stick it in the fridge overnight, and press down in the morning.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:24 AM on November 11, 2019 [13 favorites]

I have an Aeropress and I love it. Great coffee. But it’s kind of the opposite of cold brew in that there are a number of fiddley little steps in the morning. Not to discourage you, again, I love it, no mess, easy to use, really tasty coffee.
posted by kerf at 10:25 AM on November 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

My starter coffee setup was the standard Hario trifecta: Buono kettle, Skerton hand grinder and v60 ceramic dripper. That plus filters gets you set up to make excellent pourover coffee at home for around $150. We use unbleached paper filters, and cleanup is consequently nothing.

For cold brew, I bought a glass bodum at a garage sale for five bucks, set the grind a little rougher and let it stew for a day before drinking it. Works great. You don't need a "system" for making cold brew; I don't even know what that means, but there's no way to make this simpler.

When I had a big of extra money, I got a Breville "Dose Control" grinder; you take the espresso-puck attachment off and the Hario ceramic dripper fits right into it, so grinding exactly the amount of coffee you want is one button. \

I got a cold brew "coffee sock" as a gift, and it works great. I'm considering replacing my paper pourover filters with a reusable fabric filter as a result.

If you're just getting used to the idea of doing this yourself, look around for a good local coffee roaster who will sell you whole-bean coffee and take some time to tune it up how you like. Starbucks coffee is deliberately overcooked and very bitter as a result, to offset the pile of cream, sugar and artificial flavors assemble into their high-margin drinks. You'll find that homemade is a very different drink than they'll sell you, and that it takes a lot less cream and sugar to make it palatable.

I disagree with cakelite's above argument that if you really want to save money when you're doing this, don't buy fancy coffee" - even at local small-shop roaster prices, making any kind of coffee at home costs a small fraction of what it costs to get it at Starbucks.
posted by mhoye at 10:27 AM on November 11, 2019

I've found that the most convenient method of making cold-brew for me is to do it in bulk: I put 12 oz of coarsely ground medium-dark beans and 6 cups of cold water in a big bowl, mix to make sure all the grounds are well wet, cover and leave on the counter for about 16 hours (much longer than that and the result starts to get bitter).

To decant I use a colander with one of these comically-large coffee filters in it set on a large pot; pour the contents of the bowl into the filter and let drain for maybe an hour. The result just fits into a quart mason jar that goes into the fridge. It usually lasts me about a week; unlike quaking fajita, I've never experienced deteriorated flavor by the end of the week.

When I want a mug of hot coffee, I start the kettle going (mine has a setting to heat to 185°F, or just bring the water to a boil then take it off the heat for a minute or so), pour a little less than 1/3 C (about 2.5 oz) of the concentrate into the mug, and fill it up with hot water - the result is plenty hot and just takes a couple minutes, tops. I imagine iced coffee would be similarly easy, though you might possibly have to adjust the amount of concentrate you use.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:30 AM on November 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Like showbiz_liz, I just use a frenchpress to make cold brew. Easy peasy.
posted by geegollygosh at 10:33 AM on November 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

I use the budget method from these instructions. Basically, put grounds in a bag fashioned from a coffee filter, steep it for 24 hours, and then filter the coffee through a piece of synthetic felt. This is similar to methods mentioned above, except that the synthetic felt is a much finer filter---similar to the Toddy's, but not wool. This produces a very smooth concentrate. I get the best value whole-bean bulk coffee at Costco, where you can grind it yourself to desired coarseness. mskyle's suggestion of a nut milk bag sounds like a better option for the bag.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:38 AM on November 11, 2019

The New York Times may be in an iffy place as far as journalism goes, but it has served me well when it comes to a cold brew recipe:

2/3 cup of coffee grounds, 3 cups of water, dump in a jar. Let stand on the counter at least 12 hours. Filter out grounds, decant resulting liquid into a bottle and let it live in the fridge. The original recipe says that that brew is a concentrate meant to be diluted a little, but I just pour it over ice and have at it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:03 AM on November 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

No need for fancy equipment. I make a cold brew concentrate each week. I use a 32-oz Rubbermaid bottle I found in my cupboard. Something like this would also work fine.

Fill it up with 8 oz (by volume - use the measurement on the side) of coffee grounds. Fill the rest with water. Shake it up and let it sit for 24 hours art room temperature, shaking occasionally.

To filter out the grounds: set a sieve/strainer (something like this) inside a pot that has a pouring spout (something like this).

It doesn't matter what you use, as long as you have a sieve that will fit over the larger vessel, and you can pour from the larger vessel easily. The sieve/mesh needs to fit the 32 oz of unfiltered coffee sludge.

I use 1.5 paper towels in one layer and fit that to the sieve to line it. You can use coffee filters if you have those instead. Dump the coffee and grounds into the paper-towel-lined sieve and lift up the sieve so it can fully drain. You now have your cold-brew concentrate in the pot. Rinse out your 32-oz bottle, and carefully pour the coffee into it. Put it in the refrigerator for up to a week.

The cold-brew is a concentrate, so when I'm ready to drink, I usually mix 1-1 with water, or a bit more water. In the summer, I drink it cold. In the winter, I warm it up.

It's really simple, and I like doing all the prep at once rather than making coffee each day. If you don't have a 32 oz vessel, you can adjust as needed. You just want your coffee to be roughly 1/4 of the total volume of the vessel.
posted by hydra77 at 11:06 AM on November 11, 2019

Cold brewing has been thoroughly covered, but you also mentioned lattes. The short answer is: if you want to make a latte you need an espresso machine¹. You can make a great cup of coffee with an aeropess or a moka pot, but neither produces anything resembling espresso. If you are less picky than I and just want coffee with frothed milk, get a milk frother and use it to make milk froth for some warmed up cold brew.

¹ It would take a long time for a decent espresso machine to pay for itself, unless ‘we’ includes significantly more than 2 people or you drink way more coffee beverages over the course of a day than is probably healthy. Furthermore they take up a good amount of counter space, require maintenance, and (unless you buy an automatic one) require you to spend time (and waste coffee) learning to use it properly. I eventually sold mine and decided that, from then on, espresso beverages would only be a special treat for me.
posted by thedward at 11:33 AM on November 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

I think the Aeropress is a great choice! I've been using mine for a decade now. I use it while keeping an eye on a toddler every morning and don't find it too fiddly.

What I like about it is that it's completely flexible and doesn't require any advance planning, since it makes espresso-strength coffee on demand. You can add foamed milk or ice or whatever you want, at any strength you want, without any advance preparation and with total control over the process. Once you get the muscle memory it's an extremely convenient habit to have.
posted by john hadron collider at 11:35 AM on November 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Cold Brew: The mason jar method mentioned above is a fantastic way to go.

As for lattes...I rely on my inexpensive and hard-working Mr. Coffee ECMP-50 It's a 15-bar pump espresso machine, and it makes a very nice, inexpensive latte. Every morning.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:51 AM on November 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

2nding thedward that Latte is an espresso based drink and you’d need a way to make espresso, not just froth milk.

I just ended up buying an automatic espresso machine in the end. I consider Latte to be a meal, not a drink so I rarely use the steam frother it comes with and mainly just consume a lot of espresso and Americanos. Perhaps I am less picky than thedward but my machine was amortised in under a year.

In terms of maintenance, I change the water filter every six weeks, run a cleaning cycle with limescale remover every six to nine months (basically the first time I have to change the water filter after the light comes on that tells me it needs limescale removal). Other than that I just clean the container that catches the used grinds about once a fortnight, it needs emptying more frequently. Of all the things I’ve spent money on in my life that was one of the better investments in terms of cost per use. In any case, just wanted to add another perspective.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:58 AM on November 11, 2019

Espresso maker: buy a used/refurbed Saeco Via Venezia with a decent seller's warranty, either on e-bay or directly from a shop. When it fails, give one of the self-repair kits a shot or buy another one (and maybe keep the first for parts).

Amazon sells mutipacks of Lavazza espresso that are discounted if you put in a regular order.
posted by snuffleupagus at 12:34 PM on November 11, 2019

I like the Toddy and have used it for many years. It's not "fancy." Simple and very functional.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 12:38 PM on November 11, 2019

I've actually found that the cafe au lait is easier than a latte who finds themselves without a milk frother or espresso maker. The recipe I have is rendered thus:

Brew your coffee at twice the strength (i.e., enough grounds for two cups if you're only making one cup). Heat one cup of milk gently. Then pour in the coffee.

I do this on the weekends; I have a couple of big-ass mugs for this purpose, and I heat the milk by just zapping it for a minute in the microwave.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:52 PM on November 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

I always found the Aeropress to be a bit overly fussy to use and clean up after. It does seem to come out more concreted than regular coffee, but often not quite as concentrated as I wanted. I wound up getting the least expensive Nespresso machine and buying the capsules from Target's store brand. If you want Proper steamed milk it doesn't cover that, but it makes the espresso part fine.
posted by Sequence at 1:16 PM on November 11, 2019

I just reviewed this gadget, which the creator told me is actually best suited for single cup cold brew. Very easy to operate, no filters or anything necessary. Works for regular hot coffee as well but not lattes or anything.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 1:52 PM on November 11, 2019

Goodness, if you're trying to save money on coffee, don't for the love of God spend tons of money on a lot of equipment for something you can do simply without a lot of fancy pants stuff.

The key to cold brew is time, bean roast type, and coarseness of grind. You want coarsely ground beans and a medium roast. Do not use a dark roast, ever, for anything. Dark roast coffee has lost its original character from being overprocessed and tastes stale. You can get a medium roast coffee with the flavor profile notes of what people think they like in a dark roast coffee, such as chocolatey, plum, etc. You want to make sure you're maintaining the integrity of the bean, lol. You also want to let your cold brew steep for about 24 hours before serving. You can cut your cold brew in half because you're just making a concentrate in whatever system you end up using. Heat changes the flavor and character of coffee, and reduces the caffeine content
Since it's cold brew, it hasn't been exposed to heat since the roasting process itself and is therefore really, really caffeinated. Enthing simply doing this in a French press.

Espresso: unless you plan on starting a small business, don't buy a highly pressurized counter system you'll rarely use and just takes up a lot of space and time. these things are really expensive and don't actually mimic the espresso you can get from a several thousand dollar machine. You can buy an aluminum stovetop espresso maker. The espresso is made by water boiling up through your ground coffee and being captured in a vestibule. The steam moving through the grounds and being captured is what gives the flavor. This will not give you the same crema that you get at your local cafe, but it's the cheapest, fastest, most space efficient and simplest way to go. Also, easy clean up. It will be tricky to make streamed milk without a steam wand, though.
posted by erattacorrige at 2:41 PM on November 11, 2019

PS I agree with the posted above who recommended buying beans from a local roaster. The fresher the better. It's worth spending an extra $3 on. I would highly recommend against Lavazza. It's riding on good marketing but is basically the Folgers coffee of Italy.
posted by erattacorrige at 2:49 PM on November 11, 2019

It's riding on good marketing but is basically the Folgers coffee of Italy.

I would acknowledge this as more or less accurate but fwiw I still like it (particularly for lattes) and it's not like you can't have both around.
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:43 PM on November 11, 2019

I was never able to make cold brew that I felt like was comparable to the stuff I would buy in a cafe or store. I have a prosumer set up for my espresso/latte making. With the average consumption of 2 lattes a day it takes about 1.5 yrs to break even. But after that its all savings.

I am a big Aeropress fan. I think it gives the best tasting cup over all the methods.
posted by burlsube at 5:55 PM on November 11, 2019

I hated the Aeropress because I am lazy and just want to push a button. I got myself a little Nespresso machine and it makes a pretty good latte with the milk frother accessory. By which I mean, it's better than the old Starbucks pressurized-group head machine I had and a lot less work. Nespresso capsules are a little pricey IMHO, but now you can get decent pods from other places. If waste is a concern, save the capsules up and send them back to Nespresso for recycling, they will even send you a prepaid UPS mailer.

For me it was a question of quality vs effort. I can get a good enough shot from the Nespresso and not have to grind and tamp and knock stuff out and backflush and all of that business.
posted by cabingirl at 6:49 PM on November 11, 2019

If you have an immersion circulator and are impatience, you can try this "cold" brew recipe which is effectively brewing the coffee at 150F for 2 hours.
posted by mmascolino at 7:14 PM on November 11, 2019

I think [the Aeropress] gives the best tasting cup over all the methods.

I have an Aeropress and like it a lot, but I find my cold-brew method gives equally good-tasting results for what I consider to be less work and easier clean-up overall (though I admit it does require more planning ahead). On the other hand, Aeropress cleanup is easier than a French press and I think gives better results...for a one-coffee-drinker household.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:46 PM on November 11, 2019

I use Aeropress for hot coffee and a French Press for cold brew. Latte is an espresso based drink that you should probably just splurge on once a week rather than spend a whole lotta money getting your own machine, ESPECIALLY if you are doing this to save money in the first place!!

Along with an Aeropress, I would suggest getting an electric kettle to make hot water. This is useful for making Tea as an added bonus!
posted by indianbadger1 at 8:30 AM on November 12, 2019

i do what Doublelune does, but use cheese cloth (muslin) & a big sieve to filter the coffee. It's cool cuz you can just throw the cloth in with the rest of the laundry and you're all dandy and good to go.
posted by speakeasy at 11:58 AM on November 12, 2019

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