How can I make a iced coffee cheaply and cleanly?
August 18, 2008 4:01 PM   Subscribe

What’s the cleanest way to make a large quantity of strong, iced coffee? -or- What should my next coffee maker purchase be?

So, I’ve read lots of old MeFi coffee threads, read the first three pages of results of a Google search for ‘aeropress vs French press,’ and now my brain is swimming with Pros and Cons, Betters and Worses, and Advantages and Disadvantages.

I currently have a Black & Decker DCM18 [amazon], and when I was drinking one mug of hot coffee during the winter months, it was perfect. I’m the only one in the household who drinks any coffee, so it’s the perfect size. Then summer hit, and hot coffee was no longer an option. Then, I had class from 9-5 and decided I’d make a huge iced coffee in my Nalgene bottle (filling the coffee maker with as much water and coffee as it would handle, pouring it over ice, half & half, splenda, and shakeshakeshake). It was essentially perfect. But the coffee maker was REALLY Messy, and a huge pain to clean.

So, now the question, I guess, is what’s the cleanest way to make a pretty large quantity of strong, iced coffee?

The aeropress seems very easy-to-clean, but also sounds like it makes a Little Bit of coffee from a Lot of Grounds. If I’m filling my Nalgene, I don’t want to have to go through a half-pound of coffee each time.

The French Press seems kind of messy, and everything I read talked about boulders and dust and sludge and having stuff in your coffee. That’s kind of weird.

I’m absolutely NOT a coffee snob – I’m not exactly looking to make the best cup of coffee, just a good amount with as little cleanup (and fairly cheap) as possible. I don’t grind my own beans, either.

Having said that, I’d also like that whatever I do buy would still make a fantastic cup of coffee when winter comes back around.

So, French Press? Aeropress? Figure out Cold Brewing?

Thanks, MeFi.
posted by cheeken to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I just use a regular sized drip coffee maker, make a pot of strong coffee and pour it in a juice pitcher with milk and sugar. Chill. Then I serve myself (or fill up my water bottle) from this pitcher for a day or two. I don't quite understand how your method of making coffee for iced coffee is any messier than than making coffee to drink. I think a regular sized, plain old coffee pot would do the trick if you aren't a big connoisseur. I find I'm less picky about the quality of the coffee and the method of brewing when the coffee is going to end up being sugared, creamed, and iced than when I'm drinking a nice hot cuppa.
posted by arcticwoman at 4:08 PM on August 18, 2008

We just inherited a 50-year-old Filtron cold-water concentrate system and my pot-a-day husband is hooked.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 4:09 PM on August 18, 2008

My favorite iced coffee recipe doesn't use a machine at all.
posted by non sum qualis eram at 4:09 PM on August 18, 2008

Cold brewing is extremely easy.
posted by Class Goat at 4:15 PM on August 18, 2008

Response by poster: "I don't quite understand how your method of making coffee for iced coffee is any messier..."

I should have clarified this messy part a little more, I guess, since it is the crux of my question.

In the single-cup brewer I currently have, when I fill the reservior with water and the filter with coffee (enough to make a huge cup) and run it through, the dripper-down thing inside splashes up coffee grounds inside the coffee maker and down into the reservoir and all the tiny naughty bits of the reservior and generally is a pain to clean. I'd like to avoid this mess and keep my grounds where they're supposed to be.
posted by cheeken at 4:17 PM on August 18, 2008

I hate to be a self-linker, but I gotta refer you to my earlier post on the wonder that is the coffee toddy. It makes the smoothest, least-acidic iced coffee I have ever had. It's not a great system for hot coffee, but it is perfect for making large quantities of iced coffee.
posted by tigerbelly at 4:17 PM on August 18, 2008

Response by poster: Hmmm....somehow in my days of researching this, the actual price for a Toddy never came up. They're cheap. Like, 30 bucks. Why did I think they were so expensive? Weird.

Thanks for the help so far.
posted by cheeken at 4:21 PM on August 18, 2008

I agree that if you are not picky just use a normal drip coffee maker; if you make the coffee and than refrigerate it rather than pour it over ice it doesn't have to be extremely strong coffee. and if you still want ice for the coffee to stay cold all day (or at least a little longer) make coffee ice cubes.
That being said i have a small french press and love it for making strong coffee, in my experience as long as you are doing it right it is very easy not to get any of the extra grounds or whatever in the coffee you drink and it is easy to clean up as long as you aren't concerned with the grounds going down the drain, just pour your coffee and rinse everything off real well.
posted by humanawho at 4:22 PM on August 18, 2008

Well, there's always cold-brewed coffee. I took to making this when we lived in a particularly inhospitable place during the summer and I completely and permanently gave up drinking hot coffee. Cold-brewed coffee tastes different than regular brewed coffee, especially if you use a medium roast and like a milder flavor. (Starbucks house blends taste like asphalt to me.) Gastronomes could probably explain this better than I can, but it would seem that some of the oils released by the beans end up in better shape if they don't go through boiling water. The same beans will give you a very different cup of coffee, if cold-brewed.

Admittedly, cold-brewing is a bit of a mess. The link above will give you a sense of it, but there are gonna be some coffee grounds on the counter, in my experience. I ended up spreading regular filters over a sieve and pouring the whole mix into a bowl before putting it in a jar. You're better served by boiling the water first and adding your sugar ahead of time, though I suppose you're looking to avoid complications and I guess that adds one. A great virtue of this is that you can make a lot of cold-brewed coffee at once and it stays in the firdge just fine. I used to make a 2-gallon jar of it and it'd stay in the fridge for most of a week. And I found that if you do that, you really get past the point where your friends say you're a coffee snob and start saying, "Oh my God, what the fuck is wrong with you?!?!? How the hell can you drink that much coffee?!?!" Yeah. Good times.
posted by el_lupino at 4:22 PM on August 18, 2008

I really like iced coffee, and my favorite method uses a very low-tech Melitta drip coffeepot. You can get them at some grocery stores, and they use conical filters that I swear make better coffee than flat-bottomed filters.

Get the big filter holder, because then you can use any of the size paper filters -- small ones when you only want a little coffee and big ones when you want a whole pot.

I make very strong coffee with the Melitta pot (about 1 heaping 1/8 c. measure per 8 oz "cup" of water), then pour it into a Mason jar and chill it down in the fridge. You cannot make good iced coffee by pouring hot coffee over ice cubes, IMO. It just doesn't work, it's always too watery. (And if you try to make the coffee strong enough to withstand the dilution, it's muddy.)

To make the ice coffee, I put ice cubes in a glass, pour some milk and sweetener in (if I'm feeling like sweetener), then pour in the cold coffee. This avoids stirring and chipping the ice cubes, which would dilute the coffee.

Some people swear by "double brewed" iced coffee, where coffee is poured through the grounds a second time ... you can do this in the Melitta much more easily than in a Mr Coffee machine, but I personally don't think it tastes that good.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:26 PM on August 18, 2008

There is also the Toddy cold brew system. It wasn't exactly messy, but we stopped using it for some forgotten reason. The bonus of the cold brew systems is they make a less acidic brew. We really liked the coffee, but I think cleanup was a pain.

And as an aside we bought several different coffee making apparatii off ebay several years ago trying to make the easiest, best tasting, coffee we could. We liked percolators, but they must be watched or you will burn the coffee. We enjoyed the aeropress, which only makes a small quantity, but is much easier to clean than the french press. We fell in love with 1960's vintage vacuum pot we found on ebay for $15.00 and still break it out for company. We now have an espresso machine maker and cannonball the stuff. Its a slippery slope. Stay in school kids.
posted by SMELLSLIKEFUN at 4:27 PM on August 18, 2008

+1 for the aeropress. You can make multiple espresso-like shots that will last in the fridge for a few days. Then you take out the shot and add it to ice and milk and you have a tasty drink with no mess. Because the espresso-like shot contains no coffee grounds (like a french press), it tastes great a day or two later!
posted by verevi at 4:41 PM on August 18, 2008

Freeze coffee in ice cube trays,make it as strong as you like, the ice won't dilute the brew.
posted by hortense at 4:47 PM on August 18, 2008

You cannot make good iced coffee by pouring hot coffee over ice cubes

You can if the ice cubes are made of frozen coffee too! That's how I keep my cold-brewed iced coffee icy.
posted by nicwolff at 4:48 PM on August 18, 2008

Yeah, do cold-brewing. The cafe I work for does cold-brewing, and though it takes a day you can make a shitload at once and store it forever. Coffee turns out really well, too.
posted by Anonymous at 5:08 PM on August 18, 2008

While I own a toddy and find it pretty nifty, you can also buy coffee concentrate liquids at the store (basically, premade toddy). I know our local Nob Hill has them and they're not a fancy store so you might want to keep your eyes open at the local grocers.
posted by chairface at 5:23 PM on August 18, 2008

I can recommend the toddy system and if you are willing to freeze your concentrate in ice trays for later use it is even better. But if the sheer quantities cause you to pause then I suggest either doing Vietnamese iced coffee method OR simply pour some expresso over ice.
posted by jadepearl at 7:19 PM on August 18, 2008

I like Greek Frappé.
posted by iviken at 12:46 AM on August 19, 2008

Sorry, this link should work.
posted by iviken at 12:47 AM on August 19, 2008

I know nothing at all about cold coffees, but I will sing the praises of my Bunn coffee pot anytime I get the chance. It holds a pot worth of hot water in the back, so the second you pour in the amount of water you want, it immediately begins pouring out hot coffee. Full pot of steamy caffeinated goodness in 3 minutes flat=joy in my heart every morning.
posted by midwestguy at 6:26 AM on August 19, 2008

I make cold brewed coffee using a large mixing bowl, a 6-cup measuring cup, and some fine cheesecloth. The cheesecloth and large measuring cup (with wide mouth) prevents the grounds from getting everywhere.

1. Place grounds and water mixture into bowl, where you have 2 parts water for every 1 part grounds. Let rest overnight with a resting period of 12 hours being ideal for steeping. Make sure all grounds are wet.
2. Place a big square of cheesecloth, double layered, over measuring cup. Pour grounds-and-water mixture into measuring cup, slowly, to filter out the grounds.
3. Make a "bag" of the grounds, squeezing to get all the water out. Drain and place "bag" of grounds into the trash. Scrape leftover grounds from mixing bowl into the trash using a paper towel.
4. Pour coffee concentrate from measuring cup into thermos or similar container. Add milk and sugar as desired. I like a 1:1 ratio of milk to coffee concentrate.

Rinse off your mixing bowl and measuring cup with a little soap and water, and you're done.
posted by kathryn at 8:57 AM on August 19, 2008 [4 favorites]

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