cold brew coffee with cream

As far back as I can remember, my grandma was always pushing coffee. She loves the stuff and, for reasons unknown, wanted her people to love it too. So, when we’d come visit, she’d ask my dad (her son) and my mom, both non-coffee-drinkers, if they’d come around and started to drink coffee yet. Invariably, the answer was no. Then, as my sister and I got older, she started asking us about whether we consumed any java. Regardless of our answer, she’d often ask us if we’d like a cup. Invariably, the answer was also no. I suppose since my folks didn’t drink it, we never had it in the house, and we never really got into it.

Then something miraculous happened. My wife and I had a baby. Our beautiful baby boy was amazing. In fact, one of the most amazing things about him, at least early on, was how little he slept. I’m told this was my penance for the sleeping habits of my younger years. Regardless, the sleep patterns of my son were not conducive to my early morning work schedule at the time, so I did what any normal person would do—I drank coffee.

Ever since I was in Europe in 2015, I had a distinct taste that I associated with coffee. For those of you who have spent any time in Italy and France, you know that distinct taste was actually espresso. As a result, when I tried the coffee here, I was often disappointed. It was just so…weak. I had an Italian stovetop Bialetti that I got after my time in Italy, but it wasn’t terribly convenient. While it made great coffee, it took about 20 minutes, and it made way too much (strong) joe for me to drink. I also noticed something when I would drink it: an acid reflux sensation. This meant the American-style coffee and the Italian-style coffee were both off the table. It also meant I was probably going to get my coffee outside of the home, for quickness and convenience sake.

After cycling through espresso drinks like lattes and mochas, and not quite finding what I was looking for with either, I settled on iced coffee. For whatever reason, putting the coffee over ice and mixing in some sugar and cream gave it a distinct enough flavor so as to avoid comparisons to the European stuff. It also was more squarely in my beverage wheelhouse since I prefer cold drinks to hot ones—even in the winter. I tried local coffee shops and chain staples like Peet’s, Starbucks, and Dunkin’ Donuts. My preference? Starbucks. It was stronger than Dunkin’ and smoother than Peet’s. There were only two problems: 1) The dreaded acid reflux; and 2) Cost. Turns out, Starbies is pretty expensive. Who knew, right?

To combat the cost issue, I tried to make my own, but it just didn’t work out. I rarely could get the taste right, and even when I could, it took too long to make. Remember: At the time, I had a busy work schedule. I was a new dad and I was on no sleep (did I mention how I had to sleep on the couch for long stretches of those first few months?). I was constantly in a hurry, running behind, and needed my coffee to be convenient. Trying to make my own iced coffee did not meet that criteria. So, like Jerry Seinfeld, I continued to get my coffee out. I still had that reflux issue though, and that was a pain (literally and figuratively).

Luckily, the cold brew craze hit. I remember not being sure what it was. Cold brew? Like, they brew it cold? Can you do that? I…I thought it needed to be hot. Turns out, yes, cold brew, yes, they brew it cold, yes, you can do that, and no, it does not need to be hot. The benefits of cold brew for someone like me are actually plentiful. First, it starts out a cooler temperature, so putting it over ice doesn’t dilute it quite as much. Second, when you brew it, you actually yield a concentrate that can be refrigerated and used over the course of the next seven days (or so). Third, because it’s concentrated, it’s pretty strong, comparatively speaking. Fourth, and, perhaps, most important, it’s not nearly as acidic, so it reduces issues of reflux. After trying it, I thought, “This is my drink.” So, with one problem down, I decided to see what I could do about cost.

Right now, if I wanted to grab a grande cold brew from Starbucks, it would cost $3.85. That’s kind of a lot for one drink, as part of (presumably) one meal, of one day, for one person. After a while, that coffee was adding up. Therefore, I looked into how I could make it myself. I came to find out that it wasn’t all that hard. I just needed the grounds, a brewer, a storage container, and any add-ins I liked (half and half and simple syrup). This is where Amazon comes in.

To find the brewer, I did some research. While certainly not strictly a review website, Amazon is an underappreciated/underrated resource when it comes to checking out products before you buy them. After checking out products and reviews on the pride of Jeff Bezos and cross-referencing them on other sites, I settled on the OXO Good Grips Cold Brew Coffee Maker, which came with the brewer and the storage container. Because it was near the holidays, I plopped it on my Secret Santa wish list and hoped for the best.

Thankfully, my sister-in-law came through and scored me the cold brew maker. She also threw in some cold brew grounds for good measure. Lucky for me, she did. For one, they are uniquely constituted for coffee not to be brewed at high temperatures. Second, while cold brew has grown in popularity, especially at coffee shops, purchasing beans or grounds for brewing your own is a bit more challenging because they are not as accessible. Oh, and guess where she got the maker and the grounds? Amazon.

Since then, I’ve tried a few options, but the one I like the best is the brand she got me, Tiny Footprint Coffee’s Organic Cold Press Elixir (don’t let the name fool you, these are the grounds). It tastes great, is packaged as 16 ounces rather than 10 or 12 ounces (this means more coffee!), can be ordered on Amazon, can be subscribed to on Amazon for a discount, and can be delivered in one day for free with Prime. In case you’re wondering, a package of grounds costs $13.32, without subscribing. This will likely make about 40 ounces of concentrate, yielding eight to ten 16 ounce cold brew beverages. And if you don’t like these grounds, Amazon’s got a few more options, which is more than I can say about my local grocer.

If you’re like me, you don’t take your cold brew black, adding cream and/or sugar to your drink. No problem, Amazon’s got you covered there too. If you want to go with the Starbucks syrup, you can, though it’s a bit pricey. Instead of incurring that cost, I go with Torani syrups, with syrup pumps for my sweetening needs. Admittedly, I purchase my half and half at the supermarket, but I could use Prime for that too. With Prime Now, I can have a pint of half and half delivered to my home within two hours.

Ever since getting the cold brew maker and grounds from my sister-in-law, I’ve brewed my own cold brew at home. Even though it takes about 12-24 hours to make, it’s worth it. One brew gives me about a week’s worth of coffee, I can prepare my beverage in about 60 seconds (precisely the way I want it, with a splash of half and half, and two to three pumps of syrup) and, over time, it’s saved me a bunch of money. What’s more, I can get all of the ingredients delivered to me from Amazon within two days with my Prime membership, and have great-tasting cold brew at home that rivals the stuff I can get at Starbucks. So, if this sounds good to you, check out Amazon for your cold brewing needs. In a few days, you too could have some of that sweet elixir sitting in your fridge, just waiting to help you stay caffeinated.

Header image courtesy of Jorik Blom on Unsplash.

Greg is a Chicago guy who likes to cook, dine, and help others navigate their food choices. Why? Because food is an integral part of our lives, he's the best version of himself when he's well fed, and he wants to help others more consistently make a routine activity into something special. When he's not writing, he's watching sports, searching out ways to laugh, offering unsolicited-yet-rational positions on social media, handling the domestic responsibilities of a husband and dad, and figuring out his next meal.
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