Tag Archives: coffee

Single Guy Chef: Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee

I dig coffee. Specifically, espresso drinks with milk and sugary flavorings. People are always suggesting that I brew coffee at home, but I hate brewed coffee as it tastes so watery, and if you add enough milk to fix that, it tastes too weak. Then they suggest that I buy an espresso machine. Then I explain that I don’t drag them to coffee shops for the coffee, I’m there for the birdwatching. If buying an espresso machine would bring hot girls into my living room, I’d do that. Unfortunately, I doubt even a $10,000 La Marzocco would have that effect.

And sometimes I just need caffeine, but there’s nobody around to ogle girls with me. Then the coffee house suddenly feels much farther away (if it’s even open), and $4 feels overpriced when you’re not staying to enjoy the view. In these situations, I was getting by with a packet of hot chocolate and some instant coffee, but that’s less than satisfying.

Then I learned about cold-brewed coffee. It doesn’t require any expensive equipment and results in coffee that is 67% less acidic. It’s smoother and tastes better and can be stored for 2-3 weeks in the fridge. It’s also so strong it can be used as an espresso substitute in iced coffees, which amazingly taste like a real iced latte (or in my case, iced white mocha).

The concept is simple: You add 2 parts filtered water to 1 part coarse ground coffee, wait 12 hours, then filter out the grounds. You’re left with coffee concentrate.

The easiest way to cold brew is to use a Toddy Cold Brew System for about $30 at Amazon. It takes a pound of coffee and yields about 6 cups. Toddy has been making these systems for about 40 years and they’re very highly rated.

Next easiest would be to use a 12-cup French press (4 cups coffee to 8 cups water) and pour it into a glass pitcher. However, this is only good if you already have the French press, as you could buy two Toddy systems for the same price. And if your press isn’t good about filtering all the grounds, you’ll have to pour it through a paper filter.

Finally, there is my “what do I already have?” ghetto brewing system:


  • 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup1
  • Fine-mesh sieve
  • Paper coffee filters
  • Coffee machine grounds basket2
  1. Combine 1 cup of ground coffee and 2 cups filtered water in the measuring cup. The coffee will float, so use a spoon or fork to gently mix it so the grounds are completely wet.
  2. Cover the measuring cup with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for 12 hours.
  3. Put the filter in the coffee ground basket. Pour the coffee through the sieve into the basket.
  4. Dump the remainder of the grinds and rinse out the measuring cup. Place the cup under the basket spout and hold it so the coffee drains into the cup.

Iced White Mocha

First heat the coffee in the microwave for 20-30 seconds and add the white chocolate powder. Trying to dissolve the powder after adding cold milk is an exercise in futility (you’ll need a hand mixer).3 Add milk and ice to taste.


  • I initially tried this with normally ground coffee and it turned out fine, as the paper filter removes all sediment. If you’re using a Toddy or French press, you’ll have to get the coarse grind.
  • You can wait up to 24 hours for a stronger brew, but it will also have higher acid and caffeine levels and hence taste more bitter. I like the concept of more caffeine, but not at the expense of smoothness. If it’s not strong enough, you’re better off just using a bolder roast or less water.
  • I find it’s easiest to prepare it at night and finish it in the morning. If you do it late on a weekend, you should have enough for the week.
  • Check out Smart & Final for a great selection of syrups and coffee supplies.
  • I’ve never tried it, but many people simply add hot water to the concentrate to make a smoother brewed coffee that’s gentler on your stomach.
  1. You can get by with a plastic one. []
  2. Make sure your basket has a spring loaded spout/drain stopper and not just a hole in the bottom. []
  3. Syrup would mix better than powder, of course, but the white chocolate syrups go bad quickly (3 weeks) and are only sold in huge, restaurant-sized bottles. []

Smart & Final: Coffee Supply Mecca

I had been searching high and low for white chocolate syrup or powder to use in my cold-brewed iced coffee at home. Peet’s (the best), Coffee Bean, Starbucks, Ralphs, Vons, and even Trader Joes – no dice. Someone mentioned on the Interwebs that they found Ghirardelli powder at Smart & Final. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a warehouse-style supermarket, like Costco or Sam’s Club without the membership fees or the riding mowers. Bulk items sold cheap. I figured there was little chance that the one near me would have it, but I gave it a shot.

Holy crap. They have everything. Four shelves hold almost every Torani syrup they make – and the pumps! Plus Ghirardelli syrups and powders in several forms. And a bunch of other brands. Literally half an aisle is devoted to “coffee supplies” – basically, everything you’d need to start your own coffee shop. And the prices are in line with Amazon, with no tax or shipping!

My mind reeled with the possibilities of recreating my favorite coffee drinks: the Cocomo (chocolate coconut) and Black Forrest Mocha (chocolate raspberry) from (the now defunct) Equator Coffee; the Mayan mocha from Diedrich’s/Kean; the white mocha from Bean Town. I was in heaven. And soon after that, a diabetic coma.

I ended up with a 3 lb. can of Ghirardelli Sweet Ground White Chocolate. I wanted the syrup, but I learned that Torani’s goes bad after 6 weeks, and Ghirardelli’s spoils after only 3.1 Did I mention these are 64 oz. bottles intended for restaurants? There’s no way I can crank through that so quickly, as I don’t drink it daily. As it is, I will probably be serving white chocolate from that 3 lb. can to my grandchildren.((Update: actually, it only lasted 4 months.)) I just wish I had the balls to bring it with me into Starbucks.

  1. This is specifically the “sauces” found in plastic bottles. The Torani syrups in glass bottles last much longer. []

Free WiFi at Starbucks

Starbucks is now giving away 2 hours of free wifi per day. Yeah, there’s a catch. From USA Today:

The Wi-Fi freebie will be available starting Tuesday to customers who purchase a minimum $5 reloadable Starbucks Card, register online for the Starbucks Rewards Card program, and use the card at least once a month. The two hours must be consecutive. New members also receive a voucher for a free drink.

Also, if you register your gift card, you get perks:

Rewards program members who register online already receive free syrup and milk options with drinks as well as free refills of hot and iced brewed coffees and a free drink when they buy a pound of coffee beans.

Full article here.

Diedrich Sells Out

Life is not fair. It is just not friggin fair. I just found out that Diedrich Coffee is selling 40 of its 47 company-owned stores. To Starbucks! First they buy Seattle’s Best Coffee, now Diedrich. It’s a cryin’ shame.

Starbucks plans to assimilate all the stores and regular employees. Managers will be invited to apply for assimilation. At least with SBC, the stores were left untouched. I’m guessing this is due in part to the fact that they’re both Seattle-based based companies, and the good, independent-minded people of Seattle wouldn’t stand for it (i.e., they’d be a slight public-relations nuissance). But more importantly, Starbucks bought the entire SBC corporation. In Diedrich’s case, they’re only buying (most of) the stores, so there will still be a few operated by Diedrich and franchisees.

But you’re totally screwed if you’re in California! Two car dealer coffee kiosks are all that’s left. I am not making that up.

Unfortunately, this was a rather simple decision for Diedrich. They have two main businesses: wholesale coffee sales, and coffee shops. The former is profitable, and the latter is not. They’ve been posting losses, mainly due to their coffee shops. Since they’re a public corporation, their duty is to maximize value to their shareholders. Ergo, they sold out like Metallica.

This hits me particularly hard because I’ve always harbored a fantasy that I might one day own my own coffee shop. If a major chain like Diedrich, which has both excellent coffee and pastries (surprisingly rare), can’t make it, what chance do I have? Granted, my shop would be modeled more closely to uber-cool independent shops like The Bourgeois Pig, albeit with a name you actually spell (probably). Now I’ll have to work extra hard at making it obscenely cool. This does not bode well for my lazy ass.

Starbucks Short and the 3-pump White Mocha

Crack Team Agents have discovered a new way to order Starbucks coffee, hidden from the general public. It is the Short, and it is an 8oz. cup with a single shot of espresso (for espresso drinks, of course). This gives it a coffee:milk ratio of 1 shot:8 oz., the same as the Grande. If you are like me, you occasionally want less than a Grande, but don’t like the watered down taste of a Tall with it’s 1:12 ratio. The short gives the same, balanced flavor as the Grande. I should also point out that the 20 oz. Venti only has 2 shots, giving it a ratio of 1:10; better than a Tall, but still a bit weak. Even a Grande can taste watered down if they overfill the milk. I am consistently amazed at how inconsistent some baristas are.
     While I’m here, I also found a good way to order a White Chocolate Mocha, which I find has gotten much sweeter than when first released. Since a Grande takes 4 pumps of syrup, you can order a “3-pump white mocha” and get the original, more reasonably sweetened drink. Again, your mileage may vary.

Operation: Soda Pop

On or around 12.30.2005, Agents Bladerunner, Renegade, and I infiltrated Galco’s Soda Pop Stop in Los Angeles. Posing as regular customers, we obtained many different varieties of sodas, and even held discussions with the owner, without ever being suspected as agents of The Crack Team. We were on full alert, and brought along two civilians to enhance our cover.
     This storefront contains possibly the largest selection of carbonated beverages, including sodas, energy drinks, beers, and everything in between. It is owned and operated by soda savant John Nese, who whenever possible stocks beverages that are flavored with real cane sugar and are bottled, not canned. There is a dizzying array of beverages, including many that have had large gaps in production, and have only recently been revived. They also have a selection of classic candies, such as Beemans Chewing Gum, the official gum of the astronauts of The Right Stuff. The store has been featured in many articles and on the History Channel’s Modern Marvels (When Renegade pointed out to Nese that most of his products were not modern, Nese countered with, “Well, they are a marvel.” The Crack Team agrees.)
     Overall, the mission was a great success. This was expected, since “Soda Pop” has three syllables. Sufficient time has passed for me to analyze the results of this Crack Team reconnaissance mission. I had assistance from Agents Hulagun and Assassin for a few of these.

This is an energy drink flavored by a highly caffeinated berry known as guarana (Go ahead, make a guano joke. It will only be the millionth time I’ve heard it.) Some people find guarana doesn’t make them jittery (or bother their stomachs) like caffeine, but still keeps them awake. I admit, it was a much gentler stimulant, but I usually go for an energy drink when I want to WAKE UP NOW. I first heard about it on ThinkGeek.com, they’re big on energy drinks. Frankly, I thought it had a strange medicinal taste, and the guarana fruit flavor is hard to describe. Tolerable, sure, but I wouldn’t drink it again. The diet version tastes very similar, but again, not very good. I do dig the cobalt blue bottle, though.

Belfast Original Sparkling Cider
Created in San Francisco in 1849, the label claims it is California’s first soft drink. Tastes just like a carbonated version of the apple juice I drank as a kid. I noticed it is artificially flavored and contains no juice, so I was surprised how they got it to taste just like that apple juice. Then I realized I probably grew up on artificially flavored apple juice. If you really liked that stuff, you’ll like this, too, but I prefer Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider. That’s made with 100% real juice, and you can taste the difference.

Bubble Up
An old time lemon lime soda originally introduced in 1920, it’s glass bottled and sweetened with cane sugar. To me, most notable was the light, tiny bubble carbonation style. Good overall, with a cool retro bottle, but not a big standout.

Clearly Canadian Blackberry
A special soda for me. For a couple years in college, I had one just about every day with my lunch. Back then they had really interesting (and surprisingly delicious) flavors like Loganberry, which I just found out is a rasberry/blackberry hybrid. In 2004 they changed their formula from sugar flavored to a 50/50 cane sugar/Splenda mix. I tried the blackberry, and it’s still pretty good, but not as good as the original. Big surprise. They also cut down on the number of flavors. I just wish I knew about the switch beforehand so I could have stocked up on the original.

Coca Cola
A standard, but note that Galco’s only stocks Coke and Pepsi from Mexico, flavored with real sugar in glass bottles. Tastes a little different, but good. In SoCal you can also get them in most Mexican supermarkets like Ranchito. It is important to note that like in America, the label says it might contain corn syrup, but it does not (like ours never contains sugar because corn syrup is always cheaper).

Jeff’s Amazing New York Egg Cream
An egg cream is chocolate milk and seltzer, usually heavy on the chocolate syrup. Get them at a good Jewish deli and they’re damn good, despite the off-putting name. Finding the bottled version was pretty rare when I was in HS, so they were something of a treat. I can recall the label warning you not to shake them, but the chocolate syrup had settled to the bottom, so you had no choice. The syrup still settles, but now I realize you can gently tilt it back and forth, or move it in a swirling motion, to mix it without having it spray everywhere when you open it. Unfortunately, they don’t taste as good as I remember them. More of that artificial flavor creeping in. I tried chocolate and coffee, and Bladerunner tried chocolate and vanilla. Just didn’t do it for us. Stick with the delis, you can’t go wrong.

Manhattan Special Espresso Coffee
I was pretty skeptical of this one, even though a journalist doing a story on Galco’s said it was his favorite. Overall, it’s mixed. It does taste good, just a sweet, carbonated coffee taste. For the record, I don’t drink straight espresso or brewed coffees, they’re too strong for me. I stick with the lattes, mochas, etc., but down them daily. The problem is that over the course of the bottle, the flavor kinda got to be too much for me. Maybe I just drank it too slowly. Nese claimed that Manhattan Special is a very hands on bottler; they even roast their own beans. It just came off as too much of a good thing. Ooh. I bet this would make a great vanilla latte ice cream float.

Manhattan Special Vanilla Cream
A winner in my book, and I’m starting to wonder how a company like this can stay in business for over 100 years without anyone knowing about them (yes, I’m anyone). I am not really a fan of cream sodas, but this tastes just like vanilla ice cream. Again, all natural ingredients, flavored with pure cane sugar and real vanilla beans that you can see in the soda (but just a tiny bit). Assassin, who is a big cream soda fan, didn’t like this one too much. Go figure.

Moxie Original Elixir
Another one of those old time sodas (“Since 1884”) that Renegade could remember seeing in billboard ads drawn in Mad Magazine cityscape cartoons. I also read that it’s very big in New England. Unfortunately, it took a very short time to discover why this is an elixir and not a soda. It has a strong medicinal aftertaste, which comes from “gentian root extractives”. Nese explained that gentian root is the secret ingredient in Coke, but obviously Coke uses way less. Hulagun and I gave it a big thumbs down, but Assassin said it tasted like root beer. It is important to note that Assassin had just finished 3 regular (non-root) beers, and that might have affected his taste buds.

Original Nehi Grape
After seeing Radar O’Reilly constantly order them on M*A*S*H, I was excited to try it. However, the words “Artificially Flavored Soda” are prominent on the label, and you can really taste it. Kind of reminded me of those tiny wax bottles of syrup you’d bite the top off of and drink, and it almost had a waxy taste to it. I wonder if it was artificial when it was created in 1924.

Plantation Style Mint Julep
This has a great, real mint flavor that reminds me of the strong scent that would burst from the ground when I’d hit a mint patch with the lawnmower. Smooth and not overpowering; in other words, it doesn’t taste like carbonated Scope. One of my grandmother’s favorite desserts is vanilla ice cream with a little Creme de Menthe poured over it. I’m thinking this would be great for a vanilla/mint ice cream soda, kinda like a Shamrock Shake (which is just McDonald’s artificial vanilla milkshake with mint syrup). So, on second thought, maybe a lot better than a Shamrock Shake. The web site has a recipe listing.

Red Rock Premium Cola
This was one of the best of the bunch. Nese tells us it was Babe Ruth’s favorite cola, and that unlike Coke, the formula is pretty much unchanged from it’s introduction in 1885 (also in Atlanta). It had a very subtle vanilla flavor to it, but don’t think vanilla coke. Just a smoother flavor, and yet another flavored with pure cane sugar. I would easily take this over Coke.

That’s all for now, I’ll report again after our next mission.

Caffeine Disinformation

I am a caffiend. It is my chosen vice, as I don’t drink, smoke, or partake of controlled substances. My other vice is hot, hot ladies, but I’ve found they’re harder to obtain than caffeine-laden beverages. However, both are often found in the same places. So I’ve got that going for me.
     I also pride myself on being a fountain of useless knowledge, but recently my caffeine knowledge has been called into question. I have found most people are very confident about their caffeine knowledge (including me), but that confidence is almost certainly misplaced. This is because most information on caffeine is obtained “tribally”; in other words, it was passed on by word of mouth, and I have found that key details are often missing, and assumptions are being made. Again, I don’t exclude myself, so I’m here to show my useless knowledge is at least correct.
     One of the big problems is that we might not be talking about the same thing. For instance, there are several charts explaining how much caffeine is in a substance. However, they often make no mention of the amount used for the test, or normalize the results (i.e., list mg/fl. oz.). At home, we might use 8 oz. (1 cup) for coffee and tea, but most coffee shops won’t sell you less than 12 oz (bless their hearts!), and some caffeine listings give a serving as 6 oz.. More to the point, it has been shown that the same person, using the same equipment and process, will have varying amounts of caffeine in what he/she brews! If you’ve ever tried to consistently measure a teaspoon of tea leaves, this makes a lot of sense.
     I’m particulary interested in espresso vs. brewed coffee, another area rife with disinformation. The difficulty here is in getting consistent numbers for 1 serving (shot) of espresso, which can be 1-2oz., so we’re already off by up to a factor of 2. The charts I found list espresso as having more caffeine per ounce than brewed coffee, although I have read previously they are equal; I can’t find that site now. But it also seems consistent since you get so much more brewed coffee in a serving, it can be more potent. Most of the data shows that a 16 oz. brewed coffee will offer more caffeine than a 16 oz. latte, with 2 shots of espresso. Another factor (not mentioned in the reports), is that you’re also getting 12 oz. of milk in that latte, which could slow the processing of caffeine.
     Perhaps the most widespread misconception lies in coffee vs. tea. All charts I found show tea to have less caffeine than coffee (about half). However, most people I know believe the opposite, which is particularly ironic since they’re very bright, and most of them are scientists or engineers who pride themselves on being well informed (and if they read this article, they will be!). Now I’ve always received a much bigger jolt from coffee, and I’d think this would be obvious to anyone, but maybe believing tea has more is having an effect? I wouldn’t be surprised. I did find tea has two other chemicals in the caffeine family, but they are negligible. Also, tea does contain actual caffeine, not a caffeine analog called theine, as was once believed (even by a chemistry PhD friend of mine).

Hope that clears things up a bit. Here are my resources:

Adagio Teas (great vendor, BTW)
Caffeine FAQ
How Stuff Works