Cold Brew to the Rescue: My Coffee Revelation
Hello folks! Thanks for stopping by The Green Swan. Coffee is often the subject of folks living the frugal life and that is no different for me and my wife, Lucy. Many frugalistas condemn paying for high priced coffee…yes we get it, that $4 latte every day over 30 years could alternatively compound with an 8% return and accumulate to over $165K! That’s no small potatoes!
Coffee is an easy expense target to cut, no doubt about that, but for the Swan household there is no way of avoiding its consumption. Just like any expense in our budget, it is closely scrutinized and evaluated; trying to find the perfect balance in consuming coffee on the cheap, while also enjoying our coffee (aka quality/premium coffee). Not all coffee is created equally, and we have come to like quality coffee!
I want to share a story today on how coffee has evolved for us and how we consume it on the cheap. And the new revelation…cold brew coffee to the rescue.
My History with Coffee Consumption
My consumption of coffee slowly ramped up through college and was full-steam ahead by the time I graduated. At first, I tried to keep it moderate at one cup a day during the week and none on the weekend. I was afraid of being addicted to the caffeine and getting pounding headaches whenever I go a day without it!
Unfortunately, my consumption grew to two cups a day out of necessity. This was in part due to life getting busy…I started my MBA in a nights and weekend program while maintaining a full workload at work. Naturally coffee consumption became more and more important. This is the period where I began routinely increasing consumption to two cups, and more and more frequently having coffee on the weekend.
The addiction is real as I do remember a few times on the weekends where I would get headaches when not consuming coffee. I took that as a sign that I needed to temper my consumption during the week…but I needed it!!
The final straw was when we had our little one two years ago. Coffee consumption was full-bore, two cups a day including weekends and regular consumption of tea in the afternoon at work for a bit more caffeine. Three cups of coffee is not out of the question today, although I try to limit this to only rare situations (i.e. the occasional 90 hour work week where I get 3-5 hours of sleep at night).
The Health Benefits
Great news for all coffee drinkers…there have been numerous studies in recent years praising the health benefits of regular coffee consumption of up to two cups a day. This is what ultimately helped me get comfortable with my growing habit of more and more coffee. And I drink mine black, so no added cream or sugar to my daily diet!
My History with Buying Coffee
As I began consuming more and more coffee, I was obviously conscious of how much it would cost. In college I never went out to buy coffee, I solely made it at home and I bought my coffee grounds in bulk to lower the costs. Making my own coffee was cheap, especially with the cheap coffee maker I had, and it got the job done.
When I entered the workforce full-time, my office provided coffee for free. This was awesome! The coffee didn’t taste much better or worse compared to what I would make at home, but I would have been foolish not to take advantage of this. As my consumption increased to the point where I was drinking it more on the weekends, I still had to rely on my home brew.
I began focusing more on the quality and taste of my coffee and naturally got a bit more picky. While I wasn’t ready to splurge for an expensive coffee maker, I was valuing quality coffee more and needed to find a better way to make it.
I bought a Brita water pitcher for better water quality and I cleaned my coffee maker regularly, but I was still buying the cheapest coffee I could find in bulk. This is when I researched and found out that coffee older than two weeks had a higher level of acid and lost its aromatic flavors as it oxidized and resulted in a more bitter taste. And at this point I was basically a full on coffee snob!
My Pursuit for Quality Coffee
My evolution with coffee continued as I began to search for quality coffee and was more willing to spend a few more bucks to get it. Although I still rely on my free work coffee 95% of the time (the office has a Keurig so it is decent coffee), I will occasionally splurge for a Dunkin or Starbucks coffee.
For my weekend coffee, I no longer buy in bulk. Instead I “splurge” and buy the smaller 12 oz packages of premium coffee, such as Starbucks or Dunkin (depending on what is on sale), from the grocery story. Since coffee grounds are only really good for about two weeks as the grounds become exposed to air and oxidize, I might as well only pay for coffee that I can consume relatively quickly. Since I only home brew on the weekends, 12 oz bags are still too big, but a better alternative than buying in bulk quantities.
Two of my brothers have recently bought French presses to make coffee. This is a delicious cup of coffee, but I was not that excited to splurge on the press, the kettle for hot water and grinder for the fresh ground beans like they did.
Although tempted, thankfully I’ve held off on these three products. Why? Because I have recently learned about cold brew coffee!
Cold Brew Coffee: A Coffee Revelation
Cold brew coffee has been around for a couple years, but it is new to me. I first heard about cold brew through my wife and I’ve now seen it advertised more and can be bought in coffee shops and at grocery stores. It has been around for a while, but its popularity is just starting to increase quite a bit.
Just this last weekend we saw some cold brew for sale from the store so we decided to drop $5 on it to test it out. Guess what…I liked it! It was different, but good. It had smooth taste with no bitterness. After my first glass, I started wondering, will hot black coffee ever be good enough for me again!? But buying cold brew coffee from the store wouldn’t be cheap and it isn’t available for free at work…there has to be a better way!
What is Cold Brew Coffee?
For those of you in the same position I was just a few weeks ago, cold brew requires steeping water in coffee grounds at room temperature for a prolonged period of time, usually 12 to 24 hours. This should not be confused with iced coffee which is brewed hot and then cooled and poured over ice.
Instead of extracting the coffee flavors quickly from high heat through the normal brewing process, cold brewing allows the flavors to release slowly over time at room temperature. The problem with brewing coffee with high heat is that you not only extract the coffee flavors, but also the undesirable acids, bitterness, and oils from the coffee bean. The end product with a cold brew coffee is a slightly flatter, but a naturally sweeter taste (gosh I am such a coffee snob…someone help me!).
The added benefit is that through cold brew, some of the un-extracted attributes of coffee such as the acidity remain in the grounds meaning that freshness of the beans is not as important. So with cold brew coffee I will no longer need to be as worried about consuming the coffee grounds within two weeks from opening the package…the acidity and bitterness won’t be extracted during cold brew anyway.
A Cheaper Cold Brew Coffee
With my new cold brew coffee revelation, my quest is now for a cheaper alternative from buying it in store. A quick search on Amazon and what did I find? My solution…the Takeya cold brew coffee maker. While it is basically the same price as the Hario cold brew coffee maker, it comes with airtight lid locks allowing me to brew and keep it fresh in the fridge for up to two weeks. I will mention, the benefit of the Hario is that it is glass rather than BPA free plastic so it may provide a better, cleaner taste. The Takeya is just fine for me though and my preference.
Another option…perhaps DIY with existing supplies at home. All you need is a coffee pot to steep it in, a seive and some cheesecloth. My brothers could even use the French press they already own to steep and filter the coffee.
Tale of the Tape
The first question on my mind was what is the difference in how much coffee is used to brew hot versus cold and what is the caffeine comparison. I’m no expert, but in searching the web I was able to find some help.
Note that these numbers are a rough SWAG, but generally speaking set your cold brew with a water to coffee ratio of 4:1 at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. This will result in a “coffee concentrate” that can then be diluted with water at a ratio of 1:2 to 1:3 and served in a glass of ice. I’m still playing with this a bit myself, trying to find the right mix and ratios for my taste. But this generally lines up with the same amount of ground coffee producing an equal amount of coffee to drink whether brewed hot or cold.
Imagine waking up in the morning and instead of brewing coffee, you simply grab it from the fridge and pour a glass! Cold brew is a different take on normal coffee. Is cold brew for you? You may just have to try it and find out!
Have you tried cold brew coffee before? What do you think of it? For any baristas out there, what do you think? Let me know in the comments below.
Thanks for taking a look!
The Green Swan
Work Harder, Work Smarter, Retire Earlier and Find Your Beach
Products that may help you on your financial journey:
Personal Capital – A complete tool to monitor your personal finances
Betterment – Automated investment services and tax loss harvesting
Discover Bank – For a high-yield savings account
Motif Investing – Low cost investment accounts