Summer demands a cold cup of joe

When summer hits, just as I swap my boots for sandals, my morning coffee gets a makeover, as well.

During past summers I’ve made iced coffee at home, but my efforts were pretty much always a bust. Either I wouldn’t plan sufficiently so that when I poured the piping hot coffee over ice, it quickly turned into a disgusting glass of lukewarm backwater. Or, even if I remembered to refrigerate a cup of joe the night before, the next morning it still tasted like exactly what it was: old, stale coffee.

Enter my morning hero and latest obsession: cold brew.

Cold brew refers to a process involving coarsely ground coffee beans steeped in cold or room temperature water for 12 to 24 hours. The slow steeping process extracts the flavors of the coffee while leaving behind the bean’s acids and oils. The result is a clean, smooth-tasting concentrate that is served hot or cold, straight or with ice, and diluted with water, milk and sugar. If coffee is at all harsh on your stomach, cold brew is for you.

While cold brew has been around for ages, up until a few years ago, it wasn’t easy to find, with few coffee shops selling it and fewer stores selling in-home machines.

Nowadays, take your pick from the flashy $250 Yama Cold Brew Tower, which resembles a beautiful piece of laboratory equipment turned moonshiner rig, to the more budget-friendly, humble-looking $36 Toddy Cold Brew System, which has been on the market since 1964.

If you’re not ready to relinquish counter space to yet another kitchen gadget, try cold brew at a coffee shop. Local Coffee serves its cold brew on tap for $3.35. Don’t let the sign reading “iced coffee” fool you; what’s on tap is, in fact, cold brew. The Brown Coffee Co. also has cold brew which can be ordered “neat” or “rocks” — or, for $4.75, try the fabulous “dirty” which is cold brew mixed with the perfect amount of organic cane sugar and milk.

There also are a number of decent ready-to-drink, bottled cold brew options out there such as Chameleon, an Austin-made cold brew, or another Austin option, Coffee Juice, which was developed by Strother Simpson, the son of Todd Simpson who invented the Toddy Cold Brew System. Coffee Juice, selling for $2.99 a bottle, hit the market just last month and is available at H-E-B Central Market, as is Chameleon for $3.49.

When I first tried Coffee Juice, it had a tangy lightness to it that I couldn’t quite place until I read the label: cold brewed coffee, cane sugar, whole blueberries and lemon juice. Ah, the name made more sense, it really is coffee plus juice.

Coffee that is also juice, coffee makers that look better suited for mad scientists — right now, it might all sound like too much. Yet this season when we have our first 95-degree morning, and your steaming cup of coffee looks more like a punishment instead of a reward, trying a cold brew might prove just right.

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