Monday, June 22, 2015

Recipe Post: How I Personally Make My Very Awesome Iced Coffee

I overthink things. This is fact.

And when it comes to writing in my blog, I absolutely overthink every word. I'm a copy editor, so I go back and catch errors and fix them. I reread. I write posts that I don't actually publish all.the.time. And I get upset when I realize I made a typo or a misspelling or I left an awkward sentence alone (and I go back and fix these things days later*).

I'm doing it totally wrong.

I have seen multiple bloggers lately - recipe bloggers and not - post about how they make their super special iced coffee. Well, look, I thought that was simple enough to not need a recipe but apparently it needs one. I'm jumping on the train and I'm following the crowd and I'm leaping off the cliff and I'm mixing up all the metaphors into one messy sentance with a typo in it that I am going to leave there and not fix. For now. Probably. (SENTENCE)

Here is how I make the iced coffee that I drink almost daily in the summer:


Yes, yes, I can absolutely use leftover coffee from the morning, if there is any, and just pour that over ice and call it a day. I can also freeze that leftover coffee if I'm feeling extra fancy and use that frozen coffee in with hot-brewed-cooled-down coffee. But I prefer to start with a cold brew - and that takes a bit of pre-planning. (When I forget, I do the leftover coffee/hot over ice blahblah. It doesn't taste as good to me, but some people think ristretto tastes better. This is my blog, this is what I like.)

I take one cup of ground coffee to start. The grind? I tend to go with a coarser grind, as that seems to work better. Lately I've just been grinding it in my grind-your-coffee-maker - I don't add water to the machine, I run the beans through the grinder bit until they fall into the basket, and then I turn it off and voila. I have to do this in two batches of a half cup of beans at a time, but it works. The roast/type of coffee? Eh. I have used cheap crap from the grocery store and it's just fine for this purpose.

Trader Joe's Half Caff
I recently discovered, though, that Trader Joe's half caff is actually amazing for cold brew - it just has the right blend of flavor and roast and bitterness (or lack thereof) and smoothness...everything. Plus, I often have my iced coffee in the afternoon when I'm not looking for quite the same kick as I get from my preferred hot coffee, which is organic Colombian from the farmers market (the indoor store, not the outdoor market). That also works for this "recipe" by the way. But just...use whatever.

Reason #12908 why I'm not a food blogger: My camera. No fancy DSLR for this lady! This is a good old cellphone pic. Anyway, this is what a cup of coffee grinds in an Ikea container looks like, if you were curious.
So I take this cup of grinds and I dump it in a container. Usually one of the cheap plastic containers I got from Ikea. Sometimes an old container I used to use with my vacuum sealer. Doesn't matter. Maybe someday I'll go for a Toddy - I've heard those are great. This works for now.

With 4 cups of water....
Then I dump four cups of water on top and I put a lid on the thing and I sometimes swirl it or stir it if I think of it, and I shove it in my fridge.

I wait...well, usually I wait about 12 hours. Sometimes a bit more, usually not much less.

Next I take the mesh strainer I bought one time because I wanted to make giant pots of sweet tea or something (spoiler alert: I did that maybe once) and I pour the coffee through it and let that sit as long as I have patience for it. Sometimes I press on the grounds in the mesh a bit with a spoon.

On the left, the empty container. On the right, the grounds being strained into a second Ikea container. I used a silicone spatula-thing to squeeze as much coffee out of those grounds as I could.
Then I dump the grinds in the trash (I don't compost but of course you totally could) and I rinse the strainer and I put a filter in it (the cone-shaped ones) and I pour the coffee through that one more time. This takes a bit of time so I pour, walk away, come back in about 15 minutes and check. Sometimes I swap out the filter if it looks a bit thick in there, but in the end what's important is just straining it all through the paper filter.

Paper filter, metal strainer, plastic container.
And then I pour it into the glass carafe that I bought at the Container Store (because how can you not buy things at the Container Store?) and decorated with my Silhouette, etching vinyl, and etching cream in a fit of craftiness.

It says "Ice Cold Coffee" in a font that looks icy. Get it? GET IT? HAR HAR.

Lately I just do this in the microwave. Equal parts water and sugar in a glass measuring cup (1/2 cup of each is pretty good and it doesn't matter what sugar you use - I've used brown, white, and cane sugar, and I've mixed the types when I'm running short on the one I really wanted), heat in the microwave for about 2 minutes, and stir WITHOUT BURNING YOURSELF OMG THIS IS HOT. If the sugar's not totally dissolved, microwave it again for 30 seconds or so, then stir again. Or do it on the stove top. It's not a huge deal.

When it's done, it will be hot so store it however you want. I let it cool in the measuring cup before pouring it into a little glass bottle I bought once at the Container Store because of course I bought more than one thing at the Container Store. And also I don't want to crack that cute little glass bottle, do I? I do not. Sometimes I throw vanilla in there - some of a bean or some extract - but mostly I just leave it plain.

Isn't it cute? I used Zulka cane sugar in this go 'round.


This is the big fancy recipe you have been WAITING FOR. (For which you have been waiting...? No, I said I wasn't going to do that!)

1. Take some ice cubes and put them in a glass - water ice cubes, plastic ice cubes, coffee ice cubes, whatever. Cold brew is super strong so coffee ice cubes aren't a big deal either way. I have a few glasses I use for my iced coffee, but in the end I usually go back to a mason jar topped with a Cuppow. And for me, iced coffee always needs a straw.

CUPPOW! BAM! BOOM! I wish you could see that this Mason jar has an etched image of Massachusetts on it (not made by me) but I simply could not get it to show up on camera. Imagine it.
2. Pour some of the cold brew coffee on the ice cubes.  I don't measure, I just pour. You can't mess this up.

3. Pour some milk on there. Lately I have been using cashew milk because I won a bunch of coupons to get it for free but whatever. Cow. Cashew. Almond. Soy. Hemp. Coconut. I don't care, it's all good.

4. Then add in a slog of simple syrup. I don't measure this either, but I guess 1-2 tablespoons in a glass? Nah, just taste it. You'll figure out what you like. I like mine sweet like a dessert.

Oh and if you want a mocha, well, that's all EXTRA FANCY RECIPE TIME. Pour some CHOCOLATE SYRUP* in it and stir. Then it's a mocha. Tadaaaaaaaaaaaa.

*I'm partial to Trader Joe's Midnight Moo.

Then drink it.

So let us break down this recipe: Coffee, ice cubes, milk, something sweet, perhaps something chocolate.

I have, in the past, also thrown in some xanthan gum - a tiny pinch - and then poured the whole shebang into my Vitamix and made a frappe of sorts (the xanthan gum keeps it thick and stops it from separating - it's not necessary but nice), but that is just too much work lately.

There. Go drink your iced coffee.

Have I gone viral yet?

PS If you find a typo in this post, don't tell me. Famous bloggers make typos and grammatical errors all the time - I'm just following along. This time. This once. JUST THIS ONCE.

This post contains some referral links. If you click through and make a purchase, I get a few cents that I use to buy things like more coffee.

*I have already updated this post to fix two typos since I first published it.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Newly Found Love of Podcasts - June 11, 2015

I brushed off the idea of listening to podcasts over and over and over. People would suggest them to me - usually specific episodes - and I'd come across interesting-sounding concepts here and there. I'd download one...two...and I'd put them on and realize, 15 minutes later, that I hadn't heard a single word. I have the same problem with audiobooks - my short attention span and insistence on multitasking, even when it's not the best choice for the situation, just made listening to long-form stories impossible for me.

But then, along came Fitbit, of all things. When I first got my Fitbit - on super sale on Black Friday, bought by combining Ebates [referral link!] and Kohls cash and sales and rebates and on and on - I lamented that it was OMG SIMPLY IMPOSSIBLE for anyone to ever get 10,000 steps a day. And by "anyone," I meant me. I'd hit a wall with my Weight Watchers Activelink - I no longer cared if it lit up all the way around, I'd just laugh at it. It would nag me and I'd roll my eyes. So I wanted the Fitbit to get me active again - and at first it didn't work that way. I'd get to about 4,000 steps and sit back down. I needed a bit more motivation.

Enter Serial.

"You HAVE to listen to it!" every single person I knew (or, well, at least five) chanted. "No, really. It's amazing!"

"I don't do podcasts," I insisted. And again, I put one episode on my computer, put on headphones, and listened-not-listening and rewound, relistened, and gave up. And yet - I caught just enough to be intrigued and then the obvious solution hit. I loaded Serial onto my phone, stuck my headphones into my ears, and went for a walk. And walked and walked and and walked and listened - intently, catching every detail. As you probably know, Serial was pretty amazing. It kept me walking - I paced the halls during my daughter's physical therapy appointment. I walked around my little city. I walked and I listened. I hit my goal of 10,000 steps. One day. Two days in a row. Every day.

And after that, there was no stopping me. I finally gave in to Welcome to Night Vale, which started out slowly but picked up for me at about episode 8 and from there....I was hooked. I pulled Wait Wait Don't Tell Me and This American Life because those were easy, but I wanted MORE. I started asking around and paying more attention to mentions of podcasts. My subscription list grew. My playlist grew. And I'm still walking and listening and looking for excuses to walk and listen a little more. (Podcasts are also great for long, boring periodontist appointments, by the way.)

I've learned that what I like is long-form, engaging storytelling (fiction or not). I don't usually like random roundtables of people yelling at one another or discussing a single topic. I like in-depth interviews. I like advice shows, even if - this surprised me - I cannot identify with the question at all. And I like a peek into celebrity lives.

Podcasts. The new blog. The new zine. The new it thing. And finally I'm into them too, perhaps a bit late but here at the party.

Because I have an Android phone and can't use OMGITUNES, I settled on managing my podcasts with Podcast Republic.

Here's what's currently on my subscription list - the serious, the silly, the frivolous:
  • AJC Breakdown - the AJC's answer to Serial. It's a little clunky but the story itself is engaging and there is all sorts of tangential information about how Georgia runs its legal system that I've found even more fascinating than the core story itself. (You have to subscribe to the AJC to get the extras though, which is both a smart business strategy and annoying as hell.)
  • Dear Sugar Radio - Cheryl Strayed, what can I say? Love her. Love her. Love her. Perhaps not as enamored when Steve starts talking (though I loved Candyfreak!) but overall, a good listen.
  • Invisibilia - I tore through season 1 and am anxiously awaiting the start of season 2.
  • Let's Talk TJs! - I'm a fan of the blog "What's Good at Trader Joe's" so I figured I'd check out this brand new podcast from those folks. I was worried it would be more random roundtable and less discussion but the first episode was fun and friendly. I'm giving it a go.
  • Love + Radio - Inconsistent but when it hits the mark, it's just so good. 
  • Radiolab - My current favorite. When my playlist is empty I go download back episodes (there are many - I'll never catch up). While I walk and listen, I find myself laughing, crying, gasping, and perhaps muttering (hey, it keeps people from bugging me!). This podcast is everything I want.
  • RuPaul What's the Tee with Michelle Visage - Light and fun. These two are a hoot and I feel like a fly on the wall listening to two pals chat. 
  • Savage Lovecast - It amuses me greatly to listen to this one on my walks. I'm very tempted to spend the money for the magnum episodes.
  • The Sporkful - Another new one for me, found due to a mention in Death, Sex and Money (which is not on my subscription list, I just realized, but probably should be - UPDATE: It is! And it's rapidly becoming a favorite. But I digress.). Food talk - dovetails with my love of food writing. I skipped the one about sausage (hi, vegetarian here) but devoured (ha) the one about marijuana edibles. I probably will be delving into the back episodes deeply in the coming weeks.
  • This American Life - You know what it is.
  • Welcome to Night Vale - My other favorite. I binge-listened to every single episode of this one over the course of several weeks and felt a pang when I finally caught up and now have to wait two whole weeks between every episode. I haven't yet bought the bonus live shows (nor could I afford to go to the recent tour, boo hiss) but I probably will. 
Other podcasts in my playlist that I haven't yet hit subscribe on (I found several of these from a Facebook thread and haven't listened to all of them yet) include Freakonomics, Call Your Girlfriend, How Did This Get Made?, KLAM Radio, Mystery Show (A new favorite!!!! And through this I now am also a big fan of Reply All), Black Girls Talking, Longform, 99% Invisible, and Gravy. And with all of that said, I think it's time for another walk...