Suzanne Tobias: Patience brews the perfect cold-pressed cup of coffee

07/10/2013 12:00 AM

07/09/2013 2:00 PM

I’m a latecomer to the whole cold-brewed, cold-pressed, coffee-sludge-turned-black-gold, iced coffee bandwagon.

I’ve ignored the recipes on Smitten Kitchen, Pioneer Woman and all those other recipe blogs, likely because the photos of muddy coffee grounds looked too much like burbling asphalt on a 110-degree afternoon, which does not inspire a trip to the kitchen.

And I didn’t have time for two-day coffee. Or so I thought.

But I made some last weekend, tempted mostly by the headline in a food magazine that said, “Serious Iced Coffee.” The accompanying photo showed cream swirling through a glass of black liquid like a cascading waterfall of bliss, and I wondered if someone had airbrushed subliminal messages onto the ice cubes:

“You are getting sleeeeepy! … You need coffeeeeee …”

Whatever the case, I fetched coffee grounds, water and a ceramic bowl.

I combined a cup of ground coffee with 1 1/2 cups room-temperature water.

I mixed. I stirred. I remembered childhood mudpies.

I recalled a smelly concoction of dirt, water, rocks, leaves and dead locusts that my kids once cooked up in the front yard and pretended was Polyjuice Potion. I wondered if they ever drank it.

I hummed that Squeeze song:

“There’s a stain on my notebook where your coffee cup was …”

I thought about big hair, leg warmers, skinny ties and 1982.

And I waited.

Cold-brewing makes the best iced coffee (smoother and less acidic than hot-brewed), the recipe said, but it takes time.

Like most things, I thought. Good things come to those who wait.

Cover and let sit for 12 to 24 hours, it said.

I went about my day, and the coffee sludge soaked.

I recalled Gary Paulsen’s novel, “Hatchet,” the story of a boy stranded in the Canadian wilderness:

“Patience, he thought. So much of this was patience – waiting, and thinking and doing things right. So much of all this, so much of all living was patience and thinking.”

Stir, then strain through a mesh sieve lined with a coffee filter, the recipe said. It might drip for up to an hour.

“Rivers know this: there is no hurry,” I remembered from A.A. Milne’s “Winnie-the-Pooh.” “We shall get there some day.”

My only sieve is tiny, so the next morning I lined it with paper towels and ladled in the coffee a few spoonfuls at a time. Spoon, press, drip. Spoon, press, drip.

“Why is patience so important?” wrote Paulo Coelho. “Because it makes us pay attention.”

That was from “The Alchemist,” a book I hated when I read it several years ago, when the kids were little and I was exhausted, sleep-deprived, weary. It made me angry, in fact. I didn’t have time to understand or appreciate a “Magical Fable About Following Your Dream.” I had instant oatmeal to make.

But here in the kitchen now, steeped in the zen of cold-pressed coffee, I’m more open to the concept.

Spoon, press, drip. Spoon, press, drip.

It’s summer and the kids are older, 12 and 15. They sleep late and get themselves to swim practice and baby-sitting gigs. Our conversations, like the coffee, are meted out in spoonfuls, potent and rich.

To serve, mix the coffee concentrate with equal parts cold water or milk over ice. Or refrigerate the concentrate for up to three days.

The first batch – surprisingly little for the amount of coffee, water and pressing required – gleamed like liquid chocolate or a pint of Guinness. I set it in the fridge beside the half-and-half and pledged to make more next time, perhaps a whole bucketful.

After all, it just takes a little time.

About Suzanne Tobias

Suzanne writes about family life on Thursdays. She has covered local news for The Eagle since 1990. Suzanne is a native of North Carolina and earned an English degree from North Carolina State University.

Find her on Twitter: @suzannetobias

Contact Suzanne at 316-268-6567 or by emailing her at

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