Many specialty coffee shops make their iced coffee by steeping coffee grounds in cold water, usually for 12 hours or more, and diluting the resulting concentrate with water or milk. This method mellows out the coffee's acidity to produce a drink that is full-bodied, smooth and sweet. To make it at home, you don't need much more than a jar and a filter, or a French press; it is, as Michael Phillips of Handsome Coffee Roasters says, just like a point-and-shoot camera: Easy, convenient and perfect for most people. If anything, he continues, cold-brews are "incredibly difficult to mess up," even if your coffee to water ratio is not perfect, or you let the coffee steep too long. In fact, Konecny says that "you can use coffee that is less fresh and still get very good results."
Recipes for cold-brew coffee vary and variations are endless. Intelligentsia's Katie O'Shea, for example, uses 3/4 of a cup of coarsely ground coffee per pint of water for her home brew. For larger batches, Phillips suggests coarsely grinding an entire 12-ounce bag of coffee and adding seven cups (56 ounces) of water. Optionally, some folks, including Cafecito Organico's Alexandra LittleJohn, "bloom" the coffee first by saturating the grounds with hot water before adding the cold. Others like to add a bit of chicory in the mix for a New Orleans-style brew. Whatever you do -- or don't do -- to the coffee, you can then essentially set it and forget it: Just let it to sit on your kitchen counter or fridge to brew overnight.
The next day, filter the coffee and serve in a glass, adding water or milk to taste (because the concentrate is so intense, it will stand up to milk particularly well), along with ice if desired. The coffee concentrate itself will last several days and, as Phillips suggests, can even be used to infuse baked goods or cocktails with a bit of coffee flavor.
Readymade Cold-Brew Coffees. If you lack the beans or the interest in making iced coffee from scratch, you can pick up a jug of Secret Squirrel Cold Brew concentrate at the Studio City Farmers Market, Republic of Pie and Atwater Village Farm; just add water or milk, and you're good to go. In addition, The Sycamore Kitchen carries bottles of Stumptown Coffee Roaster's bottled cold-brew coffee.
Another popular -- if a bit controversial -- way of making iced coffee is to brew the coffee hot using a pour-over method and to filter it directly over ice. As LittleJohn explains, coffee's flavors come from its acidity; thus, once you lose the acidity -- as you do in the cold-brewing process -- you also lose much of the coffee's flavors. By brewing the coffee hot and flash cooling the coffee immediately over ice, the delicate flavors and aromatics are preserved. Because this method relies on the pour-over method of brewing though, your drink will be only as good as your technique. Or, to extend Phillips's coffees-as-cameras analogy, if cold-brews are point-and-shoots, ice brews are D.S.L.R.'s: You'll get a very crisp picture of the coffee's aromatics and its subtle nuances, but you sort of need to know what you're doing to really bring out those characteristics.
That said, if you normally brew your coffee using a pour-over cone, Chemex or a Clever dripper, and you have a streak of Alton Brown in you, this method is nice to have at your ready. (If you want to try it before you buy into it, Scoops Westside offers iced coffee using this method.)
As with cold-brew coffee, your mileage may vary when it comes to coffee, water and ice ratios. In the above video, Counter Culture Coffee's Peter Giuliano prepares his version as if he were making a normal pour-over, replacing half the hot water with ice. LittleJohn suggests a 1 to 14 ratio of coffee to total volume of water for a pourover cone or a Clever dripper; she also uses less hot water than ice (for 60 grams of coffee, for example, she suggests 340 grams of hot water to be brewed directly over 500 grams of ice). Still others are contemplating whether to use more water than ice. In all cases, LittleJohn notes that the hot coffee will melt the ice, so once it filters, the drink will be sufficiently diluted to be served as is, or with additional ice to keep it cold. If you follow LittleJohn's recipe, you'll end up with three to four 16-ounce glasses of iced coffee, which will last up to two weeks in the refrigerator.