Editor’s note: This article first appeared on the Strategist in May, and it is an example of a product that does what it’s supposed to do — exceptionally well. So we’re republishing it today as part of Ingenious Design Week.
When my company instituted its mandated work-from-home policy in March, there was a lot I knew I would miss about the office. The camaraderie and on-site gym, yes, but also our weekly Bagel Fridays, the bounty of free snacks always on offer, and the seemingly bottomless cold-brew keg. The latter was a convenience that turned into a daily habit over the last five years, and I knew that of all the transitions ahead, this would be one of the hardest to replace (not just because of caffeine’s addictive properties). After a week of quarantine fueled by French press–made coffee, I decided to try making cold brew at home. Google and my favorite cooking blogs told me it wouldn’t be too hard — especially if I invested in specific contraptions — but I opted to DIY it. The kitchen in my Brooklyn apartment doesn’t have a lot of space for single-purpose tools like a dedicated cold-brew maker, and even if it did, I wasn’t inclined to invest in anything beyond what I already owned for my first attempt.
Doing it myself produced a drinkable cold brew that I was actually quite proud of, but the process was more time-consuming than advertised — not to mention tedious. It called for a scale in order to measure the precise amount of grounds (without one, I used measuring cups and spoons), steeping those grounds in water overnight, then filtering that brew through a strainer-sifter lined with a coffee filter. Because that filtration process took several hours itself, the final product wasn’t ready to drink until the evening, and because you don’t drink concentrated cold brew that late unless you want to be up all night, I had to wait until the next morning to try it. All told, about 36 hours passed between start and my first sip. While lamenting about how laborious it was to a friendly neighbor whom I ran into on the street (from a distance, of course), she told me I could probably cut down on time and supplies by using a kit from New Orleans–style coffee purveyor Grady’s that requires nothing but the coffee — and the bag it comes in — to make cold brew. At $30, it seemed worth a shot; if all else failed, I knew I could use the included coffee to whip up another batch of my DIY cold brew.
But as soon as I received my kit, it was clear that failure — even for the most hapless of home cold brewers — was not really an option. The kit’s genius is in its simplicity: As my friendly neighbor described, everything comes in a stand-up pouch that has a plastic spigot protruding from its bottom. Inside are 12 individually packaged sachets of ready-to-brew coffee, and all you need to do is plop some of those inside the pouch, add water until you reach the indicated fill line inside it, and let the mixture sit in the fridge overnight. The next morning, or after 12 hours, you simply remove the sachets, flip the spigot, and let the cold brew flow into your cup. That’s it — no scales, jerry-rigged filters, or other equipment is required. The kit says you can use up to four sachets per batch if you want a concentrated cold brew; I’ve cut that down to two and find the result is strong enough without being overpowering. At any concentration, a batch yields about 12 servings, which can last for almost two weeks, depending on how many cups you drink a day. And since a kit allows for making three batches, it’s like you’re getting almost six weeks’ worth of cold brew for the price, so every cup is a fraction of the cost of what it would be at a café.
While the kit’s biggest appeal is that you need it and only it to make cold brew, you can also use the included sachets to brew in other vessels you might have lying around just as easily. (Lately I’ve been using a glass pitcher because it fits better in my fridge.) And no matter what you make it in, the resulting cold brew — a blend of coffee, chicory, and spices — is delicious. I like it so much, in fact, I’m now worried about something else: transitioning back to using my office keg, when the time comes.
If you already have a pitcher or other large vessel you can brew in at home, Grady’s also sells the sachets that come with my kit in this less-expensive can, which includes four of them (good for roughly two weeks’
worth of cold brew).
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