Monday, July 04, 2011

Iced Coffee. Seriously.

Mission Wake-up.
I know you know how to make iced coffee: coffee and ice. Duh!

But. If you've ever worked in a restaurant, then chances are good that you have served iced coffee so punishingly bad that it made your eyes water, so caustically brutal that it was like being slapped in the face with hydrochloric acid that had been set on fire and then poured over ice. Here's how you make it: throughout your shift, whenever you notice a half inch of coffee scorching at the bottom of a pot, pour it into a large (plastic!) container that you keep under the counter. At the end of the day, pour this sludgy collage of death into the "ice coffee" tub in the walk-in. Easy peasy! (Also, while you're in the fridge, you can dump all the veggie scraps into the "soup" tub that smells like the decomposing love child of pond water and bong water! Yum!)

But the thing is, I think that leftover brew of most varieties makes pretty bad iced coffee, mostly because it's not usually strong enough to man up to all that melting ice. I can't tell if I'm just an innate snob about this, or if I have some kind of iced-coffee PTSD, but either way, I make excellent iced coffee, and I make it fresh, and by the glass.

Here's how. First, fill an enormous and sturdy glass with ice. I use an entire tray of ice. The whole tray. (Did I already tell you about finding an empty ice tray by the sink and asking Ben about it? And he said, "Oh, sorry, I know. I just feel like I'm really bad at filling them--like it's kind of a pain, and water ends up spilling and stuff." He's so innocent that when I said, "Do you also feel like you're really bad at replacing the toilet paper?" he said, "Oh my gosh! I totally do! How did you know that?" I, for one, am really bad at taking our car to get the oil changed and also at changing the cat litter, so I totally understand.)
If I knew I were dying tomorrow, I would use half and half.
Okay, where were we? We've got the ice. Then I half-fill the glass with whole milk, which I think of as the Switzerland of iced-coffee dairy, mediating between the warring countries of evil half and half and righteous low-fat milk. If you use skim milk, you're on your own. (And I mean that literally, because your thigh will not be creeping over onto everybody's chair the way the whole-milk thighs like to. You'd think my thighs would be enough company for each other, but no--they're going to creep onto your chair and try to gossip with your thighs.)

Then I brew very strong coffee (1/3 cup of grounds) directly into the glass. If you are using a sub-sturdy glass, then you might have to worry about the glass cracking from the hot into the cold, but I'm not sure about that.

That's the smell of good news.
Sometimes I sweeten it, and my sweetener of choice is agave nectar, because it stirs in so beautifully and is just the right amount sweet and came from a cactus, so you know it means business.

This is a fake picture because caffeine? Michael "can take it or leave it." Oh, me too! Ha ha. Along with kidney function and blood-gas exchange. You know, either way.
 I am drinking it right now, this very minute.

As evidenced by this colored-pencil self-portrait I just rendered. I seriously wish I could walk around in the colored-pencil effect because it is so much more forgiving of my chins and beard and adult-onset acne and forehead divots than regular Technicolor life is. 

Of course, what I really, seriously want you to do is buy a set of Luminarc glasses and lids because, as I know I've said before, they make the best, most gorgeous to-go cups you have ever seen or used. You just use an X-acto knife to make a little x in the lid so that you can push a straw through (I'm half converted now from glass straws to stainless steel) and you're done. Dishwasher safe and sturdy and--I'm going to try not to exaggerate--I probably save $15 a week by making my own iced coffee at home, which I am seriously happy to do because I so love drinking it this way. (I know that stainless steel is more practical, but I love my glass straws. I still have 2 of the 4 I bought 10 years ago! They're pretty sturdy.)

Plus, because the glass is too big to fit in a cup holder, you get to drive around with it wedged coolingly into your lap--with the added bonus that when you get where you're going, you have a ginormous condensation stain around your crotch, which inevitably makes for a good laugh at important meetings and such!

Happy July 4th. I am just catching up on the blog name suggestions now, and I cannot tell you how beautifully known I feel. Also, how beautifully teased. In the best possible way. I am mulling it over and will report back asap, but, in the mean time, thank you so much.


  1. Maybe I'm clueless, but what's that fancy contraption you have brewing your coffee right into your cup? And do you think I can just use the thing from my coffee maker in the same way? Or maybe it's better to brew some coffee in my french press, since I already have one of those? Or maybe should I just ask you 50 more questions that begin with conjunctions? And one last thing (also with a contraction): half and half gets my vote, as I splurge on it every morning in my coffee. Maybe I'd cut it a bit with some 2% in the iced coffee since I, I think like you, tend to use more in iced than in hot.

  2. And I meant "conjunction" in my last post, not "contraction." I swear I'm an English teacher, but hey, it's summer, and it's too much to ask that I remember all my vocabulary words. It's enough that I keep using my apostrophes correctly. And my word verification is "whiza," which sounds like a very cheerful greeting, so "whiza" to you!

  3. Leslie1:24 PM

    Oh, welcome back from your trip, and thank you for the iced coffee recipe! I have a somewhat tangential question: what are your thoughts on glass versus stainless steel straws? I've been looking for good reusable straw options, and since you mentioned using both, I was curious.

  4. The thighs...funny! And the take it or leave it, so funny. I relate. It's hard to understand how there's people who don't drink caffeine. I mean, mornings? Hello?

    I too am drinking iced coffee right now, which is this morning's coffee half finished and then put in the fridge for a few hours, to be brought out again during the kids' naptime. Perfect.

  5. kellyg7:38 PM

    I've been perfecting my own iced coffee technique. I tried skim milk in it and blech. It just didn't have the right feel/taste to it. I've been using half and half thinking it would be better ("healthier") than whole milk. I think I need to do some label reading.

    And I can take or leave caffeine in the same way as breathing.

    My word verification is "reesses". I keep hearing it in E.T.'s voice.

  6. Anonymous7:44 PM

    This works in a pinch but you really owe it to yourself to look into cold brewed coffee for iced coffee. It makes a concentrate that keeps fine in the refrigerator until iced coffee calls to you and then you make just as you do. Good stuff!

  7. My word verification is rearb a new fruit maybe! I can take or leave caffeine too, NOT. The thing with Ben about not being good at making ice made me laugh, we have the same problems in our house.

    As for iced coffee, you teased me last time about the "recipe" but now you are actually indulging me so thank you.

    Can I say that glass straws freak me out (have never tried them) but I am convinced I would try to bite them.

  8. The ice maker in our refrigerator has saved our marriage! Every time I get ice out of it (we've had it for 3 years now) I think "wow! I'm so happy we have an ice maker and I don't have to argue with my hubby about making ice anymore!" It's the little things.

  9. Carrie11:47 PM

    Here's the cold-brewed recipe from the NYT, with link to the article. I ONLY drink coffee in the summer, over ice, with tons of milk, so I'm no coffee expert. But this is supposed to be less bitter.

  10. alison12:23 PM

    How do you think Almond milk would work? I would never use half and half, i don't think i could even get my self to use whole milk. Almond milk is nice and thick, but low cal.

  11. @Alison, there's a vegetarian restaurant nearby that I really like that serves Almond Milk in the coffee (if you want it). It's really a very pleasant combination. I don't think it was the sweetened kind of Almond Milk, just plain.

  12. kathy o6:37 PM

    Drinking lots of iced coffee in this summer heat wave we're having. I make coffee ice cubes with any left over coffee...which we brew fairly strong for every day hot coffee purposes. That way, my iced coffee isn't diluted with water as the ice melts. Also, lots of half-n-half... just can't help myself there.

  13. Ummm, coffee ice cubes just made me think of how much I love crushed ice which made me think of crushed coffee ice which made me want to find you, Kathy o, and shake your hand and hug your neck. Brilliant, you are.
    Catherine, I worked at Starbucks in college for many moons, and so although it's not innate, my coffee snobbery is severe. This method you recommend is ideal, and is also saving me ridiculous amounts of moolah. And just an addition, on a particularly dreary day, brew the coffee over a cup full of vanilla ice cream. My great Aunt Dot from Rhode island always did, and it is sensational. Truly, verily.

  14. Silk French Vanilla Soy Creamer - delicious in iced or hot coffee (and will help keep your thighs minding their own business)!

  15. And Robin, yes you can. I use a metal cone coffee filter from a little 4 cup coffee long as you can nestle it reasonably well into the cup your brewing into, it works like a charm.

  16. Thanks, meg lemay! I'll give it a try with my crappy plastic coffee maker, but I'll take the recommended precautions. I'm still curious about Catherine's brewer device, though, so do tell!

  17. I posted this on the other thread about blog names but I'm not sure if you're still reading the comments over there.

    ok, don't laugh, but what about...

    Golden Moments
    Catherine Newman's musings on Ben, Birdy, Michael, cooking, life, and the beauty in the everyday

    a) it's poetic, as you are
    b) it references the poem 'Nothing Gold can Stay' - from your last Wondertime post, and the feeling all of us have, that you capture so well, that childhood is so fleeting
    c)also a bit of a reference to these happy golden years, Ma Ingalls fan that you are

    It's not funny, is the only thing, but maybe you could add something funny in the tagline? You're better at that than I am.

  18. one_more_amy10:19 AM

    I'm glad I've found some whole milk, half-and-half friends here. A cup of coffee with skim milk is a sad, sad cup of coffee. My thighs will tell you so.

  19. Kimberly1:42 PM

    gossipping thighs- you kill me! and, I cannot stop eating dill pickle chips!!

  20. Out of context this may sound all wrong, but my thighs would welcome a chat with yours any day of the week. And I'd say I can take coffee or leave it, until I am forced to leave it and then I begin to doubt my convictions.

  21. I think your blog should be called

    Gossiping Thighs.
    Pass the Salt.
    Mama's In The Kitchen.
    Cat Hair Stew (oh come on, you know you find them in there sometimes!)

    Good luck!

  22. Catherine, could you post a link to that coffee contraption? My children and other people who interface with me early in the morning would really, really appreciate it.

  23. Can I just say I'm glad you mentioned the chins and beard? I mean, seriously I was feeling kinda lonely peering into my bathroom mirror and thinking I really should make an appointment to get the suckers waxed. One of the saddest discoveries about aging is the hirsute 40's! I wasted my 20's and 30's thinking I was lucky to have neat and trim body hair. Sigh. Enough self pity, I'm going to make an iced coffee!

  24. This post is very sad for me, because despite my decrepit-ly advanced age I am pregnant and not drinking coffee, and it's been a very painful separation. (I won't mention the 8-gallon jug of tea I drink every morning...) But as soon as the kid's out (4 weeks! 4 weeks!), and has that beautifully drunk post-breastfeeding look on his adorable face, I am going to iced-coffee myself silly.
    I don't understand people like your Michael at all, although I try not to hold their immunity to caffeine-addiction against them.

  25. Anonymous7:58 PM

    OK, you are the Dalai Mama and I am the Pokey Mama and you are seriously funny. And accurate. I was a waitress for a long time and that iced coffee "recipe" is hauntingly familiar. Right up there with the leftover dinner roll boneyard. Thanks for the post.

  26. dale in denver1:00 PM

    Catherine's cone filter drip coffee maker looks to me to be ceramic. You can get a plastic one at places like target, kmart, walmart for less than $5 - if not in kitchen, look in camping. Ceramic is a good choice over plastic so you don't get the extra chemicals in your brew. But, it can break. I found this colapsible silicon variety - good for storing/camping, no leaching of chemicals. You might be able to find cheaper, but it gives you an idea what to look for.

  27. Anonymous2:26 PM

    This made me smile and laugh and warm and fuzzy. I'm not a coffee drinker but I've been considering writing a blog post on my iced tea but haven't because it's like okay pour boiling water over a tea bag and stick the jar in the fridge until cold. Really so easy but most people are baffled that I do this all summer. I loved Ben's reason for not filling the ice cube tray... if only we could use that excuse for everything we're not good at.

    I have a friend who makes coffee ice cubes so her iced coffee doesn't get diluted. Maybe you'd like that too.

  28. MichelleS2:30 PM

    You converted us to Luminarc + lids + stainless steel straws, too! They are great, and so durable I gave all the juice glasses to my small kids--they have dropped them and they've never broken. I X-cut about 1/2 of the lids I ordered, as I use the tall glasses to store dressings & sauces and need a liquid-tight lid for those.
    I also bought tempered glass containers for my kids' lunchboxes after you mentioned the durability, and whattayaknow, YOU'RE RIGHT.
    Goodbye, plastic! Thanks, Catherine!!

  29. You do realize when I bought my *cries a little* mini van, the only thing I tested was if a working glass would fit in the cup holder (it did! hoorah!)....I live on iced coffee, made via my little travel french press. With a hint of vanilla. serious joy.