Up until a few years ago, I only consumed cold coffee. For me, it was about being refreshing more than a caffeine rush - although, the caffeine was definitely there.
Cold brew and cold coffee are not the same thing. Coffee that is traditionally brewed using hot water and then cooled with ice or in the refrigerator tastes completely different than coffee that is brewed with ice cold water and never heated. The chemical compounds that make coffee taste acidic and "bitter" are never allowed to be extracted during the brew since heat isn't present to help pull them from the ground beans. This allows the natural sweetness and body of the coffee to come through and produces an incredibly smooth and refreshing cup or glass of coffee that can be enjoyed any time of the year, but is especially delightful on a hot, summer day.
As it so happens, we have a specific coffee blend developed for the cold brew process. But, really, any freshly ground coffee can be used to brew cold coffee. A darker roast will impart a richer, more chocolatey flavor while lighter blends will maintain the inherent flavors in the beans, wether that is a light fruity flavor or more floral, tea-like flavors in a natural processed Kenya or Ethiopian coffee. As in all brew methods, the grind of the coffee is very important. For cold brew, you want a medium-coarse grind. Not too fine, not too coarse. You can experiment with grind size to determine the strength and help you to achieve the level of extraction you prefer. As always, I would recommend a burr grinder over a standard blade grinder to make sure your grind is as consistent as you can get. A good entry-level burr grinder: Capresso Infinity Conical Burr Grinder (Amazon.com). Yes, it is $70 - but the quality of coffee you get from this will blow you away. And just for reference, you could easily spend $500-600 on a grinder and some coffee geeks would say that was a mid-level grinder!
My favorite cold brew method
Last summer I discovered the ice drip cold brew method and will never go back to the old "throw a bunch of coffee grounds in a mason jar and fill with water" method. Brewing with this method is incredibly easy, but you do need a specific device. I have, and highly recommend, the Soulhand Cold Brew Coffee Maker (Amazon.com). It's about $30 - but if you factor in how much specialty cold brew costs these days, it pays for itself pretty quickly.
The brewer may look a little complicated and slightly pretentious, but this is specialty coffee, so it's all part of the game ;) I'm kidding, it's really not complicated. The device has three parts - the upper chamber where the ice and water drip from; the middle grounds container with filters below AND above the bed of grounds; and the bottom borosilicate glass container that catches and stores your coffee until ready to drink. There is an adjustable "tap" that lets you vary the frequency the water drips into the bed of coffee grounds. I've found that one drip per second makes a full batch of coffee in about 4-5 hours. Yes, it's not quick - but with some forethought, you can "brew" a batch in the fridge overnight and have the most amazing glass of cold brew coffee ready for you in the morning. I usually have a batch going in my kitchen all the time and keep filling a carafe in our refrigerator to drink whenever.
You've probably heard of nitro cold brew by now. Even Starbucks has it on its menu year around. But what you probably didn't know is that you can easily make it at home or in your office - at the same time, possibly impress a few of people along the way.
Nitro cold brew is an infusion of tiny air bubbles into the coffee, resulting in an incredibly indulgent and refreshing cold coffee drink. Making nitro cold brew at home is really very easy and all you need is a charged whipped cream dispenser (Amazon.com). To prepare a glass, fill the canister with your chilled cold brew and screw the top on. Then add a nitro cartridge and give it a little shake. Turn the canister upside down and dispense into a tall glass and watch as the foamy brew cascades down the glass leaving a crisp, slightly effervescent cold brew unlike anything you've had before.
Lastly, don't forget how amazing is looks to slowly pour cream or half & half into a glass of cold brew with ice - it's pretty much what Instagram was made for!
Cold brew isn't just coffee that has been chilled - it's coffee that is brewed without heat, resulting in a much smoother, sweeter coffee that is refreshing and still gives you that caffeine kick you crave. And if you don't want to buy any extra equipment, remember you can make a decent batch of cold brew by filling a mason jar with some coarsely (fresh) ground coffee and fill with cold water - let it sit for 12-24 hours (or however long you want - the longer it sits, the stronger it will be) and then pour through a coffee filter or cheese cloth and serve over ice.