Two summers ago I came across a ridiculous piece on Slate about making the perfect iced coffee. “Are you ready to have your life changed by the best iced coffee recipe ever?” the article asked, before proceeding with an elaborate recipe in which a half-pound of “African origin” coffee is wrapped in two layers of cheesecloth and steeped for 16 to 18 hours, finally yielding eight ounces of concentrate that will make two glasses of iced coffee. (The entire article is included below.)
Under ordinary circumstances I’d try to slip it into a post next summer when it’s iced coffee season, but it turns out it fits into the theme of the last two posts here. Because what I loved most about the piece were the comments, and Slate has removed them from the article. In their place is a counter announcing that the piece has 2,500 Facebook likes, plus the opportunity to “like” it yourself. Fortunately, I saved a few of the comments. Here’s what’s been lost:
Jukesgrrl: “Where would I get the time to type comments on Slate if I spent half my day buying special coffee, grinding special coffee, making half-pound cheesecloth bundles of special coffee, and strategically moving the lot around my kitchen?”
Susan Golian: “One half pound of coffee to make two 10-ounce iced coffees? Seriously???”
DD: “A half pound of the most expensive African medium-roast (fair-trade, organic, picked by beautiful African children making almost enough per year to buy a pound) coffee that you’ve ever heard of no doubt.”[gn_pullquote align=”right”]“This series clearly needs a new name…. ‘You Should be Dissatisfied with Your First World Life’ or ‘How to Make Your Life 70% Harder for 5% More Pleasure'”[/gn_pullquote]
DD again: “This series clearly needs a new name. Any suggestions? Just off the top: ‘You Should Be Dissatisfied With Your First World Life.’ ‘How to Make Your Life 70% Harder for 5% More Pleasure.’”
And sierraseven: “Stop telling me that small conveniences, somewhat tastier foods and drinks, and zippy new smartphone apps are the things that matter, because I know they aren’t; and you only make yourself idiotic when you write such bombast about them.”
I don’t know why these comments have disappeared. (Right now the comment counter shows one comment, posted in October 2013, by “ColdBrewedCo,” and it’s basically an advertisement for their “cold brew coffee manifesto.”) It might be that the commenting system has been outsourced to a social media company (in this case, Livefyre), which is the new vogue on web sites, and not an encouraging trend. I recently went to comment on a blog at the Huffington Post, only to discover that you now have to use a Facebook account to comment anywhere on the site. Not on Facebook? Too bad. Other sites (like this one: http://recode.net/2014/11/20/a-note-to-recode-readers/) have done away with comments altogether, on the theory that people have plenty of opportunity to comment on Facebook and Twitter.
I’m not going to repeat my earlier remarks about Facebook as a medium of social control. But it’s interesting to see how an article that blatantly celebrates trivial consumption (by someone who surely considers herself socially responsible, undoubtedly holding appropriate positions on everything from organic farming to alternative energy) draws incisive criticism that suddenly disappears, only to be replaced by a trivial count of Facebook “likes” and an advertisement masquerading as a comment. Yes, this is Slate’s folly, but it’s the kind of folly that Facebook directly and indirectly encourages.
Facebook is not a medium that is comfortable afflicting the comfortable. That’s why “liking” things is its primary currency, and criticism is an uncomfortable outlier in the Facebook universe. (There is no “dislike” button, because “liking,” not “disliking,” is what turns discourse into the kind of useful commodity that Facebook can profit from.) If it were just Facebook, that might be fine. But as other media outlets increasingly fall into Facebook’s tightly held orbit, and their priorities become subordinated to Facebook’s business plan, I fear that all we’ll get are the celebrations of the ridiculously intricate iced coffee recipes, and none of the observations that that there’s something wrong with a society where smart people who consider themselves socially and environmentally conscious think this is a great way to spend their time and money.
I don’t know which is Slate’s greater shame—fetishizing privileged-class consumption, or making it seem like everyone “likes” what they’re doing. Either way, their very precious iced coffee leaves me with a very bitter aftertaste.
By Katherine Goldstein
Posted Wednesday, July 31, 2013, at 8:25 AM
Are you ready to have your life changed by the best iced coffee recipe ever?
Dear readers, I have a confession. I was doing iced coffee wrong. During these asphalt-melting days of summer, the last thing I wanted to do was start my morning off with a steamy cup of joe. Rather than pay a coffee-shop premium for the privilege of drinking a nice cold one on ice, I tried making some brews at home. But my efforts were largely disappointing: too bitter, too weak, and just generally not as good as I could buy retail.
I researched methods online, but found that most recipes were similar to what I was already trying. And I’d already been dissatisfied with standard overnight cold-brew instructions and typical pour-over ice techniques.
That’s when I reached out to John Hamanchosi, a consultant at Oven Hot Food Group, partner at 7 Coffee Roasting Co., and an eight-year veteran of the New York City coffee scene. A mutual friend told me he had a killer iced coffee recipe, and I was ready for some professional help.
Hamanchosi explained that my previous method was flawed in several ways. I was not using enough coffee grounds in my concoctions, and I wasn’t letting it steep for long enough. (I’d previously been putting my cold brew together before bed, so it was only getting eight or so hours of steep time. Hamanchosi recommends 16 to 18.) I’d also been brewing my batches in about the same proportions of water to grounds that I’d do for regular coffee: a few heaping spoonfuls for 8 ounces of water. Hamanchosi recommended a much stronger ratio: one part coffee grounds, two parts water, a mixture you then dilute after brewing. For iced coffee, he finds that medium-roast African beans provide the best brews due to their sweet caramel flavors. (I hadn’t considered origins and always bought dark roast out of habit.)
Then he dazzled me with a secret ingredient I’d never even begun to consider: mint. A few sprigs of mint bring out the light notes that are particularly refreshing in iced coffee, he claimed. Coffee and mint are two flavors I never would have put together, so I was eager to try this revolutionary approach.
And it worked. His recipe was so far superior to anything I’ve tried that I’m never ever going back. The coffee was strong, flavorful, and much more rich and complex than my previous attempts. The mint works wonders: It’s not at all overpowering, but it gives the beverage a wonderful fruity and fresh flavor that you probably wouldn’t even identify as mint (at least not right away) if you didn’t know it was in there. You’d just know it was better than your average brew.
August is looking up.
The 7 Coffee Roasting Co. Method
Yield: Two 10-ounce servings
Time: 16 to 18 hours, almost entirely unattended
8 ounces coarsely ground coffee beans, preferably medium roast, of African origin; 4 sprigs of mint ; 16 ounces water, plus 12 ounces for diluting after brewing
1. Wrap the coffee grounds and sprigs of mint together in two layers of cheesecloth. Secure together as a bundle. (A rubber band works well to keep it closed.)
2. Place in medium bowl and pour 16 ounces of room temperature water over your coffee bundle. Cover with plastic wrap and let steep for 16 to 18 hours.
3. After steeping, remove the coffee bundle and squeeze excess liquid into the bowl before you discard it. (It’s also possible to use these same ingredients in a French press; I prefer the cheesecloth method.) Pour the coffee liquid through a coffee filter (a pour-over setup is ideal for this) and into a medium-sized jar or small pitcher. This removes any excess grounds or sludge that may have accumulated. Give the filter a few squeezes if it’s particularly slow to drip through.
4. Once the coffee has been filtered, you should have about 8 ounces of liquid. Add 12 ounces of cold water (you can add more or less to taste) and stir. Pour into two glasses with ice and enjoy with your favorite milk and/or sweetener.
Pro tip: If you are a 9-to-5-er like me, start steeping this first thing in the morning before you leave for work, let it sit for the 16 or so hours, and finish up with straining and mixing with water right before bed. You can stick your ready-to-pour over iced coffee in the fridge and it will be waiting for you the next morning.