Iced Coffee was Born on the Bayou
Spend a steamy, sultry, summer afternoon in New Orleans and you’re guaranteed to become a quick study in the art of cold-brewing. Cold-brewing, you’re thinking, what’s that?
It’s a coffee brewing process that’s been used in New Orleans for years. Folks in the Big Easy swear this traditional method that originated right there on the Bayou.
“It’s part of our culture,” said Brandon Hebert, who works at the well-known New Orleans hangout on Decatur Street, Molly’s at the Market. “It goes right along with beignets. Kind of like our version of coffee and donuts.”
“Cold-brewing is a tried and true process,” the Lafayette Parish native said, and then went on to explain that iced coffee has been an integral part of his life for years. “I remember my grandma would brew it for us when we were kids and call it coffee-milk.”
The caffeinated concoction, a concentrate of sorts, is easy to make and even easier to enjoy. Granted, anyone north of the Mason-Dixon line might be skeptical of something so dark and thick being poured out of a jelly jar, but as soon as you taste it, you’re hooked.
So what exactly is in this concoction and how do you make it?
Hebert said the whole process from start to finish takes more than 12 hours. First you start with a big bowl – like a mixing bowl or a stockpot. Add a pound of coarsely ground dark roast coffee to a fine-mesh sieve. Wet the grounds with 2 cups of cold water and then add 8 more cups of cold water. Cover the bowl or stockpot and let the grounds steep in the water for at least 12 hours. What you’ll end up with is a thick, dark, and concentrated coffee, he said.
“It’s worth the wait, because when it comes to brewing iced coffee, there’s the only way – cold brewing. If you do it any differently, like brewing hot coffee and pouring it over ice, you’re just plain doing it wrong.”
Hebert said that people sweating it out in Cajun Country make a big decision when it comes to coffee – either they’re going to drink coffee hot and deal with the additional heat, or drink iced coffee brewed the right way. But never, ever, would they drink iced coffee brewed any other way and consider it a substitute.
So once you’ve got the concentrate brewed, how do you make iced coffee? Hebert said simply pour a few ounces of coffee concentrate over ice, add milk or half-and-half, and some vanilla flavored syrup if you like.
Hebert is lucky enough to work with Jim Monaghan, Jr. at Molly’s at the Market on Decatur Street where frozen Irish Coffee is all the rage. We’ve asked Monaghan before what goes into his famed frozen Irish Coffee and he’s never revealed the secret. But now we’ve got a hunch this concentrate might play a part.
Here are a few Iced Coffee recipes we’ve come up with to cool you down this summer:
Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee – Pour 1/3 cup of cold-brewed iced coffee concentrate over ice into a Bodum Assam Glass. Add 2 oz of Monin Vanilla Syrup and fill remainder of glass with half and half. Shake or stir, and serve.
Iced Irish Coffee - Pour 1/3 cup of cold-brewed iced coffee concentrate over ice into a Bodum Canteen Glass. Add a shot of Irish whiskey measured in a 2 oz shot glass. Fill remainder of glass with half and half and serve with whipped cream if you like.