I have a friend named Kate â€” not our Accidental Hedonist Kate; another Kate. This Kate works for Miette PÃ¢tisserie & Confiserie in San Francisco, making three different kinds of caramels for them, and when she’s not doing that, she’s slinging coffee over at Blue Bottle Coffee Company, which is where our story starts.
Over on her personal blog, Kate recently noted a New York Times article on New Orleans-style coffee concentrate, which mentioned Blue Bottle Coffee and featured Blue Bottle’s recipe for making the concentrate. I’d never heard of coffee concentrate before. The article has since slipped behind the Iron Curtain-like Times Select archive, but I was interested enough to print a copy of it â€” not that I mentioned this to Kate.
Over the course of a week or so, I would toy with the idea of trying the coffee concentrate (and the more I write that the more I think of coffee trying really really hard to pay attention to something), but I kept putting it off.
Then, just this past Thursday, my husband brought a package in with the mail â€” and it smelled good. “Blue Bottle Coffee?” he asked, reading the shipping label. “Did you order something?” I replied with an uncharacteristic “Gimme!” and ripped the package open without answering him.
And there it was:
Blue Bottle’s New Orleans coffee concentrate kit, including a pound of coffee beans, a sachet of chicory, and instructions â€” as well as a note from Kate. How she knew I was interested in this, I’ll never know.
After writing her a quick thanks, I dashed off to make the coffee; which is really quite simple.
First, grind the coffee coarsely. The directions recommended a percolator grind; I used my small grinder and just tried to make it come close. Then, add ten cups of water to the pound of coffee (plus the chicory) and let it steep 8-12 hours. It looks like… well, like this:
(I know it looks all flashed out, but I needed the camera flash to penetrate this inky coffee bean slurry.)
I went to bed. It steeped. I got up the next morning and strained the coffee; first through a sieve, and then though a fine mesh strainer, and unsurprisingly, I made a hell of a mess.
Now, when I first read the directions, I laughed when they said the coffee concentrate should resemble “used motor oil.” The thing is, it really does.
At this point, I admit, I had some doubts. I tucked it into the fridge to cool off, made some simple syrup to add to it later, and then went about my day.
Like clockwork, around 3:00 in the afternoon, my ability to parent and/or fulfill my duties as a housewife begins to wane and it becomes coffee hour. Some people have a cocktail hour; I have a coffee hour, in which I set my kid up with the entertainment of her choice and then sit and drink coffee in peace, often staring blankly into space until I am fully revived by the caffeine.
So, this past Friday, despite it being a whopping 53Â° here in NYC, I poured myself a tall iced coffee, using about a quarter-cup of the concentrate, a cup of milk, and about a tablespoon of simple syrup.
I… don’t even think I can accurately describe how good this is.
Let me start by saying this: according to the New York Times article, this concentrate “will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks” but after 48 hours, my husband and I have already gone through half of it.
The coffee flavor is extremely rich and much more complex than I expected, but with utterly none of the bitterness you usually get with iced coffee. And, after that first glass, after I blazed through my afternoon’s tasks and then found myself cleaning the bathroom light fixtures, I soon realized it also packs a tremendous caffeine punch. Consider yourself warned.
And, so ends my next-to-last official post as Accidental Hedonist’s weekly guest blogger. Next week, I’ll be introducing my successor â€” not that it’s the last you’ll hear from me, I’m sure.
Until next week…