How to Make Amazing Cold Brew Iced Coffee with a French Press and an Ice Cube Tray

A Mason jar full of milky iced coffee against a burgundy background.

My love of cold brew iced coffee is comparable to say, my love of listening to Nick Drake while walking around at dusk: that is to say, immense, deep, and neverending. I like to drink it black and unsweetened, although I’ve never turned down an iced coffee that’s had a drop or two of cream added. As a freelance writer in the summertime I go through an embarrassing amount of iced coffee and when I add it all up it seems crazy that I’m not making my own. I started making cold brew iced coffee in my French press instead and I have to say, I think it’s even better than what my local coffee shop is selling. What makes it so delicious? The ice cubes! I make two batches of coffee, one hot and one cold brew, and then fill ice cube trays up with the hot coffee for the following day. No watery iced coffee endings anymore, the entire experience is as loaded with caffeine as it could possibly be. Cold brew iced coffee needs at least 12 hours to sit so I’ve been making everything the night before – waking up has never been this hopped up and amazing!

for the coffee ice cubes:

Make coffee as you normally would using a French press and pour into ice cube trays. Freeze for future use in iced coffee. If the coffee on coffee component makes you leery and you enjoy milky coffee these cubes can be piled high in a glass and topped with the milk of your choice (this works really well for iced coffee on the go).

for the cold brew iced coffee:

The trick with cold brew coffee is to grind the beans coarsely, the flavour will be fabulous and you won’t have to worry about grounds floating around after you lower the press. Use about 3 times more coffee than you normally would, this will leave you with strong coffee that can be diluted with water or dairy. Cover the coffee grinds with filtered cold water, stir gently, and cover with plastic wrap before transferring to the fridge overnight and up to 24 hours. Since the coffee is being extracted in cold water the finished product won’t have strong acidity and bitter notes but it will have plenty of caffeine. Plunge the coffee as usual and pour over the coffee ice cubes, leaving room to dilute with with water or the dairy/non-dairy of your choice.

*If you like to sweeten your cold brew coffee it’s a good idea to keep some simple syrup made with either sugar or honey hanging around. Simple syrup will sweeten your coffee uniformly and will taste much better than regular cold brew with sugar sitting undissolved at the bottom of your glass.

A Mason jar filled with iced coffee and coffee ice cubes sitting on the book Alligator Pie by Dennis Leery.

Oh weird, yet ANOTHER 4AD artist I’m obsessed with (add it to the list: Belly, Tanya Donelly, Cocteau Twins, Modern English, Grimes, Blonde Redhead, Lush, Camera Obscura, Ultra Vivid Scene, Deerhunter – it’s like someone made a record label just for me).

Daughter – Numbers

Best Ever Classic Red Wine Sangria

Classic red wine sangria in a clear glass pitcher that is filled with sliced apples and oranges. Laid out on a white tablecloth with a glass of sangria to the side.

Sometimes it’s good to revisit the classics when you’re hosting a dinner party. It can be tempting to try and come up with something novel and it can also be tempting to serve multiple courses that are each a spectacle in their own right. Last weekend I had my friend Lela over for her birthday, we had a pitcher of this best ever classic red wine sangria and a big pan of chicken cacciatore (recipe will be coming soon). The food was simple, but effective, and it was so nice to prepare dinner and talk while drinking a few glasses of sangria. I know there are a million recipes out there right now for sangria, and I’ve enjoyed several variations over the summer with all kinds of different additions and flavours. I’ll always return to dependable red wine sangria though, it’s somewhat dangerously drinkable and of course the booze-soaked fruit is a whole other adventure. The most important thing with this recipe is allowing the fruit the opportunity to soak up all the alcohol overnight, if you drink it immediately after you stir everything together you’re really going to miss out on the subtle fruity sweetness that a couple of apples and oranges add to the finished product.

best ever classic red wine sangria:

1 bottle of fairly mellow and very cheap red wine (I like merlot best, anything really spicy or big in flavour will ruin the sangria’s easy drinkability)

1/2 cup brandy (probably something you don’t have lying around, but buy it once and you have it for all the sangrias and classy brandy drinking sessions you want)

1/2 cup Triple Sec or Cointreau (again, buy it once and then make all the fruity drinks you can possible think of)

2 sweet apples, sliced into thin pieces

2 oranges, peel left on and sliced into thin pieces

Club soda

Fill a large pitcher with the apple and orange slices. Add the red wine, brandy, and Triple Sec or Cointreau  and stir to combine. Refrigerate the sangria overnight. When you’re ready to serve it either top the pitcher with plenty of club soda or add the club soda to the glass. Make sure to serve with lots of ice and fruit in the glass.

Much like sangria and speaking of revisiting the classics, Echo & The Bunnymen never fails to put me in an excellent mood.

Echo & The Bunneymen – Lips Like Sugar

Mixed Berry Smoothie with Avocado and Baby Kale

Berry smoothie with small pink bowl of mixed berries

Remember how I was vaguely writing about times of change ahead of me, and the times of turmoil I was currently experiencing? Well, I can happily (and nervously) tell you that I’ve quit my full-time job as manager of Vancouver’s best cheese shop and am now dedicating my time to freelance writing. There are definitely aspects of the job I’ll miss a lot, it was hard saying goodbye to my favourite customers and especially hard to say goodbye to my wonderful team of workmates. Luckily, most of my former coworkers are friends of mine so I’ll still get to see them regularly. In fact we all went out for dinner last Saturday night to celebrate “Ashley’s Foray into Freelancing as Celebrated Through the Enjoyment of Korean BBQ” (my friend Lela thinks of the best names for events).

I’m three days into the freelancing life at this point and I’m finding the amount of solo, unstructured time daunting. I’ve been reading lots about the importance of routine and it totally makes sense, routine is what keeps me thriving and my moods have always oscillated back and forth when I have little to no structure in place. Previously, getting up for work was the perfect time reminder to make myself breakfast, especially since I often walked to work (about 45 minutes of walking). Now, even more than before, I find I need something extra fast to make so that I can dive right into the work that needs to get done that morning (writing, cleaning, going for a walk, job searching, etc.). I had abandoned smoothies a couple of months ago in favour of whole pieces of fruit and some sort of protein that I could take with me on my commute. When I make a smoothie my goal is to make it taste bright and delicious, but also be crammed full of as many nutritious ingredients as possible. Avocado is an ideal foil, it’s buttery texture adds creaminess without compromising the flavour of the smoothie. Baby kale is an excellent alternative to spinach, but you could use any green that you prefer. I sometimes add protein powder to make the smoothie more filling, but it’s not necessary and to be honest I find most protein powders have an unpleasant bitter aftertaste.

mixed berry smoothie with avocado and baby kale:

1 cup of frozen mixed berries

1 ripe banana

1/4 avocado

2 cups of baby kale

1 cup of coconut water

2 heaping Tbsp. Greek yogurt

1 scoop protein powder (optional)

Add all ingredients to a blender and blitz until completely emulsified.

What can I say? It’s been wet and gloomy in the mornings and Spiritualized seems as good a band as any to get my day off to a productive start.

Spiritualized – Stay With Me

 

Pineapple and Blueberry Smoothie

picture of a large glass of a Blueberry Pineapple Smoothie

I woke up this morning to the smell of fresh spring air; wet and heavy with the omnipresent perfume of the cherry trees and damp earth. I wanted something for breakfast that would reflect the abundance of colour outside of my apartment right now, the ground is just bursting with Technicolour blooms right now. All of the plants look neon in contrast with the charcoal soil and I’m left wondering how I could ever forgot the sheer enthusiastic intoxication that is springtime in Vancouver. So I opened my balcony doors wide open and made these fuchsia hued smoothies out of frozen blueberries and leftover pineapple from the night before. I find that if I add chia seeds to my smoothies, or anything really, they make me feel fuller, longer compared to a smoothie made without. They also thicken the texture, giving the smoothie more bulk and heft, which is particularly useful if you’re taking it to work and need it to get you through until lunchtime. I had my regular morning cup of tea with my smoothie, as well as a toasted pistolette roll with salted butter. This was such a nice way to start my day, which included such impressive feats as a short nap and a long walk along Kits beach with my mom and her tiny dog (and a lovely surprise bouquet of sunflowers from my husband).

picture of cherry blossoms against a blue sky in Vancouver

pineapple and blueberry smoothie:

(makes 2 generous smoothies)

1 1/2 cups of diced pineapple, frozen or freshly cut

1 1/2 cups wild blueberries, frozen

1 ripe banana

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 cup of coconut water

2 tsp. chia seeds

Place everything in a blender and blitz until completely emulsified. Pour into 2 large glasses and enjoy.

picture of pink flower petals on the ground in Vancouver

I’ve been listening to Wild Beasts almost nonstop for the last couple of days. When I’m struggling with depression, which is how I would describe myself right now, I often will play only one album or one musician over and over again until it begins to feel like armour. Everything is so overwhelming right now, I can’t think past the moment I’m in or I feel full of panic. Wild Beasts is good music and good armour. They’re parts slithery Jeff Buckley, Future Islands, Of Montreal; sexy, moody, sombre, and dark.

Wild Beasts – Deeper

On Port

Port

Taylor Fladgate’s Late Bottled 2009 Vintage port has an unmistakable taste of dried cherries, dark chocolate and roasted jammy plums. I tasted this port last night while attending the Vancouver International Wine Festival and although I tried plenty of memorable wines it was port that I really ended up craving on my way out the door. I blame this entirely on the unrelenting rainy February weather Vancouver is experiencing, our regional rain:sun ratio makes port appealing 10 months of the year. It’s easy to wax poetic on the loveliness of port because it immediately conjures up (for me, at least) a bookcase-lined room with red velvet curtains and a fireplace somewhere in Edwardian England. My adoration for port arose mostly by accident despite it’s presence in my house growing up, my parents had several British friends and we always had a bottle of port or sherry for when they came round to visit. A couple of years ago I helped pierce a wheel of Colston-Bassett Stilton with a long metal skewer which was followed by “feeding” the cheese port every couple of days. After several weeks of port application the cheese was ready to be cut, the blue veining throughout had turned into a beautiful purple colour and the smell was intensely fruity. The taste was unbelievable, port-forward and slightly creamy despite the cheese’s crumbly texture, the natural saltiness of the cheese offset the berry sweetness of the port. I’ve since had several opportunities to explore pairings for port and I have to say, I definitely prefer blue cheeses and cloth-bound cheddars (such as Isle of Mull or Avonlea) over the traditional creamy cheese suggestion. If creamy cheeses are a favourite, I would suggest a triple cream such as Delice de Bourgogne or Brillat-Savarin as these cheeses have strong notes of blue cheese despite there being no actual veining.

Happy Friday! Pomegranate Sunrise Cocktail

Pomegranate Cocktail

This beautiful sunrise coloured cocktail is just the perfect pick-me-up on a Friday after work; it’s pink and sunny yellow and otherwise very much a happy drink. I have also tried substituting tequila for the gin with equally promising and cheerful results. Cin cin!

pomegranate sunrise cocktail:

1 1/2 oz. gin

1/2 oz. Triple Sec

1/2 oz. Granada or other pomegranate liquor

1 oz. pomegranate juice

1 oz. orange San Pellegrino or Orangina

Squeeze of lime juice and a wedge for the glass

Pour all of the ingredients over ice in a highball glass, stir gently to combine and garnish with a lime wedge. Alternately, change the measurements as required and make it in a pretty glass jug to serve as a punch for a very lucky crowd.

And listen to something ridiculously fun, something that’s impossible to ignore, something that throws you into the middle of a one lady dance party!

Phoenix – If I Ever Feel Better

Gin and Limonata Sangria (or, “The Lela”)

The Lela

This sangria began as a delicious addition to my bachelorette party last August; a sunset picnic at Kits beach with amazing friends, food, and a rather large collection of champagne. Lela, a great friend and co-worker of mine brought a cold thermos full of gin, San Pellegrino limonata, and unsweetened cranberry juice. As someone who is not overly fond of sweet beverages I fell in love with this concoction and have been using it as my drink du jour ever since the weather has turned warmer. Last Sunday I hosted a brunch with some friends and family and turned The Lela from a cocktail into a huge pitcher of sangria with the addition of white wine and lemon slices. All I can say is that this deliciously mouth puckering mixture of ingredients was a hit with my guests as well as leaving all of us slightly tipsy for the duration of the afternoon. The taste of the gin is almost entirely masked by the tartness of all the remaining ingredients, producing a sangria that is quite a bit more potent than one would think. I used vinho verde for the white wine as it’s very dry, one note, and ever so slightly effervescent.

gin and limonata sangria (or, “the lela”):

1 bottle of vinho verde

2 cups of gin

5 cans of San Pellegrino Limonata

1 1/2 cups unsweetened cranberry juice OR pomegranate juice

1 lemon, sliced into thin rounds

Lots of ice

Combine all ingredients except ice in a large pitcher. Allow to chill for several hours. Add ice and serve.

I’m back in an Ulrich Schnauss phase at the moment, when I first moved to Vancouver almost 4 years ago I listened to his music when I went walking every day. It randomly came on my iTunes the other day and it’s since become my soundtrack for all the time, especially when getting brunch together on the Victoria Day weekend!

Ulrich Schnauss – On My Own