Cold Brew Coffee with the Toddy Coffee Maker

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About 10 years ago when I knew far less about coffee than I do today, I attempted my first cold brew coffee. It was a disaster. The coffee was so vile and disgusting I threw it out after a single sip. At the time I assumed it was an inferior brewing method and never gave it another chance. Recently I met some fellow home coffee roasters whose opinion I really respected. They told me of their love for the cold brew method. It was time to give the Toddy another chance.

The first thing you learn is that you aren't brewing coffee. You are brewing a coffee concentrate. The coffee concentrate brews at room temperature and stores cold. According to Toddy a cold brewed concentrate will keep fresh in the refrigerator for 14 days. To make a cup of cold brew, you will pour one part concentrate into a mug to three parts water. Then microwave. In the age of dedicated machines whose sole function is brew a single-cup of coffee with little or no cleanup, the cold-brewed method may be simplest.

Must it be the Toddy?

Toddy started cold brewing in 1964. Before that it was done for who knows how many years in Central America. You don't need a Toddy to make cold brewed coffee. However, the design of brewer makes it easy enough to get started. For around $30 it's an inexpensive brewing system.

Toddy T2N Cold Brew System
Toddy T2N Cold Brew System

Reasons To Cold Brew

Is this the right brewing system for you? Below is a short list of the situations that would be best suited for cold brewed coffee.

  • Coffee drinkers that find coffee too acidic. According to Toddy their cold brew system produces "67% less acid than coffee made by conventional hot brew methods." This is a big plus to coffee drinkers with acid reflux.
  • Less Caffeine? An MSNBC article stated Toddy claims their coffee has "up two-thirds less caffeine than regular coffee". I'm a bit skeptical of this claim.

    UPDATE: Toddy has informed me that MSNBC made a mistake in their reporting. From Toddy:
    "Our claim is cold brewed coffee has approximately 33 percent less caffeine than coffee brewed (using regular caffeinated beans) by conventional hot water methods."
  • Households where everyone drinks coffee at different times. If everyone drinks coffee at different times, then it's hard to know when to make a full pot. Moving to a single cup solution solves that problem.
  • Camping. Use a campfire to heat your water to add to the concentrate.
  • Iced coffee drinkers. Add ice and water and you're done. No more need to chill hot brewed coffee.
  • Power Outage. The grinding may require electricity, but not the brewing method.

Reasons to NOT Cold Brew

  • Press Pot and Espresso fans. Fans of the coffee oils may find the flavor weaker and less interesting.
  • Small batch Home Roasters. The Toddy works best with a full pound of coffee. For home roasters, this can be a lot of roasting (and grinding) to do at one time.

Equipment Checklist

  • Brewing Container - This is the big white plastic thing.
  • Reusable Filter - A white circular sponge which fits into the inside of the Brewing Container.
  • Stopper - A little rubber wedge which fits snuggly into the outside of the Brewing Container.
  • Glass Decanter - What we will use to the store the coffee.
  • Decanter Top - The lid to seal the Glass Decanter.
  • Ring with Handle - Optional piece can be used as a handle.
  • 1 Pound of Coffee Ground Regular (aka Drip or Vac-Pot).

Step by Step Brewing Tutorial

  1. Secure Stopper into Brewing Container - Turn the brewing container upside down and from outside it wedge the stopper into the open hole. The fit needs to be tight, but do not forcefully wedge the stopper too far. It will be holding the brewed coffee for 12 hours and will be removed at that time.
  2. Turn Toddy Upside Down

    Secure Stopper into Brewing Container

  3. Wet and Insert Filter - Take the Reusable Filter and wet it. Then place it snuggly into the inside bottom of the Brewing Container.
  4. Toddy Filter

    Wet Toddy Filter

    Insert Toddy Filter

  5. Add 1 pound of coffee into the Brewing Container. Cold brewed coffee requires a medium grind, which is the same as drip or vac-pot.
  6. Pour Coffee into Toddy

  7. Slowly and evenly add 4 cups of water, then wait 5 minutes. Do not stir the coffee mixture.
  8. After the 5 minutes, add 5 more cups of cold water slowly and evenly. This should take the mixture to top of the Brewing Container. Again do not stir.
  9. Ready to steep for 12 hours

  10. (optional) Cover top with plastic wrap. This step isn't covered by Toddy, but I figured I didn't want dust or any insects to land in my coffee while it brewed for 12 hours.
  11. Allow 10-12 hours for coffee to steep. The coffee steeps at room temperature. The "Cold" portion comes when the final product is stored.
  12. Release coffee into Glass Decanter. Use the Ring with Handle to assist you when you lift the Brewing Container over the Glass Decanter. When the coffee is above the Glass Decanter, reach under the Brewing Container with your free hand and remove the Stopper. A slight turn of the Stopper should free it and coffee will begin to trickly out of the Brewing Container into the Glass Decanter.
  13. Release Stopper in Toddy

  14. Allow 20-30 minutes for the coffee to flow into the Glass Decanter. When complete, remove the Brewing Container. Then seal the Glass Decanter with the Decanter top and store in the refrigerator.
  15. Clean the Brewing Container and put away for a future use. According to Toddy, the filter is to be stored in a Zip-Lock-type bag inside the refrigerator. Why a filter needs to be cold stored is not clear. A filter can be used for 10 brews.

Preparing a Hot Cup of Coffee

Now comes the quick and easy part. Heat three parts water. After the water has been heated, add one part coffee concentrate. Adding the coffee prior to heating the water will result in a hotter coffee, but it may come at the expense of flavor. So heat the water first and then add the coffee.

Making Iced Coffee

Cold brewed coffee is the premiere method of making iced coffee. Add one part concentrate to two parts water over ice. You could even get fancy by making coffee concentrate ice cubes.

Troubleshooting

ProblemSolution
Coffee Brews Too Fast or Too Slow It should take the coffee 20-30 minutes to fall into the Glass Decanter. Having a consistent grind is the best way to ensure this. Even though I have a decent bean grinder at home, I will have my local coffee roaster grind for me just prior to making cold brewed coffee. When grinding a full pound at once, it's best to have it done with a commercial grade machine.
Coffee Tastes Weak As this is a concentrate, you can always add less water to your mug. Adding more coffee (or less water) to the brewing process is not advised.
Coffee Taste Too Strong Add more water to the concentrate.
Hot Coffee Isn't Hot Enough If you use a kettle to heat water and then pour that hot water onto the cold coffee concentrate the temperature will NOT be as hot as other brewing methods. When I use a kettle for the water, I still warm the concentrate in the microwave.
Coffee Tastes Bitter Bitterness is usually one of two things: either the grind is too fine or the beans are stale.
Coffee Tastes Thin If you are used to drinking coffee where the filter allows the oils into the brewing process such as espresso, press pot or gold-filter drip then getting used to cold brew could take a while. Also a coarse ground could cause the the coffee to taste thin. Make sure your coffee is ground for drip.

Last Words

Even though I still prefer the press pot to cold brew, I now know it's possible to make an excellent cup of coffee using this brewing method. One thing I did have issues with was making cold brew with less than a full pound of coffee. Despite the directions provided by Toddy, I discovered brewing less than a pound to be problematic and not worth the effort.

Resources

Toddy Cold Brew System - Amazon product Page

Cold Brewed Coffee on the Cheap - A di-it-yourself approach to cold brewed coffee.

ICB Acidity Test (PDF) Acidity analysis by Intertek Caleb Brett

My coffee is cold - MSNBC article by Jon Bonne.

Published: December 2005, Last Modified: September 2011, Author Google+