Test Kitchen: Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate

Hello, my name is Christina and I’m a coffee snob.

test kitchen: cold brew coffee

I wasn’t always this way, though. It’s only been the past couple of years that my coffee snobby-ness has gone to a completely new level. I actually didn’t drink coffee/caffeine for about five years after college and still don’t drink it crazy often now, but (in my mind) I know good coffee/espresso when I taste it.

One of the reasons for my snobby-ness is that my North Park neighborhood is quickly becoming not only the biggest beer neighborhood in San Diego, but also a big coffee neighborhood. And, we’re talking good coffee. While we do have one of THOSE popular coffee shops that sell the mochachoco frappalatte type drinks, we have more than a handful of craft coffee shops within a three block radius of one another.

I’m generally a cappuccino gal, but my husband is a cold brew fanatic and has quickly turned me onto the coffee drink that’s the current rage in these parts.

test kitchen: cold brew coffee

Now, don’t confuse cold brew with iced coffee; cold brew is far superior. While iced coffee is pretty much just pouring hot coffee over ice, cold brew is slightly more time-consuming and uses no heat at all to brew the coffee. The result is a fantastically smooth and refreshing coffee drink with less acidity and bitterness than hot coffee or iced coffee. Case in point, I would never be able to drink a cup of regular ol’ hot coffee because of all the acidity, but could totally drink a cup of cold brew.

I’ve been wanting to make cold brew at home, so my husband doesn’t have to go out and buy it all the time and when I went online to research some recipes, I found that there were lots of differing opinions about the best way to make cold brew. Because I love to recipe test and my dream job would be to work at America’s Test Kitchen, I decided to do my own home experiment and have my husband do a blind taste test to determine which method was the best.

Most recipes were in agreement about how long the coffee should brew and the ratio of grounds to water, but the size of the grounds (coarse or fine) and type of beans (medium roast or dark roast) were up for debate. My four different cold brew batches were 1) fine grounds/medium roast, 2) fine grounds/dark roast, 3) coarse grounds/medium roast and 4) coarse grounds/dark roast.

AND THE WINNER WAS….

Coarse grounds/medium roast!

Fine grounds/dark roast took second and the other two were a distant third and fourth place. The winner was really smooth while the others had quite a bit of bitterness to them which wasn’t super refreshing or something I’d be able to enjoy an entire cup of. What did I do with the non-winning cold brew? I made coffee ice cubes! Yup, just put that extra cold brew in an ice tray to add to future cold brew. The bonus of coffee ice cubes is that when they melt, they won’t water down your drink! Win!

Have you tried cold brew, yet? What are your thoughts?

Cold Brew Coffee
Yields approximately 2 1/2 cups of concentrate

Ingredients
2/3 cup medium-roast coarse coffee grounds (the size you would use if you were brewing coffee in a french press)
3 cups filtered water

NOTE: You’ll also need a jar with an airtight lid large enough to steep your grounds, a strainer and some cheese cloth.

Directions

  • Place coffee grounds in a large pitcher or jar.
  • Slowly add the water to your container.
  • Stir gently with a non-metallic spoon (the handle of a wooden spoon works really well) to make sure all of the grounds get soaked in the water. Let sit five minutes, then gently stir again.
  • Top the container with a lid and set aside in a cool, dark place (room temperature is what I did) for 24 hours.
  • After the coffee grounds have steeped for 24 hours, line a strainer with two layers of cheesecloth and strain your cold brew.
  • The liquid you have left is your concentrate! Pour in a new, clean container and store it in the fridge.
  • How you enjoy your cold brew is up to you, but I like it over ice with some half and half.
  • Enjoy!

Monday Musings

monday musings

How was your weekend???? I feel like mine was jam-packed with fun, social events. On Saturday, I got together with some work friends and had a blast catching up. Many of them had never met Cecilia, so we all had a fantastic time staring at her cutie-patootie face :) Yesterday we had brunch with Stroller Strides friends. It was the first time we got together as a group with our babies AND husbands, so it was fun to get to know everyone as a group!

I think Cecilia is going through one major growth spurt. She has been cah-razy fussy and not sleeping so much. Which, of course, means mommy isn’t sleeping so much. Coffee was my BFF last week.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that I had my first canning experience last week! I had so much fun and the final product was delicious and made some tasty breakfast. I’m canning something new this week and can’t wait!

Tomorrow my baby girl turns SIX MONTHS OLD!!!! Where the heck did the time go?!?!? She’s half way to her first birthday and I can’t believe it.

We went to our first library story time on Friday and had so much fun! Cecilia loved looking at the other babies and actually paid close attention during the story. Most of the San Diego library branches have different types of story times for kids, so I’m hoping to hit up more in the future.

Monday Musings

monday musings

How was your weekend? Our was pretty low-key because we had some INSANE very un-San Diego like weather. On Saturday it was super humid, in the 80s and we had a cah-razy thunderstorm! At one point the lightening was striking right in our neighborhood! My husband still had to work and he texted me after he left home saying that our main cross street was like a river. On Sunday it rained a bit, but it was hot and humid. I seriously felt like I lived in Texas again.

One big plus to all the rain (besides the fact we’re in a HUGE drought here in California)? My filthy car got a good washing!

Last week when I went grocery shopping, I bought four pound flat of peaches from Trader Joes. I ate them all, but one or two my husband ate. I bought more this week. I’m seriously going to turn into a peach.

I’m canning for the first time this week! I’ve been wanting to get started for a while, so I finally purchased a couple of books and all of the materials I didn’t have and I’m ready to go! So excited!

Have you seen this video of a baby seeing her parents clearly for the first time? I cried when I saw it. She has the sweetest expression and looked so happy and proud. Her big, bright eyes and huge smile reminded me so much of my baby girl. Adorable!

Did you buy anything on Amazon Prime Day? I was so pumped for it, but it definitely wasn’t what I expected, so I was disappointed. I hoped you scored some deals, though!

Have you heard of the Target app called Cartwheel? I LOVE it. I downloaded it a couple of weeks back and seriously check it everyday for exclusive deals. I saved an additional 20% on my last Target trip! I love a deal!

Summer Reading List Update

Have you been reading a lot this summer?

I told you last week that I was a book-reading machine the first few weeks of summer, but unfortunately fell off the bandwagon around mid-June. Cecilia now has a set bed time so I’ve promised myself that for 30 minutes after she falls asleep, I will sit down with my current book and unwind. I’ve found that during her afternoon nap time I’m always rushing to get some basic things done (ex: showering, eating, etc) that I don’t have time to really sit and enjoy what I’m reading because I’m thinking of all the other things I “should” be doing. Even though I’m super productive after she falls asleep, I’m going to dedicate 30 minutes to myself (and my book) to just relax and reboot before I finish out my daily “to do” list.

When I was on a roll with reading, I read three books from my summer reading list. In case you were looking for books to add to your summer reading (or just your general “to read” list), I thought I’d chat about them here.

summer reading list update

The Andy Cohen Diaries by Andy Cohen
If you’ve been following me for any amount of time, you know that I love, love, LOVE Bravo. Honestly, if I could watch only one channel on TV, it’d be Bravo. And when my husband and I decided to try a little experiment and get rid of our cable, my one major concern was, “but how am I going to watch all my Bravo shows?!?!?!”

This is Andy Cohen’s second book. While I haven’t read the first one, it’s totally on my “to read” list now that I’ve got this one under my belt. This book is fabulously trashy – and I mean “trashy” in a good way because he does some trash-talking and major name-dropping and I eat it all up. There are some instances where he doesn’t name names on purpose (mostly when referring to demanding Housewives or Watch What Happens Live guests) and I had fun trying to figure out who he was referring to. One major “storyline” in his book revolves around the adoption of his dog, Wacha, and it’s incredibly sweet to read how madly in love he is with him. The rest of the book a diary of his life each day for one year. It’s all about his celebrity BFFs (most notably SJP, Kelly Ripa and Anderson Cooper), jetset lifestyle and partying ways. Honestly, after reading this book I love him even more and want to count myself as one of his BFFs. If you already like Andy, or like any Bravo show, this is a great, fast, summer read!

summer reading list update

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
I was really looking forward to reading this book because of all the great things I had read about it. While the book did have some twists and turns (and who doesn’t love those?!?), I didn’t find it to be as suspenseful as I was hoping. Some reviews I read talked about the book being “mind blowing” and “jaw dropping,” but unfortunately it wasn’t either of those things for me; I wanted it to be, but it wasn’t. I did appreciate the family relationships that were built at the beginning of this book, though. I could feel the tension between family members and those relationships had me hooked in the first few chapters. After those first chapters, though, this book lost me.

summer reading list update

 

A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams
To me, this book sounded like the epitome of a summer beach read since it takes places in the summer. On the beach.

The narrative jumps back and forth about seven years in time and revolves around the relationship between two college friends and one of those friends and her relationship with her college ex-boyfriend. Like many books, one of the girlfriends is the shy, conservative type while the other is the wild, beautiful one with many adoring male fans. At the beginning of the book you find out there is a rift between these two former best friends, so naturally you try and speed read through those chapters to get to the ones that “go back in time” in order to find out what happened between the two pals. I certainly foresaw some of the secrets that were uncovered in those chapters, but there were still some good plot twists and things I wasn’t expecting. The ending was a bit too soap opera/unrealistic to me, which kind of ruined it a bit for me, but overall this book was enjoyable.

What have you been reading this summer? I’m back into my reading mode, so check back her soon for more updates and reviews!

Monday Musings

monday musings

How was your weekend? We went to one of our outdoor neighborhood concerts Saturday night then Sunday morning we had brunch with college friends of my husband who were in town from LA. Oh, and I had the affogato in the picture above for my brunch dessert. Perfection!

Yesterday I bought a flat of peaches from Trader Joes and I seriously want to eat them all right now. Since peaches are so good right now, I want to make Cecilia some baby food from them and my husband wants me to make a pie. Hopefully I have enough to do both of those things after I feed my craving!

For the past week or so Cecilia has been sleeping in her crib all night! YAY! Oh, and I’ve been sleeping on the floor right next to her each night :)

Last week I mentioned that we were experimenting with getting rid of cable. We got a Roku and have been trying it out. So far I think I’ve watched more TV than before. I’m caught up on almost all of the entire last season of Modern Family and started watching The Good Wife. 

I’m back on the reading train! I’m currently reading My Sunshine Away and it’s really good so far! What are you reading now?

Since I’m back on a reading roll, I’m also back updating my Goodreads. Check it out!

Okay both Housewives shows I’m watching were really good last week. Watching Vicki get the news of her mom’s death was devastating and those NY ladies went cah-razy in Turks & Caicos. So much drama!

My 2015 Summer Bucket List {Update #1}

How is your summer bucket list coming along?

I’m a little over a month into my summer challenge and things are going really well! Here’s everything I’ve done!

Read the books on my summer reading list
So, I was totally on a roll with this for the first couple of weeks after Memorial Day. I read three books in three weeks and started the fourth. I’m still working on the fourth and have made it a goal to carve out time each night before I go to bed to read. The books I’ve read so far are The Andy Cohen Diaries, A Hundred Summers and We Were Liars. I’m currently working on My Sunshine Away. If you love watching Bravo, you’ll love the Andy Cohen book since he name drops like crazy and the book is trashy in all the best ways. A Hundred Summers would be a good beach read (since most of it takes place at the beach), but I wasn’t a fan of We Were Liars. I wanted to be and tried hard to like it when I got to thinking about it more after I finished it, but it wasn’t working. So far I love My Sunshine Away.

chocolate covered strawberry ice cream

Make at least three new ice cream flavors
I’m one ice cream into my goal! If you didn’t check it out last week, here’s my recipe for chocolate covered strawberry ice cream – perfect for summer!

Exercise at least three times a week/fit back into my skinny jeans
Minus the weeks we were out of town, I’ve been doing Stroller Strides at least three times a week. I haven’t tried getting back into my jeans yet, though and I’m going to give myself another few weeks until I try. I did finally give in though and go to the mall and buy shorts in a larger size that I can actually zip and button without the help of the Bella Band I used while I was pregnant. They were two sizes larger than normal (a size 4 versus my pre-pregnancy size 0), so I’ve got my work cut out for me!

summer bucket list update #1

Go for solo runs at least twice a month
I went on my first solo run last week and it was so nice! Thanks to Stroller Strides, I went farther than I thought I would after not having been on a good run for so long and I wasn’t even sore the next day. Score one for mom! Can’t wait for my next time out!

Have fresh flowers in my house at all times
Fresh flowers in my house make me happy. I’ve kept up with this one and love it.

summer bucket list update #1

Start making baby food for Cecilia
OMG, I’m in baby food heaven, y’all! I’ve made a few purées for her (in addition to just mashing up banana and avocado for her to eat) and I love it. I bought these trays to freeze them (I store them in a labeled plastic bag once frozen) and it’s been so much fun making food for her and then watching her enjoy it. Turns out she loves cinnamon just like her mama :) I’ll be sharing my recipes on Instagram, so be sure to follow me there so you don’t miss them!

Go to at least three outdoor concerts
This one is an easy one since we live in gorgeous San Diego! So far, my husband and I have been to see the Rolling Stones at Petco Park in May and we have an Alabama Shakes concert on the books for August. We’re also planning to go to one of our neighborhood outdoor concerts next week!

Purge and organize each room of our condo
I’ve been everywhere with this one. I thought I would just go one room at a time, but I’ve been jumping all around from room to room and project to project. I did clean out my closet though and donated a TON of clothes. Even though it’s hard for me to part with some clothes, I always feel so good about it once I do it.

Go to a city I’ve never been to
A few weeks back we had the opportunity to travel with my husband for his work. We explored Ventura and Ojai together and had a lovely time. We stayed right on the water in Ventura and baby girl loved taking walks and looking at the ocean!

There you have it! Update #1! I’ll check back in next month with more updates! I hope you’re checking things off your bucket list, too!

Monday Musings

monday musings

How was your weekend and your 4th? I did a ton of stuff around the house this weekend and since my husband had some time off, we spent lots of time as a family. Oh! And we also booked a vacation for later this summer! I can’t wait!

So, I decided to join the 2000s and added the emoji keyboard to my iPhone. I don’t know why I used to be so against emojis! I love them now and I swear half of the texts between my husband and me are in emojis now. I also take about a minute longer to send each text because I go through all the emojis to see if there is one I can add to my message.

My husband and I are going to experiment with getting rid of our cable and only watching things on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and a Roku he purchased. Does anyone else do this? How do you like it? Our cable bill is so ridiculous that we thought we’d give it a try and see how we do!

So, both the Housewives of NY and OC are awesome. OC is just starting and I LOOOOOVE it and NY has been good lately especially with this trip they’re on in Turks & Caicos. And I’m also excited that the new season of Flipping Out started. My gosh, I love Bravo.

Last week I think I watched five Fixer Upper marathons on HGTV. I like Joanna’s style (even though you can see how predictable it is when you watch a marathon) and I think it’s insane that people can buy houses, albeit really crappy houses, for $10,000 in Texas. And I’m not joking when I say that. I saw an episode where that happened. Could I even buy a 200 square foot room for $10K in southern California?

The hot water was out in our condo complex this weekend, so I had to heat up water on the stove in order to wash dishes and give Cecilia a bath. Of course it had to happen on the Friday of a 3-day weekend, right? Fingers crossed it gets fixed today. I can’t handle another cold, cold shower.

I’m a cleaning machine right now. Seriously. Every time Cecilia is asleep I’m starting a new cleaning project. I love it and hope this energy lasts through me deep cleaning and purging our entire place!

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Ice Cream

Are you sick of me talking about ice cream yet?

chocolate covered strawberry ice cream

I sure hope not!

Whether I’m brainstorming recipes or talking all about my ice cream from McConnell’s in Santa Barbara, ice cream has been on my mind non-stop lately! On my summer bucket list, I said I wanted to make at least three new ice cream flavors before Labor Day, so here’s the first! I was completely inspired by the chocolate covered strawberry ice cream I had at McConnell’s in May. Since I LOOOOOOVE strawberries, I wanted to make this my first ice cream of the summer.

Seriously, why hadn’t I thought of chocolate covered strawberry ice cream before? It totally takes regular ol’ strawberry ice cream up a notch and makes your dessert sound super fancy, but really you just need a little forward planning and to take a couple extra steps to make this ice cream. And really, all the forward planning you need is to have some chocolate on hand to melt. And who doesn’t have chocolate laying around in their cupboard?

If you don’t have chocolate hanging out in your cupboard (which makes me very sad), you can use this recipe to make “regular” strawberry ice cream and it will be just as delicious. Strawberries are amazing right now, too. I honestly can’t walk into the grocery store or by a stand at the farmer’s market without smelling them. That’s when you know they’re at their peak and you need to snag a bunch. I use that same rule for peaches. If you can smell when they’re in the vicinity, you need them in your life (and belly) that second.

chocolate covered strawberry ice cream

If you’ve never made ice cream before because you are intimidated by the process, don’t be! It’s so easy and better than most of the ice creams you’ll pay a ton of money for at the store. I have this Cuisinart ice cream maker and love it. I’ve seen some super fancy (and spendy) ones out there, but I’ve always been happy with this one and have no complaints. I also have this Tovolo ice cream tub which totally rocks! I had a storage container from another brand that I used to use and it was awful! It was a twist top and if even the tiniest bit of ice cream got on the twisty part is was impossible to open. I purchased the Tovolo one last summer and haven’t looked back – totally recommend!

Some other ice cream tips? ALWAYS have the ice cream base from your maker and your storage tub in the freezer. It’s super important when making ice cream that both of these are cold in order to get a good final consistency and to speed things up a bit, so if you ever want to make ice cream on a whim, you’re ready! And my biggest tip is have fun with your flavors! Seriously, the sky is the limit when it comes to ice cream flavors, so find a base recipe you like then experiment from there.

chocolate covered strawberry ice cream

Oh, and my last tip? Once you make some ice cream, send some my way. Okay?

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Ice Cream
Yields 1 1/2 quarts

Ingredients
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt (if you don’t have an 1/8 teaspoon measuring spoon, a pinch will do just fine)
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
6 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
3 cups strawberries, stemmed and roughly chopped

Directions:

  • Place your ice cream maker’s base and a storage container in the freezer at least 24 hours before you begin making the ice cream – better yet, like I said before, always have it there so you’re ready to make ice cream 24/7!
  • In a bowl, combine the cream, milk, sugar, salt and vanilla and whisk until the sugar and salt are completely dissolved.
  • Set aside for 15 minutes in order to allow the flavors to blend, stirring occasionally.
  • Cover and refrigerate this the dairy mix until chilled, about three hours.
  • Melt the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl over a pot of simmering water.
  • While the chocolate is melting, line a small cookie sheet or freezer-safe plate with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Once the chocolate is melted, let it cool for 2-3 minutes then transfer to a bowl and mix with 2 cups of the strawberries. Toss gently to coat the berries, then place them in one layer on the parchment paper and pop in the freezer until you add them to the ice cream.
  • With the remaining 1 cup of strawberries, mash with a fork in a small bowl until they are broken down into tiny chunks and refrigerate covered.
  • Once the dairy base is chilled and ready, assemble your ice cream maker, turn it on, then pour the mix into it and churn according to manufacturer’s instructions. When the base is the consistency of soft-serve ice cream (or really thick whipped cream), add the mashed strawberries and chocolate covered berries, breaking them apart as you add them to the mix.
  • Churn ice cream until all berries are just combined and place in your cold storage container until firm, at least three hours.
  • Enjoy!

 

Monday Musings

monday musings

So, this post is super late, but it’s still Monday where I am, so I’m calling it good :)

How was your weekend? It’s been getting warm here and finally starting to feel like summer. It’s also been humid which is not so fun since we’re not super used to it here in good ol’ San Diego, so I’m hoping that goes away soon. I know, poor Christina has to sacrifice herself and live in San Diego…

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I’ve been making baby food and absolutely loving every second of it.  We tried starting Cecilia on solids once we got the green light from her pediatrician, but she wasn’t totally having it then, so we stopped. It’s been a month since then and we’ve started up again and she’s become quite the little eater. We feed her “people food” once a day, and we don’t feed her much of it, but she LOVES it. She loves grabbing the spoon and chomping on it and her favorite food so far is apples + cinnamon. Who can blame her, right? Every time I make it, I want to eat the whole bowl myself!

During one of Cecilia’s naps this past week, I watched a marathon of the new Bravo show Odd Mom Out. Have you seen it? It’s witty and well-written and I totally recommend it. In other TV news, I’m pretty much just watching the Housewives in the evening. Is there nothing else on in the summer?

This week I went on my first solo run since I had our baby girl. I can’t tell you how great it felt! Every time I felt like stopping, I just thought of her and it kept me going. I went farther than I thought I would and I felt great the next day – no soreness and I can’t wait for my time out!

Tonight I ate that delicious cheesecake in the picture above. I think it was the first time in a long time my husband and I hadn’t finished a dessert we shared. It was so rich and so delicious! I turned 33 today, and I think this will be the best year yet!

McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams {Santa Barbara, CA}

Do you remember always being asked as a kid what your favorite food was?

mcconnell's fine ice cream {santa barbara}

When answering that question, I feel like the answer was always either pizza or ice cream. Now, I love me some pizza, but I was always in the ice cream camp.

I’ve had lots of ice cream, I’ve made lots of ice cream and I will never turn down ice cream when it’s offered to me. I mean, does anyone turn down ice cream when it’s offered to them? If you do, I don’t think we can be friends.

Just kidding. We can be friends, I just don’t know if I can trust someone who would ever turn down ice cream. Again, just kidding.

Sort of.

Well…maybe not.

I came across McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream a few months ago when I stumbled upon the blog Taste and Tell. I immediately started following them on Instagram and became obsessed with their unique flavors. When we took our road trip north last month, we made a stop in Santa Barbara to specifically visit one of their locations. If you follow me on Instagram, you may remember this shot I took of my flavors (half Eureka lemon and marionberries and half chocolate covered strawberry). My husband shared the ice cream with me and fell in love with the Eureka lemon and marionberries and kept talking about it in the weeks after our trip.

mcconnell's fine ice cream {santa barbara}

We stayed the night in Santa Barbara a couple of weeks back and all my husband and I could think about was visiting McConnell’s again. Before I chat about the flavors we picked on our second trip, I must say that I absolutely LOVE that they let you split one scoop between two flavors, so you can try more even if you’re only wanting a scoop. Score one for McConnell’s!

So, this trip my husband got half Eureka lemon and marionberries (BIG surprise, right?) and half boysenberry rosé milk jam (his ice cream is pictured above). I opted for half summer fruit cobbler and half strawberry rhubarb milk jam (see below for the milk jam half; the picture farther down is of the summer fruit cobbler half).

mcconnell's fine ice cream {santa barbara}

I think with these new flavors, we each fell even more in love with McConnell’s. We tried both milk jam flavors they were offering and after the first bite my husband asked if I could make milk jam ice cream. He also said McConnell’s was the best ice cream he’d ever had and to this day asks me to make lemon and marionberry ice cream. I’ve honestly never heard my husband speak so highly of any place we’ve been and continually bring it up in conversation. I have to say that I agree with him and McConnell’s probably tops my all-time list for ice cream. And, as I mentioned, I’m no ice cream novice.

mcconnell's fine ice cream {santa barbara}

The texture of these ice creams is so creamy and perfect and they are just the right amount of sweet. Some ice creams I’ve had are so sweet that even an hour later you have an icky feeling in your mouth because of it. You’ll have none of that here. All you’ll be feeling an hour later is a want for more McConnell’s! It’s seriously dreamy stuff, y’all.

The only thing I’m bummed about is that I didn’t inquire about their ice cream club. Yes – I said ice cream club! Ack! McConnell’s straight to your door each month! I seriously can’t think of anything better. The reason I’m bummed is because we’d be totally into it, but there’s no info on their website :( I guess I’ll just have to visit again to ask and sign up!

Not only does McConnell’s have two locations in Santa Barbara, but they also have one in Ventura and in the Grand Central Market in Los Angeles. AAAANNNNNDDDD…you can buy pints online through their website.

Did I mention this is the best ice cream ever? Just in case, I’ll leave you with this…

Best. Ice Cream. Ever.

Disclaimer: All opinions are my own and I’ve received no compensation from this post. I just love this ice cream and wanted to share the love with you :)