Challenge Accepted: Upping the Coffee Game, Reducing the Cost

When you work a highly physical job for ten hours a day, it starts to sap away that healthy desire to rise with the birds in the morning to make a full breakfast, make coffee, and so forth. Maybe do some yoga.

All right, all right. Truth time.

Yes, before 10 AM, I’m a grouchy, wild-eyed zombie that yearns not for munching on brains, but to instead nomnomnom voraciously on the querulously quailing hearts of those who dare make demands of me prior to either waking fully or hooking up to my daily injection of caffeine.

*clears throat nervously*

Mmmmm. Espresso. ♥️

So, thus, and therefore, like many other non-morning people often swept up in a morning crush (plus six feet for social distancing, thank you very much), I tend to swerve towards Starbucks for a pick-me-up and a snack. Since I’ve never been a fan of hot coffee (too acidic), my preferences lean more towards cold brew which, Alton Brown tells me through Good Eats, is super simple to make and tends to carry more flavor than hot coffee.

Easy? Sign me up.

Greater flavor complexity? The wine girl grins gleefully.

Dare I try?

But of course!

The new journey began with finding a high quality coffee to use for the brew. A simple task, actually, as I had a trusted source at the farmer’s market (Silver Canyon Coffee — they’re fantastic).

The aromatics coming from this blend alone are enough to make me swoon. And I’m not the swooning type, y’all.

With that out of the way, the next hurdle came from creating the distinctive, creamy foam that Starbucks uses to top their brews. ‘Tis the season for all things fall, so I opted to focus my copycat coffee on a pumpkin cream cold brew recipe.

And that, according to my Google-fu, meant I needed to purchase some form of milk frother, since my apartment is far too small to support an espresso maker or a blender. After reading up on available options, I had a place to start searching.

Quest Completion Criteria:

  • Under $50 (under $30 even better)
  • Rechargeable
  • Easy to clean

Fast forward a couple of hours, and I had narrowed down my choices to two. In the end, I went with an option from Amazon (because everything offered nearby cost around $50) that had over 2000 positive reviews. Rechargeable, three speed, and easy to keep clean. It even came with a stand so the whirly bits don’t have to sit right on the counter.

Extra experience points! Level up! 😁

Special thanks for the next part goes to Marsha! She helped fund this project, particularly the milk frother! Thank you so much for your support. 😊

The thing itself. The box makes it seem a lot bulkier than in reality.

With materials assembled, minus a trip to three grocery stores because the first two were out of pumpkin purée (the travesty, people), the early forays began.

Coffee-making notes:

(1) Add coarse ground coffee and water to jar, seal, fridge overnight, and presto. It really is super easy.

(2) The recipe I used was supposedly meant for a quart jar. However, using the exact measurements they gave meant that the coffee fit fine, but a third of the water did not, resulting in suuuuuuuper strong coffee.

(3) Straining the grounds made a huge mess… all over my counter, first thing in the morning. Oops. Need to figure out how to not repeat that fiasco and lose a good portion of coffee in the process.

So I have a few kinks to work out in future iterations.

As for making the pumpkin cream:

(Alpha) First try yielded a weird pumpkin butter lump floating in milk. So did the second attempt, but multiple, smaller flecks. Perhaps frothing too long? I did a few practice rounds before a work morning so I could try and get the hang of it.

(Bravo) I still don’t have the hang of it. Adding pumpkin puree and vanilla sweetener doesn’t seem to be doing me any favors, either. Maybe I need to practice with just the milk first until I crack the code.

(Charlie) Cream recipe recommended maple syrup. Meh. Tried vanilla sugar syrup instead, seems to be a bit better.

(Delta) More mess making opportunities, WOOHOO! (/sarcasm) Note to self, do not turn on whirly bits until fully submerged in milk. Also, need a bigger vessel for making foam.

(Echo) If all else fails, at least the brew will still taste like fall?

One of my better results. The foam looks super wonky, but it tasted fine and acted somewhat like a creamy foam.

This week, the plan is to keep on practicing, with one cool addition of chicory root to the cold brew. Also recommended by Alton, among others, I’m curious to see how chicory shifts the flavor profile. My younger brother was — and probably still is — a New Orleans chicory coffee nut, so perhaps there’s something substantive behind the claims.

We’ll see.

Stay tuned for an update next week on this new journey. Once I work out the issues, I’ll post a recipe.

Like what you’re reading? Have suggestions on how to make this at-home process less messy? Let me know in the comments!

If you’re interested in contributing to this or another active project, check out the Donation page. This blog depends on its lovely readers to move forward!

Published by Allie

Foodie explorer with Stardew Valley dreams. Lover of wine but not beer, cheese but not milk, and all things chocolate. Working to learn as many self-sufficient, at-home food production skills as possible.

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