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Cold press: Cool-brew method creates smooth coffee flavor

Photos for cold-press coffee feature. David Samson / The Forum1 / 2
Photos for cold-press coffee feature. David Samson / The Forum2 / 2

FARGO – Cold-press coffee is not hot coffee poured over ice.

The cool, bold, smooth coffee brew is created with cold water and time, and it’s become a popular warm-weather sip.

“There is such a flavor difference between hot coffee over ice and cold press,” says Tracey Dullinger-Hooey.

Dullinger-Hooey, of Fargo, makes cold-press coffee, also called cold-brew coffee, at home using a Toddy cold brew system – a plastic device that looks like a giant coffee filter basket set over a glass carafe. She was a barista in Fargo for two years and continues to make her favorite drink at home.

“Time takes the place of heat with cold press. It’s very smooth, there’s no oil. Cold press isn’t bitter or burnt tasting,” she says. “I think a lot of people don’t realize how easy it is. If you like good cold press, it’s worth investing in a Toddy or something.”

The Toddy brew process is simple: Coarse coffee grounds (Dullinger-Hooey uses Peace Coffee’s Guatemalan Dark Roast, which can be purchased at Unglued downtown) bathe in cold water for 12 hours.

During its hours of brew time, the flavor of the coffee is released into the water.

“You can’t use hot water to speed up the process,” Dullinger-Hooey says.

After the set time, the plastic stopper is removed, and the coffee flows through the reusable Toddy filter, leaving a cold-brew coffee concentrate.

Dullinger-Hooey typically dilutes the concentrate so it’s half water but people can add as much or little as they like.

“My dad likes to say that you should be able to stand a spoon in your coffee. The stronger the better, in my opinion,” she says. “But cold press is very smooth even though it’s strong.”

The satisfying flavor of cold press prompts barista Nancy Odegard to call it a “simple pleasure.”

“It’s not real fancy, it’s not real heavy,” says the manager of Lighthouse Coffee at West Acres Shopping Center. “You feel satisfied. You feel mellow.”

The easy-to-drink beverage needs only ice and an optional splash of cream to elevate its taste.

“The coffee flavor comes through. It’s the best way to have cold coffee,” Odegard says.

Lighthouse creates cold-press coffee using a process similar to Dullinger-Hooey’s Toddy system. The coffee shop brews a special blend of beans from Alakef Specialty Coffee Roasters in Duluth, Minn., that are roasted for cold press.

The coarsely ground dark roast soaks in cold water for 12 hours before being filtered twice. The coffee concentrate is diluted based on Alakef’s recommendation. Odegard estimates that it’s about one-fourth concentrate to three-fourths water.

“It should have a real smooth coffee taste. It’s less acidic. You can’t brew it too long,” she says. “You’re not really changing the characteristic of the beans. The less complicated you are with what you do with your beans, the better the taste.”

Of course, the key to any good coffee is starting with fresh beans, and don’t even think of putting beans in the fridge.

“You want to store them in a cool, dark place but you don’t want them in the fridge,” Odegard says.

If moisture is introduced to the beans, they can spoil. It’s best to store beans in an airtight container in a cool, dark location, she says.  

Cold-press concentrate stays fresh for weeks in the fridge, but Odegard says it’s so tasty that it probably won’t last that long.

Cold-press coffee

Ingredients and supplies

12 ounces coffee beans, freshly ground on coarse setting (dark or medium roasts work best)

A Toddy brew system or a large French press or container with cheese cloth and a coffee filter

7 cups cold water


1. Place grounds in container, French press or Toddy and slowly add the 7 cups of cold water (you don’t want the grounds to splash out of the container).

2. Stir gently once all water has been added.

3. Let the mixture stand at room temperature for 12 to 15 hours.

4. Place cheesecloth over large container and strain coffee concentrate into a pitcher. Strain the mixture again using a large coffee filter.

Alternatively, press the French press to strain the coffee concentrate or unplug the Toddy to allow the concentrate to filter through.

5. Cover the concentrate and chill.

6. To serve, pour the concentrate into a glass with ice. Dilute the concentrate to your liking – usually one part coffee concentrate to one part water or milk. Finish with a splash of cream if desired.

Source: Adapted from Bon Appetit

Anna G. Larson

Anna G. Larson is a features reporter with The Forum who writes a weekly column featuring stylish people in Fargo-Moorhead. Larson graduated from North Dakota State University with a degree in journalism and joined The Forum in July 2012. She's a Fargo native who enjoys travel, food, baking, fashion, animals, coffee and all things Midwestern. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter: @msannagrace 

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