Pros: Makes an amazing cup of coffee; reduces waste; makes coffee quick and easy day-to-day; reduces bitterness and acidity
Cons: Could use a lid; handle could be a little easier on the hands
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
First posted 12/6/2005
Review items courtesy of Toddy
I’m a coffee addict; I admit it. However, what I’m not addicted to is that bitter taste, the acidity that so much coffee has. I go to great lengths to get rid of these aspects of my coffee. Per the suggestions of Alton Brown, host of “Good Eats,” I use extra coffee grounds–this reduces the amount of bitter compounds that get drawn out of the grounds. I also carefully pick and choose my coffees, and there are only a few I’ve found that I’m willing to drink over and over again in the long run. Then I add plenty of half-and-half and sugar… Well, you get the idea.
Thus, I was intrigued by the Toddy Cafe Cold-Brew System. It advertised less bitterness, as well as “approximately 67% less acid than coffee brewed by conventional hot water methods.” That certainly sounded promising.
Here’s the idea: you fit the Toddy Cafe brewing container with its reusable filter in the bottom (after dampening the filter) and then plug the hole in the bottom with the rubber stopper. You carefully alternate layers of coffee and water (one pound of preferably coarse-ground coffee, and a total of nine cups of filtered or bottled water) and allow to sit undisturbed for 12 hours. Then you unplug the hole overtop of the included glass carafe and settle the brew container over the carafe to drain for a short while. Finally you dump the grounds, rinse and fridge the filter (which can be used approximately 10 times), and fridge your carafe of coffee concentrate. Yes, that’s right, I said concentrate. This is where things truly get interesting.
The coffee that is produced is in concentrated form; the recommended ratio is one part concentrate to three parts water, milk, cream, or some combination thereof. However, you can adjust it to taste in whatever way you like. For me, this had an unexpected benefit. Instead of having to buy separate half-and-half for my coffee, some of which often went bad before I used it up, I can now use the same low-fat milk for my coffee that I use for my cereal. I just use it in place of the water when diluting the concentrate–one part concentrate to three parts milk.
There are other surprising benefits, too. I use less sugar (in fact I recently stopped using sugar altogether) because I need less in order to offset the bitterness. I can drink a wider range of coffees and enjoy them (I was able to enjoy the Sumatran breakfast blend that Toddy sent along with the system as well as my usual brand, which surprised me). I traditionally tend to drink about a half a cup or so of coffee rather than a whole one; now I can make just half a cup and microwave it, rather than making a whole cup of coffee in a drip coffee maker and having to throw half of it out–or I can enjoy a full cup without it bothering my stomach! No matter how much or little you drink, you can heat it one cup at a time to make exactly the amount you want. Cup-for-cup this method makes a little less per pound of coffee than more traditional methods, but if you ever find yourself throwing out unwanted coffee then this does result in less waste.
The concentrate is great for other things too, like iced coffee, smoothies with a coffee flavor, and baking. Yes, baking. Most baking recipes that involve coffee call for hot water and instant coffee because they require a concentrated coffee flavor in a reduced amount of liquid. I used the Toddy concentrate in place of this in a couple of recipes this Thanksgiving–including in a cheesecake–and I believe it resulted in something at least as good as, if not better than, the alternative.
You can use the Toddy system to make tea concentrate as well, and Toddy also sells pre-made concentrates of various types. I got to try several of them, including a green tea concentrate with honey and mint, a chai latte concentrate, and a caffe latte. All three were just wonderful. I’ve long enjoyed iced green tea, but always found that the bottled stuff when I drank it had a sort of “off” taste. The tea I made with the Toddy concentrate just tasted wonderful.
You do need to remember to make your coffee 12 hours in advance, but that’s hardly a big deal. I suppose it would be nice if there was a lid for the brew container; we have curious cats, and one of them has an unfortunate taste for coffee grounds. However, some of that Glad press-and-seal stuff that seems to stick to almost nothing else actually holds quite well on the top of the Toddy brewing container, and has proven to be a good solution for us.
The only other problem I’ve had is that the weight of the filled brew container combined with the hard plastic edges of the handle are a bit hard on my hands, but I usually solve this by using a thick potholder when lifting the brew container and moving it.
All in all, the Toddy system really does produce a superior cup of coffee, and I find it unlikely that I’ll go back to a traditional brewing method any time soon.