As We Say These Days

This week’s little bonus? Tips for all the iced-coffee lovers out there.

Now, these come with a caveat: I do not drink coffee–not any kind of coffee–so I’m relying (like, completely) on this article. Its title sounds super authoritative, though, so we’re going to go with it: The Best Way to Make Iced Coffee (It Isn’t Cold Brew).

That title is what we call a spoiler–at least for those folks who’ve heard of “cold brew” in a context other than beer (which I also don’t drink, not even on May Two-Four weekend)–but it doesn’t give away the whole story. Although it takes a while to get to the second point (which, luckily for you, was positioned just a hair before the point where I stopped caring), the rest of the story is this: Don’t over-dilute your coffee. That one principle includes two key sub-points:

  • Reduce your coffee-brewing water by the volume of water from the soon-to-be-melted ice shavings or cubes
  • Use the weight of the beans or grounds, not their volume, to manage the coffee’s strength

At this point you might be wondering why we’re even at this point; to wit, if I don’t drink any kind of coffee, why do I care about the finer points of making iced coffee?

I don’t.

Initially I looked at the article to see if it was worth sharing with people I know who do drink coffee.  As we say these days, I came for the connectedness; I stayed for the straight-from-the-shoulder-ness. Here, for instance, is what can go wrong when your steeping vessel isn’t properly sealed.

Think of a cut apple turning brown:
that’s your cardboardy-tasting week-old cold brew.

Here’s what happens when your water isn’t hot enough.

the mildew-scummy flavors
this style of brewing displays

Cardboardy tasting? Mildew-scummy flavors? All right, then. My advice to this writer? Don’t hold back: Just say what you think. Or, as we say these days, speak your truth.

It wasn’t always thus: encouraging people to speak their truth, I mean. I remember watching Disney’s Bambi on TV as a kid. The scene where Thumper is prompted  to remember (and encouraged to follow) some fatherly advice generated a meme before we knew that word for it.

If you can’t say somethin’ nice,
don’t say nuthin’ at all.

I’m not claiming that the advice stuck with me in any operational sense, but it did at least stick with me. As it did for lots of others; hence, the Thumper Rule.

Social media doesn’t follow the Thumper Rule. It’s been accused of being responsible for the almost default nastiness of today’s discourse, but sometimes I worry that it’s not just our behaviour but our character that has changed. People used to be more restrained in their expression, didn’t they? Well, yes and no. Yes, in public; not always, in private.

Mr. Collins is a conceited, pompous,
narrow-minded, silly man:
you know he is, as well as I do . . .

That’s certainly a straight-from-the-shoulder assessment: It’s Elizabeth Bennet speaking to her sister–privately, of course–in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, published in 1813.

Has the discourse changed? No question. Have people changed? Maybe not. If Austen were with us today, blogging, is it such a stretch to imagine her expressing an unvarnished opinion on how to make the best iced coffee?

Cold-brew makes a cardboardy-tasting,
mildew-scummy-flavoured iced coffee:
you know it does, as well as I do . . .

But even in our world where things that used to be private are now aired in the public square, I think she would be able to distinguish between coffee and Mr. Collins, and to apply the degree of from-the-shoulder-ness appropriate to each.

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12 Responses to As We Say These Days

  1. John Whitman says:

    Isabel – iced coffee?? Seems like a lot of work make to me and I do drink hot coffee.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      John – Indeed. Compared to iced tea (strong tea +, um, ice) it does seem like an effort. Mind you, maybe I don’t have the palate to appreciate the subtleties.

  2. I am unsure of why chilling (and sweetening or adding lemon) to tea has always seemed to me a more successful switch than doing something similar to coffee. Coffee as a flavouring in cold or frozen deserts, with or without chocolate, is pleasing because the intensity of its flavour is diluted to allow other tastes, such as vanilla, cream, cherries, or almonds, to mingle. That intensity intrinsic to coffee surely is the reason for its popularity as a hot beverage, as well as for its touted health benefits. If science can support my aversion to icing coffee, I would like to know it. The language of science is likely to bridge that public/private hiatus you illustrate from Jane Austen’s novel. In fact (pun intended), wonder if the spreading of scientific “truthiness” through conversation has tended to erode those distinctions that used to be made regarding appropriateness for opinionated disclosure to those private/public audiences?

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – Further to your comments on the widespread use of coffee as an added flavour, I used to lament the absence of interesting after-dinner drinks with tea, whereas there are several that use coffee. Tea is just too weak a flavour to stand up to the liquor, I think. There is Long Island Iced Tea, but it contains no tea! As for why we now feel free to share our opinions (especially negative or harsh ones), maybe we have lost the distinction between truth and (our own) opinion. Some days we do seem to live in a “if I feel it to be true, it is true” world – and what could possibly be wrong about sharing the truth? Indeed, we might even feel an obligation to enlighten others!

      • John Whitman says:

        Isabel – re truth and opinions. Can it be that “truth” is relative to each individual?
        For an extreme example. “One person’s terrorist is anther person’s freedom fighter”;
        “Truth is relative. Pick one!”

        • Isabel Gibson says:

          John – So, this is one of the main philosophical arguments of our day, I think: Is truth absolute or relative/subjective? For the terrorist/freedom-fighter assessment, I can see room for relativity, for opinion/perspective. The trouble with moral relativity is that it leads to the idea that anything can be justified in “resistance” mode–just as one example. We’ve seen particularly pernicious examples of that recently.

  3. On both subjects, yes. Your analysis of the competition between tea and alcohol surely is anatomical relating to taste buds. Your analysis of the triumph of feelings over reason in the populace appears to be true, yet I hope that appearance is my own emotional reaction and not the whole truth.

  4. Tom Watson says:

    I can add this to my “all the things you thought you never needed to know” list. I’m not that wild about cold coffee.

  5. barbara carlson says:

    I am irrationally proud of this fact: I have never made coffee in any machine. Ever. I have tasted coffee made from every kind of machine/gadget/device/hardware . In every instance, I found the results harsh, bitter and way too strong. I have only EVER made instant for myself — Taster’s Choice — takes only the time to boil water.
    I do not understand the seemingly devotional/fanatical urge to make it any other way… and wait and wait and wait. This statement will be met with opinions, not any truths, IMO.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – I think this says something about your taste sensitivities. I myself don’t eat strong savoury foods (like olives) and put coffee in that category, at least as-it-is-usually-offered. On the other hand, I drank a cup of medium-roast coffee in Costa Rica on the plantation where the beans were grown and roasted, and it was way, way milder. I could learn to drink that brew. But, of course, I have no idea how they did brew it.

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