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Cold-brewed coffee is one of my favorite forms of joe. If done right, the drink's sweet, syrupy texture and lack of bitterness is irresistible. Making batches of cold brew at home, though, is a tedious affair especially when it's time to strain your grounds. Here to help is the $50 Oxo Cold Brew Coffee Maker, which eliminates much of the hassle out of creating this special kind of java.
You will pay a premium for Oxo's cold-brew contraption. It costs twice the price of other cold-brew gadgets such as the Takeya Cold Brew Coffee Maker and Bodum French press machines. Still, if your priority is to whip up quality cold brew with as little aggravation as possible, then this Oxo device is splurge-worthy.
The Oxo Cold Brew Coffee Maker is deceptively simple. It has just one switch and uses gravity, not electricity, as its main power source. Even so, it's clear plenty of thought went into the Cold Brew's construction.
This hourglass-shaped appliance functions in much the same way as a typical drip brewer. Like a conventional drip coffee maker, the Oxo Cold Brew has a brewing chamber up top where you place ground coffee beans for steeping. Below this sits a carafe to collect the liquid that has been strained by a stainless-steel filter at the bottom of the brewing container.
That's where the similarities between the Oxo Cold Brew and drip machines end. The Cold Brew Coffee Maker uses water at room temperature or colder so it has no heater, electronic components, nor a power cord. Instead you manually pour cool water onto the brewing container's perforated lid, which Oxo calls the "rainmaker".
Provided you decant water in a circular fashion over the indented lid, the rainmaker evenly saturates coffee grounds by showering them with small water droplets. A Brew-Release Switch either holds water inside the brewing container or releases it to drain into the glass carafe below.
I especially like the conical shape of this carafe, which strongly resembles an Erlenmeyer flask. Complete with graduated markings for volume (in milliliters and ounces) the glass could have easily come from inside a laboratory, not bundled with a kitchen appliance.
I had no trouble using the Oxo Cold Brew. The trickiest part was grinding the large quantity of beans (10 ounces, 284 grams) then transferring them into the Oxo's brewing container without creating a big mess. For best results these beans must be ground coarsely, so I had to run multiple batches through my relatively small domestic burr grinder and hope I didn't get clumsy.
Once the Cold Brew was fully loaded, I carefully added water (40 ounces, 1,200 ml), waited 10 minutes then gave the grounds mixture a thorough stir and returned its lid. Twenty-four hours later, I pulled the Brew-Release switch down to end brewing and drain my cold-brew liquid into the glass vessel below (a 20-minute process).
In the end, I was treated to 24 ounces (710 ml) of sublimely sweet, smooth, and rich coffee concentrate. Refractometer readings confirmed the complexity of my drink, which had a measured total dissolved solids (TDS) percentage of 5.4 percent. This is a high figure for any coffee drink, but when you factor in the massive amount coffee grounds consumed in relation to the brewing water (a 4 to 1 ratio of water to coffee), it translates to a low extraction percentage of 4.9 percent.
Don't be alarmed though, because unlike the 19- to 22-percent extraction (1.35 percent TDS) considered ideal for drip coffee brewing, cold brew is a different animal entirely. Brewing coffee cold is by nature a low extraction method and inherently lacks the acidity and bitter flavors often created through heat.
Whether the $50 Oxo Cold Brew Coffee Maker is a smart buy depends on how much you enjoy this unique coffee drink. From a purely economic perspective it pays to make cold brew at home rather than buying it from stores and coffee shops, which typically add on a significant upcharge.
With Oxo's device I could theoretically squeeze five 24 ounce cold brew batches from a 3 pound bag of Kirkland Costa Rica coffee ($15 at my local Costco). 120 ounces in all -- that's a much better deal than forking over $7.99 for a 32-ounce bottle in the supermarket.
Of course if cold brew isn't part of your regular routine, I don't recommend dropping $50 on a highly specialized kitchen gadget. You'd be better served by a $30 Bodum French press which can brew hot and cold coffee. Another affordable option is the $25 Takeya Cold Brew Coffee Maker, though I'll reserve final judgement until I personally take it for a spin.