Another find at last month’s International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago was the Hourglass cold brewing, low acid, nothing-to-wear-out coffee maker.

It got me thinking about making coffee.  While I am NOT a daily coffee drinker or a fan of Starbuck’s or any other coffee joint (they’d all be out of business if they relied on my patronage), I must admit, I do enjoy an occasional cup of joe.  I’ve tested and recommended some of the best machines for producing drinkable black gold including during this past holiday season the exquisite, expensive Jura-Capresso ENA5.  The professional and pro-style-at-home brewing systems that create the rich crema on your cup of espresso is unmatched by any other brewing method.  However, those hot brewing systems are expensive and the coffee and other coffee drinks they produce is acid-rich as well as flavor-rich, and, what’s more, they consume electricity, sometimes in fairly large amounts.

Contrast most traditional modern hot-brewed methods with the revelation promoted by the Hourglass system and it just may change the way you think about and drink your plain old coffee, perhaps even promoting more enjoyment in the act of drinking coffee at all.  At least, that is what has occurred inside my own tiny brain.

The Hourglass system is physically attractive and made of sturdy and environmentally friendly BPA-free plastic from Eastman Chemical.  (BPA, or bisphenol A, can be used in the making of plastics.  SOME studies suggest it is harmful to us, – read more, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 – so many companies have created and are touting BPA-free plastic, so if given the choice, why not opt for plastic free from BPA?) It uses a permanent stainless steel filter that washes easily as does the rest of the Hourglass assembly.  Just add the specified amount of coarse ground coffee of any type to the filter, even cheaper ones, secure it in place inside one end of the device, add the specified amount of preferably filtered water and then wait.  No instant gratification here.  It takes from 12 to 24 hours to create the cold concentrate of coffee “juice” the company calls coffee extract.

Once enough time has passed for concentrated infusion of flavor to occur, the Hourglass is turned over, as would be an hourglass, allowing the liquid to drain from what is now the top to the empty bottom.  The grounds-containing filter remains in the upper portion of the assembly.  Unscrew the top, remove the pressed-in permanent stainless steel filter and the grounds inside (put them in the garden when finished or simply dispose of them however you wish), wash it out and use it again and again.  The grounds may be immediately reused a second time to produce an “extract” that is not concentrated as was the first batch. The second coming, so to speak, is ready to consume, full-strength, either hot or cold.

That concentrated first batch is designed to be poured from the Hourglass into the supplied plastic Bean Kanteen whose purpose it is to store the concentrated goodness in the fridge for up to two weeks until it is used, a 2-ounce capful or more at a time to make your hot or cold coffee any time you wish.

The system is simple and the directions are easy to follow.  It is important, however, to use coarse ground coffee in order to prevent heavy sediment content from infusing into your final coffee product and making past the filter’s holes.  That filter can only do so much.

The brewing method is simple.  The coffee contained inside the filter is mixed with the water that permeates all the little filter holes.  Over time, the up to 24 or more hours the brew is doing its thing, mingling with the ground coffee, the concentrated coffee is produced.  It is more concentrated because it uses less water than would be used in traditional brewing methods when making coffee in a traditional hot-brewed coffee maker.  And, remember, there is no electricity.  Think sun tea without the sun and teabags.

All this for a retail price of $70!

In our tests here at Gadget Central, we liked the results very much.  The middle child, our eldest Gadget Daughter, is a regular coffee drinker.  She proclaimed the coffee, made with her preferred brand, to be excellent, tasting better than when brewed the conventional way. I reminded her that the Hourglass directions indicated that one should try the coffee before adding sweetener or milk, if that is the user’s habit, in order to sense the new taste.  Sure enough, the coffee was milder and without a trace of bitterness.  She enjoyed it just the way it was, straight up, to so speak.

We took the Bean Kanteen from the fridge, unscrewed the cap, used the top of the cap as a two-ounce measuring vessel, poured the measured amount into a coffee mug, and added filtered hot water (the ratio is about one-to-three or –four) from the instant hot water dispenser at our sink. Of course, you can use a microwave oven or kettle to heat your water.

I tried the coffee, as well.  Nice!  I liked what I tasted!  Since the creation of the brew was so effortless, I will re-think my feelings about drinking coffee.  Next, I tried iced coffee. That was so easy!  I used the second-time brew at full-strength for that.

Later that day I did it all over again with a flavored coffee.  The next evening I poured the extract into another vessel for safekeeping in the fridge, and, once again, did a second brew.  The next day, 12 hours later, I made another glass of iced coffee with that batch of full-strength brew.  I sweetened the flavored brew and it was good, really good!

Now, think about all the ways you can use this prepares, always-ready coffee, any time, and, of course, anywhere.  Take it on the road. Take it camping. Take it on vacation, if you like.  It’s perfect for coffee loving college students’ dorms, too.  Use that concentrated extract in recipes that are coffee-flavor centric. Top ice cream and add instant espresso flakes.  Use your imagination.  Instead of thinking of coffee starting hot, now, re-think it and think smarter.  Make delicious coffee-flavored adult beverages.  Any time you want a hot or cold cup of coffee, you have only to go to your refrigerator and grab the extract.  The instruction booklet contains recipes to help you use the extract in new and different ways in hot and cold drinks and in desserts.

Hourglass provides a limited lifetime warranty, and why not?  There are no parts to wear out and no consumables.

I cannot tell you I was able to validate the manufacturer’s claim of nearly 70% less acid from this brewing method. I can tell you I tasted not a hint of acidity, which I generally can detect.  With such smooth flavor, such easy cleanup, versatility in the production and use of the brewed product, I can wholeheartedly recommend the Hourglass product.  However, as the title of this article suggests, WAIT!

Cold brewed coffee?  How tough is that to duplicate, perhaps for less money, and taking up less space?  Taking nothing away from this innovative product’s makers and their striking design, I had to check further.

Using the correct proportions, one could buy and use any permanent filtration mechanism, perhaps a large stainless steel loose tea “ball” that can do double duty for coffee and tea?  The trick is to use more coffee and less water in order to make the resultant liquid brew more concentrated than it would otherwise be.  In this way, the concentrate is stored easily and goes a long way toward making many cups of coffee, both hot and cold.  The Hourglass ratio is 2-1/4 cups coarse grind coffee to 3-1/2 cups cold, filtered water.  Since the Hourglass brews by immersing the coffee-filled filter in water, why cannot the same be done, in the same ratio, in any vessel and with any suitable closed filter mechanism?  It would not be elegant or as easy, but it could be much less expensive and it might take up considerably less space.

I found three-inch closable mesh tea balls online for as little as $4.  You can reuse a large wide-mouth glass jar, such as a pickle jar, to hold the water and tea ball.  You could even use a bowl you already have with an immersed filtration ball in it, letting it sit on your counter, undisturbed, with a protective cover of aluminum foil or plastic wrap.  I know you are smart enough to figure it out.  Just as one may use the Hourglass to make tea as well as coffee, you may use a tea ball and a jar or bowl to make your own version of coffee extract or cold-brewed tea if you so choose.

Another alternative would be to use a French coffee press to create cold-brewed coffee extract.  The original French press from Bodum is one way to do this.  With prices starting at around $25, these small footprint devices can do the same thing and also have no consumables.  They are made of glass and stainless steel.

Now you know there is an excellent alternative to creating brewed coffee the cold way using the Hourglass product as well as worthy alternatives.  Buy Hourglass online at their Website, at Whole Foods Markets, at Kitchen Kaboodle and at Solutions.

Watch their little video. Get more information about Hourglass by email ([email protected]) or by calling the company headquarters in Vancouver, Washington at 360-696-4488.

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