When you write about an unusual topic like sous vide you find you can get ideas from anywhere. While in Jamaica at a friend's wedding my wife and I got to talking to some of the people at our table and of course sous vide came up. One of them mentioned they had listened to something about doing sous vide coffee. I had never heard of it but I love to experiment so as soon as I got home I made some different sous vide coffees to see what worked.
I think I should preface this with despite drinking it almost every day I'm not a coffee snob, don't know much about coffee, and am probably the last person to accurately judge what makes good coffee. I'm usually just as content with Duncan Donuts or gas station coffee as with a fancy blend from somewhere.
Because of that, I'll try to share more of the differences I found between the times and temperatures. Try to use them as a guide and tweak the times, amount of coffee, type of coffee, etc. to create sous vide coffee that you will enjoy.
The idea for sous vide coffee was originally talked about (as far as I can tell) in a Cooking Issues podcast from the French Culinary Institute. They also had a post in their forum which is where I got most of my information when I got started experimenting.
For the sous vide coffee I took the temperatures mentioned in the post 149°F (65°C) and 185°F (85°C) since they seemed to represent a good spread of high and low. I also brewed the coffee for 30 minutes, 60 minutes, and 120 minutes to see how the times would affect the flavor.
For each batch I used 2 cups of water mixed with 2 heaping tablespoons of coffee. Because I got the idea in Jamaica I used ground Jamaican Blue coffee, which is pretty bold, so keep that in mind with the results.
Here's a summary of the results I got, followed by directions so you can try sous vide coffee for yourself. And just to reiterate, this is just what my horribly untrained palate thought and might not be entirely in line with the results you get.
If you have any experience with sous vide coffee or thoughts about it please share them in our sous vide coffee forum post.
30 Minutes at 149°F (65°C)
As expected, this sous vide coffee was very weak but it did have good flavor and really no bitterness.
60 Minutes at 149°F (65°C)
This sous vide coffee had a richer flavor than the 30 minute one but wasn't markedly different. There was still very little bitterness.
120 Minutes at 149°F / 65°C
This was one of my favorite sous vide coffees. The flavor seemed to develop a lot more than the shorter brewed ones and the bitterness was still very mild.
30 Minutes at 185°F (85°C)
I was surprised that this coffee wasn't stronger, it was about the same strength as the 60 minute coffee cooked at the lower temperature. However, it did have a little bitterness which was lacking in the other sous vide coffees.
60 Minutes at 185°F (85°C)
You could really tell the difference between this sous vide coffee and the ones cooked at lower temperatures. It seemed to have a lot more flavor and even though it had some bitterness it wasn't overwhelming. It was the best sous vide coffee in my opinion.
120 Minutes at 185°F (85°C)
This was definitely the richest sous vide coffee with a nice, bold flavor. It also had the most bitterness which I thought was a little too strong and overwhelmed the flavor some.
All in all I thought the best sous vide coffee was 60 minutes at 185°F (85°C) but I also really liked the 120 minutes at 149°F (65°C) coffee as well. In the future I'd be interested in trying a slightly higher temperature around 158°F (70°C) to see if that extracts some more flavor without adding the bitterness.