Sometime in the last month or so, someone, somewhere posted a link to an article about some fancy coffee making system, that involved lots of beakers and roasting and grinding the coffee yourself in multiple steps. I think the intent was to turn making coffee into a kind of ritual, kind of like tea ceremony. Unfortunately i can't find the link to that anymore =/
But anyways, in response someone suggested pretty much the opposite method as a superior alternative (at least in terms of resulting in good coffee, not so much in the ceremony) that's both cheap and simple. Simply cold brewing, which is exactly what it sounds like. You dump some coffee grounds and cold water together in a container and let it sit for about a day (I've seen anywhere from 8 to 24 hours recommended.) When you're done you strain out the grounds and the result is supposedly "coffee syrup." It doesn't really have the consistency of syrup, but it is stronger than regular coffee. The sites i've seen recommend diluting it 1 to 1 with water, which seems to work for me.
This method, or rather the result of the method, has apparently acquired the name of "Toddy coffee," based on a fairly popular cold brewing device that was invented in the 60s.
The biggest advantages of this method is supposedly that the coffee is less acid (i'm not sure why getting the acid out is a more energetic process than getting the good coffee stuff out, but everyone seems to agree that you get more acidity if you overheat your water in a regular brewing process,) it's much better if you want to make iced coffee (since it won't be over-diluted by instantly melting all the ice) and once you have the syrup making a cup of coffee is really quick. I can't really tell about the acidity thing, i'm really not much of a coffee connoisseur (or much of an anything connoisseur really =) but shelleycat tried it and agreed that it seemed to need less sugar and cream than she normally added.
A further advantage from my perspective is that if you mix the syrup with the hot water from the water cooler at work and then add half-n-half, it comes out at just about my favorite luke-warm temperature (on the downside, that means i drink it way too quick =)
The downside is that it takes a bit more preparation than regular brewing methods. Of course a large portion of that is just letting it sit there, so as long as you plan ahead it's not a big problem. Setting it up is pretty easy, just tossing water and coffee grounds in a container is simple. The more elaborate part is getting the coffee out at the end. My current ramshackle method is to put some cheesecloth over the mouth of the bottle, then drain the results into a coffee filter that's over another container. The cheesecloth strains out most of the grounds, and the filter gets the rest. However since i'm doing this by hand it gets rather messy =P And i also can't just set it up to drain and leave it. This wouldn't be such a big issue if the only jar i had to hand when i started trying this hadn't been a smallish cleaned out salad dressing jar, which only holds about a cup and a half of water in addition to the coffee grounds. This means that by the time i'm done filtering things out i've got enough syrup to make about two cups of coffee. (Incidentally, if i'm doing the math right the original recipe actually seems to require more grounds than the regular hot brewing method, but i've been experimenting with the amount to generally satisfactory results.) If i can get a bigger bottle so i could get several cups of syrup per batch it would probably make things much more efficient. Or i could actually invest in a Toddy system, which presumably would not only make more per batch, but would not require me to stand there holding a piece of cheese cloth to a bottle for several minutes and getting coffee concentrate all over myself and the sink :)
Hmm, it looks like the basic Toddy system would cost $35 if i got if off of Amazon. I should stop by Target and see how much cheaper i can get plain mason jars for. I expect i'd have to pay $25 to $30 more for the option to do everything simply and cleanly :)