While road tripping through Pennsylvania on my way to Eat Retreat, I accidentally spent a day in Harrisburg. My travel pal Jana, in addition to being a beekeeper,milkweed enthusiast, and one of the best humans I’ve ever known, is supernaturally good at finding extremely dope holes in the wall. I’m not quite sure how she does it (google, maybe?) but, while I navigated the Appalachians, she dug in our inadvertent home for the next 24 hours. With basically no internet, she determined which used bookstore was the good one and whether or not we could watch herons at a rookery, booked an AirBnB that was very obviously haunted in the best way possible, and pulled up directions to Little Amps Coffee Roasters
Little Amps is where coffee shops would go to drink coffee if coffee shops were anthropomorphic and, apparently, cannibals. Good without being pretentious. Comfortable without being dingey. Full of actual character instead of artificial kitsch and pinspiration. It was exactly where we needed to be to scheme the rest of our visit and stretch our legs.
Their menu was small, but good. One item stood out. Cold Jar. What the fuck was it? The most best and delicious way to mainline caffeine.
Cold Jar transcends the sum of its parts. Darkly roasted espresso and molassesy sweet brown sugar meet up over ice, with just enough whole, grass-fed milk to balance the beans’ earthy bitterness. Refreshing but a little dessert-y, with enough kick to shake away any road trip weariness, it’s everything I had ever wanted a cup of iced coffee to be.
After we left, I optimistically thought, maybe, Cold Jar was like. A certified “Thing.” That the magic had really been inside me (read: my local Chicago coffee place) all along. Maybe it was a secret menu thing. Or even a not-secret menu thing, but one that I had simply neglected to ever order. When I got back to Chicago, I sought out the tasty brew, but, as it turns out, it’s not a Thing. It’s just a thing. And only at Little Amps.
To fill the void, we’ve thrown together our own version. Without access to fancy espresso machines, we make a batch of similarly strong and less-acidic cold brew, and ump up the oomph with coffee ice cubes. Who fucking needs water, anyway.
When picking your beans to brew, try not to be a total garbage monster. Normally we’ll tell you to buy local– but actual local coffee is probably not a reality unless you live in Ethiopia (in that case, ሰላም). Buying from such a long distance, and likely through several layers of middlemen, makes it tricky to buy stuff that you know doesn’t hurt people or local ecosystems. Modern Farmer just released what is, in our estimation, the best guide to buying ethical coffee that we’ve seen in a long time. They lay out why it’s important, what all of the jargony certifications really mean, and point you in the direction of what labels to care about. It’s a good start, and worth the effort to suss out.
- A fucking freezer.
- Figure it out oh my God.
- 1½ cups coarsely ground Coffee
- 3 cups Water
- Coffee Ice Cubes
- 3 tbsp Brown Sugar
- 3 cups Whole Milk (grass fed, if you can swing it!)
- Before you go to bed, toss the coffee grounds and water in a mason jar. Slap on the lid, shake it up, and let it hang in the fridge overnight.
- When you're ready for caffeine, pour the coffee through a filter (we use our chemex, you could use a funnel in a clean jar).
- Fill a glass with coffee ice cubes and add a tbsp of brown sugar. Fill half way with coffee, top with equal parts milk, stir, drink, repeat.