How to Brew

How To Make Cold Brew Coffee: A Comprehensive Guide

While immersion-style methods (like mason jars and French presses) are the most popular ways to make cold brew, letting the coffee grounds steep for hours isn’t your only option for concocting a serving of the concentrated joe.


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Few pleasures are comparable to slowly sipping a piping hot cup of coffee in the morning.

But on those sweltering summer days, when a steaming mug of anything is the last thing you want in your hand, there’s only one way to get your java fix: cold coffee.

And no, we don’t mean a cup of hot coffee that you set down and forgot about until it got cold (even though we’ve all been there). We’re talking about intentionally cold joe — specifically, cold brew coffee.

You can get a cup of cold brew from almost every coffee shop. However, making this highly refreshing beverage at home is nearly as easy as ordering it from a barista.

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Plus, there are many cold-brewing methods for you to choose from, so the chances of you having to invest in any fancy equipment are low; everything you need to carry out at least one of the processes is probably in your kitchen already.

But First, What is Cold Brew?

To answer this question, let’s start with what cold brew isn’t. Even though most people enjoy the drink cold and with ice cubes (or coffee ice cubes), it’s not iced coffee.

What separates the two are their respective brewing processes. Making cold brew involves steeping coarse ground coffee beans in cold or room temperature water for several hours, while iced coffee is just joe brewed in hot water and served over ice.

Why Should You Make Cold Brew Coffee?

Besides the fact that it’s an easy way to cool down when the weather is warm, there are many reasons cold brew has become the drink of choice of countless coffee lovers, including:

  • It has high caffeine levels.
  • It helps with weight loss.
  • It has lower acid levels than regular coffee.

How To Make Cold Brew Coffee

How to Filter Cold Brew Coffee

In a Mason Jar

Using a mason jar is probably the simplest and most cost-effective means of producing delicious cold brew concentrate.

All you need to make mason jar cold brew is a quart-sized mason jar, room temperature or cold water, your favorite coarsely ground coffee beans, something to filter the grounds with (like a piece of cheesecloth or fine-mesh sieve), and some patience.

Let the coffee grounds steep in the water for 12 to 24 hours, then use the filter to keep all of the used coffee grounds out of your cup. Then, you’ve got it — cold brew coffee concentrates ready to be diluted or sipped as it is.

In a French Press

The French press not only shines when it comes to making flavorful cups of hot coffee; it’s also an effective cold brew method.

Pour coarse coffee grounds and a few cups of water (cold or room temperature, not hot or boiling, as you’d usually use with this brewer) into your French press.

Then, gently stir the mixture until the joe evenly disperses throughout the water before setting it aside to steep for 12 to 24 hours. At the end of the steeping period, slowly press the plunger down. Then, enjoy!

With an AeroPress

The AeroPress is a beloved brewer, especially among those who like starting the day with a shot of espresso or a dose of extra-strong coffee. Plus, it’s portable, so you can enjoy fresh cups of coffee wherever you roam.

There are two ways to make cold brew with an AeroPress, but the most common means of doing so is similar to the French press method: load cold or room temperature water and ground beans into the brewer’s chamber, let it steep for 12 to 24 hours, then press the plunger down.

With a Ninja Coffee Maker

This cold brew coffee recipe is for the Roasty readers with a Ninja coffee maker on their kitchen countertops.
Just load three to four Ninja coffee scoops of joe into the machine, fill the water reservoir, and press its Over Ice or Cold Brew button. Then, sit back and let the Ninja do all the work!

 

 

More Ways to Make Cold Brew

The cold-brewing methods outlined above are for those who don’t particularly want to purchase any special equipment. But what about people looking for an excuse to invest in new gadgets?

If that’s you, we’ve got you covered. Check out our quick rundown of the different types of cold brew makers you can choose from, then head over to our cold brew maker buying guide for more detailed information.

Immersion Cold Brewers

Most cold brewers designed for at-home use are immersion-style brewers, meaning the water and grounds sit in contact for an extended period. The French press, AeroPress, and mason jar methods fall into the immersion brew category.

Cold Drip Brewers

If your local coffee shop has a massive contraption that looks better suited for a science lab than a Starbucks, it’s probably a drip-style cold brewer. These are more popular for coffee shop settings than home coffee setups because of their prices, looks, and difficulty of use.

Instead of immersing the grounds in water, drip brewers introduce liquid to the coffee grounds slowly, and the water flows directly through the coffee and into the carafe. This method produces a lighter brew with a cleaner mouthfeel than immersion-style brewers.

Automatic Cold Brewer

If letting your coffee steep for hours before you can enjoy it seems absurd, don’t worry. Coffee maker brands came up with a solution to satisfy people like you: automatic cold brewers.

These machines usually take around 25 to 45 minutes to brew your coffee (the time varies depending on your desired beverage strength). This joe won’t be quite as tasty as slow-steeped coffee, but it’s not bad and saves you a ton of time.

All About the Add-Ins: How Do You Add Flavor to Cold Brew?

Besides the fact that it boasts a smoother taste and lower acidity than regular drip, cold brew coffee is a well-loved treat because it allows plenty of room for modifications.

This joe pairs well with coffee creamer, milk, and milk alternatives (almond milk, coconut milk, oat milk, etc.). You can even stir your favorite flavored simple syrup into the brew or top it with a fluffy layer of cold foam for an extra punch of flavor.

But, of course, add-ins are optional, and because cold brew is less bitter than regular drip, many people opt to drink the coffee black (sans sugar, creamer, or any other add-ins).

Cold-Brewing Tips

Find the Right Cold Brew Coffee Filter

There is more than one way to filter cold brew. The most common filtration tool is a mesh filter built into the brewer.

However, many brewing machines also give you the option of using paper coffee filters. If your ideal cup of coffee is clean and light, we recommend springing for paper filters, as they help rid your joe of any grittiness.

Use the Correct Ratio of Coffee Grounds to Water

Measuring ground beans and water can take your coffee game to the next level. That said, a one-to-eight coffee-to-water ratio is probably the best place to start as you venture into the world of cold brewing.

If you already know you prefer drinking bolder coffee, begin with a one-to-five ratio.

These ratios are merely some of the ton of suggestions floating around. However, there is no right or wrong ratio, so feel free to adjust the measurements until you end up with your ideal coffee flavor.

Pro-tip: if you want to experiment with making your cold brew stronger, it might be tempting to start by letting the coffee brew longer.

However, doing this means you risk over-extracting the joe and ending up with unpleasant bitter flavors. Adjust the coffee-to-water ratio instead, and you’re more likely to get more satisfying results.

Dilute the Cold Brew Concentrate

The coffee grounds to water ratio isn’t the only one with which you’ll be contending. Since cold brewing creates a concentrate instead of a ready-to-drink beverage, the standard practice is to dilute it with water or milk before you serve it.

While some do this for the entire carafe, others do it on a cup-by-cup basis. Whichever route you choose, we recommend a one-to-two ratio of coffee to dilution agent over ice.

Much like the brewing ratio, there are no right or wrong answers here, so feel free to experiment until you achieve your desired flavor intensity.

Use a Coarser Grind of Coffee Beans

The beans’ grind size matters when it comes to coffee brewing methods. A coarse or extra-coarse grind is best for cold brewing. Using too-fine grinds means you end up with over-extracted coffee and grit at the bottom of your cup — so disappointing!

To get the best-tasting brew possible, pull out your coffee grinder, dial it into the coarse setting, and break your whole beans down a few minutes before you begin cold-brewing.

Hot Blooming Cold Brew

Fans of the complexity of hot coffee and the smooth flavor of cold brew might want to consider hot blooming.

Wetting, or blooming, coffee is a common practice for any brewing method, and to do this, you need ice water and enough boiling water to wet the grounds. A one-to-eight grounds-to-water ratio is the suggested starting place here.

Most of the water needs to be cold, and only around 30 percent of it should be close to boiling temperature (recommendations vary from 98 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit; we recommend starting lower and increasing the temperature as you experiment).

Before you do this, note that introducing hot water to the grounds increases the coffee’s acidity, which might create issues for those sensitive to it.

Hot Blooming How-To:

  1. Pour hot water over the coffee grounds, soaking them evenly but not immersing them.
  2. Wait 30 seconds.
  3. Pour the cold water over the wet coffee and stir.
  4. Refrigerate for 14 to 20 hours, then dilute and enjoy!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is cold brew coffee stronger than regular coffee?

That depends on what you mean when talking about strength. If you mean caffeine content, then cold brew is stronger than regular coffee.

Even though heat tends to extract more caffeine, cold brew’s caffeine content beats drip coffee’s because it uses a higher-than-normal bean-to-water ratio. For context, cold brew’s ratio is typically one to four while drip brew’s ratio is usually one to 17.

However, you’ll only notice a difference in caffeine if you’re drinking straight-up, undiluted cold brew concentrate, as cutting it with water, creamer, or milk levels things out a bit.

The average cup of diluted cold brew from Starbucks has around 200 milligrams of caffeine. Since most healthy adults can consume 400 milligrams of the stimulant daily, we don’t recommend drinking more than two cups of the stuff in a day.

However, cold brew’s caffeine content varies depending on the concentrate to dilutant ratio, so take this advice with a grain of salt when calculating how much cold brew you can handle each day.

Do you use boiling water for cold brew?

No. You should never brew coffee with boiling water. Too-hot water over-extracts your joe’s flavors, resulting in a bitter brew. Your best bets for satisfying cold brew are room temperature or cool water.

Why is my homemade cold brew bitter?

Your cold brew could be bitter for a few reasons, starting with over-extraction. Remedy that by experimenting with shorter steeping times. It might take some trial-and-error here, so be patient enough to try a handful of different extraction times.

Incorrect-sized grinds can also be the cause of bitter-tasting brew. Make sure you’re using coarse coffee beans — those are around the same size as sea salt particles.

What’s the easiest way to make cold brew?

In our experience, the mason jar and French press methods have proven to be the easiest, especially if you already have one of those tools. You don’t need extra tools; dump the ingredients in the vessel, set it in the fridge, and wait.

The French press makes filtration super-easy, thanks to the built-in plunger. But using a mesh strainer or piece of cheesecloth to filter the mason jar joe doesn’t take much time or effort either.

How should you store cold brew?

The first and most important thing you should know is that diluting cold brew concentrate decreases its shelf life. When it’s refrigerated, cold brew concentrate lasts seven to 10 days, but diluted cold brew only lasts about three.

Most cold brewing tools come with a carafe, and if it has a lid, that should be your first choice in storage vessels; after all, that’s what it was designed to do. However, any airtight pitcher will do.

If you don’t want to purchase anything new, you can use a lidded mason jar or another covered container made of glass.

Whatever vessel you choose, make sure it goes in the refrigerator; while you can make cold brew at room temperature, it must be stored in the cold!

How long should cold brew steep?

Making cold brew takes 12 to 24 hours. Letting the coarse coffee grounds steep at room temperature speeds up the process while brewing in the fridge takes longer (but yields a better result, in our opinion). However, automatic cold brew makers can do the job in less than an hour.

Does Starbucks make cold brew?

Yes, Starbucks makes cold brew. The international java giant steeps small batches of its coarsely ground beans in cool water for 20 hours, creating smooth coffee with rich flavor.

You can purchase it by the cup at your local franchise location or pick up a bottle from select retailers. Starbucks sells nitro cold brew, too, which results when the slow-steeped coffee is infused with nitrogen to give it a creamy mouthfeel.

What coffee should you use for cold brew?

Nearly any freshly roasted and ground coffee will make a decent cold brew, and even though top-shelf beans aren’t necessarily a requirement for making this type of coffee, we have some suggestions to help you make the most of this brewing method.

First, whatever beans you pick must be coarsely ground. This tip is non-negotiable; you’ll end up with gross and disappointing cold brew if you use a fine grind of coffee beans.

Second, we recommend using medium or dark roast coffee beans, as cold brewing brings out their nutty, chocolatey flavors beautifully.

Ultimately, the roast level you choose is a matter of preference, so you might have to do some experimenting to figure out what you want in your cup.

If you’re unsure what beans to try, we recommend checking out Atlas Coffee Club. The coffee subscription service sent us a batch of its coffee to try cold-brewed, and we’d be lying if we said we weren’t impressed by it!

Which cold brewing method is best?

Ultimately, how you get your cold brew coffee ready is up to you. Maybe using an automatic cold brewer and pre-ground coffee beans works best with your busy schedule, or perhaps the mason jar method is your favorite way to make a bold coffee concentrate.

What matters most is that you’re satisfied with the contents of your cup, so don’t be afraid to try all the cold-brewing methods outlined above before deciding what most impresses your taste buds and fits into your life best.

Happy Caffeinating!

Cold Brew Coffee Card

Cold Brew Coffee Recipe

Yield: 1
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 12 hours
Total Time: 12 hours 5 minutes

Easy and simple cold brew coffee that's perfect for hotter days.

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup ground Coffee
  • 3 ½ Cups Water
  • Ice

Instructions

    1. Combine ground coffee and water in a large container.
    2. Allow mixture to sit in the fridge for 12-24 hours (the longer the better).
    3. Strain coffee through a mesh-lined cloth.
    4. Grab a glass full of ice.
    5. Fill glass with coffee and dilute with a small amount of water - the less water, the stronger the coffee. 
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