Nothing quite hits the spot like a piping hot cup of coffee in the morning. But what do you do on those sweltering summer days, when a steaming mug of anything is the last thing you want but you know you can’t sacrifice your caffeine fix?
There’s an easy solution: cold brew coffee.
Nothing quite hits the spot like a chilled glass (or mason jar, if you’re into that) full of cold brew coffee served over ice, and luckily for you, making cold brew at home is so easy, anyone can do it.
FIRST THINGS FIRST…
Before we teach you how to make cold brew, we should probably answer one very important question: what is cold brew?
To answer that, let’s start with what cold brew isn’t. Though chilled and usually served over ice, it’s not iced coffee. What separates the two drinks are the processes by which they’re made: cold brew is ground coffee that’s been steeped in water for a long period of time while iced coffee is just drip coffee that is poured over ice.
WHY TRY COLD BREW?
Besides the fact that it’s a refreshing pick-me-up on a hot summer day, this cold coffee drink boasts several benefits, like the fact that it’s less acidic and boasts a high amount of antioxidants.
HOW TO MAKE COLD BREW
- 1 cup of coarsely ground coffee
- 3 1/2 cups of water (You’ll want this to be filtered and room temperature)
- Large container with lid
- Mesh-lined cloth
Combine your coffee grounds and water in a large, lidded container. For this step, we think it’s best to use freshly ground whole coffee beans, as they guarantee a stronger and more flavor-filled brew, but pre-ground coffee works fine, too.
Give the ground coffee a quick stir to make sure the coffee grounds are evenly distributed in the filtered water.
Put the lid on your coffee-water mixture and put the container in your refrigerator to steep. Ideally, it should sit there from 12 hours to an entire day, but know that the longer you steep the coffee, the better it will be.
After your mixture has spent some time in your refrigerator, it’s time to strain the coffee. Put your mesh-lined cloth over the opening of your pitcher, and pour your mixture over it to filter the coffee out.
Make sure you’re doing this step slowly and carefully — you don’t want to lose even a drop of your beloved cold brew.
Now, you have two options. You can stop the recipe right here, pour the coffee concentrate into a glass filled with ice, and enjoy!
Or, if the drink is too strong for your liking, you can dilute it with water, cream, or both until you reach your desired strength.
And there you have it! In just a few easy steps, you can make cold brew coffee at home. Feel free to experiment with your brew — maybe try it with your favorite nut milk or a flavored syrup — and who knows? You just might come up with your new favorite drink.
Just remember, if you don’t drink all of your cold brew concentrate in one sitting (which you probably shouldn’t, considering its high caffeine content), you can keep it in your refrigerator for up to two weeks, so you can enjoy it another day.
- 1 Cup ground Coffee
- 3 ½ Cups Water
- Combine ground coffee and water in a large container.
- Allow mixture to sit in the fridge for 12-24 hours (the longer the better).
- Strain coffee through a mesh-lined cloth.
- Grab a glass full of ice.
- Fill glass with coffee and dilute with a small amount of water - the less water, the stronger the coffee.
Alternative Ways To Make Cold brew
Immersion Cold Brewers
Like the OXO discussed above, most cold brewers you’ll find for home use are immersion style brewers. That means the water and grounds sit in total contact for an extended period of time.
Some immersion brewers, like the French press, can be used for both hot and cold brews. Others are specifically designed for one or the other.
The Filtron and Toddy Cold brew tools function similarly to the OXO model in that they have bucket-style devices that sit atop a carafe and eventually drain into it. On the other hand, there are also “pot-style” immersion brewers.
These brewers don’t require a carafe to drain into and use different filtration methods to give you a clean cup. The French Press falls into this category, as does the Coffee Gator Cold Brew Kit and Mason Jar method.
Mason Jar Method
If you aren’t interested in getting a specifically dedicated cold brewer, the mason jar method is a popular MacGyver-esque solution. It uses easily accessible materials that you may even have on-hand at home.
All you need is a mason jar and some fine cheesecloth. Or, if you already have a French press, you don’t even need to worry about the cheesecloth.
For this method, you simply add the grounds and water to the mason jar and stir. The concoction is then refrigerated for about 24 hours and you use the cheesecloth to filter out the grounds. If you have a French press, you can simply pour the brew in and filter it as you normally would.
This is a great solution if you aren’t looking to invest much money into your. cold brew. Or if you have been using your French press for the entire cold brewing process and would rather it not be out of commission for daily brewing, this does the trick.
Cold Drip Brewers
Chances are if you have seen some massive, science lab-looking contraption at your local coffee shop, it’s a drip-style cold brewer. These are more popular for shop settings due to their price, look, and difficultly level; however, some people do purchase them for home use.
Rather than immersing the grounds in water and the draining the water away, drip brewers slowly introduce water which flows directly through the grounds and into the carafe or other container. Overall, this method tends to produce coffee with a lighter, cleaner mouthfeel than immersion-style brewers.
The Yama Coffee Tower is easily the most popular cold dripper. However the gosh! Cold Brew Coffee Maker is an example of one that’s more accessible for the home market. Still, it’s a bit more fiddly than the immersion brewers as you MUST pre-wet your grounds and the instructions are a pain to get through.
Automatic Cold Brewer
If the idea of having to plan 14-18 hours ahead for you coffee seems absurd, don’t worry. There’s a solution: automatic cold brewers.
The most popular (and best) choice is the Cuisinart DCB-10 7-cup brewer. It only takes 25-45 minutes to brew your coffee, depending on the strength you’re going for. The main draw here is speed and convenience.
While the brew isn’t quite as tasty as the slow brewers we’ve mentioned, it’s not bad and saves you a ton of time. We recommend going for the 45 minute bold setting and diluting a little bit if needed for the best results.
Cold Brewing Tips
How to Filter Cold Brew
As you may have realized, there are several different ways to filter cold brew. The most common one is a mesh filter (either fabric or metal) that is built as a component in the brewing tool itself. However, many tools also have the option of using an additional paper filter.
If you are a fan of cleaner, lighter coffee, we recommend springing for the paper filters. They’ll also help with any grittiness.
Additionally, if you are brewing with a Coffee Gator Cold Brew Kit or French press, you may want to get cone-shaped paper filters to achieve that same profile. You would use these in addition to the regular cheesecloth or French press filtration.
Ratios and Measurements
There is no standard ratio that you should use for making cold brew coffee, and as such you’ll find a ton of different recommendations out there. We have found a 1:8 coffee to water ratio is a good place to start for most people.
If you are going in knowing you prefer a nice, strong concentrate, then you can go ahead and start with a 1:5 ratio (which is about what we used). It’s important that you change this ratio rather than drastically increasing the brew time or else you risk over-extraction.
Now, the water to grounds ratio is not the only one you’ll be contending with. Because cold brewing creates a concentrate rather than a ready-to-go brew, the standard practice is to dilute it once you’ve brewed it.
Some people opt to do this with water for the entire carafe after brewing. Others do it on a cup-by-cup basis with either water or milk. We recommend a 1:2 ratio of coffee to dilutor over ice (60ml to 120ml). However, you can use a ratio with a higher dilution if you don’t like ice or if your brew is particularly strong.
Hot Blooming Cold Brew
If you are a fan of the complexity of hot brews and the smoothness of cold brews, hot blooming might be the perfect solution for you. Wetting or blooming coffee is a common practice for any brew method.
To do this you’ll need just boiling water (enough to completely wet the grounds) and ice water. You can use the same ratio as usual or go with a higher water percentage, but as usual 1:8 is a good place to start.
Most of the water will need to be cold, and around 30% of it will need to be about boiling (recommendations vary from 98 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit– we say start lower and increase temp as you experiment). You need enough hot water to wet the grounds through but not nearly enough to immerse them.
How to do it:
- Pour heated water evenly over the grounds, soaking but not immersing them
- Wait 30 seconds
- Immediately pour the chilled coffee to immerse grounds
- Refrigerate for 14-20 hours (less time if leaving at room temp, more if chilling)
- Dilute and enjoy!
It’s important to note that by introducing hot water to the grounds, you also increase the acidity or brightness, which can be an issue for some.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the EASIEST way to make cold brew?
In our experience, the easiest way to make cold brew is with a Mason Jar and French Press, especially if you already have them on hand. While you can choose to use an extra paper filter, you don’t have to. So all you have to do is dump everything in the jar, set it in your fridge or out of the way on your counter and wait.
When it comes time to filter it, all you have to do is pour it into the French press depress the plunger and you’re good to go. Pour everything back into the mason jar and store it in your fridge.
For many coffee lovers, this method requires little to no extra kit. Plus, the clean up is minimal and the straining process is much faster than other methods.
What’s the BEST way to make cold brew?
Now, finding the best way to brew is dependent on your personal tastes. Most of the taste differences are due to the ratios you use, so the strength of the brew and what’s best for you on that front is entirely dependent on your preferences.
However, one of the other big differentiators is the filter you use. On this front, we prefer using more than one to really get the full potential of the brew. So, regardless of what brew method you choose, run the brew through a paper filter before drinking it to get the crispest, most refreshing brew.
How should you store cold brew?
The first, most important thing to know is that if you dilute all of the cold brew concentrate (rather than only the part you’re drinking), you will greatly decrease its shelf life. A cold brew concentrate will last in your fridge for 7-10 days, but a pre-diluted cold brew will only last about 3.
Now, here’s how to make the most out of that saved concentrate or cold brew. Most cold brew tools come with a carafe of some kind, which is generally the first choice for storing cold brew. If the carafe has a top, this is a perfectly acceptable way to do things. However, some of them do not.
If that is the case, you have a few options. For a budget pick, go with a mason jar or large water bottle (NOT PLASTIC). These are probably both the best and most convenient options. However, you can go with any airtight pitcher.
Lastly, while you can make cold brew at room temperature, you need to store it in the refrigerator.
How long does making cold brew take?
As we’ve mentioned above, properly making a cold brew can take anywhere from 14 to 20 hours. If it’s brewed at room temperature, it takes less time, and brewing in the fridge takes longer (but yields a better result in our opinion).
For this reason, most people make their cold brews in bulk, so that they can have about a week’s supply without having to brew again. In the grand scheme of things, this practice cuts down the overall time you spend preparing your coffee, especially if you’re coming from manual brewing.
However, there are automatic brewers that can get the job done in less than an hour.
What coffee should you use for cold brew?
Honestly, just about any freshly roasted and ground coffee is going to do perfectly fine as a cold brew. This is one of those methods where you are absolutely not required to get top-shelf coffee in order to produce a quality brew.
Nevertheless, we do have some recommendations if you’re really looking to get the most out of this methods. First, all cold brew MUST be coarse ground. This is really non negotiable; if you fine grind it, the brew will be gross.
As far as roast, we recommend going with a medium or light roast, as dark roasts, especially in the espresso region, are going to make the brew feel heavy and the mouthfeel will defeat the refreshing effect. However, a medium-dark roast could also be a good option if you’re really into chocolatey or nutty flavors.
On the origin front, fruity flavors from African or Latin American regions are a good bet. For some specific brand recommendations, check out our full article on it here.