Nothing beats a hot cup of coffee when the weather turns cold. But when the seasons shift, and the temperature rises, sipping on that same steaming brew isn’t quite as satisfying.
That’s where a nice cold brew can save the day!
The best part is that enjoying one doesn’t have to require a trip to your local coffee shop. Learning how to make cold brew coffee at home is about as easy as it gets. Not only that, it’s affordable and doesn’t require any special gadgets to get started.
Whether you’re new to the cold brew scene or seeking to perfect your recipe, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we walk you through how to make cold brew coffee, providing easy-to-follow instructions as well as suggestions for tailoring it to satisfy your unique taste preferences.
Table of Contents
What Is Cold Brew Coffee?
When first learning how to make cold brew coffee, most people are surprised to discover that cold brew and iced coffee aren’t the same.
Whereas iced coffee is initially brewed hot and then cooled by pouring it over ice, cold brew is made by steeping coffee grounds in cold or room-temperature water for an extended period, typically 12-24 hours. After which, the grounds are strained, and the resulting coffee concentrate is chilled and served over ice or diluted with water.
The most significant aspect that sets cold brew apart from other brewing methods is how it extracts flavors from the coffee grounds. The long steeping time and absence of heat allow for a more gentle extraction, producing a coffee with distinct characteristics.
Cold brew tends to be naturally sweeter, richer, and less acidic than other types of coffee. This often makes it more appealing to those who find traditional hot coffee beverages too harsh on their stomachs.
Equipment & Ingredients Needed to Make Cold Brew Coffee
One of the many advantages to learning how to make cold brew coffee at home is you don’t need special equipment. Outside of purchasing quality coffee beans, you can typically use items you already have on hand.
However, if you’re looking to level up your cold brew making game, here’s a list of the equipment and ingredients we recommend, with links to some of our favorites:
- Whole Coffee Beans: It’s always recommended that you grind coffee beans right before brewing, as this prevents oxidation of the grounds and ensures the freshest flavor possible. As for which type of bean to use, don’t hesitate to experiment with different types of roasts as well as bean varieties. Each will bring unique flavors and intensities to your cold brew.
- Filtered Water: High-quality water is essential for brewing the perfect cup of coffee. Regular tap water often contains excessive amounts of minerals, chlorine, and other impurities that can affect the taste of your coffee. An easy solution is to use spring or bottled water instead. However, if you really want to elevate the quality and taste of your coffee-brewing water, we highly recommend using Third Wave Water.
- Burr Grinder: The biggest advantage of a burr grinder is that it grinds the beans uniformly, ensuring consistent extraction during the brewing process. In contrast, blade grinders create uneven particles, causing potential over or under-extraction. If investing in a burr grinder isn’t feasible at the moment, don’t worry; just purchase whole coffee beans from a local coffee shop and ask them to grind them for you.
- Wide Mouth Quart Mason Jars: Although your water and coffee grounds can be combined in any airtight container during the brewing process, the most common are quart-sized mason jars. Not only are they easy to find, but they work perfectly for both steeping and storing.
- Fine Mesh Sieve: Straining the coffee grounds is critical to achieving a smooth, grit-free brew. A fine mesh sieve is the most effective way to perform this step.
- Cheesecloth: Pairing the sieve with cheesecloth provides an additional layer to help eliminate finer particles that the sieve is unable to filter out.
- Reusable Nut Milk Bag: Utilizing a nut milk bag for steeping and straining can streamline the brewing process significantly. Unlike a traditional sieve and cheesecloth setup, a nut milk bag can filter out fine coffee particles in a single step, reducing mess and saving time. Moreover, they’re easy to clean and can be reused for future batches.
- Funnel: When transfering your cold brew concentrate to its storage container, using a quality funnel can ensure you don’t waste a drop. This particular funnel also comes with a mesh sieve and filter attachments. This can allow you to combine the straining and storing steps, making the whole process quicker and easier.
How to Make Cold Brew Coffee
While making cold brew at home does require a little planning and patience, the resulting brew is always well worth the wait!
Here are the key steps required to make a great cup of cold brew coffee:
1. Grind the Beans
A 1:4 coffee-to-water ratio is ideal when making cold brew. This ratio will create a concentrate, which you can later dilute based on flavor preference.
To start, measure out one cup of whole coffee beans. You may need to adjust this amount accordingly depending on the container size you’re using.
Next, grind the beans to a coarse consistency using the French press setting on your grinder. Anything finer can lead to over-extraction and excess sediment in your cold brew concentrate.
2. Combine With Water
Add the coffee grounds to your chosen container and pour in four cups of cold or room-temperature water (either works just fine).
Then, stir the mixture, making sure the grounds are fully saturated.
When using a quart-sized mason jar, you won’t be able to fit all four cups of water. Instead, add three cups, stir the mixture, then fill the remainder of the jar to just below the top.
3. Cover & Steep
Once the coffee grounds are fully saturated, cover the mixture and allow it to steep for 12-24 hours. This can be done at either room temperature or in the refrigerator.
The most important part of this step is making sure you don’t under or over-steep the grounds. Under-steeping can cause your cold brew to taste weak, while over-steeping may lead to an overpowering, bitter taste.
If you’re unsure where to begin, start by steeping for 18 hours and then adjust based on your taste preference.
After the mixture has steeped for the desired amount of time, the grounds need to be removed from the concentrate.
Place a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth over a large measuring cup. Then, slowly strain the mixture through the sieve.
NOTE: This can also be accomplished with the funnel (and its mesh sieve attachment) mentioned in the equipment and ingredients section above. Using the funnel allows you to combine straining and storing into one step.
Once strained, the cold brew concentrate should be sealed and stored in the refrigerator. This will allow it to stay fresh for up to two weeks.
Always use a clean container with a tight-fitting lid to ensure it stays at its peak. This will not only prevent unwanted flavors or odors from tainting the concentrate but also minimize its exposure to air.
6. Serve & Enjoy
Now, it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor!
Before pouring, give the container a gentle shake to ensure consistency.
Since the cold brew is a concentrate, you’ll want to dilute it before drinking. A 1:1 ratio of concentrate to water is a good starting point. It’s also important to remember that adding ice cubes will further dilute the brew as they melt.
As with the other steps in the brewing process, don’t be afraid to experiment here as well.
How to Add Variety to Your Cold Brew Coffee
When learning how to make cold brew coffee, you’ll discover it’s more than just a refreshing drink all on its own. It also serves as a versatile base, allowing for countless flavor and texture variations.
Here are some fun and easy ways to add variety to your cold brew:
- Sweeteners: Natural sweeteners like maple syrup or honey or modern alternatives like table sugar or stevia are easy ways to add additional sweetness.
- Syrups: Enhance your cold brew with flavored syrups such as vanilla, caramel, or hazelnut.
- Spices: For a warm twist, combine spices like cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, or even a dash of cayenne with your coffee grounds during the steeping process.
- Coffee Ice Cubes: Freeze some of your concentrate and turn it into coffee ice cubes. This way, as your ice cubes melt, your cold brew remains flavorful and undiluted.
- Infusions: For a more distinct taste, try steeping your cold brew with ingredients like mint leaves, chocolate chips, or orange peels.
Regardless of your flavor preference or mood on a given day, cold brew offers a ridiculous amount of versatility. Its only limit is your imagination!
Pros & Cons of Cold Brew Coffee
Cold brew coffee has become increasingly popular in recent years, which is no surprise considering its numerous benefits. However, it’s not without its drawbacks.
Understanding the pros and cons will not only help you determine if it’s the right brewing method for you but also help you get the most out of your cold brew coffee experience.
Hopefully, you’ll agree that learning how to make cold brew coffee is way easier than you initially thought. All that’s left to do now is to jump in and try it for yourself!
Frequently Asked Questions
Cold brew typically has a higher caffeine content compared to traditionally brewed coffee. However, the caffeine level can vary based on factors like bean or roast type, steeping time, and the coffee-to-water ratio. While you can tweak the strength by altering the concentration, it’s essential to be mindful of your intake, especially if you’re sensitive to caffeine.
Absolutely! Whether you have a caffeine sensitivity or you’re just trying to reduce your daily intake, using decaffeinated coffee beans can be a great way to continue enjoying a delicious cup of cold brew.
Yes, you can heat up cold brew coffee. While the initial appeal lies in its cool serving method, if you’re craving a warm cup of cold brew, you can simply heat it in a microwave or on the stovetop. This flexibility allows you to enjoy its smooth, low-acidity flavor, either cold or hot.
Nitro cold brew is cold brew coffee that has been infused with nitrogen gas. This infusion gives it a rich, creamy texture and a slightly sweeter taste, as well as enhances its visual appeal (it looks like a pint of Guinness). While learning how to make cold brew coffee is extremely simple, the brewing process for nitro cold brew is much more difficult as it requires specialized equipment.
In addition to making French press coffee, the French press can be used in a number of other ways. One of which is brewing cold brew coffee. Its unique design simplifies several steps of the cold brewing process, allowing you to steep, strain, and serve, all from the same container.
Learn How to Make Cold Brew Coffee in 6 Easy Steps
- 1 cup whole coffee beans
- 4 cups filtered water
- Milk or creamer (optional)
- Flavored syrup (optional)
- Sweeteners (optional)
- To start, measure out one cup of whole coffee beans. Next, grind the beans to a coarse consistency using the French press setting on your grinder.
- Add the coffee grounds to your chosen container and pour in four cups of filtered water (cold or room temperature). Then, stir the mixture, making sure the grounds are fully saturated.
- Once saturated, cover the mixture and allow it to steep for 12-24 hours. This can be done at either room temperature or in the refrigerator.
- Place a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth over a large measuring cup (refer to the article for additional straining options). Then slowly strain the mixture through the sieve.
- Once strained, pour the cold brew concentrate into a clean container and store it in the refrigerator. This will allow it to stay fresh for up to two weeks.
- To serve, gently shake to ensure consistency and then pour over ice and dilute based on taste preference. Additionally, feel free to spice up the flavor by adding your favorite creamer, syrup, or sweetener.
- 1 cup of whole coffee beans equals 1 cup of coarse coffee grounds.
- Most coffee enthusiasts recommend using medium to dark roast coffee beans in order to achieve the rich flavor cold brew is known for.
- When using a quart-sized mason jar, you won’t be able to fit all four cups of water. Instead, add three cups, stir the mixture, then fill the remainder of the jar to just below the top.
- This recipe makes approximately 3 cups of cold brew concentrate. However, the number of servings can be extended based on the amount of dilution.
- Although the steeping process can range from 12-24 hours, our recommendation is to steep the grounds for 18 hours and then adjust based on taste preference.