How to Make Cold Brew Coffee

Get a True Taste of Coffee Beans

Rich, Flavorful Cold Brew Coffee

Cold brew coffee is made by steeping coarsely ground coffee beans in water. There's no special machine or equipment required. It's incredibly easy to make at home and can actually produce a better tasting cup of coffee. The drawback is that it takes longer (about 12 hours), so you will need to plan ahead. 

It's easy to assume that heat is required to brew a good cup of coffee. After all, that's the primary way it's been done for generations around the world. Though it has not received much attention until recently, cold brew coffee has been around for centuries.

This simple brewing method produces a richer, sweeter flavor. It's almost as concentrated as espresso, but without the bitter taste or high acidity of hot-brewed coffee.

The best aspect of cold brew coffee is that you can serve it however you like. It's great as is, over ice, or with your favorite cream, milk, and sweeteners. And, if you like, it can even be served warm!

It's Not Iced Coffee

You can certainly turn your cold brew coffee into an iced coffee drink, but it is not iced coffee in the customary sense. Iced coffees are typically chilled hot brews, so you still taste coffee's bitter, acidic flavors. They're simply masked by sweeteners and milk.

Cold brew coffee, on the other hand, starts out cold. You get the sweeter, truer taste of the coffee bean and there's nothing to hide.

Why Cold Brew?

Cold Brew Coffee
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There are a few reasons why you might want to make the switch to cold brew coffee:

  • Lower Acidity: Heat extracts the acid-producing oils from coffee beans. Cold brewing leaves those acids in the bean, producing a smoother coffee.
  • Less Bitterness: Along with the acids, heat also contributes to the bitter flavors in coffee. In contrast, the cold brew method produces a naturally sweeter coffee.
  • Freshness: If you've tried day-old hot brew coffee before, you know that it leaves a lot to be desired in the taste department. It may wake you up, but it can be hard to drink! Cold brew coffee can taste as fresh as the first day for up to a week. That means you can brew a big batch and enjoy it for days.

Prepare the Ingredients

Ingredients for Cold Brew Coffee
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The only ingredients needed are freshly ground coffee beans and cold or room temperature water. You will also need a vessel to brew in, a lid or plastic wrap, something to stir with (e.g., long spoon, chopstick, etc.), and a way to filter it.

There are cold brew coffee makers designed specifically for this method. If you prefer, a French press works well, though any medium-sized glass container will do.

To make the best cold brew, start with a quality coffee bean. A coarse grind works best and makes filtering easier. Skip the standard pre-ground coffee; buy whole beans then grind it yourself. Remember, you're tasting coffee in it's purest form, so spending a little extra on the beans is worth it.

Begin with 4 cups of filtered water and 1 cup of ground coffee. This will produce 4 cups, or 6 servings, of coffee. You can make a larger batch if you like, simply keep the 4:1 ratio.

Mix it Up

Making Cold Brew Coffee
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With your ingredients ready, place the ground coffee in the pitcher. As you stir, slowly pour water over the beans. The moistened coffee will immediately begin infusing the water with flavor and you will notice a color difference right away.

Steep and Brew

Brewing Cold Brew Coffee
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Once the beans are thoroughly saturated, cover your brewing container with a lid or cling wrap. Place it in the refrigerator and let it steep for at least 12 hours. You could do up to 24 hours, depending on your personal taste.

The 12-hour timing is really convenient for morning coffee, too. Simply prepare it while making dinner the night before and it will be ready to filter when you wake up.

Filter the Coffee

Filtering Cold Brew Coffee
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Filtering the finished coffee is important. Any filter system will do, so use whatever's most convenient. You just want to make sure to remove as many coffee grounds as possible.

A cold brew maker has a built-in filter. When using a French press, simply push on the plunger and pour your coffee like normal.

You can also use a fine mesh strainer or sieve to catch the larger particles. If you find small grounds left over, run it through a paper or metal coffee filter. Using a funnel can make it easier to get the coffee into your storage container as well.

No matter which filter method you use, pour slowly. It's easy to go too fast and overflow the filter, creating a big mess of wet coffee grounds.

Serve and Store

Sweeteners and Additives for Cold Brew Coffee
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Store your filtered cold brew in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. It will stay fresh for up to a week—a shelf life hot-brewed coffee can't touch!

Enjoy Your Cold Brew

Keep in mind that the resulting coffee is concentrated, meaning it has a nice, bold flavor that's very smooth, but it also has a lot of caffeine. Some people choose to dilute it with water: 2 parts cold brew coffee to 1 part water is a good place to begin.

If you're in the mood for a hot cup of coffee, simply add hot water instead. Do not microwave coffee! It's just as devastating to cold brew as it is to any other coffee, ruining all that amazing flavor you were so patient to obtain.

Cold brew can be sweetened with your favorite liquid sweetener, milk, or cream. Unlike hot coffee, granulated sugar and sweeteners will not dissolve well in cold coffee. Simple syrup takes care of that issue; it's easy and cheap to make yourself.

  • You can serve it over ice or make coffee cubes so the water doesn't dilute your brew.
  • Cold brew makes superior iced coffee drinks compared to a hot brew method and it's already chilled, so there's no waiting.
  • It's a great alternative for mixing up coffee cocktails, giving you the rich flavor of espresso without the need for a fancy machine.
  • Since it lacks the bitterness, cold brew is an excellent way to add the flavor of coffee to baked goods, marinades, and sauces.