Cold brew coffee is an effective and delicious way to enjoy a cup of joe in the morning. With this highly intuitive method of immersion brewing, you can easily prepare coffee the night before without compromising on freshness or flavor.
Beginners who usually make hot coffee find learning how long to steep ground coffee for cold brew is pretty straightforward. In fact, it is much easier than most people think as it doesn't require many steps. Still, you might be wondering how long to steep cold brew coffee at home.
We hope that by the end of this article, you will feel confident enough to make cold brew coffee with pride. If you love the results, please share your experiences in the comments section.
How Long Should I Steep Cold Brew Coffee?
One of the best ways for making cold brew coffee to your specific palate is through trial and error. Each person will prefer a different strength for their cold brew, and as such, you'll have to experiment with varying cold brew steep times.
It is best to steep cold brew coffee between 12 hours and no more than 24 hours. Brewing the coffee for any longer will cause it to become bitter and woody and may affect flavor and caffeine content. An essential rule of thumb to remember, if you plan to brew at room temperature, then a steep time of 8-12 hours is enough. If you will steep your cold coffee brew in the fridge, then the steep time increases to 12-20 hours as cold temperatures will slow down the extraction of the coffee from the beans.
Different recipes call for different timings for cold coffee brewing. The main thing to remember is the longer the grounds remain immersed in water within the recommended timeframe; the stronger the coffee will become. Here are some of the most popular methods:
THE EIGHT-HOUR METHOD
If you're someone who is in a rush, you'll find that steeping cold brew for up to eight hours will give you a similar flavor profile to an iced coffee. While this is less than the recommended 12-hour steep duration, it is still useful for when you are short on time.
There are a few variables to consider when choosing the 8-hour method. If you select a cold drip coffee system for your brew, the friction from dripping water will extract more from your grounds than with a standard immersion brew.
Depending on the beans you use, you'll likely extract a little more nuance using this method over hot brewing. However, compared to the 12 and 18-hour methods, it won't be as rich or robust in flavor. Note that the amount of coffee to water ratio you choose will always affect the outcome.
THE 12-HOUR METHOD
The vast majority of people find that allowing their cold brew to steep for 12 hours gives them the best results. It also gives them the ability to brew coffee the evening before, so that it's ready before leaving for work during the day.
Compared to other methods, you might find that this steeping time requires less effort and will easily fit into your schedule. This method works best for cold drip systems as immersion brews need a bit longer to extract the right amount of flavors and caffeine from your chosen beans.
THE 18-HOUR METHOD
Most experts recommend for you try steeping your cold brew for 16 hours, up to 18 hours, to determine if it creates the strength you'd expect if you prefer a stronger taste. Typically, immersing your coffee grounds for 12 hours or less won't make the coffee as round and robust as you might expect, especially if you are using an immersion brew system like a mason jar.
When you reach the 18-hour mark, you'll also realize that the acidity in the coffee will significantly decline. Plenty of people opt for cold brew coffee over hot coffee because it's more gentle on their stomach and more comfortable to digest. It also helps to eliminate the symptoms of heartburn, which can be uncomfortable to deal with throughout the day.
Aside from a lower acidic content, 18-hour cold brew coffee also has more subtle flavors without the harshness of bitter solubles. This distinction is especially crucial if you prefer a dark roast, as it's infamous for harsh flavors and acidic notes that will seep through when brewed hot or for longer durations.
Do not steep your brew for more than 24 hours in a fridge as this will produce more earthy and woody undertones that will not be pleasant. The longer you submerge the coffee in the water, the more the bitter agents, such as chlorogenic acid found in coffee beans, will mix in with it. If you want a stronger concentrate, add less water to coffee ratio rather than soaking the brew for more hours.
Now that you have a better idea of how long you should immerse cold brew coffee, I'm sure you likely have other questions too. Let's discuss some of the most popular items around cold brewing. Knowing as much about cold brewing as possible will help you to create the perfect coffee your first time around.
WHAT COFFEE SHOULD I USE TO MAKE COLD BREW?
There are hundreds of different types of coffee that you can use to create a cold brew, though the most popular are those with fruity profiles.
You will want to consider African coffees if you prefer fruity and citrusy notes that are sweeter when drinking black coffee. If you prefer to add some sweetener and milk, Latin American coffee is preferred as it is more rooted in flavor.
Beginners may also experience some success with balanced blends as they have a combination of sweet and complex notes and share elements of both African and Latin coffees. These are easy to drink black or with added sweeteners.
Just make sure to use coarsely ground beans in your recipe.
SHOULD I KEEP MY COLD BREW REFRIGERATED?
It's easy to assume that once the brewing process is "complete," you can remove your cold brew from the fridge. However, I highly recommend that you keep it cold for as long as possible. If you made your cold brew concentrate at room temperature, once your steeping process is complete, immediately store it in the fridge or serve.
Leaving cold brew outside for longer than the required brewing process will cause it to go wrong sooner and result in a stale brew. Keeping your batch in the fridge will maintain the flavor profile and keep the coffee fresh if you go back for a second or third cup.
DOES COLD BREW STAY GOOD FOR A LONG TIME?
Ideally, you shouldn't keep the coffee in your refrigerator for more than ten days. You'll easily be able to tell if your coffee is starting to feel off, as it will smell and taste strange. A tip is to use cold brew coffee that has started to go off to water for your plants. Just make sure to dilute the coffee before watering your water pots.
CAN I MAKE COLD BREW COFFEE IN LESS THAN 24 HOURS?
Yes, there's very little pressure when it comes to choosing the perfect length of time for steeping your cold brew. Try steeping your coffee for anywhere between 12-20 hours. You can soak for up to 24 hours if you are cold-brewing your batch in the fridge.
That said, steeping for longer than 18 hours and up to 24 hours may significantly change the taste of your batch. We recommend steeping at 16-18 hours for the best quality of concentration.
IS COLD BREWING RECOMMENDED FOR A DECAF COFFEE?
Yes definitely. You can brew the perfect cup of cold coffee with decaf coffee beans using the same brewing process. It's important to remember that not everyone drinks cold brew for the buzz it delivers. There are plenty of people who simply enjoy the taste of coffee, and using decaf will unlock all of the flavorful elements of your favorite grounds.
WHAT'S THE RECOMMENDED GRIND FOR COLD BREW COFFEE MAKERS?
The most important thing when deciding on a coffee grind is the filtration the grounds will receive. Ideally, you should achieve a coarse grind similar to what works best in a French press. This grind size will allow the grounds to filter nicely and still allow the coffee to steep in the water for a long time without dissolving entirely.
Coffee grounds that are too fine or small will result in a cloudy and particle-filled cold coffee brew and may produce a bitter taste as smaller grinds produce a higher acidity content.
Some cold brew systems may give you specific instructions as to the proper grind size for that maker. Always follow the instructions included in the manual to ensure the longevity of the machine, while making the best possible batch with it.
HOW COLD SHOULD THE WATER BE WHEN COLD BREWING?
The majority of the "coffee-making magic" happens when you leave your brew to steep. The beginning temperature doesn't have much to do with the brewing process. For this, you can add warm or cold water. However, many have found that steeping at room temperature is the most efficient choice.
Another point to note is that you should use clean water for your cold brew. Just as the quality of ground coffee you use is essential, having clean filtered water will affect the outcome of your cold brew coffee.
WHAT TYPE OF FILTERS SHOULD I USE?
Filters are quite crucial with cold brew, and there are plenty of variations available. Most at-home users rely on paper filters as they're the most accessible and the least expensive.
You may want to consider buying reusable wool filters. Wool filters are slightly more expensive, but with the proper care, they'll last a long time.
With wool filters, you will want to rinse them with hot water after every use, store them in a freezer bag, and freeze them. When you need to make another pot of cold brew, defrost the filter in warm water.
Metal filters such as a french press are also ideal for filtering, as they don't let many sediments through when used with a very coarse coffee grind. Additionally, for larger batches with coarse coffee grounds, you can use a sieve with tiny and tight holes with a cheesecloth layered over it to produce your own homemade filter.
WHAT TYPES OF COFFEE CAN I MAKE WITH COLD BREW COFFEE?
There is an extensive drink menu you can make from your cold brew coffee batch. You can use cold brew coffee concentrate to make cold coffee with cream, blended frappes recipes, iced mocha coffees, and you can even heat your cold brew concentrate and add water to make a traditional cup. Making traditional coffee this way will not alter the taste of your cold brew.
Depending on the taste and methods you prefer, you can be as creative as you like with additions such as flavor essences. Flavor additives like hazelnut, caramel, or french vanilla are excellent enhancements, or you can drink it black for that extra caffeine shot in the morning. Your cold coffee brew concentrate is also useful in many different dessert recipes as a tasty syrup or for a natural coffee flavor additive.
Many factors go into making the best cold brew coffee. The type of coffee beans you use are essential; however, knowing how long you should steep cold brew is one of the most critical parts of creating the perfect cup or pitcher of coffee. By experimenting with the different time methods and testing out cold coffee brewing variations, you will find the ideal balance that suits your tastes. Based on the strength and flavors you're looking for, you may find that brewing for around 14 hours is preferable. The best option is to try out the different time methods to find the perfect robustness for your preference.
The next time you find a refreshing cold coffee brew on the menu, be sure to take notes and share them in the comments below. We love sharing recipes with the community!