Cold brew coffee is a refreshing drink that's become increasingly popular over the past few years. Making cold brew coffee at home can be easy, but it can also be tricky to get the steps down if you are new to it. That's why we've created this ultimate guide to making cold brew coffee at home. Let's start with the basics.
Cold Brew Coffee 101
Welcome class! Let's get right into cold brew 101. Cold brewing coffee is a simple but flavorful technique that takes advantage of the lower acidity levels in cold or room temperature water. It's is a simple and delicious way to get your caffeine fix. All you need are some grounds, water, fridge space, and time!
Cold brewing is all about finding your own process. No one recipe will work for everyone, but with these few tips, you can start experimenting to find what suits you the best!
The best part about cold-brewed coffee is that it's ready for you in the morning without much effort. Just zombie-walk over to your fridge, pull out your premade brew and you're done! But let's not get ahead of ourselves just yet. We'll start with the most common question we get concerning cold brew coffee...
Is Cold Brew the Same as Iced Coffee?
No, iced coffee and cold brew are not the same things. Iced coffee is just what it sounds like: hot coffee that has been cooled down and poured over ice. It's a wonderful summer drink, but not the same as its cold-brewed beverage counterpart.
Why does this matter?
It all comes down to what happens when you add heat to coffee grounds. By adding hot water, you release oils, acids, tannins, and flavors, albeit quickly. On the other hand, cold brew coffee slowly extracts the trapped caffeine and more subtle nuances of the bean over time. The resulting beverage provides a wider variety of flavors that just aren't present in regular iced coffees.
How do I Make Cold Brew Coffee at Home?
Now that you understand the differences, let's cover the steps your should follow to make cold brew at home the right way!
Step 1: Gather Your Whole Coffee Beans
We recommend starting with whole coffee beans because pre-ground grocery store options are often not the right size for cold brew. This will ensure that you get the best flavor out of your cold brew batch, as well as limit the amount of sediment you'll have at the end. I don't know about you, but I'm not a fan of drinking coffee with grinds or sediment in it. We'll choose whole beans and grind them down to size.
What are the Best Coffee Beans to Choose for Cold Brew?
Here is where many cold-brew lovers start to diverge in their preferences. Choosing the best coffee beans for cold brew depends largely on which flavors you enjoy most, and secondly, which brewing method you'll go with (covered later in the article).
Let's take a look at the coffee growing regions as they relate to flavor profiles.
Click on a region to see its flavor profiles.
Understanding which regions provide the flavors you love will be your best friend when discovering your most optimized cold brew recipe. Use the above information to create blends of flavor profiles based on growing regions and begin testing making batches with them until you find the best combination for you!
Step 2: Grind The Coffee Beans
There are many grind options you can choose from when it comes to preparing your coffee grounds for cold brew. I'll save you most of the guesswork by recommending that you coarsely grind the beans in any coffee grinder with the option to do so.
Why do we want coarsely ground coffee for cold brew?
We want as little sediment as possible leftover while offering the most surface area we can for the water to extract what we want from the coffee grounds. To put it simply, coarsely ground coffee beans result in better-tasting cold brew coffee in most cases.
What is the Best Type of Coffee Grinder for Cold Brew Beans?
There are plenty of coffee nerds who will argue back and forth about which coffee grinder is best to make your coarsely ground coffee, but for most people, it really does not matter which method you choose to ground coffee, as long as the resulting coffee grounds do not end up in your final batch.
Step 3: Choose Your Brew Method
As cold brew innovation continues to improve year over year, the methods you can use to make cold brew coffee increase. As of this guide, there are 3 primary methods for making cold brew coffee and each have their pros, cons, steeping times and context:
Immersion: Placing coffee grounds in room-temperature water, allowing up to 24 hours of steeping time without any disturbances. Some examples include using a mason jar, french press, or pitcher.
Cold Drip: Arguably the oldest method for making coffee without heat, the drip method slowly extracts caffeine and flavors from coffee grounds a single drop at a time. This can be cool to set up as a showpiece and is a more artisan way for making coffee without heat. Some examples include drip towers and dutch brewers.
Agitation or Friction: The latest craze in cold brew technology speeds up brewing time, but comes at a higher price. Some examples come from the most popular brands in the industry.
What is the Best Brew Method for Cold Brew?
Depending on what is most important to you when it comes to cold brew will determine which brew method serves your needs the most. For example, drip towers are cool and hip, but they do not yield as much as immersion brewers do (the most common choice for coffee shops). Maybe you don't have time to wait. If this sounds like you, then brewers utilizing agitation might work best for you.
Step 4: Combine Your Coarsely Ground Coffee Beans with Water
This step largely depends on which brew style you've chosen in the previous step, but the gist is we are combining coffee and water within the contraption we've chosen to brew with.
What is the Best Ratio of Beans to Water?
It is best to follow the cold brew machine's manufacturer's instructions to get the best result from the device. However, in most cases, you'll have to choose between volume and strength. Keep in mind that it is much easier to weaken the strength of your cold brew by adding filtered water than it is to add more coffee to water after you've finished brewing.
Weak - 1:1 = 1 cup of water per 1 oz of coffee grounds
Regular Strength - 1:2 = 1 cup of water per 2 oz of coffee grounds
Cold Brew Concentrate - 1:3 = 1 cup of water per 3 oz of coffee grounds
We've got a great article all about water to coffee ratios here.
Ready to Drink Cold Brew vs. Cold Brew Concentrate
If you want to save room in your fridge, make a cold brew coffee concentrate, but make sure you label your concentrate, otherwise, you might accidentally drink too much and suffer from the side effects of excessive caffeine consumption.
Make weaker ready-to-drink batches to serve you throughout the day, or to drink after eating a heavy meal.
Step 5: Allow Time to Let it Steep, Drip, or Agitate
Follow the instructions from your cold brew device's manufacturer to get the best result.
What is the Recommended Steeping Time?
Immersion: No more than 24 hours. 18 hours seems to be the sweet spot.
Cold Drip: Cold drip coffee can take anywhere from 4 to 12 hours, depending on how much you want to make.
Agitation or Friction: 15-45 minutes for most devices.
Step 6: Strain the Coffee Mixture
Using a fine-mesh strainer, coffee sock, or paper filters, layer a large pitcher or carafe with one of the coffee filters and slowly pour your brew into the next vessel, keeping a close eye to prevent spills or splashes on sustainable surfaces.
How do I strain my cold brew?
Depending on which coffee filter you choose, your filtering options will change. Just know that the more coffee grounds you have in the coffee filter, the longer it will take for the coffee to strain through it.
Fine Mesh Strainer: Offers a stable filtering process and comes with most cold brew machines.
Coffee Sock or Cloth Coffee Filters: This is the most common option for those who choose pre-ground cold brew coffee at the store, and is used widely in commercial brew batches due to the many size options and price.
Cheese cloth or Paper Filters: Mostly a waste of time since they tear easily. You'll find these in some lesser expensive cold brew packs. I can recommend using one with your fine mesh strainer to prevent sediment, but that is really the only time I've had luck with them.
Step 7: Bottling and Storing Cold Brew
Now that you've strained your cold brew, you'll need a vessel to store it and some room in your fridge unless you plan to drink a large cup of coffee right away (not recommended).
How long does Cold Brew Last?
If you store it immediately after brewing, your homemade cold brew will last up to 2 weeks or 14 days left in your fridge but can last even longer if you make cold brew coffee ice cubes.
What Are the Best Storage Methods for Cold Brew Coffee?
Bottles: Most larger towns have homebrew shops where you can easily find bottling equipment. This can be a costly upfront expense, but offer you the longest potential storage options for your cold brew batches, give you can completely seal and pasteurize them.
Carafe or Jug: The most common and least expensive cold brew storage option, and likely the best cold brew storage option for most people.
Keg: If you plan to store your cold brew under pressure, want to infuse nitrogen for nitro cold brew, or just want a longer shelf life for larger brews, you can store your batches for longer in kegs.
There you have it, the ultimate, albeit concise guide on how to make cold brew coffee like the pros. We briefly covered everything you need to know in order to create your own homemade cold brew. Be sure to bookmark this page or share it with friends who are interested in making cold brew for themselves as I plan on continuously updating this page with fresh content as it comes up.
Also, if you notice any errors or would like to submit an alteration to this content, please leave a comment below and I will consider adding it to the guide.