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HOW TO MAKE COLD BREW COFFEE


Icy glass of homemade cold brew coffee, served with milk and ready to drink with a straw

There is nothing better than an iced coffee on a warm day. With summer just around the corner, I am getting ready to make lots and lots of homemade cold brew coffee.


Making your own cold brew coffee is super easy, and is a much more cost effective way to get your caffeine kick during the warmer months instead of buying from a coffee shop every day ($$$). Your homemade cold brew will also keep in the fridge for 1-2 weeks, making busy mornings that much easier (pour and go!). Or just make mornings easier in general if you’re not a morning person. Did I mention cold brew is delicious? Like, too good to be true delicious.


If you are a coffee lover, homemade cold brew coffee is a must-try.


WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COLD BREW COFFEE AND ICED COFFEE?


On the simplest level, how the coffee is brewed.


Cold brew coffee is made by soaking your coffee grounds in cold or room temperature water for an extended period of time. Cold brew coffee is never heated. Iced coffee on the other hand is made by brewing hot coffee like normal and pouring it over ice.


So...what does that matter? Well, there are actually several differences!

  • Cold brew coffee has a lower acidity level due to the beans never being heated. Great for those with sensitive stomachs.

  • Cold brew coffee is smoother and less bitter in taste again, because the beans are not subjected to heat which changes the chemical profile of the final brew. Cold brew is often described as smooth, milder, and slightly sweet.

  • Cold brew is higher in caffeine because of the higher ratio of coffee to water and long brew time. Whoo hoo! If it’s a bit too much for you, you can tone it down by adding additional cold water to your cup. Cold brew is generally served on ice, which will also help to take the edge off. If you are sensitive to caffeine, or like to sip on cold brew all day long but don't want to be up all night, you can also make decaffeinated cold brew coffee concentrate by using decaf coffee grounds.

  • Cold brew coffee has less risk of tasting watered down because of the strong nature of the brew! This is excellent as watered down coffee is kind of a bummer.


Top down view of a glass of this cold brew recipe served on ice, with a jar of milk next to it

WHAT DO I NEED TO MAKE COLD BREW COFFEE?


Coarsely Ground Coffee: use your favorite coffee, and coarsely grind the beans (like you would use in a French press). If you do not have a coffee grinder, you can use the grinder at your grocery store or if you’re purchasing coffee from a local coffee shop, they’ll gladly grind the beans for you. There are a few reasons coarsely ground coffee is recommended for cold brew. Too fine a grind can create a more bitter tasting coffee due to more oil being extracted and the beans getting slightly heated during the grinding process. Too coarse a grind can also cause filtering issues, creating a hazy or murky cup of coffee.

Water: you will need cold or room temperature water to make your cold brew coffee. Some people claim using filtered water creates a better cup of cold brew. I’ve always used tap water and it has still been delightful; if you live somewhere with well water that has a mineral taste, though, filtered water may be best.

A Container: there are so many options for this! You can use a standard quart-sized Mason jar (32oz). You can use an old glass jar you might have on hand (some spaghetti sauces come in glass jars up to 45oz - a great way to upcycle!). You can purchase a cute glass jar with a lid from a store that carries home goods (I generally use a half-gallon sized glass jar that I purchased because my husband and I both like coffee and want to have this around for at least a few days). If you have a French press, you can brew your cold brew in that too (just don’t push down the lever until you’re ready to strain).


WHAT IS THE CORRECT COFFEE TO WATER RATIO FOR COLD BREW COFFEE?


While the perfect ratio is subjective, a good starting point is 1 ounce of coffee to 1 cup of water. You can use a kitchen scale to measure this if you’d like to be precise, but 1 oz of coarse ground coffee ends up being approximately ¼ cup. So, if you have a container that will hold 4 cups of water, you will need 1 cup of coarsely ground coffee.


Homemade cold brew concentrate being brewed in a large container with a lid; you can see the course ground coffee and liquid separated and ready to be strained

RECOMMENDED BREWING (STEEPING) TIME


In general, cold brew coffee is recommended to steep overnight or at least 12 hours. You will also find some resources that say to brew for 18 to 24 hours...do what works with your schedule. I have made cold brew dozens of times, and the generic “brew overnight” has worked well for me. You can brew your coffee on your counter or in the refrigerator. I generally place mine in the fridge so it’s already cold!


I encourage you to experiment and find the steep time that creates the perfect cup of cold brew for you!


HOW TO STRAIN YOUR COLD BREW COFFEE WHEN IT’S DONE BREWING


There are several ways to do this. In general, you will need a fine mesh strainer plus some type of filtering material. I usually use a thin paper coffee filter (the “basket” shaped ones work best as they sit nicely in your strainer). You can also use a cheesecloth or a cloth napkin.


If you are brewing with a French press to make your cold brew concentrate, simply press down the plunger to push the grounds to the bottom.


How to make cold brew coffee process shot, showing cold brew concentrate being strained through a fine mesh strainer and coffee filter into a large container so it is ready to drink

OVERVIEW: HOW TO MAKE COLD BREW COFFEE AT HOME


  1. Select container you will use to steep your coffee and determine how many cups of water you can use

  2. Coarsely grind coffee beans*

  3. In your container, combine your coffee and water and stir

  4. As noted above, a good ratio is to use 1oz of coffee for 1 cup of water

  5. Cover and place in the refrigerator to brew overnight (approximately 12 hours)

  6. When ready to strain, place a fine mesh strainer fitted with a thin paper coffee filter, cloth napkin, or cheesecloth over a bowl. Pour the brewed coffee through the prepared strainer to remove the grounds from your cold brew concentrate. Make sure to let all of the coffee seep through to the bowl by letting it sit for a few minutes.

  7. Transfer filtered coffee into a container for storage (I usually rinse the container I used to brew my cold brew in to remove any remaining grounds and pour my coffee back into it!). Homemade cold brew coffee will keep for up to 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator.

  8. Serve and enjoy!

*Note: you can make decaffeinated cold brew coffee concentrate by using decaf coffee beans in this step. I like to remind people of this because it is uncommon to find decaf cold brew coffee at your local coffee shop or on the shelf at the store.


HOW TO SERVE COLD BREW COFFEE


To serve cold: this is the most common way to serve cold brew coffee

  • Fill a glass with ice

  • Pour your desired amount of cold brew concentrate in (I would recommend to start by filling your glass halfway with cold brew as it is very strong)

  • Dilute with water, milk, and/or creamer to your liking.

  • If you’d like to sweeten your cold brew, adding a small amount of simple syrup is a great choice as it will blend into your cold beverage nicely

  • Stir, sip, and enjoy!


To serve hot: did you know that you can drink cold brew coffee hot? Great for those who have sensitive stomachs and need a less acidic cup of joe, or if you’re just in the mood for a hot cup of coffee instead!

  • Option 1: in a small saucepan, dilute cold brew concentrate with water (start with a 1-to-1 ratio) and heat over medium heat on your stove until desired temperature is reached. Add in your favorite coffee fixings (milk, half and half, etc) and enjoy!

  • Option 2: heat water in a tea kettle and add to your cold brew concentrate right in your mug (again, suggest starting with a 1-to-1 ratio and adjusting as desired)

  • Option 3: dilute and microwave - sometimes you just need to get your coffee ready and go!

I will note, options 1 and 2 are generally the recommended methods for heating cold brew coffee.


Homemade cold brew coffee served in a glass with a straw, with swirls of milk throughout

HELPFUL EQUIPMENT FOR MAKING COLD BREW COFFEE


Coffee grinder:

Fine mesh strainer:

Coffee filters:

  • These coffee filters will work well if you do not have a cloth to strain through

Fun container / pitcher:

  • I use a 2-liter sized glass pitcher with lid similar to this to make my cold brew so we can enjoy it all week long! We actually have 2 containers like this that are in near constant rotation all summer long for various coffees and iced teas




*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means at no additional cost to you I may receive a small commission for purchases made through these links. However, please know that I only provide links to products that I actually use and wholeheartedly recommend!