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How to Make Cold Brew Coffee (Recipe You Can Make at Home)

Cold-brew coffee has gained a lot of traction recently. It’s becoming one of the most popular brewing methods with even some retail cold brew coffees reaching supermarket aisles. It has even made its way onto Starbucks menus.

You’re probably wondering what the big deal is. Cold-brew coffee couldn’t be easier; you get some coffee grounds and soak them in water, right? Well, you can do that, but you’ll go through a whole lot of bad batches before you get it right. If you want to be a little more practical, this article will teach you how to make cold brew coffee at home and give you some helpful tricks along the way.

What Is Cold Brew Coffee?

Like a fireplace, cold brew coffee is exactly what the name implies. Coffee, brewed cold. But don’t let the simple name fool you because there’s a lot to know about this delicious brewing method. Maybe it’s better to invert the question. What is not cold brew coffee?

Cold brew coffee is not iced coffee, for starters. That espresso-based coffee drink is brewed using hot water squeezed through fine grounds. Cold brew coffee is also not French press coffee. It can be made in a French press, but the French press is traditionally used to brew hot coffee.

Despite what you might have heard, cold brew coffee is all about convenience. It’s the epitome of set-and-forget.

Typically, it’s made into a concentrate that can be stored for weeks and it requires very little work for great results.

What Is Cold Brew Concentrate?

Because cold brewing uses cold water, you can store it for future use. One of the popular ways to make cold brew is to oversaturate the brew and store a concentrated version to be diluted later (1). This works because most of the flavors are extracted in the first four to eight hours. The coffee doesn’t get stronger as it would if beans are over-extracted using heat (2).

How Is It Different from Iced Coffee?

The main difference between these two cold caffeinated drinks is the brewing method. Iced coffee is slightly stronger, brewed with hot water, cooled and served over ice. Cold-brew is brewed with cold water over a long period of time.

Cold brews tend to be smoother and milder than most other brewing methods. Brewing cold highlights a lot of flavors that are overpowered in regular coffee brews such as drip or espresso.

“Caffeine’s ability to dissolve depends on temperature. At higher temperatures, significantly more caffeine will dissolve than at cooler temperatures.”

Cold-brew has a little less caffeine than most other brews in the same water to coffee ratios. There is a misconception that it has more, but that’s not true.

Why Do People Love Cold Brew Coffee so Much?

What’s not to love about cold brew coffee? Some people aren’t fans of the bitter taste of tannins and other acids in coffee (3). Because their extraction is so dependent on heat, cold brew has fewer of them and tastes sweeter and mellower.

“It’s a simple, delicate process that lets the beauty of coffee bean do all the talking.”

It’s also very easy to make, as you’ll see in this article. You can have coffee shop-worthy cold-brewed goodness in the comfort of your home with very little effort. It’s also a green alternative to regular brewing methods, as it doesn’t use any energy to heat the water (4).

What You Need

  • Your favorite coffee, ground coarse
  • Room temperature water
  • A mason jar or other wide-necked vessel
  • Cheesecloth or paper filter
  • Measuring cups
  • A strainer

Once you become more experienced, you won’t need to measure too much anymore. Until then, use the ratios of water to coffee laid out in this recipe as a foundation. Like any other brewing method, more grounds will make more concentrated coffee.

Also like other methods, it’s best to grind your own beans just before you brew them. Make sure you have a coffee grinder that can handle the coarse grind necessary for cold-brew.

Cold Brew Coffee Recipe

Making cold-brewed coffee doesn’t take razor-sharp skills or perfect timing. It’s a very forgiving technique, so don’t stress out too much about nailing the perfect timing or quantities. As long as you’re in the right neighborhood, it will turn out just fine.

a guy showing how to make cold brew coffee at home using a mason jar

Don’t get hung up on the ratios. Consider this recipe a guideline: experiment with different amounts of water and coffee.

1. Measure the Coffee and Water

You’re going to use a ratio of one ounce (28g) of coffee grounds to a cup of water (250ml). If you’re grinding your own beans, that will be about a quarter of a cup of whole beans. If you are using pre-ground beans it’s about half a cup of grounds. Some water will be lost in the strain, but the end result will be diluted anyway.

If you’re grinding your own beans, set the grinder to the coarsest setting. If the grind is too fine you’ll have coffee grime left in the end result and it won’t be as smooth. For the first attempt, mix about 3 ounces of ground coffee with 3 cups of water and see how that tastes.

DOUBLE PRO TIP: If you don’t want to hassle with measuring cups, use a coffee scale or a sensitive kitchen scale instead. Also, the quality of your water will have a great impact on your cold brew, so use filtered spring water if possible.

2. Steep the Coffee

Measure out your water in the mason jar. Then, add the coffee grounds and stir them in. Wait around five minutes and stir it again to make sure the coffee grounds are well soaked. Using this method you’ll strain out the coffee grounds when they’re done steeping. However, there is another way.

Instead of putting the ground coffee directly into the water, you can make a sort of coffee “pod” instead. Fold your cheesecloth to make a 4-layer piece. Pour the coffee grounds into the cheesecloth and tie it with a kitchen string to create your pod. Immerse the pod into the water and knead it gently to soak the beans. You may have to steep a little longer, but when it’s done you’ll just have to remove the pod to finish the process.

You can refrigerate your cold brew or leave it at room temperature. Let it steep covered for about 12 hours, but no more than 18 hours.

PRO TIP: You can also use a French press or a Toddy cold brew system. Prepare the coffee in a French press instead of a jar for easy cleanup. Use the same coffee to water ratio. The Toddy makes it really easy to prepare cold brew coffee without much work.

3. Strain Your Cold Brew

After it’s done steeping, unless you used the coffee pod method, you’ll have to strain the coffee grounds. Put your coffee filter into a fine strainer and filter the mixture through it into a mug or jar you can store later. You can also use some cheesecloth instead of the coffee filter. The cold brew coffee concentrate should be entirely free of any remaining grounds.

You may have to repeat the process once or twice to make sure all the grounds are strained out. If you can’t get them all out, grind coarser the next time.

PRO TIP: If you have a pour-over coffee maker such as Chemex or a drip coffee maker, they’re perfect for this application. Instead of a strainer with a filter, you can use the pour-over dripper. It’s easier than setting up a strainer and it’s ready to store when you finish straining.

4. Enjoy!

The resulting cold brew concentrate will be a little too strong to drink straight. Put some ice in a glass and fill it about halfway with water or milk. Then fill the rest with the cold brew concentrate. Add sugar or another sweetener to taste. You can use more or less water, depending on your preference. You should aim to finish it off as soon as you can but you can also keep it refrigerated for up to two weeks.

PRO TIP: If you don’t want to dilute the flavor as your ice melts, make coffee ice cubes. Use the same recipe for cold brew coffee and freeze it into cubes for your iced coffee and cold brew.

Final Thoughts

Making cold brew coffee is about as easy as it gets, and it’s relatively inexpensive to do at home. The reason it’s pricey when you buy it in stores is the long time it takes to steep. But that’s not a concern if you’re making it yourself.

All it really takes is coarse ground beans, purified water, and a container. Oh, and a tiny bit of elbow grease. The recipe is pretty forgiving, but you want to stick to between 1:5 and 1:8 parts coffee to parts water ratio. The steep time can vary without a huge impact on the flavor, so steeping it overnight is a very convenient way to do it.

BONUS PRO TIP: If you want the taste of cold brew in a hot cup of coffee, mix room temperature cold brew concentrate with boiling water. The flavors will remain intact and you’ll have a hot cup of silky smooth coffee.

FAQs

Whether cold brew coffee is stronger than regular coffee depends on what you mean by stronger. Cold brew coffee is concentrated because it’s meant to be diluted, then served over ice or otherwise cold. So, when brewed, it’s definitely a little stronger-tasting and has a higher concentration of caffeine. When diluted and served, it’s sweeter and milder than other brewing methods.

You dilute cold brew coffee with water or milk, as well as milk substitutes and alternatives. Milk will give it more of a latte kind of taste and feel. Some people also use cream or gluten-free creamers which soften the flavor even further. The amount of dilution will depend on how concentrated the cold brew is, but most cold brew recipes work best in a 1 to 1 dilution.

Yes, cold brew coffee can steep for too long, but it’s very hard to pull off. If you’re getting over-extracted cold brew coffee, it’s more likely a problem with the size of the grind. Small grinds aren’t ideal for cold brew. That being said, steeping for over 24 hours does start to extract some of the less pleasant flavors. It also depends on the bean type and roast. Anywhere within 12-18 hours should generally be fine.

References
  1. Jui, T. (2019, March 14). Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate – How to Make at Home. Retrieved from https://www.theworktop.com/breakfast-brunch-recipes/cold-brew-coffee-concentrate-how-to-make/
  2. Handground Team (2018, August 05). The Beginner’s Guide to Immersion Cold Brew Coffee. Retrieved from https://handground.com/grind/beginners-guide-immersion-cold-brew-coffee
  3. Kalmus, S. (2019, January). Tannins and Acids in Coffee. Retrieved from https://healthfully.com/455484-tannins-and-acids-in-coffee.html
  4. How Much Energy Does It Take To Brew Your Office Coffee? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://business.directenergy.com/blog/2017/september/international-coffee-day

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