Few things are better on a hot summer day than a delicious glass of iced coffee. While I love flash brew coffee, a smooth refreshing cold brew is hard to beat. Making cold brew is incredibly simple, can be easily be done ahead of time and requires almost no special equipment.
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What is Cold Brew Coffee?
Cold brew coffee is made by steeping coffee grounds in room temperature water for an extended period of time (any where from 12 to 48 hours). Instead of using hot water to extract flavor from the coffee beans, cold brew coffee uses time. This extended brew time can create a smooth, potentially less bitter coffee. Depending on the coffee to water ratio you use, it can be brewed to drink or made as a concentrate that you dilute with water or milk.
Why Make Cold Brew Coffee
- Cold brew coffee is easy to make ahead, so it is ready for you right when you need that caffeine hit.
- Homemade cold brew coffee keeps in the fridge quite well. It is best within 24-48 hours, but can be stored for up to a week or two.
- Cold brew coffee can have less acidity and be easier to drink. If hot brewed coffee is a bit too acidic for you, cold brew may be a great option.
- Homemade cold brew is much more affordable than buying it from a coffee shop every morning.
- Cold brew coffee is easy to make in large quantities (especially if you have a larger container to make it in like the Honour Cold Brew maker) making it the perfect option when making coffee for a group.
- It’s flexible. It can be made stronger as a concentrate or at a ready-to-drink consistency. It can be drunk black or mixed with cream.
- It’s a great mix-in for coffee cocktails. This Cold Brew Old Fashioned recipe is my favorite!
- It’s delicious!
Steps to Make Cold Brew Coffee
Time needed: 1 day and 15 minutes.
The process of making cold brew coffee is incredibly simple. Here’s an overview on how to make cold brew coffee at home.
- Coarsely grind your coffee beans.
Because of the long steeping time, you want your coffee grounds to be ground fairly coarse so the coffee does not get over-extracted.
- Combine coffee and water.
You can either mix the coffee and water together directly or use some sort of filter or mesh system to make the final straining of water from the coffee grounds easier.
- Wait 12-24 hours.
Cold brew requires time to slow-steep the coffee grounds with the water. There is no magic time, but usually somewhere between 12-24 hours works best. Experiment to find the timing that tastes best to you and works best with your schedule.
- Filter & serve.
If you’ve mixed the coffee and water together, you’ll need to use a cheese cloth or other filter to separate the coffee grounds. If you’ve used a cold brew maker with a filter you can simply remove the filter and your cold brew is ready to serve!
Tips When Making Cold Brew Coffee
If you don’t have a good grinder, buy a bag of fresh coffee from a local roaster, have them grind it coarse for you and then go home and use it right away for your cold brew.
- Use high quality coffee. The final coffee you make can only be as good as the initial coffee you use. Use fresh, high quality coffee (ideally from a local roaster). Some of the more fruit-forward, vibrant coffees will lose some of their edge when exposed to a slow brew, so I have found it is better to stick to coffees that are smoother, creamier and a bit more balanced.
- Use the proper grind. You want to use a coarse grind when making cold brew, but the consistency of the grind is important to make sure you get an even extraction from your cold brew. Ideally you would use a burr grinder vs. a blade grinder, which will allow for a more consistent grind.
- Experiment with the coffee to water ratio. There is a wide range of recommended coffee to water ratios when you look up various cold brew techniques. No one way is necessarily right. The ratio I recommend in this article creates a more ready to drink cold brew that shouldn’t need much dilution with cream or water. If you prefer to create a more concentrated cold brew, you can reduce the amount of water and then add it back in as cream or water after brewing. Find out what works and tastes best for you!
- Experiment with steep time. In my recipe below I recommend a steep time of 24 hours, but there is a lot of flexibility in the timing. In general you want to keep it to more than 12 hours and less than 48 hours, but anywhere in that window can yield great results, so find what works and tastes best for you.
Questions About Cold Brew Coffee
While cold brew can have more caffeine, it doesn’t necessarily have to. The reason for this belief is that cold brew is usually made at a stronger coffee to water ratio. If you drink it at this more concentrated level, it will have more caffeine, but if you dilute with water or milk/cream, it won’t necessarily.
The amount of caffeine can also be impacted by the specific coffee you use, the length of time you steep the coffee and more.
When making cold brew, you can decide to make it stronger as a concentrate (1:2 to 1:6 coffee to water ratio) or more diluted and ready-to-drink (1:8 to 1:16). If you prefer to dilute your cold brew with water, I find it better to make the cold brew at a ready-to-drink ratio because I find it tastes fuller and more balanced when the water is added before steeping vs. directly before drinking. If you prefer to add cream or milk to your cold brew though, making a concentrate works better, so you can dilute, while still keeping your cold brew at the proper ratio.
There is some debate on this question and the answers will range from 24-48 hours to two weeks. I find cold brew you make at home tastes best within one week of making it—though I’ve pushed it to two weeks before and it is close to the original quality.
Cold brew you purchase from the store many times will have longer “best buy” dates, so if you purchase always be sure to check the date on the package.
What Equipment Do You Need to Make Cold Brew Coffee?
The bare essentials when it comes to making cold brew at home include a container to steep the coffee/water and a filter to separate them after steeping. You can do this with a mason jar and cheese cloth/strainer, but if you plan to make cold brew coffee regularly, it is worth investing in a cold brew maker that makes the entire process easier. The cold brew maker shown in this post is the Honour Cold Brew Maker. It’s great because it has a specific area for the coffee grounds, so after steeping you can easily take it out and the cold brew coffee is ready to go. It already is in the container you’ll store it in and has a pour spout to make it incredibly easy to store. Easy peasy.
Ready to make your own cold brew?
Get an Honour Cold Brew Maker to start making amazing cold brew coffee at home now.
The Best At-Home Cold Brew Coffee
- Honour Cold Brew Maker
- 12 oz coffee ground coarsely
- 1 gallon water filtered
- Coarsely grind coffee. Because you steep the coffee grounds for such an extended period of time, you want your coffee grounds to be ground fairly coarse so the coffee does not get over-extracted.
- Combine coffee and water. Add filtered water to cold brew maker until just below the rim of the jar (if you are using less coffee reduce the water amount proportionally). Add coffee to center filter.
- Stir coffee. The coffee will float to the top. Wait 1 minute and use spoon or other stirrer to stir inside the filter to help settle the coffee grounds.
- Allow coffee to steep. Wait between 12-24 hours for the coffee to steep.
- Remove coffee. Slowly remove the filter from the cold brew maker and allow coffee to drain from the filter.
- Enjoy! Store the finished cold brew in the fridge and enjoy over the next week. The cold brew coffee can be drunk straight or diluted with water or milk to taste.