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How To Make Cold Brew Coffee – Step By Step & Tips

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how to make cold brew coffee

So you feel like a cup of coffee, but it’s hot outside? Cold brew coffee is the way to go. It’s smooth, slightly sweet, and very refreshing. And the best part: It’s child’s play. So easy that you will forget about all the watery and bitter iced coffees you’ve ever had.

Cold brew coffee involves infusing coffee grounds in cold water over a long period of time. This is in contrast to traditional coffee brewing methods that extract coffee flavors from the beans with hot water. It’s certainly its smooth flavor that has helped cold brew coffee become big in recent years. To tell the difference, have a hot brew and then drink a glass of cold brew coffee. You’ll be astounded by the difference. 

Keep reading to find out how to make a perfectly delicious cold brew coffee.

Why Should You Make Cold Brew Coffee?

There are many reasons to enjoy cold brew coffee. Here are my favorites.

It Tastes Great

This is probably the number one reason why I like cold brew coffee so much. A good cold brew is as smooth as it gets. The slow infusion makes all the good flavors stand out, leaving behind acidic and bitter compounds. All in all, it makes for a slightly sweet and light coffee.

Best on a Hot Summer Day

Do you like having a hot cup of coffee on a sweltering summer afternoon? Yeah, me neither. Cold brew coffee is the perfect way to keep caffeinated during the warmest months.  

It’s Easy to Make

Did I already mention that it’s easy to make? If yes, then that’s because it really is.

You Can Make it in Batches

Feeling too busy in the morning to brew your cup of coffee? No worries. You can brew cold brew coffee at the beginning of the week, store it in the fridge, and drink it all week long. Once it’s filtered clear of the coffee grounds, the flavor won’t really change for the first week. I wouldn’t recommend keeping it much longer than this to make the most of it at its peak condition, but it will still be safe to drink for up to two weeks.

If you’ve chosen to make a concentrate to be diluted, I’d suggest it’s best to dilute as you go rather than dilute your whole batch at once. As soon as you’ve diluted it, the shelf life drops to just two or three days for maximum freshness.

It’s Versatile

Experiment with different coffee to water ratios, add your favorite flavors and even heat it in the microwave. Some people steep other aromatics like vanilla pods or even cardamom in with their ground coffee for an interesting infusion.

What’s the Best Coffee for a Cold Brew?

cold brew coffee

When it comes to choosing your cold brew coffee beans, there’s no right or wrong. Basically, you can use any coffee you want. To see some of our favorites, as well as some more suggestions, check out the best coffee for cold brew.

While some use their leftover coffee before it goes bad (something I wouldn’t recommend if you want the best taste), others like to brew sweet fruity coffee to enhance the natural sweetness and complex flavors further. One of the perks of cold brewing is that you don’t have to worry too much about bitterness and acidity

Go with a lighter roast if you prefer a mild, less bitter taste. If you’re into strong coffee flavor, on the other hand, opt for a darker roast. Note that lighter notes can sometimes get lost or muted in the long infusion.

No matter what coffee you choose, make sure to grind your beans coarsely.

What do You Need to Brew?

Depending on the exact preparation method you opt for, cold brewing can be a very simple process. A big plus of cold brew coffee (besides the taste, obviously) is that you can brew it with very little equipment. No need for any fancy brewing tools. All you need is:

  • A large container. I recommend using a Mason jar or a French Press. But really, any glass container does the job.
  • Cold or room temperature water, ideally filtered
  • Fine mesh strainer
  • Piece of cheesecloth or a paper filter
  • Coarsely ground coffee

If you get into your cold brew and decide you want to invest a little more money to save yourself some time, you can get special Mizudashi pots with integrated filters from Hario. These great gadgets really simplify the process even further, removing the need to strain the coffee after brewing. You just lift out the grounds, and you’re good to go.

Alternatively, if you find yourself heading even further down the cold brew rabbit hole, these Bruer cold drip systems can take you as far as you want to go. If counter-top elegance is your thing, this tower dripper from Nispira will rival your fanciest local coffee shop for style any day.

You could also use your AeroPress or have a go at making your own nitro cold brew with a NitroPress!

Coffee to Water Ratio

There are two traditional ways to make cold brew coffee. Either as concentrate or already ready to drink. Accordingly, the coffee to water ratio will vary wildly. I always brew concentrate as it allows me to dilute it with either water or milk afterward.

Coffee to water ratio. Source: Swivelcoffee

For a strong cup, aim for a ratio of around 1:5, whereas 1:8 would be more on the regular side. These are just rough guidelines; at the end of the day, find the optimal ratio for yourself.

Note that if you desire a stronger cup of coffee, adjust the ratio and avoid letting it sit longer. This makes it bitter rather than stronger.

Step by Step Brewing

1. Coarsely grind coffee

2. Place grounds in the container of your choice. Pour filtered water on it.

3. Stir to mix the water and coffee grounds. Let it sit for 12-24 hours on the kitchen counter or in the fridge. Extraction will be slower in the fridge, adjust brew time accordingly. 

4. Place a mesh strainer and cheesecloth (or paper filter) on a measuring cup. Pour the coffee concentrate through and let it strain slowly. Refrain from pressing or squeezing the coffee grounds.

5. Cover and store it in the fridge.

6. Dilute it with water or milk when ready to enjoy

Some Alternate Methods

In case you feel like changing up your brewing routine, here are some alternative ways to make cold brew.

Non-Concentrated Immersion

Try brewing your cold brew as a longer drink to enjoy as it is without diluting. To do so, simply change the ratio and stick with the method outlined above. This recipe fits perfectly in a Mizudashi jug. 70g of coffee works well with 35fl oz of filtered water to give a brew ratio of around 1:15.

AeroPress Cold Brew in 2 Minutes!

1. Grind your coffee finely for this one. 16g is the recommended amount for an 8oz drink.

2. Rinse your filter and set up your AeroPress. Either inverted or regular approaches will work fine here.

3. Add your coffee grounds and weigh in 130g of cold filtered water.

4. Start your timer and stir intensely for 1 minute. This agitation speeds up extraction.

5. At the end of the minute, press straight into your cup with gentle and even pressure until you hear the hiss.

6. Your drink can then be diluted as preferred with more chilled, filtered water.

Nitro Cold Brew

For nitro cold brew, you can make yourself concentrate using your preferred method, although, for speed, I’d suggest the AeroPress method works well in this instance. Once you’ve got your concentrate, simply dilute it and add it to your NitroPress. Charge it with a Nitrogen canister and dispense it into your favorite cup for a silky coffee with a creamy velvet mouth feel. Think Guinness – this is pretty much how they get their mouth feel and dense foam head.

Cold Drip vs. Immersion

The methods discussed above are all types of immersion methods. There is, however, another way to make cold brew coffee. Cold drip coffee requires a system of (at least) three chambers. The top one holds water and ice, which drips very slowly onto the coffee grounds in the middle chamber. Once saturated, it will drip brewed coffee into the final chamber.

Cold drip methods require more equipment than immersion techniques, but can arguably give a bitter result. They can yield a more complex flavor as the compounds are not muddled by longer infusion. You should also expect a more full-bodied result with cold drip, which helps to release more lipids than immersion extraction.

How and Why to Hot Bloom?

You can bloom your coffee with hot water prior to the main extraction, no matter which method you choose. This helps to bring out the fruity acids which would otherwise not be released by cold brewing.

While usually referred to as a bloom, as with other immersion methods, a bloom as such (with blooming being the release of carbon dioxide from the grounds) doesn’t really do anything for your cold brew. But pouring some of the water hot over your grounds before you start will enable you to access flavors that would have otherwise remained locked away.

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Michael is the founder of My Coffee Base. He's fascinated by the world of coffee brewing and eager to learn something new about it every day.