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Cold Brew Coffee Ratio: Why It Matters & How To Get It Right

Hot weather is here, and that means it’s cold brew time. If you’re a coffee-lover, you may crave this refreshing way to drink coffee.

You can pick up your favorite cold brew at a coffee shop or supermarket, but you’ve also thought about making it at home. Trying to calculate the cold brew ratio, though, may have stopped you in your tracks. 

What’s the best cold brew coffee ratio? I’ll make it simple so you can choose the best ratio for you and start brewing.

ice cold brew

What Is The Best Ratio For Cold Brew Coffee?

But, before we get into the ratios, I want to mention a few basics about cold brew.

Cold brew coffee is not the same as iced coffee. Iced coffee is a coffee that is brewed over ice or hot brewed coffee that you’ve added ice to.

In contrast, cold brew coffee requires a long-brewing time, is more complex, and gives you more taste satisfaction.

To make cold brew, you steep ground beans in cold water for 12-24 hours. That long steeping time extracts flavors and acidity in a unique way. As a result, you’ll get an enhanced body. And you won’t get the bitter taste of grinds that have been extracted with hotter water.

We’re not going to go into all the steps of how to make cold brew concentrate. If you need step-by-step cold brew coffee recipes, check out these detailed instructions on how to make cold brew coffee.

As with all coffee making, ratio is king. That’s especially true with cold brew coffee since techniques and brewing methods are simplified. 

The key to successfully making a cold brew coffee that tastes great is the ratio, or how much coffee you add to how much cold water.

Cold Brew Concentrate Ratio

If you take a quick look at a selection of recipes, you’ll figure something out fast: the ratio is more complex than you thought.

You’ll find coffee to water ratios of 1:2, 1:8, or even 1:15.

Why the difference?

Basically, the difference has to do with how you will drink it.

After it’s prepared, will you drink it straight? Do you want a light, refreshing drink? Or do you want an intense, caffeine-packed pick-me-up in the middle of a hot summer’s day?

Will you add something else to your drink? Do you like it with a splash of sparkling water? Do you plan to add ice? Will you add sweeteners and dairy products?

The more ingredients you add, the more intense you need to make it. Then it will still taste like coffee when you add the other liquids. 

As you can see, you need to make your coffee lighter or stronger depending on your preferences. And that’s why there are so many ratios to choose from.

That’s why I’m not going to give you just one ratio. Instead, I’m going to give you scenarios that you can choose from. Then you’ll know which ratio is the best for your situation and tastes.

Cold Brew Scenarios

To choose the scenario that best fits you, think about how you will use your coffee once it’s ready. There are three basic ways you can go with this concentrate:

Refreshing cold brew. This is ideal for a light, refreshing drink, similar to iced tea. Aim for a coffee to water ratio of 1:8, or you can go as light as 1:15.

Intense cold brew. Ideal for an intense drink or mixing with dairy or non-dairy products. For this one, aim for a ratio of 1:5.

Cold brew concentrate. Need a versatile concentrate that you can use to make any drink you want? Use a 1:4 ratio. You can even go as far as a 1:2 coffee to water ratio. And when we say versatile, we mean it – a concentrate can be good for more than just mixing with cream. You can use it for cocktails, cooking, or frappes. Remember that this has quite a caffeine kick, so don’t overindulge.

milk cold brewed coffee

What Does The Ratio Mean?

If you’re looking at all those numbers and cringing a bit, don’t worry. It’s not as complex as it might seem.

The coffee to water ratio simply means how much coffee you’ll use in relation to how much water.

You can calculate this by weight (grams) or volume (cups). If you have a kitchen scale or coffee scale, weigh out your coffee and water. That will give you more precise measurements. If you don’t have a scale, you can measure by the cup.

The important thing is to respect the ratio amounts. Ratios make it easy to express amounts that you can adjust according to how much coffee you’ll be making.

So if you’re using a French Press or a brewer with a certain water capacity, it’s easy to calculate how much coffee you should use.

  • A 1:4 ratio is one part ground coffee to 4 parts water.
  • A 1:8 ratio is one part ground coffee to 8 parts water.
  • A 1:10 ratio is one part coffee to 10 parts water.

The Best Cold Brew Ratio For You

The best cold brew ratio for you will depend on four factors:

  • How much you want to make
  • The water capacity of your container or French Press method
  • Desired brew strength
  • Grind size

You can experiment with recipes to discover what will get the best cup of coffee for you.

If you have a grinder at home or order your coffee beans with a specific grind from your roaster, you can adapt the grind size to your needs. To get good results that don’t taste bitter, use coarsely ground coffee beans.

Remember to take notes when making your drink. If you take notes, when you hit on the right coffee to water amounts, grind size, brew time, and brew temperature, you can repeat the process.

If not, you may find yourself scratching your head and saying, Why is this so awesome?

Is 12 Hours Enough For Cold Brew?

Most cold brew recipes list 12 hours as a minimum steeping time, with 24 hours as a maximum. If you’re making your cold brew at home, is a 12-hour steeping time enough to extract flavors?

Yes, a steeping time of 12 hours for cold brew can be enough.

To ensure good results, use finer coffee grounds to compensate for the shorter steeping time.

Consider increasing the ratio to include more coffee grounds.

Also, consider keeping the brew out of the fridge for the steeping time – the higher room temperature will help it steep faster.