Making cold brew at home is easy. Easier than drip coffee, in fact! But, as with anything coffee-related, ratios and the right coffee beans, plus steep/extraction time, are all essential levers.
So, if you want to get started but wondering how long to steep cold brew, keep reading!
Make Cold Brew Coffee: 12-20 Hours
Unlike hot coffee, this brew method requires cold water, coarsely ground coffee and should be steeped for twelve to twenty hours depending on the recipe used and the brewing environment.
Once you have your recipe down, making a cup of cold brew at home is a straightforward process.
Related read: Cold Brew Guide
Follow Your Recipe!
Cold brew at home produces either a ready-to-drink beverage or a concentrate. The concentrated option must be diluted with water or a milk of your choice, depending on the specifics of the brew method.
Recipe variables include the brew time, grind size (coarse like a French Press grind), and the ratio of coffee to water.
Additionally, the brewing time is dependent on the amount of coffee being made and the environment in which you let the cold brew steep.
How Long to Steep Cold Brew
If you are brewing a small amount, the steeping time will be slightly shorter than brewing a large vat of cold brew commercially. However, when cold brewing at home, the most important thing regarding brew time is consistency.
Consistency is Key!
As long as you are consistent with your brewing time, you will be able to brew a consistently delicious cold brew at home.
Cold brew coffee should be steeped for twelve to twenty hours, a large enough window to allow for adjustments based on your taste preference.
Where Should You Steep Cold Brew?
Brewing time will vary depending on where you steep your brew.
If you steep your cold brew at room temperature, your total coffee extraction time will be shorter than if you steep it in the refrigerator.
In the Fridge…
If the environment is cooler, your cold brew will take longer to steep as the colder temperatures will slow down the extraction process.
If you steep the coffee in the fridge, you should aim for sixteen to twenty hours for brewing.
Not something I’d recommend, though.
… Or Out of the Fridge
Many folks steep their coffee outside of the fridge to speed up the brewing process. This is ideal for anyone making their cold brew in the evening for drinking the next day.
If you are steeping it at room temperature, you should aim for a shorter brew time of twelve to sixteen hours.
How to Store Cold Brew
After you steep and strain your coffee, you should always store your brew in the fridge.
Concentrate will last in the fridge for ten days before it starts to taste stale.
Diluted cold brew has a slightly shorter shelf life in the fridge of up to one week. Either way, the best way to store it is in a sealed container in the fridge.
The ratio of water to coffee has a large open threshold when making cold brew and how it will taste.
Your regular hot brewed cup uses a 1:16 ratio for brewing. In contrast, cold-brewed coffees don’t sit in a single ratio.
Cold brew coffee requires a higher concentration to extract all the flavors and caffeine during an extended brewing cycle.
Cold Brew Concentrate
The best ratio for brewing concentrate is 1:4 of coffee to water ratio. This ratio will produce a concentrate which can then be diluted with water or the milk of your choice.
There are many benefits to brewing a concentrate rather than a ready-to-drink beverage.
Concentrate is much smaller in volume and easy to store in your fridge too. Just place it in a mason jar, and you’re all good!
A cold brew concentrate is more versatile as you can use it to make a classic cold brew or to make lattes by using milk to dilute the concentrate.
Espresso beans are usually a favored choice here as the choice of coffee beans, simply because they’re usually a darker roast and work perfectly for making concentrate.
You can use other ratios to produce a ready-to-drink beverage.
The preferred ratio for ready-to-drink beverage is 1:14 of coffee to water ratio. However, this ratio is still more concentrated than hot brewed coffee brewing ratio.
However, when it comes down to brewing methods, this option uses much more water than the coffee concentrate. The coffee is diluted to a ready-to-drink ratio from the beginning of the steeping process.
Flavor and Strength
Ratio matters because it controls not only the flavor but also the strength of the brew.
By decreasing the amount of cold water you use, you are increasing the strength of the brew. Conversely, if you increase the dilution, you will decrease the strength of the brew.
Likewise, more or less dilution will affect the amount of caffeine in the final beverage.
Adjusting the ratio to adjust the strength and flavor of your cold brew is the preferred method of making adjustments.
It is always best to play around with the ratio of cold brew rather than messing around with the steep time or pivoting down from a French Press kind of grind to adjust flavor.
If you increase or decrease the steep time, you will not necessarily adjust the strength of the coffee.
The Optimal Cold Brew Steep Time
While there is a range of twelve to twenty hours for brewing cold brew, the optimal steep time is eighteen hours.
A steep time of eighteen hours allows for complete and flavorful immersion of the ground coffee into the water.
The optimal steeping time is eighteen hours and is best used if brewing at temperatures below sixty degrees Fahrenheit. By steeping the brew for eighteen hours, you are giving the coffee enough time for flavor to develop.
Eighteen hours is ideal for brewing cold brew with a rich flavor and smooth body while remaining low in acidity and bitterness.
Cold Brew Compared To Iced Coffee
Brewing for this extended period of time at cooler temperatures creates a very different flavor from regular iced coffee.
Regular iced brews often bring out bitter and acidic taste in coffee. These flavors can be pleasant but can also be unpleasant and overpowering.
Furthermore, it can have a thinner, tea-like texture with higher acidity.
In contrast, cold brew will have a smooth and creamy body with mellow, chocolatey flavors. The difference in flavor alone is a large reason for the popularity of cold brew over iced coffees.
But does cold brew have more caffeine than iced coffee?
Yes, It does have more caffeine than iced regular hot coffee due to the concentration at which it is brewed.