Growing up, I could only imagine brewing hot coffee at home.
No one could have told me after my first cup of coffee (it was awful) that there were other ways to make it.
Nor did I know that an alternative method like cold brew could have a significant impact on taste or acidity.
Soon it morphed from a “perceived-need” to a “want”, exploring all the different brew methods brought me full-circle to a simple twist at the start: using cold water.
So let’s get started and show you how to make cold brew coffee in the comfort of your own home!
What is cold brew coffee?
Cold brew is an extraction method that uses cold filtered water to extract the deep flavors from the ground coffee beans slowly.
It’s not new either, its roots trace back to Japan in the 1600s.
With the absence of heat (meaning no pressure to “force” the flavors out quickly), you use an increased brew time (12 to 24 hours) to extract the flavor from the beans.
As a result, cold brew coffee is a lot less “bitter” than the regular coffee you’re used to drinking and almost naturally sweet.
The best part is, you can easily make cold brew at home!
Compared to regular hot coffee, cold brew coffee also requires a lot less equipment. As a result, you can make it without an investment in a bean to cup coffee machine.
All you need are coffee beans, cold filtered water, a container to immerse them in, a paper filter for the coffee when ready (more alternatives later), and a grinder to turn beans into ground coffee, preferably a burr grinder.
Cold brew is not to be confused with iced coffee, which is brewed hot, with an adjusted bean-to-water ratio to accommodate the added ice to make coffee cold.
Why make cold brew coffee?
While a lot of us enjoy the taste of coffee, there is a growing number of people who avoid drinking coffee because it triggers hyperacidity.
If this is you, it’s perhaps the most practical reason to make cold brew coffee at home!
The cold water used in cold brew coffee leaves most of the reactive acids in the bean, as compared to what hot water extracts.
The result is gentler on your tummy, with an entirely DIFFERENT flavor profile.
Try using unsweetened, non-dairy milk as well to bring the overall acidity down further. Chill all the ingredients before mixing so you’ll need less ice in your cold brew coffee.
To highlight the difference, try a side-by-side tasting of the same beans, but brew one batch hot, and make the other a cold brew coffee. Try to keep the same ratio for both methods, so your perception of flavors is even.
It also helps to keep a record notebook of beans, ratio, and taste so you can replicate recipes that work and share them with other coffee lovers!
Another reason to incorporate cold brew into your routine is bang-for-your-buck. Most brew methods require a bean-to-water ratio of 1:15—meaning you mix a gram of coffee for every 15 grams of water.
For cold brew coffee, you use a ratio of 1:8 to 1:10 beans-to-water for ready-to-drink, and 1:4 for concentrate.
So while you theoretically make LESS coffee using the same amount of beans, the caffeine content is much more concentrated. To illustrate, one glass of cold brew coffee is equivalent to a triple shot of espresso, or 1.5 to 2 cups of regular brew coffee.
The value comes in needing only to drink one serving, homemade, versus multiple servings for your coffee needs.
Since this cold brew coffee method takes quite a while to complete, it’s best to prepare in batches.
With proper cleaning, handling, and refrigeration, it easily keeps for 1 week if pre-mixed with milk (ensure the milk is in date), or 3-4 weeks if left black!
The flavor profile of cold brew is smoother in general, which makes it a cooling and refreshing drink on hot summer days, with flavors that you can enjoy at home.
What you’ll need to make cold brew coffee
Below are the things you’ll need to make cold brew at home:
- Cold Filtered Water – minerals carry the flavors of the coffee and allow you to perceive them better. Any other type of water will result in either flat or heavy tasting brews.
- Container to steep in – brew times range anywhere from 12 to 24 hours, meaning there will be ample time for undesirable things to grow in that period if you don’t wash everything that comes into contact with the mixture really well (including your hands).
- Ground coffee beans – an optimal grounds consistency would be more coarse than a French Press grind, but for simplicity’s sake I recommend the coarsest settings on any grinder. For your first attempt, use beans that you’re already familiar with so you can perceive the differences outlined above right away! For this brew method, freshness isn’t a critical factor.
- Fine, non-bleached, food-grade filter – this is where you can get most creative. You can use cheesecloth, a fine mesh filter, paper filters, or, the simplest way: a French Press. Do what is easy and best for your needs.
- Labels – it’s best practice to label your cold brew so you can keep track of the ratio, and time that you immersed it. We all want repeats of our best cups, and this is a safety step towards exactly that!
- Burr Coffee Grinder – This is an essential piece of equipment a coffee any aficionado should purchase.
Tips to make the best cold brew
Learning how to make cold brew coffee isn’t difficult. But you need to focus on the right things:
When selecting beans to play around with for cold brew coffee, it’s best to use medium to lightly roasted beans. This is coffee that has retained its complex flavors and is already great to enjoy on its own.
If you are using dark roasted beans, try adjusting the bean-to-water ratio to make the resulting cold brew less harsh. Remember that the ratio is smaller than your usual brew, so guess and check if this cannot be avoided – the exact concentration all boils down to what you enjoy.
As aforementioned, a bonus of cold brew is that you don’t need to use primed beans (2-3 weeks after the roast date) to make good coffee. It’s a great way to maximize beans that have aged in your cupboard, with absolutely no effect on brew quality!
Related read: Coffee for cold brew
For cold brew coffee a coarse grind is best
As for the consistency of the grind, use the coarsest setting on your coffee grinder.
Ideally, you want to use a burr grinder to turn your beans into coffee grounds.
It’s essential to keep in mind finer particles extract faster, so maintaining a coarse grind is crucial to avoid making your coffee more bitter than intended.
It’s best to let your cold brew extract at room temperature.
However, a hack I’ve discovered for consistency is, instead of relying on set-times, when it gets past the 12-hour mark, I drink small sips of the cold brew and take mental notes of the starting taste, body, and finish until I hit my preference in all three aspects.
If you don’t have the luxury of time to do so, a simple guide is: as the extraction goes on, the body and the finish get stronger.
So keep the flavor notes in mind, and blend them with your preferences as you make cold brew coffee.
Brewing Tip: Want to make a batch extra special? It might sound counter-intuitive, but try running hot water (60-80 degrees Celsius) that is directly proportional to the weight of the beans — and then topping up with cold filtered water a minute later.
For example, 1/2 cup of coffee, following a 1:10 ratio, would need 5 cups of cold water. Initially pour 1/2 cup of hot water through the grounds, and follow up with 4.5 cups of cold water. This will make your flavor notes SING!
Pro tip: Coffee grounds are great used as fertilizer. After you strain the coffee, simply chuck the used grounds on the soil in your garden and repeat in a cycle.
How to filter cold brew
Perhaps the most tedious aspect of making cold brew coffee (outside of using a French Press) is the part where you strain the coffee.
The most straightforward method centers around placing the coffee grounds in any sort of fine, food-grade cloth bag, and pouring the water through the coffee before sealing.
This way, you can literally just take the bag out when the drink is ready!
Another way to strain the coffee is to pour the cold brew through a paper filter, as you would a normal pour-over. The downside here is that it is a bit time-intensive so that it could prolong the extraction.
If you’re looking for an effective but easy way to filter check out the below:
Cold brew coffee recipe
Below are my 2 favorite recipes for you to learn how to make cold brew coffee:
Very coarse grind
100g Ethiopian beans or 1/2 cup ground coffee beans
5 cups of water (1/2 cup hot, 4 1/2 cup cold)
Here is the concentrate version of the above recipe:
Very coarse grind
100g Ethiopian beans or 1/2 cup ground coffee beans
2.5 cups of water (1/2 cup hot, 2 cups cold)
- Grind the beans on the coarsest setting (use a burr coffee grinder). The coffee grounds should look similar to oatmeal, not flour!
- Add the grounds to a container and pour over the water. Give it a turn with a spatula to ensure water covers all the grounds.
- Steep for 18 hours (12 will do if needed) at room temp.
- Strain the coffee using a cheesecloth or paper filter.
- Place the coffee into an airtight container for refrigeration – drink within a week.
As you can see, a recipe for coffee concentrate contains much less water than a ready to drink recipe. It’s entirely up to you and your taste and storage preferences on which to try out.
Concentrates take up less space, are easier to mix and match with milk and syrups (because they cut through better, and have thicker bodies coating your tongue).
Remember, a concentrate needs to be diluted before use, but it can give you more flexibility to add diluents according to your taste (including just water if you wish).
Over the last couple of years, cold brew has revitalized the coffee industry.
The ease of preparation, health benefits (less acidic), and smooth taste all come together, and knowing how to make cold brew coffee at home – a drink that is so easy to fall in love it, has become a quintessential life skill for coffee lovers.
Hopefully, you’re now fully prepped on how to make cold brew coffee at home.
Remember that it’s all in the details, so keep your equipment clean, your grounds even, and your process recorded. Enjoy every sip of that potent but delicious cold brew!
Frequently Asked Questions
Cold brew coffee vs iced coffee – what’s the difference?
Iced coffee is brewed hot, with a smaller ratio to allow for the addition of ice. Cold brew coffee is brewed cold and takes at least 12 hours to make.
Who is cold brew coffee best suited for?
Cold brew is best suited for people who have hyperacidity because it is less acidic than the usual cup of hot brewed coffee.
It is also suitable for people who have active lifestyles. Once prepared, they can just pour and drink without keeping it warm —very easy to incorporate into your day!
Is cold brew coffee stronger than regular coffee?
Yes! Primarily because of the lower ratio used. The usual coffee uses a ratio of 1:15 beans-to-water.
Whereas Cold brew is 1:4 beans-to-coffee for concentrate and 1:10 for ready-to-drink. So one cup of cold brew is equivalent to 1.5 to cups of non-cold brew coffee.
*Disclaimer: Nothing in this article or on this website constitutes medical advice and it is strictly informational. For medical advice please talk to your physician.