How To Make Cold Brew Coffee

Make cold brew coffee at home! It's so easy, and your iced coffee will never taste watery or bitter again.
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Photography Credit: Emma Christensen

If you crave a good iced coffee in the summer, but loathe the way so many end up tasting watery or overly bitter, then there’s only one solution: cold brew coffee. This method guarantees a smooth and icy cup, every time.

Making cold brew coffee is no great secret, nor does it require the ninja-level skills of a trained barista in order to master. You don’t even need much special equipment beyond a large container for making the coffee and a strainer.

Here’s how it works: Grind the coffee coarsely, which you can do yourself at home or wherever you buy the beans. Combine the grounds with water, then let it steep overnight, or for around 12 hours.

During this time, the coffee slowly infuses into the water, creating a strong, concentrated brew. Strain the next morning, and you’re ready to go.

How To Make Cold Brew CoffeeThis coffee-making method has a few things going for it. The slow infusion pulls all the great coffee flavor from the beans (and, yes, the caffeine – not to worry!), but leaves behind most of the compounds that can make coffee taste bitter and sour. Cold brewed coffee is incredibly smooth and almost sweet-tasting. Perfect for iced coffee.

You can also adjust the concentration of your cold brew coffee, making it stronger or less strong to suit your taste. Start with one cup of beans steeped in four cups of water. This will make a fairly concentrated coffee on its own, but it’s perfect for pouring over ice or mixing with milk – or both. If that ratio of beans to water isn’t quite to your taste, adjust it up or down until you hit the perfect balance for you.

I also really love that this method for making coffee actually saves me time in the morning. I make a big batch over the weekend, starting it on Saturday or Sunday night and straining it the next morning, and then stash it in the fridge for an easy coffee fix all week long.

2016-07-5-HT-Cold-Brew-31Cold brewed coffee can be served iced or piping hot, dealer’s choice. You follow the same method for making the coffee either way, and then either serve it over ice or warm it up in the microwave for a hot cup. When warming it for hot coffee, I often add a splash of water to dilute the coffee before warming. But this, again, is a matter of personal taste.

Ready to give cold brew coffee a try? Below is everything you need to know to make your own batch at home.

Tips for Success

Make sure your beans are coarsely ground: Beans that are ground to a sandy powder, like for drip coffee, can result in an over-infused coffee and make the strained coffee gritty and muddy. Your beans should look like coarse cornmeal, or even slightly rougher.

Use filtered water, if possible: This is just good coffee advice in general, really. Your cup of coffee will have a cleaner, sweeter flavor if you use filtered water to make it.

Steep for at least 12 hours: It’s fine to cut this time a little short, but don’t get too stingy. The coffee needs this full time to fully infuse the water. Straining too early can give you a weaker cup of coffee. Also be careful of over-steeping, which can start to extract some of those bitter flavors we’re hoping to avoid. I’d say not to steep for more than 15 hours or so.

Chill your cold brew with coffee ice cubes: Want a totally undiluted coffee experience? Make coffee ice cubes to chill your iced coffee!

How To Make Cold Brew Coffee

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  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Steeping time time: 12 hours
  • Yield: About 3 cups

If you normally have your coffee ground when you buy it, ask for it to be ground on a coarse setting. You'll need a scant cup (or 4 ounces) for this recipe.

You can also make cold-brew coffee in a French press. Steep the coffee overnight, then press to separate the grounds from the coffee. Transfer the coffee to a bottle or jar for longer storage.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (4 ounces / 113 grams) whole coffee beans
  • 4 cups water

Special Equipment

  • Coffee or spice grinder
  • 1 1/2 quart (or larger) glass, ceramic, or plastic container (I use a 2-quart canning jar)
  • Small strainer
  • Cheesecloth or cotton flour sack cloth (I like these)
  • Bottle or jar, for storing your cold-brew

Method

1 Coarsely grind the coffee: Grind the coffee beans on the coarsest setting on your grinder, or in short 1-second pulses in a spice grinder. The grounds should look like coarse cornmeal, not fine powder. You should have just under 1 cup of grounds.

How To Make Cold Brew Coffee How To Make Cold Brew Coffee

2 Combine the coffee and the water: Transfer the coffee grounds to the container you're using to make the cold brew. Pour the water over top. Stir gently with a long-handled spoon to make sure the grounds are thoroughly saturated with water.

How To Make Cold Brew Coffee How To Make Cold Brew Coffee How To Make Cold Brew Coffee

3 Steep overnight: Cover the jar with a lid or a small plate to protect it from dust and bugs. Let the coffee steep for about 12 hours. The coffee can be left on the counter or refrigerated; steeping time is the same.

How To Make Cold Brew Coffee

4 Strain the coffee: Line a small strainer with cheesecloth or flour sack cloth and place over a large measuring cup or bowl. Pour the coffee through the strainer.

How To Make Cold Brew Coffee How To Make Cold Brew Coffee

5 Store the coffee: Transfer the coffee to a small bottle or jar and store in the fridge for up to a week.

How To Make Cold Brew Coffee

6 Serve the coffee: Dilute the coffee with as much water or milk as you prefer. Serve over ice or warm for a few minutes in the microwave.

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Emma Christensen

Emma Christensen is the managing editor for Simply Recipes, as well as a food writer and homebrewing expert. She was formerly the recipe editor for The Kitchn and is the author of three books on home-brewing, True Brews, Brew Better Beer, and Modern Cider. Emma is a graduate of The Cambridge School for Culinary Arts and Bryn Mawr College. She lives in San Jose, California.

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How To Make Cold Brew Coffee

Showing 4 of 42 Comments

  • Bridget

    Question: Why do you “brew” the coffee in glass pitchers or jars? I am going to get a pitcher today, but for now am making some cold brew in an old plastic pitcher I had laying around. I am guessing the coffee may take on a plastic taste? TIA for any replies.

  • Scott Achter

    Update on silk screen filtering. When using a mason jar, siphon (which only siphons after heating), or other non-filtered container for cold brewing you will need to use a coarser filter such as a stainless sieve or french press to remove the bulk of grinds before final filtering with with the fine mesh silk screen. I found that pouring all the grinds from the cold brew container simply plugged the fine mesh of the silk screen. Both screens are easily rinsed clean.

  • Scott Achter

    Never like to leave comments but this tip for filtering I have to leave for all. First a history of how I came to this method. I have used drip, 3 different french presses, and 2 siphon systems for my hot coffee (Now planning to try the cold brew method). Yamaha siphon was inexpensive and well made but used a cloth filter. That removed all sediment for the cleanest cup but also removed essential oils and I could taste the cloth. Bodum Peboe siphon was very expensive. It uses a unique plastic filter and produced the best flavor however that spring loaded filter doesn’t last very long. All replacement parts are nearly as expensive as a new unit and Bodum’s customer service is the worst I have ever seen. French presses were okay but left too much sediment. Timing and amount of bean made the coffee unpredictable. The tip I want to share is that I began to use a very fine silk screen and a wide mouth funnel after brewing with the french presses. Use typical french press then place silk screen over your cup, holding it in place with the wide mouth funnel. I found I could also use the Peboe siphon with poorly functioning filter. Once brewed I used the silk screen and wide mouth funnel right on top of my 16 oz mug for the most predictable and best coffee yet. Clean enough without loosing essential oils and no rag taste. The silk screen is very easily rinsed clean and drys in moments. Now looking forward to the cold brew, and filtering that with silk screen.

  • Steve K

    I like using a French press to cold brew and filter my coffee.

  • Jayadeep Purushothaman

    We have a small coffee farm and we’ve been trying different brews, but this was our first cold brewed one and it was awesome. The one I really like is that it can be used for both cold and hot coffee! That makes it very easy for you to keep this brew and give people a choice! Wonderful indeed!

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