7 Things to Know About Making Cold Brew Coffee at Home (+ a Recipe!)

Have questions about making cold brew coffee at home? You've come to the right place! From what's the best kind of coffee to buy to ways to flavor your cold brew, we have answers for your most burning questions.

Photography Credit: Emma Christensen

This post is brought to you in partnership with Westrock Coffee.

Summer might be over (sniff!), but cold brew coffee season sure isn’t! How else am I supposed to get back in the swing of my regular routine now that the beach vacations and lazy weekends are fading into the rearview mirror?

It’s been over two years since I first posted my method for making cold brew coffee, and by golly, has that recipe taken off. I’m so glad to find so many fellow cold-brew coffee aficionados out there!

I’ve gotten quite a few questions over the years, and with National Coffee Day around the corner on September 29th, I thought I’d take this opportunity — in partnership with the fine folks at Westrock Coffee — to answer some of the big ones. Ready? Let’s go!

7 Things to Know About Making Cold Brew Coffee at Home

 

What is the best coffee for making cold brew?

The same is true here as it is in cooking: your ingredients make a difference. Making cold brew with high-quality beans will give your coffee a more robust, nuanced, and complex flavor. Personally, I feel that this is a more enjoyable coffee drinking experience.

Also, buying beans from companies that care about their product and believe in ethical and sustainable practices, like Westrock Coffee, means you can feel extra-good about your morning cup of coffee. Westrock not only works from Cup to Crop, partnering with farmers to ensure fair trade practices, but — lucky for us — their high-quality coffee also tastes amazing.

The bottom line: use any coffee that you normally enjoy drinking in other forms (drip, pour over, French press, etc), and it will also make excellent cold brew.

What are some ways to flavor my cold brew?

This is by far one of the most common questions that I get asked. Here are my three favorite ways to flavor cold brew coffee:

1. Flavored simple syrup: Simple syrup is super easy to make — no need to buy it at the store. Just combine equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan, bring to a simmer, and stir gently until the sugar is dissolved. Cool and store in the fridge for a week or more.

You can easily flavor this simple syrup by swapping out plain granulated sugar for something with a more complex flavor profile, like turbinado or coconut sugar. These will make more of a caramel-flavored syrup and are awesome paired with a darker coffee like Westrock’s East African blend, boasting flavor notes of chestnut and milk chocolate.

My favorite is to make a vanilla simple syrup by throwing a split vanilla bean in the simple syrup (this is a great use for any pods you might have leftover after using the beans for baking). This more subtle simple syrup pairs well with a lighter roast like Westrock’s Meza Morning blend, which has a nutty aroma and hints of clove and vanilla.

7 Things to Know About Making Cold Brew Coffee at Home

2. Flavored creamer: It’s also very easy to make your own flavored creamer. You can use milk, half-and-half, coconut milk, or other non-dairy milk. Bring the milk or half-and-half to a low simmer on the stovetop, add some spices or herbs, then turn off the heat and let it infuse.

My favorite right now is making chai-spiced milk for my coffee with a combo of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns, and cardamom. Gingerbread spices and pumpkin spice mix are also great!

Be sure to use whole spices for this; not powdered mixes. Whole spices are fresher and have better flavor, plus they’re easy to strain out of the milk once infused.

P.S. In a pinch, chocolate milk makes a darn decent mocha! (Great tip from reader Ashley Allison!)

3. Flavor the coffee itself: If you prefer your coffee unadulterated by sweetener or creamer, but still want a little extra flavor boost, then infuse those herbs and spices right along with the coffee grounds while you’re making the cold brew.

Use the freshest whole spices you can find for this and use more than you think you’ll need. Cold brew is powerful stuff and it takes a lot in order for the flavor of anything else to come through.

If you’d like cinnamon-infused cold brew, for instance, I’d recommend using three cinnamon sticks. For a chocolate-infused cold-brew, try adding a quarter cup of cacao nibs. (Thanks for that tip from reader skooga!)

How To Make Cold Brew Coffee

Can I use decaf coffee?

For sure! No problem to swap decaf coffee for regular coffee. Westrock makes an Arabica decaf blend that’s strong and dark and gets the job done, too. Enjoy!

7 Things to Know About Making Cold Brew Coffee at Home

Can I make cold brew in my French Press?

Absolutely! Most French press coffee makers are pretty small, but if yours is large enough to hold four cups of water and a cup of grounds, then go for it!

A few readers commented about this 8-cup French Press Coffee Maker from Bodum. I eventually got one for myself and it works great!

Can I reuse the cheesecloth used to strain the cold brew?

Cheesecloth will wear out eventually, but yes, you can rinse it out in the sink, let it dry, and reuse it until the fibers start to fray.

I actually like to use a cotton flour sack cloth, which I rinse and then just throw in the wash with my kitchen towels. Flour sack cloths will last for years.

7 Things to Know About Making Cold Brew Coffee at Home

Can I strain the cold brew using paper filters instead?

Definitely! I’ve found that the coffee filters veerrrryyyy sloooowwwwly through paper filters though, so have some patience. Stir the grounds occasionally since they compact over time, which slows down the straining process even more.

The upside to your patience is that you get very smooth coffee with zero grounds when you strain using a filter.

How To Make Cold Brew Coffee

How long does cold brew keep?

As a general rule of thumb, cold brew is best enjoyed within a week for best quality. After that, it starts to develop a sour flavor.

If you want to make larger batches, you can freeze what you won’t use within a week. Freeze it in a glass canning jar and then just place it in the fridge to thaw when you want it!

Want to learn more about brewing coffee?

If you’re dying to know more about the ins and outs of cold brew coffee, I suggest you go back and read our first post on the topic:

This post has everything you need to know about what cold brew coffee is and how you can make it at home with just some beans, a coffee grinder, and a glass jar!

Have more questions? Ask me in the comments!

Chai-Spiced Cold Brew Coffee Recipe

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  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Steeping time: 12 hours
  • Yield: About 3 cups

This makes a sweet, moderately spiced creamer. For a stronger spice flavor, increase the amount of spices

Ingredients

For the cold brew:

  • 1 cup (4 ounces / 113 grams) whole coffee beans, coarsely ground
  • 4 cups (32 ounces / 907 grams) water

For the chai-spiced creamer

  • 2 cups milk, half-and-half, coconut milk, or other non-dairy milk
  • 2 cinnamon stick
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 5 whole dried allspice berries
  • 4 whole peppercorns
  • 2 cardamom pods, cracked open to expose the seeds
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons honey, to taste

Method

1 Combine the coffee and the water: Combine the ground coffee and the water in a 2-quart glass jar. Stir a few times to make sure the grounds are evenly saturated with water.

2 Steep for 12 hours (overnight): Cover the jar and steep for about 12 hours, either on the counter or in the fridge.

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

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

5 Make the chai-spiced creamer: In a small sauce pan, combine the milk and all the spices. Bring to a gentle simmer.

Once you see bubbling around the edge of the pan and a few wisps of steam, remove the pan from heat and stir in the honey to dissolve.

Cool completely with the spices. Strain the milk into a glass jar, removing the spices, then cover and store in the fridge for up to a week

6 Serve: To serve, pour a portion of the cold brew into a glass. Top with chai-spiced creamer. Add ice cubes if you'd like to drink it cold or warm in the microwave if you'd like to drink it warm.

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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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One Comment

No Image7 Things to Know About Making Cold Brew Coffee at Home (+ a Recipe!)

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Kris

    This looks so fun! I’ve never tried this coffee before, but it sounds yummy.

Coldbrew Coffee7 Things to Know About Making Cold Brew Coffee at Home (+ a Recipe!)