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.
Video! How to Make Cold Brew Coffee
How to Make Cold Brew Coffee
Steps for Making Cold Brew Coffee
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.
Why Should You Cold Brew Your Coffee?
This 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 it also leaves behind most of the compounds that can make coffee taste bitter and sour.
- This means that 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.
- Ready to up your coffee game? Check out our list of The Best Coffee Makers.
How to Serve Cold Brewed Coffee
Cold 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.
Too strong for your taste? Iced coffee does make a particularly strong cuppa joe! If you're serving it iced, the ice is meant to melt and dilute the coffee a little. If it's still a bit too much for you, just dilute your glass with some water or milk to 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!
- Keep it cold: Check out our list of The Best Travel Coffee Mugs for maintaining your brew's ideal temperature.
Try These Other Hot Weather Drinks!
How To Make Cold Brew Coffee
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.
Adjusting coffee strength: This recipe makes a fairly strong cup of coffee. To make it less strong (or stronger, if that's what you like!), just adjust the amount of coffee beans to your suite your taste.
1 cup (113 grams) whole coffee beans
4 cups (907 grams) water
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.
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.
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.
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.
Store the coffee
Transfer the coffee to a small bottle or jar and store in the fridge for up to a week.
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.