You’ve probably tasted this smooth low-acid beverage many times at a coffee shop, but now you’re wondering how to make cold brew coffee at home. Is homemade cold brew coffee making difficult? Can you just use any coffee beans? Consider this article the easiest DIY cold brew coffee recipe you can find.
This guide will walk you through the steps of making cold brew coffee on many devices, including a French Press, mason jar, or can. We’ll also offer valuable tips to enhance your extraction and experience. Whether you prefer to drink it plain or with a dash of milk, we’ve got you covered.
So get ready to elevate your coffee brewing skills and savor the smooth, refreshing flavor of cold brew!
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What Is Cold Brewing Coffee
Before we dive into the process of making cold brew coffee at home, let’s take a moment to understand what cold brew coffee is and what sets it apart from other brewing methods.
Cold brew coffee is a brewing technique that involves steeping coarse coffee grounds in room temperature or cold water for an extended period of time, typically 12 to 24 hours. Unlike traditional hot brewing methods, cold brew coffee is never exposed to heat during the brewing process.
This cold-temperature extraction creates a smooth sweetness and low-acidity flavor profile. People love cold brew for its mellow coffee experience while still enjoying deep flavors and, of course, caffeine!
How Do You Make Cold Brew Coffee
As you’ll see from our homemade cold brew recipe later on, making this beverage is easier than you might imagine. All you really need to do is grind the coffee correctly (coarse) and combine it with the right ratio of water. After those details, it is as simple as waiting for the extraction to happen on its own.
So the difficult part of cold brew coffee making is deciding your ratio, brewing time, and the container you will make it in, all of which we’ll address later! Oh, and don’t forget that you’ll need to filter it at the end!
Is Cold Brew Stronger than Iced Coffee?
While they may appear the same, cold brew and iced coffee are different. Iced coffee is hot coffee cooled down, but cold brew uses cold water and extracts unique flavors. Besides the smooth sweetness that cold brew is renowned for, it also tends to be stronger in taste and caffeine levels. Even though you dilute a cold brew coffee concentrate (like the recipe below,) the end result almost always tastes stronger.
But the beauty of concentrated cold brew is the flexibility of serving options. You can dilute it with water for a refreshing drink like iced coffee or use it as a base for creative beverages like an iced latte.
Lastly, for the newbies, we like to give a subtle warning that cold brew caffeine levels are sometimes unexpectedly high!
How To Make Cold Brew Coffee at Home
Besides the simplicity, making cold brew coffee at home also allows you to customize the flavors and strength of your brew according to your preferences. But before getting into the detailed steps, let’s check out some equipment and preparation that will be useful.
DIY Cold Brew Coffee Equipment
Owning a cold brew coffee maker can be helpful, and we usually recommend this Airtight Ovalware Maker. These products make things more consistent but are not 100% necessary. Any container will work since cold brewing is an immersion method.
Takeya Cold Brew Maker
But the basic preparation steps and equipment include:
- Choose Your Coffee Beans: Start by selecting high-quality coffee beans. While personal preference plays a role, using a dark roast is recommended if you plan to add milk or cream to your cold brew. For a smoother, naturally sweet flavor, opt for a lighter roast.
- Coffee Grinder: Use a coarse grind size, and remember grinding at home is infinitely better than ground coffee beans (see our coffee grinding guide for more.) A grinder also allows you to adjust the grind size from brew to brew to alter the flavor.
- Filtered Water: Remember that coffee is mostly water, so use delicious filtered water for the best extraction.
- Cold brew filter: Unless you have a cold brew coffee maker, you will need something like a mesh sieve or coffee filter to strain out the coffee grounds.
Lastly, be sure to clean all equipment before brewing to prevent any bad flavors or bacteria growth!
Basic Homemade Cold Brew Recipe
For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume you want the easiest DIY cold brew coffee instructions. Don’t worry coffee geeks, we’ll dive into more detail about ratio, grind size, and other variables later.
But for a basic mason jar or French Press, measure 100 grams of coffee and grind coarsely. Then pour 500 grams of water over the grounds.
It’s always good to stir the combination to ensure even saturation, especially since ground coffee can have dry static clumps. We like to brew for longer periods in the fridge, anywhere from 16-20 hours. But you can brew for 12-14 hours outside of the fridge, and you will likely notice different flavors! Filter with a pour over dripper or a cheesecloth to remove coffee grounds.
DIY Cold Brew Coffee Step-by-Step Details
For folks who want more depth for this homemade cold brew process, here are the detailed step-by-step instructions:
1. Measure Coffee Beans: Start by selecting high-quality coffee beans. While personal preference plays a role, using a dark roast is recommended if you plan to add milk or cream to your cold brew. For a smoother, naturally sweet flavor, opt for a lighter roast.
2. Grind the Coffee: Grind the coffee beans using a coarse grind size. This helps prevent over-extraction, resulting in a smoother, less bitter brew. If possible, freshly grind the beans just before brewing for the best flavor.
3. Combine Coffee and Water: In your brewing container, add the ground coffee and cold or room temperature water in a ratio of approximately 1 part coffee to 5 parts water. Feel free to adjust to taste. Stir gently to ensure all the coffee grounds are saturated.
4. Steep the Mixture: Cover the container and let the coffee steep for 12 to 24 hours. Steeping time can vary depending on personal preference and desired strength. If brewing outside the refrigerator, ensure the room temperature is not too hot since it can impact the extraction process.
5. Strain the Cold Brew: After steeping, use a fine-mesh sieve, coffee filter, or a specially designed cold brew filter to strain the coffee from the grounds and remove any sediment. Good filtering makes a smooth and clean cold brew concentrate.
6. Dilute and Serve: To enjoy your cold brew, dilute the concentrate with water, milk, or any other desired additives. The ratio of concentrate to dilution depends on personal taste preferences. Over ice, coffee ice cubes, with milk, oat milk, simple syrup, or simply black, the choice is yours.
Storing Cold Brew Coffee
If you have any leftover cold brew, refrigerate it in an airtight container like any perishable food. While coffee lasts pretty long compared to last night’s dinner, cold brew can especially go bad quickly and cause stomach problems. But properly stored cold brewed coffee lasts up to one week, making it super convenient to pour a quick serving without any preparation.
How To Make Cold Brew Coffee in a French Press
Making cold brew in a French Press is no different than any other vessel for the beginning stage: combine coffee and water, stir, and let steep for 12-24 hours. The convenience of French Press cold brew is at the filtering stage. Slowly press the plunger down, wait a few minutes for the fine particles to settle, and pour into a container.
The filter on your coffee press should be enough, but you can also pour it through an additional coffee filter if you want a super clean brew.
Cold Brew Coffee in a Can or Mason Jar
The benefit of a mason jar is that it can form an airtight seal. You may even feel more comfortable letting the brew steep outside of the fridge when using a mason jar. And for convenient filtering, you can secure a cheesecloth directly around the jar opening. Otherwise, pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve.
Best Beans for Cold Brew
Putting preferences aside, we always recommend buying specialty coffee beans for the best flavor. But since it takes a lot of beans for cold brewed coffee, you might prefer less expensive brands.
Either way, we recommend a light roast bean if you want to highlight sweeter flavors in a less acidic way than typical hot brewed coffee. Darker roasts turn into a cold brew that blends beautifully with milk.
How To Make Cold Brew Coffee Fast?
Do you want to indulge in cold brew without waiting a lengthy steeping time? The flavor of a fast cold brew is not the same as steeping for 12 hours, but you can use the power of kinetic energy to steep up the extraction. High temperature is the standard way to energize the slurry of coffee and water, but agitation can also work.
So one option is to stir the mixture of coffee and water constantly for approximately 1 minute using an AeroPress, French Press, or even a mason jar. This stirring increases the extraction rate, allowing for a quicker infusion of flavors.
Another option is to wait just a few hours and do a few seconds of vigorous stirring every hour. In both methods, you replace time with agitation for a roughly equal extraction. But the resulting brew may not be as smooth or as well-rounded as a long-steeped cold brew. It’s a trade-off between convenience and flavor profile.
What Is the Best Ratio for Cold Brew Coffee?
Getting the proper coffee grounds to water ratio is crucial in achieving a well-balanced and flavorful cold brew. We recommend starting with the 1:5 ratio from the recipe above, which is a general guideline for beginners. But the fun of making coffee at home is the experimentation, and altering the ratio for cold brew is super easy!
Adjusting the brew ratio allows you to tailor the strength of your cold brew. If you prefer a milder flavor, you can increase the water-to-coffee ratio, while those who enjoy a bolder, more concentrated flavor can do the opposite. You will see successful recipes ranging from 1:4 all the way to 1:12. You may also find that various coffee beans may react differently, so feel free to adjust the ratio accordingly.
How To Make Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate
While there is no strict line separating a coffee concentrate from standard brew strength, we define a cold brew concentrate as something between 1:4-1:8. For reference, a typical drip coffee method uses a ratio of 1:16. So you can imagine that drinking concentrated cold brew without water or ice cubes would be intense.
Luckily, there is nothing special about brewing a concentrate besides precisely measuring the coffee and water. Besides the flexibility of diluting to personal taste, making a concentrate means you can brew large amounts at once without having a huge container.
For serving, a good rule of thumb is to dilute cold brew concentrate with equal parts water (1 cup of concentrate would need 1 cup of water, along with ice.)
The Right Grind For Cold Brew Coffee
Choosing the correct grind size is essential for brewing delicious cold-brew coffee. For optimal results, use a coarse grind.
Breaking a coffee bean into these larger chunks allows for proper extraction by preventing over-saturation of the coffee grounds. This approach helps to avoid extracting undesirable bitter flavors and ensures a smoother, more balanced taste. When coffee grounds are too fine, they can easily over-extract, leading to an overly bitter brew. So using a burr grinder and selecting a coarse setting is ideal for cold brew preparation.
If you have your coffee ground at a coffee shop, tell them you plan to make cold brew.
The coarse grind also aids in filtration, allowing water to flow through the coffee more freely during the steeping process. This results in a cleaner cold brew with minimal sediment or grit since the filter more easily catches bigger particles.
Cold Brew Coffee Grinder
Within the coarse grind size category, feel free to experiment with different sizes as you get used to making cold brew coffee at home. The best grinders allow you to make subtle adjustments to grind size, which can have surprisingly noticeable impacts on extraction/flavor. You can refer to our coffee grinding page for recommendations on how to grind and which grinders are best for your budget.
Can You Heat Cold Brew Coffee?
Heating cold brew coffee is not only possible but also provides an opportunity to enjoy a warm cup of your favorite cold brew. However, it’s crucial to exercise caution and handle the heating process properly to avoid compromising the flavor.
To heat cold brew coffee, dilute the cold brew concentrate with hot water in a ratio that suits your taste. Since you won’t be adding ice, you might use slightly more water than you would for a typical cold brew serving. This method allows you to enjoy a warm beverage while preserving the unique characteristics of cold brew.
Just keep in mind that excessive heating can lead to the coffee developing off-flavors and losing some of its smoothness. It’s best to avoid overheating cold brew to maintain its desired taste profile.
Lastly, only heat the amount of concentrate that you will immediately drink—no need to warm the entire batch and potentially ruin the flavor!
How To Make Cold Brew at Home: FAQ
Do you still have questions about how to make cold brew at home? Let’s review this topic by answering some common questions.
Can I make a cold brew with regular coffee?
Yes, you can make a cold brew with regular coffee, but for the best flavor, it’s recommended to use specialty beans.
What is the ratio of coffee grounds to water for cold brew?
We recommend a concentrated coffee-to-water ratio of 1:5 that you can dilute with cold water and ice upon serving. But feel free to adjust this based on the flavor you love, including getting better extractions.
How long to leave coffee grounds in cold brew?
Cold brew should steep for 12 to 24 hours. You can also experiment with steeping times to achieve your desired strength.
Should cold brew steep in the fridge?
We recommend steeping cold brew in the fridge to maintain freshness and prevent potential bacterial growth. But if your kitchen is not too hot, cold brew can steep outside the fridge for up to 12 hours.
How much caffeine is in cold brew coffee?
Cold brew generally has a higher caffeine concentration due to the long steeping time, but it can vary based on the beans used and the brewing process. You should assume a standard serving will have slightly more caffeine than the same amount of hot coffee.
Homemade Cold Brew: Final Thoughts
Congratulations! You may not be a master cold brewer yet, but you are armed with the knowledge to create a smooth and refreshing beverage at home. We designed this DIY cold brew coffee recipe to be as simple as possible. But over time we will add more specific coffee recipes, so be sure to check back!
For now, cheers to learning a new brewing technique!
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