Cold brew coffee is smooth and sweet and has quickly become a summertime brew of choice for many coffee drinkers.
If you’ve enjoyed this version of coffee at cafes and would like to learn how to make cold brew coffee at home, you have come to the right place.
In this guide to cold brewing we don’t just share a recipe for cold brew coffee, we provide a step-by-step guide to 4 easy ways to make cold brew at home so you can choose the method that suits you best.
From automatic cold brew coffee makers to french press cold brew coffee and how to make cold brew coffee in a mason jar and Aeropress, we cover all the options plus answer all your cold brewed coffee questions.
So regardless of whether you are looking for the best way to cold brew coffee or the easiest way to make cold brew coffee, our guide will get you on the right path to brewing the best tasting cold brew coffee at home in no time.
What is cold brew coffee?
Cold brew coffee is coffee that’s brewed at room temperature rather than near-boiling.
The method uses time rather than temperature to extract solubles from grounds, creating a different flavour profile in the final cup.
The overall profile of cold brew is full-bodied, smooth and sweet, with fewer complex flavours from the beans.
Why does cold brew taste different?
From a general perspective, the flavours in brewed coffee are heavily influenced by the following factors:
Different methods at each of these stages will impact the final flavour, but some methods have more of an impact than others.
Cold brewing is among the most impactful brewing methods, because it doesn’t merely make small changes.
It instead changes two foundational parameters of brewing – temperature and time – to create an entirely different method.
The result is extremely different from any other way of making coffee.
The cold brew coffee method often overpowers nuances that would normally stem from growing, processing or roasting.
This isn’t to say that cold brew completely overpowers what’s done at the other stages, but it has an oversized impact.
The result is that cold brew coffee is more full-bodied, smoother and sweeter than other brewing methods.
Are cold brew coffee and iced coffee the same?
Cold brew coffee and iced coffee have fundamental differences in how they’re made and how they taste.
Whereas cold brew coffee is brewed at room temperature over a long period of time, iced coffee is made as hot coffee (usually double-strength) and poured over ice.
The difference in how cold brew coffee and iced coffee are made creates differences in how they taste.
Iced coffee won’t have the body and smoothness that cold brew does, but iced will feature more high flavor notes if it’s drunk soon after being made.
The two methods are often confused, as cold brew is often served over ice, and you can use cold brew concentrate as the base to make an iced cold brew coffee. But the key difference is in how they are brewed.
How to make cold brew coffee at home
Making cold brew coffee is easy even when at home, and it requires only basic kitchen items. It really is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to make good coffee at home.
Below we outline 4 different ways to make at home cold brew coffee:
- Automatic cold brew coffee maker
- With a French press
- Using a mason jar or carafe
- With an Aeropress.
A cold brew coffee maker will make certain steps somewhat easier, but you can make equally good cold brew with a French press or mason jar.
For each method we explain how to make a cold brew step by step and provide expert tips for the best tasting brew.
1. How to cold brew with a cold brew coffee maker
Cold brew coffee makers streamline the brewing process and create a mostly hands off process. Some are immersion brewers with filters, others are cold drip brewers.
There may be slight variations among models, and you should follow your model’s particular instructions.
Most cold brew kits apply the following steps:
- Measure out your coffee grounds and water per the cold brew maker’s instructions (see Ratio).
- Place the coffee grounds and water in the upper brew chamber or filter (see Grind Size).
- Place the lid on the upper chamber, and allow it to steep per the maker’s instructions (see How Long).
- Open the valve that allows the cold brew concentrate to flow to the bottom chamber.
- When ready to drink, dilute the cold brew with water and/or ice and enjoy.
- Store any extra in the fridge.
Some models use an inner brew chamber that’s removed at Step 4, and a few models have you pour into another pitcher. They all work on the same premise, however.
Advantages of cold brew makers
- An efficient and mess-free way to make cold brew at home
- Available in a range of sizes
- Can be stored directly in the fridge without decanting into another jug.
Disadvantages of cold brew makers
- Must be purchased, with most priced between $50 to $150
- An extra device that take’s up space in your kitchen
If you regularly drink cold brew and want to enjoy a consistent tasting brew each time, a cold brew coffee maker is the most efficient and best method for cold brew coffee brewing at home.
Interested in cold brew coffee makers?
We researched all the best cold brew coffee makers to help you choose.
2. How to cold brew coffee in a French press
The French press is as easy and mess-free to use as a cold brew coffee maker.
If you only need 1 to 4 cups of cold brew, there’s little reason to invest in an automatic cold brew maker because the press works so well.
The steps to make cold brew with a French press:
- Measure out your coffee grounds and water (see Ratio).
- Place the coffee grounds and water in the French press (see Grind Size).
- Place the plunger and lid on top but do not press.
- Allow the cold brew to steep for 12 to 24 hours (see How Long).
- Slowly press down the plunger.
- Pour the concentrate into a cup, add ice / water and enjoy.
- Decant any extra into a carafe or jug and store in the fridge.
Note there’s no need to use an insulated or double-walled French press, as cold brew doesn’t need to be kept warm while steeping.
Advantages of French press makers
- An cheap and efficient way to make small quantities of cold brew.
- Doesn’t take up much space on your kitchen benchtop.
- Decorative French presses look nice on the counter while steeping.
Disadvantages of the French press
- More limited capacity
- Some grinds may end up in your glass depending on the quality of plunger.
If you are an occasional cold brew coffee drinker, French press cold brew coffee is the easiest way to cold brew coffee at home.
Want to make cold brew in a French press?
We researched all the best french press coffee makers in Australia to help you choose.
3. How to cold brew coffee in a mason jar or jug
If you don’t already have any of the equipment mentioned above, cold brew coffee can be made in a mason jar, jug or pot (which is useful for large batches).
The best way to filter cold brew coffee is with a cheesecloth, but a very fine-mesh sieve works as well.
The steps to make cold brew with a mason jar or jug are as follows:
- Measure out your coffee grounds and water (see Ratio).
- Place the coffee grounds and water in the Mason jar, jug or pot (see Grind Size).
- Cover the jar with its lid or something else (a dish towel also works).
- Allow the cold brew to steep for 12 to 24 hours (see How Long).
- Strain the cold brew and grounds through a cheesecloth or fine-mesh sieve.
- Strain into another jar, jug or pot.
- Dilute what you’ll enjoy immediately, and store any extra in the fridge in a clean carafe or jug.
If you make a large batch in a pot, ladling the cold brew/grounds into the cheesecloth will go quicker.
Too many grounds in your strainer, and the cold brew will take forever to drip out. Ladle some, dump the grounds, and repeat.
Advantages of mason jars
- Requires nothing more than what’s commonly found in a kitchen.
- Can make small, medium or large batches depending on jar/pot size.
Disadvantages of mason jars
- Jugs and pots aren’t the most visually appealing things to leave on a kitchen counter.
- Straining grounds isn’t as easy as other methods make it.
- Grounds are more likely to end up in your cup.
If you don’t want to invest in a coffee maker, or you need to make large batches of cold brew concentrate, a jug or jar is the a great option for brewing homemade cold brew coffee.
The mason jar cold brew coffee method requires a more hands-on approach, but the results will still be great.
4. How to make Aeropress cold brew coffee
If you want to make fast cold brew coffee, the Aeropress is the perfect option.
Beloved by travellers, campers and home brewers alike, the Aeropress not only makes a great hot cup of coffee, it makes a great cup of cold brew too, in just two minutes.
The cold brew coffee aeropress method is completely different to all other methods and is perfect if you want to make quick cold brew coffee!
To brew single-serving batches of cold brew with the Aeropress:
- Rinse the filter with hot water and place in the bottom of the Aeropress.
- Place the Aeropress over your cup.
- Measure out 16g of finely ground coffee and add to the chamber.
- Pour water into the chamber up to the number two mark.
- Stir the grounds for a full minute.
- Gently press the Aeropress plunger and extract the cold brew into your cup.
- Dilute with water and enjoy.
Don’t press down the plunger too quickly, and pause if you feel too much resistance.
Also, don’t skip step 5 – it is an essential step when making fast cold brew.
Advantages of the Aeropress
- The best way to make cold brew coffee fast
- A practical way to make cold brew when camping or traveling.
- Aeropress can also be used to make hot coffee.
Disadvantages of the Aeropress
- Makes very small quantities of coffee.
It isn’t the ideal equipment for making cold brew for large quantities, but it works if you only want to brew a single cup or you want to use a portable coffee maker (e.g. if you’re camping).
Want to try the Aeropress method? Click here to check the price for the Aeropress on Amazon.
What is the best coffee for cold brew?
The best coffee for cold brew are medium to dark roasted coffee beans. Due to the slow immersion method and the quantity of beans required, it isn’t necessary in most cases to use expensive coffee beans.
Because the method downplays terroir (growing climate) and roast characteristics, the finer notes of special single-origin coffees will be lost.
On the plus side, more mundane coffee roasts will taste good, as the method creates a full-bodied, smooth and sweet profile without any other distinctive characteristics.
This isn’t to say that cold brew can’t be made with great coffee, but that you might want to use the more expensive stuff for other brewing methods.
Cold brewing is actually ideal for when you need to use up old, stale, cheap or otherwise inferior beans. A few high-end cafes even use cheap generic coffee in their cold brews.
Even if you do use expensive coffee for cold brew, don’t use the freshest beans.
Fresh beans give off carbon monoxide that can be removed by “blooming” before brewing hot. It’s more difficult to bloom grounds before cold brewing, though, and that gas can make the cold brew sour.
As for roast profile, use a medium-dark or dark roast if you’re purchasing specifically to cold brew. If working with what’s on hand, any roast profile will do.
Looking for options? This full bodied dark roast by Harris is an affordable ground coffee available to purchase on Amazon Australia and has free one-day delivery available for Prime members (you can sign up online if you are new to Amazon).
What is the best coffee grind for cold brew?
In most instances. cold brew coffee grounds should be extra-coarse. The exception is the Aeropress method which should use a fine grind.
The grind setting should be slightly coarser than what’d you use for a French press or percolator.
A finer grind will extract too quickly, causing a bitter flavour and the grounds can clump together so that they inhibit even water circulation. Filtering cold brew coffee made with find grounds is also quite difficult.
An extra-coarse grind also makes separating the cold brew and grounds faster when using a sieve or cheesecloth to filter the grounds.
Whilst it isn’t as crucial for the beans to be freshly ground for cold brewing, it can be difficult to find extra coarse pre-ground coffee.
We recommend you own a coffee grinder to give you full flexibility with your grind size for different brewing methods.
If you don’t own a coffee grinder, see our reviews of the best coffee grinders here.
What is the best cold brew coffee ratio?
The ideal cold brew coffee ratio is 4 parts water to 1 part coffee, but anywhere from a 4:1 to 5:1 ratio is fine.
This works out to 2 litres of water per 500g of coffee, which is easy to remember.
Just keep in mind that many specialty coffee roasters sell 250g bags instead of 500g bags. In this instance, 1 litre would be the amount of water for a 250g bag.
How long do you steep cold brew for?
The ideal length of time cold brew coffee needs to brew will vary depending on the grind, roast of the coffee beans and the preferred coffee strength.
Cafes steep cold brew for anywhere from 12 to 24 hours, and there isn’t necessarily a perfect amount of time in this range.
Tend toward the shorter end of the range or 12 – 16 hours if:
- You’re using a slightly finer grind (e.g. using up stale, store-ground coffee)
- You have a little less water (e.g. 4:1 ratio)
- You are using dark roast coffee beans.
Tend toward the longer end of 16-24 hours when:
- You have a little extra water (e.g. 5:1 ratio)
- You are using medium roast beans
- With an extra coarse grind.
While many people do aim for the mid-range of 14 to 16 hours, this doesn’t fit into everyone’s schedule.
You may find that 12 or 24 hours is easier to manage, in which case the other parameters can be adjusted to perfect your personal recipe.
What is the best way to strain cold brew coffee?
The grounds in cold brew coffee are most easily strained with a cold brew coffee maker, French press or Aeropress. These devices use a built-in filter to strain the coffee grinds out of the brew.
If you don’t have any of these or need to make a large batch, cold brew grounds can be strained through a cheesecloth or fine-mesh sieve.
Strain a little at a time when using these latter options, so you can toss the strained grounds at intervals and the coffee doesn’t take too long to drip through.
How long does cold brew coffee last?
Cold brew coffee is best stored in the refrigerator and retains the best flavour for up to 1 week after brewing.
While you can keep a large batch on the counter overnight or for a day if you’re entertaining, the coffee will last much longer in the fridge.
When storing cold brew in the refrigerator, the cold brew should be kept as a concentrate. Mixing in water before storing the cold brew shortens the coffee’s shelf life.
If you have left over cold brew, it is perfectly suited to use in coffee recipes like these coffee popsicles or even cold brew ice cubes.
How cold brew coffee changes over time
All coffees change over time if they’re kept for long after brewing, and the overall shift in flavour is as follows:
- Fresh high notes
- Sweet and mellow notes
- Nasty sour notes
Coffee should be enjoyed during the first two stages only, and discarded if it reaches the nasty sour stage or shows evidence of mould growth.
The shift from fresh high notes to more mellow and sweet notes naturally suits cold brew, for cold brew has fewer high notes and more mellow, sweet ones.
Therefore, cold brew will preserve its flavour longer than most hot brewed coffee.
Cold Brew Flavour Timeline
In most cases, you can expect cold brew coffee that’s stored in the refrigerator to follow the timeline below:
|Day 1 to 2||Cold brew is fresh and tastes its best. If you drink coffee black, this is the best time to enjoy it.|
|Days 3 to 7||The few nuanced flavours that cold brew does have disappear as more general mellowness sets in. The brew will still taste great if you normally add cream and/or sugar, and it’ll still be good if you prefer black coffee.|
|Days 8 to 14||A generic flavour will dominate, which will eventually give way to sour flavours during the last few days. Enjoy before too much sourness sets in, and combine with lots of cream and sugar if you like. The concentrate will still cut through milk well – milky iced coffee drinks are a great way to use the brew up before it really goes bad.|
|Days 15 to 30||The cold brew will be sour and probably unfit for human consumption. You can use a little up by diluting it a lot and watering acidic-loving plants with it. Only use the diluted cold brew on acidic-loving plants, and don’t overdo the coffee-watering.|
|Days 30+||You’ll likely start to see mould grow on the top of the coffee’s surface around this time. Dump the cold brew, as it’s no longer good for plants either.|
What can you add to cold brew?
Cold brew coffee is particularly well-suited for adding cream and sugar.
Add any dairy or non-dairy milk you prefer, and any liquid sweetener you like (granular sweeteners won’t dissolve as well).
Popular options include full cream milk, sweetened condensed milk, cream and flavoured creamer.
Some chain coffee shops like Starbucks also offer cold foam as a topping.
You can make cold foam at home by using a milk frother to whisk half & half (half milk and half cream). It should take about 20 seconds to create the cold foam.
Note you do need to use half & half (or heavy/thickened cream), because the fats are essential to creating the foamy structure.
How to sweeten cold brew coffee
Liquid sweeteners dissolve in cold brew coffee most efficiently.
Note that liquid sweeteners should be added after brewing so that they don’t interfere with extraction.
You can either purchase liquid sweeteners or sweetened creamers, or make simple syrup of your favourite sweetener.
Popular flavours include caramel, vanilla and hazelnut.
A 1 to 1 ratio is standard for simple syrup, but you can adjust it to your liking since you’ll dilute the cold brew anyway.
Does cold brew coffee have more caffeine?
So how much caffeine is in cold brew coffee? Because cold brew coffee is made over a period of hours and with a higher ration of coffee grounds, the cold brew concentrate normally does contain more caffeine than typical hot brewed coffee.
However it is important to note that cold brew is made as a concentrate that’s then diluted with water. This helps lower the total caffeine content in a cup.
Even after dilution, though, cold brew will often have higher caffeine levels.
Can you drink cold brew coffee hot?
Cold brew doesn’t refer to how this coffee is drunk but rather how it’s made. The term is “cold brew” and not “cold drunk,” after all.
Although cold brew coffee is most often enjoyed chilled, it can also be enjoyed hot.
To make hot cold brew coffee, simply combine the concentrate with boiling water.
A strong concentrate and roaring boil will create a cup of coffee that has good strength and is appropriately warm.
Can I heat cold brew coffee?
Cold brew coffee certainly can be enjoyed hot, but heating cold brew coffee will create undesirable acids that give the coffee an off-flavour.
Instead, combine cold brew concentrate with boiling water. The resulting coffee should be both strong enough and warm enough to make a good brew.
Can you use instant coffee for cold brew?
You can easily make a cold coffee concentrate with instant coffee, by increasing the amount of instant grounds used and mixing them with room temperature (or cold) water.
There’s little reason to spend hours letting the mixture sit for hours, however, since the soluble grounds dissolve in minutes.
However note that cold coffee made with instant coffee granules will not have the same body or flavour as cold brewed coffee.
What is the best way to store cold brew coffee?
DIY cold brew coffee is best stored in the refrigerator, covered in an airtight jug or container.
It’ll last much longer in the fridge than on the counter, and placing it in the freezer doesn’t preserve flavour longer than the fridge does.
Can you freeze cold brew coffee?
Storing cold brew in the freezer won’t actually prolong the coffee’s life span much.
Although the freezer will prevent mould from growing, the coffee will still deteriorate at a rate akin to when it’s in the fridge.
You could freeze leftover cold brew as ice cubes and use in iced coffee drinks to reduce dilution that occurs when using regular ice blocks.
Ready to make cold brew coffee at home?
We trust you now know everything you need to know about at home cold brew coffee brewing. If you have any questions please leave comment below.
Cold brew is a convenient and delicious way to drink coffee. Whether you want it regularly or only occasionally, add cold brew to your repertoire of at-home brews. You’ll be glad you did.
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