Ever since cold brew coffee began its triumphant march, all puns about "cold coffee" have completely disappeared. What was once an analogy for stale and tasteless crap is now truly a hype drink that features on every coffee shop menu.
Ever since cold brew coffee began its triumphant march, all puns about “cold coffee” have completely disappeared. What was once an analogy for stale and tasteless crap is now truly a hype drink that features on every coffee shop menu.
The art of extracting coffee with cold water has shown many people that coffee doesn’t always have to come from a coffee machine. Cold brew also proves the mile-wide difference between good and bad coffee beans:
- Brewing bad beans hot, then letting the coffee go cold, tastes disgusting.
- Brewing good coffee beans hot, tastes almost even better when cold.
By saving yourself the trouble of brewing good beans using heat, you’ll discover completely different aromas in your homemade cold brew.
Magic? No, just a matter of craftsmanship! I’ve refreshed my Cold Brew Guide a little and expanded on my tips and recipes, because summer is on the way. Or the next blizzard – after all, cold brew is good anytime.
Table of Contents
- What Is Cold Brew Coffee? A Definition!
- How Do I Prepare Cold Brew? Cold Brew Coffee RecipesFor PuristsWith Fresh Lemon JuiceWith Tonic WaterWith Tonic Water for Coffee JunkiesWith Almond MilkBulletproof CoffeeFor Curious Minds
- Nitro Cold Brew
- Cold Brew vs. Cold Drip?
- Best Cold Brew Coffee Beans
- Hario Cold Brew Bottle
- French Press
- Blue Bottle Cold Brew
Cold Brew Coffee Maker: What Equipment Do I Need?
Good coffee beans, cold water and a container of your choice – you basically don’t need anything else for making cold brew.
To be a little more exact, you can’t really do without a coffee grinder for making cold brew either. The reason being that pre-ground beans don’t usually work because of the degree of grind.
The coffee for quintessential cold brew must be ground coarser than the grind used with a pour-over coffee dripper, more like that used in a French press. The coarser grind has less to do with the required contact surface area and more to do with a typical cold brew phenomenon.
During the hours of steeping, the coffee granules increasingly “dissolve,” becoming ever finer. That’s why you often end up with coffee grounds in your cold brew jar reminiscent of very wet sand. If you were to grind your coffee more finely still, this dissolution would be even more thorough.
You’d then end up with a solution where almost everything with no place in cold brew flavoring was swimming around. It would basically be a full-bodied espresso on a veeeeery long (and unpressurized) tour. Wrong somehow.
Yet cold brew coffee is exceptionally democratic. When you’re figuring out how to make cold brew coffee, feel free to try the finer grind. If you like it, stick with it. It doesn’t work for my iced coffee, though.
That’s why my advice is: Please use a coarser grind! The good news is that even super inexpensive entry-level grinders can cope very well with coarse grind settings. Your cold brew equipment needn’t be expensive.
A sexy Mason jar can serve as a brewing vessel, or you can use a preserving jar or any large carafe which can be covered. Covering the jar ensures greater hygiene.
Specialty products aren’t necessary but do solve the question of how to retrieve the coffee sludge from the finished cold brew. Many people use a pour-over coffee dripper with the appropriate filter paper for this task.
However, this method can use up a lot of filters. Long-soaked coffee sludge likes to clog the pores of the paper and you regularly have to use new ones.
My tip: Fabric filters like the Hario Woodneck can be easily washed out between uses and are made of a flexible cloth. This means they can be placed into all sorts of different apertures and containers.
However, two things are really crucial for good cold brew: the time factor and the right kind of water.
Depending on your desired extraction strength, cold brew coffee should be steeped for between 8 and 24 hours. Whether you make it 12 or 16 hours is up to you. Professionals usually work to the rule: the finer the coffee grounds, the more extended the extraction time.
When it comes to water filters, I usually always follow the motto “take it or leave it.” However, the water for cold brew must be particularly free of lime – i.e. soft water.
Because unlike when brewing drip coffee, for example, you don’t have an extraction booster in the form of heat. If your water is saturated with limescale components, it can’t really absorb the coffee aromas or “break down” the beans properly.
If you don’t want to use a coffee filter, non-carbonated mineral water is a good idea – although I usually argue strongly against bottled water.
What Is Cold Brew Coffee? A Definition!
I’ve always suspected it to be the case, but now I have it in writing: cold brew is a genuine caffeine bomb.
In my big caffeine test 2023, undertaken with scientific support, the 24-hour cold brew with 112 milligrams of caffeine per 3.4 ounces water came in at sixth place, the 8-hour cold brew with 95 milligrams at eighth.
Converted to typical cold brew recipes and thus the required coffee amount per serving, things look different again: with a portion size of 250 milligrams of caffeine, the 24-hour cold brew takes first place, while the 8-hour cold brew comes in third.
In addition, cold-extracted coffee gives precedence to aromas that would otherwise stand no chance using conventional preparation methods: floral-citrus elements, floral notes, background sweetness, etc.
On the tongue, cold brew tastes less like hot coffee, as this typical taste impression usually only first develops in the finish. That’s what makes it so light and refreshing – even if we have to put “light” in quotation marks with regard to the caffeine content.
Many of you report that your stomachs tolerate cold brew coffee much better than any other method of hot coffee preparation too.
I guess this has something to do with the fact that the heating step is omitted – meaning that any irritating substances don’t dissolve as much. This is merely a guess but seems to be confirmed by your experience.
How Do I Prepare Cold Brew?
The following tips and ideas come directly from my everyday life, as I prepare my own cold brew very often. After some experimentation I’ve established a basic recipe for how to make cold brew coffee, which you are welcome to (slightly) change the parameters of.
The degree of grind, ratio of coffee to water and infusion time are all open to be experimented with. You should also change the coffee beans from time to time.
That said, the water quality and temperature are not up for debate. Neither is the requirement to only use quality coffee beans and freshly grind them! Logically.
Cold Brew Coffee Recipe: The Basic Method
No matter which of the recipes presented here you choose, the basic preparation always remains the same:
- Grind: rather coarse
- Coffee quantity: 3.5 ounces (approx. 15 tablespoons)
- Water quantity: 34 fluid ounces (really COLD and SOFT)
- Brewing time: 12 hours (my established standard)
You’ll also need a pour-over coffee dripper or other equipment for filtering as well as ice cubes for serving (if you like). Here’s how to make cold brew coffee:
- Freshly grind the coffee beans coarsely.
- Place ground coffee in the container and fill with cold water.
- If necessary, stir to distribute the grinds, then close or cover the container.
- Now leave the coffee to steep at room temperature. Leaving it in the refrigerator works too, but then let it steep longer.
- Pour coffee through a filter or take out the filter holder for cold brew vessels.
- Add water back into the solution, bringing it back up to 34 fluid ounces.
In my opinion, the last step ensures that the flavor is optimized, but some people prefer drinking cups of cold brew concentrate. Using this basic recipe, you’ll now be able to try out a wide variety of cold brew drinks.
- A sexy glass and a comfortable armchair (pipe and attitude optional)
- 3 to 5 ice cubes
- 10 ounces cold brew coffee
It goes without saying: if your purist version of cold brew doesn’t taste any good, it’s almost always down to the coffee beans or the aromatic style not quite matching the process. In the case of a brew that’s simply too punchy, diluting it with a little water helps.
If everything is right, you’ll be able to taste the best of what cold brew coffee offers. The intensity and complexity of the aromas are reminiscent of a good whiskey – the glass and the armchair enhance that effect even further. But be careful, this is not a relaxing end-of-the-day drink. According to our big study about how much caffein is in coffee, the purist cold brew contains up to 336 milligrams of caffeine (with an infusion time of 24 hours). You can forget about getting any sleep after that!
With Fresh Lemon Juice
- 3 to 5 ice cubes
- 10 ounces cold brew coffee
- 4 teaspoons lemon juice (freshly squeezed, please)
What could make more sense than giving a tangy cold brew the additional boost of real lemon flavors? I use a juicer and that way get a bit of the rind aromas from the organic lemons into my drink too. Smashing.
You’ll probably have to make several attempts here at figuring out how to make cold brew coffee work well with lemon. Because after sour you don’t get funny, but yuck.
Once again, this tangy cold brew is no nightcap. Even with a brew time of only eight hours, you’ll still supply your body with around 285 milligrams of caffeine.
With Tonic Water
- 3 to 5 ice cubes
- 3 ounces cold brew coffee
- 5 ounces tonic water
The hype started with this caffeinated long drink for summer afternoons. And it just keeps going and going and going. Cold brew tonic trumps almost every other “soft drink” because it’s not so sickly-sweet – at least not if you make use of quality tonic.
Depending on the style of the brew, I find neutral or somewhat bitter kinds of tonic work best for iced coffee. The neutral tonics have a clear citrus note, which work great. Thomas Henry produces my current favorite cold brew filler.
You can, OF COURSE, also pimp your cup of cold brew tonic with gin. All I’ll say is that alcohol, caffeine and sugar together in one drink is an extremely powerful combination.
You’ll be completely plastered, wide awake and cranky. With an eight-hour infusion time, this cold brew packs 76 milligrams of caffeine.
Another professional tip: If you first add the ice cubes and tonic and then slowly pour over the cold brew, layers will appear in the glass – an impressive look.
With Tonic Water for Coffee Junkies
- 3 to 5 ice cubes
- 5 ounces cold brew coffee
- 5 ounces tonic water
The tonic water serves to bring out the style of the coffee more strongly. It’s therefore worth trying to reduce the ratio of tonic until you reach the perfect level for your palate.
Just one thing to note: with this variant you’re looking at 142.50 milligrams of caffeine (8 hours).
With Almond Milk
I’ve already cheekily remarked elsewhere that people only drink their coffee with milk because they don’t really like coffee. For this crowd (and all others too) I recommend cold brew with almond milk.
You could also pour liquid cream or sour cream into the cup for all I care: the velvety sweetness of the milk product combined with the tangy freshness of the coffee is what we’re after.
For me personally, (homemade) almond milk is the best, because it gives precedence to the coffee and balances out the flavors very well. Besides, I’m increasingly turning away from the udder.
Using almond milk, you achieve something pretty close to Bailey’s taste-wise – just not as sweet and not alcoholic. You can change that, but don’t have to.
Cold Brew Bulletproof Coffee
- 3 to 5 ice cubes
- 10 ounces cold brew coffee
- 1 tablespoon pasture-raised butter
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
Bulletproof coffee not only works well hot, but cold too. As a reminder: this entails coffee being mixed with pasture-raised butter and coconut oil, before being served. The hype is certainly now over, but I find bulletproof coffee in its cold form more delicious anyway.
Put the ingredients (minus the ice cubes) into a blender and give them a good blitz. Since butter and coconut fat are quite firm, you might want to warm them up a bit first.
For Curious Minds
All my tips and recipes boil down to one thing: if you like it, add it to your cold brew! What goes into a hot Triple Moccachino Pumpkin Mint Latte theoretically works in cold brew as well.
In other words, cold brew tastes simply fantastic with:
- All sour types of fruit juice (apple, pineapple, orange)
- All types of nut liqueurs and syrups (including almond, amaretto, etc.)
- Cleverly combined spice (ginger, chili)
Any kind of milk (with or without cow)
- Bitter-sweet spirits
- CHOCOLATE (of course!)
- Natural sweeteners (honey, agave, birch sugar, etc.)
- Salty elements (or simply *salt*)
- Sparkling mineral water (for a salty-sour flavor)
More and more often, I’m coming across signature drinks that combine a cup of cold brew with tomato juice. You can count me out on that one – but you see, that works too!
What Is Nitro Cold Brew?
Speaking of hype: nitro cold brew is mentioned time and again as an ingredient in the signature iced coffee drinks of famous coffee bars, which sounds like a lot of effort and a bit of bragging.
It is just that. Nitro Cold Brew is cold-brewed coffee which, after preparation, is mixed with nitrogen in pressure-resistant containers. This results in it having a foaming capability strongly reminiscent of Guinness – it does make use of the same basic principle. That’s why nitro is often served on tap.
This preparation method not only justifies the price of this coffee drink, it also makes sense. Due to the beaten foam, nitro tastes quite sweet without having to add any sugar to the coffee. This makes the drinks lighter and much more balanced.
Should you entertain the idea of making nitro cold brew at home, you’ll need a cream siphon and nitrogen capsules.
These siphons are very popular in gastronomy because they can be used to conjure up all kinds of froths, culinary foams, etc. However, get ready to spend upwards of $100 on a decent syphon that’ll generate enough pressure.
What’s the Difference Between Cold Brew and Cold Drip?
“Cold brew is like beer, cold drip is like wine,” a cold drip supplier once spun off at the Berlin Coffee Festival. He isn’t wrong, but I wouldn’t exaggerate things quite so much.
Cold brew, as a full-immersion method, is like (cold) coffee from a French press in slow motion. The ground coffee is in complete contact with water during the entire brewing process. Only at the very end is the coffee filtered, so that there isn’t any sludge left in the glass.
Cold drip, on the over hand, is the slow-motion version of drip coffee – even if filter paper isn’t absolutely necessary. An adjustable valve drips mini amounts of water onto the ground coffee, slowly “eating” through it and then dripping into a collecting vessel as finished coffee.
This type of preparation requires somewhat more complicated equipment. It’s for this reason that the Beem Cold Drip, for example, looks as if it has escaped from a chemical laboratory. The Dripster² isn’t quite as fussy – and is suitable for use as both a cold brew and drip device.
Similar to the comparison of drip coffee and French press, a dripper actually does extract finer aromas than the full immersion method.
That’s why many connoisseurs prefer even lighter and more floral roasts for their drippers than for cold brew – they come into their own more effectively with the drip method. Still, both variants are fresh, tangy and above all multi-faceted – if the coffee beans are right.
What Are the Best Cold Brew Coffee Beans? My Recommendations
You already know the Coffeeness creed: use only quality coffee beans and freshly grind them. Why should it be any different when discussing how to make cold brew coffee?
I personally prefer making cold brew with African coffees, especially those from Ethiopia. Twelve hours brewing time is ideal for them, because after that I’ve noticed that the fruity and floral aromas are lost and crushed by the presumptuous “body” of the coffee.
It’s important that you always go for pure Arabicas without any Robusta. The canephora bean is much too unrefined and superficial and would kill off all other nuances when extracted cold.
This means that dark Espressos fall flat as cold brew. I say so – others disagree. As mentioned previously: cold brew is a living coffee democracy.
You should discover for yourself which coffee preparation is most suitable for your cold brew. Most connoisseurs tend to prefer dry-processed coffees (naturals), because they promise more sweetness in the cup. Still, I wouldn’t ever make a blanket statement about that either.
What About the Hario Cold Brew Bottle?
At the beginning of my homemade cold brew mania I used a screw-top jar and a pour-over coffee dripper. However, at some point I no longer felt like filtering the cold brew forever and a day at the end of the brewing period. That’s when I bought a Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffee Pot.
This baby now has numerous brothers and cousins, but they all do essentially the same thing: your ground coffee isn’t left to float freely in the water, but is instead contained in an easily removable filter. This saves you from performing the last step in the cold brew process.
This is neither revolutionary nor particularly important. I still love the Hario pot though, because it fits perfectly in the fridge and also has a lid. Since I prepare cold brew on virtually a weekly basis, it has paid for itself several times over.
Using AeroPress Coffee for Iced Drinks
Cold brew from an AeroPress is an answer to the question of how to make cold brew coffee for small households. This version enables you to prepare very concentrated mini quantities and to automatically filter the coffee as it is pressed.
I don’t know if my invention called the “AeroPress Cold Brew Plunger Thing” is unique in the world. But I like this construction because you can use it to make a sort of cold brew espresso. You can read more about it in the guide!
French Press: Best Cold Brew Coffee Maker
A French press is a practical recommendation for a container because using the plunger saves you the trouble of filtering by other means. At least in theory. It’s the certain nature of things that cold brew from a French press allows more suspended matter into the glass – you have to like that.
The wet “coffee sand” likes to slip through the mesh of the French press plunger, which is why it’s best to combine it with a pour-over coffee dripper. Although this almost eliminates the advantage of the French press plunger pot, “pre-plunged” cold press coffee is more easily filtered again.
Blue Bottle Cold Brew: Coffee in Bottles and Cans
Where there’s hype, industry isn’t usually far away. That’s why grocery stores across the country stock ready-made cold brew in cans and bottles – often with added flavor and all kinds of other stuff.
Along with other companies, Blue Bottle has figured out how to make cold brew coffee into a trendy, mass-produced beverage. The Oakland-based company offers a “Cold Brew Collection” that includes New Orleans-style iced coffee in a carton and even a single origin cold brew in a can.
Yet unless you’re unprepared for a hike and are desperate for delicious cold brew coffee, there’s little reason to buy it ready-made. You can see from this article just how easy it is to make cold brew coffee concentrate yourself. Homemade cold brew costs much less, is much less processed and is also highly individualized.
If your fingers itch, you can even jazz your cold brew up to become a classic iced coffee with milk, cream and vanilla ice cream. You shouldn’t, but that’s just my take on things.
And please, P-L-E-A-S-E keep your fingers away from instant coffee and the hype about Dalgona Coffee that is currently rampant everywhere. This mixture of instant coffee, which can be whipped hot to make coffee cream and then drunk hot or cold, is a plague.
Whichever way you look at it, cold brew coffee is finally a trend with purpose. That’s because it offers so much and asks for nothing in return. Because it tastes good. And because it solves the problem of how to enjoy a cup of coffee in unbearable heat.
You’ve already commented most fervently on this topic and I readily welcome each and every new cold brew question and idea!