How to Make Cold Brew Coffee (With Tips and Fresh Ideas)

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

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Ever since its triumphant march began, everyone seems to want to know how to make cold brew coffee. What was once an analogy for stale and tasteless garbage is now truly a hype drink that features on every coffee shop menu.

Ever since its triumphant march began, everyone seems to want to know how to make cold brew coffee. What was once an analogy for stale and tasteless garbage 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 high end drip coffee makers. 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.

What Is Cold Brew Coffee?

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, undertaken with scientific support, the 24-hour cold brew with 112 milligrams of caffeine per 3.4 ounces water came in at sixth place, and the 8-hour cold brew at eighth with 95 milligrams.

Converted to typical cold brew recipes and thus the required coffee amount per serving, things look different again: with 250 milligrams of caffeine, the 24-hour cold brew takes first place, while the 8-hour cold brew comes in third.

Projekt Koffeinkick fertige Proben nah

In addition, cold-extracted coffee gives precedence to aromas that would otherwise stand no chance using conventional preparation methods. I’m talking about 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.

Cold Brew Coffee Maker: What Equipment Do I Need?

Good coffee beans, cold water (not hot 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.

Kaffeemuehlen Uebersicht Handmuehlen Hochheben

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.

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 Mason jar can serve as a brewing vessel, but you can use any jar or bowl with a lid. 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. Alternatively, you can use a washable fabric filter to save money.

How Do I Prepare Cold Brew?

Cold Brew aus der Hario

The following tips and ideas come directly from my everyday life, as I love cold brew coffee and make it 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.

Still, you’re free to experiment with grind settings, ratio of coffee to water and infusion time. 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 a decent burr grinder! Logically.

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.

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: 100 grams

  • Cold water quantity: 34 ounces (1 liter)

  • Brewing time: 12 hours (my established standard)

You’ll also need a pour-over coffee maker or other equipment for filtering, as well as ice cubes for serving (if you like). Here’s how to make cold brew coffee:

  1. Grind the coffee beans coarsely.

  2. Place ground coffee in the container and fill with cold water.

  3. If necessary, stir to distribute the grinds, then close or cover the container.

  4. Now leave the coffee to steep at room temperature. Leaving it in the refrigerator works too, but you should let it steep longer.

  5. Pour coffee through a filter or take out the filter holder for cold brew vessels.

  6. Add water to the concentrate, bringing it back up to 34 ounces (1 liter).

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.

For Purists

You‘ll need:

  • An alluring glass and a comfortable armchair (pipe and attitude optional)

  • 3 to 5 ice cubes

  • 10 ounces (296 milliliters) cold brew coffee

It almost 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 caffeine study, 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

Frappe Zitrone Cold Brew

You‘ll need:

  • 3 to 5 ice cubes

  • 10 ounces (296 milliliters) 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 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

You‘ll need:

  • 3 to 5 ice cubes

  • 3 ounces (89 milliliters) cold brew coffee

  • 5 ounces (148 milliliters) 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.

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 Almond Milk

Cold Brew 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 opting for non-dairy milk these days.

Using almond milk, you achieve something pretty close to Baileys taste-wise – just not as sweet and not alcoholic. You can change that, but don’t have to.

Cold Brew Bulletproof Coffee

Taza de bulletproof coffee junto a todos los ingredientes

You‘ll need:

  • 3 to 5 ice cubes

  • 10 ounces (296 milliliters) 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 mixing coffee with pasture-raised butter and coconut oil, before serving. 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. Oh, and 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 mochaccino pumpkin mint latte theoretically works in cold brew as well.

In other words, consider the following cold brew coffee ingredients:

  • All sour types of fruit juice (apple, pineapple, orange)

  • All types of nut liqueurs and syrups (including almond, amaretto, etc.)

  • Cleverly combined spices (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 hyped signature drinks that combine a cup of cold brew with tomato juice. You can count me out – but you see, that works too!

What Is Nitro Cold Brew?

Signature Drink Nitro

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 a pressure-resistant container. This results in it having a foaming capability strongly reminiscent of Guinness. And it does make use of the same basic principle, which is why nitro is often served on tap.

This preparation method not only justifies the price of this coffee drink, it also makes sense. Thanks to its foam cap, 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 siphon that’ll generate enough pressure.

Cold Brew vs Cold Drip Coffee

“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. You only filter it at the very end, so that there isn’t any sludge left in the glass.

Beem Cold Drip Fertigbau

On the other hand, cold drip is the slow-motion version of pour-over coffee – even if a coffee filter 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 , for example, looks as if it has escaped from a chemical laboratory.

Similar to the comparison between 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. That is, if the coffee beans are suitable.

What Are the Best Cold Brew Coffee Beans?

You already know the Coffeeness creed: use only quality coffee beans and grind them fresh. 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 tend to get lost.

Woodgrouse Kaffeebohne

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 roasts fall flat as cold brew. Well, I say so – others disagree. As mentioned previously: cold brew is a living coffee democracy.

You should discover for yourself which coffee brewing method 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 Maker.

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.

French Press: Best Cold Brew Coffee Maker

French Press Arne Stempel druecken

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, So, you have to be into 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 dripper. Although this almost eliminates the advantage of the French press plunger pot, it’s easy to filter “pre-plunged” cold press coffee 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.

Karacho Cold Brew

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 way 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.

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 the topic of how to make cold brew coffee. I readily welcome each and every new cold brew question and idea!

Updated: 23. March 2024
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Arne Preuss

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

More about Arne Preuss

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

More about Arne Preuss

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