Cold Brew Coffee – 6 Ultimate Recipes

Published on: Wednesday 5th, 2018 by 0

Cold brew coffee – a beautiful and blatantly inherent contradiction. How can you brew a cold coffee? Doesn’t brewing, after all, mean to pour boiling water over something?

In this case however, it means to infuse the coffee in cold water, letting the extraction of the flavors and caffeine take place without heat. The whole process usually takes place over a long period of time.

In this article I will unravel the mysteries of this process. There are many different versions, each varying considerably in complexity. The great thing to know upfront is that you don’t need any additional equipment.

For many people, cold brew is just a summer coffee drink, but cold brew is just as delightful in the winter.

I’ve even made a few YouTube videos about cold brew coffee for Coffeeness (currently available only in German).

The Difference Between Cold Brew and Cold Drip

The Taste of Cold Brew

Cold brew coffee has a unique taste. Of course the taste also depends on what kind of coffee beans you use and is always better when you grind the beans yourself. I generally recommend this for every coffee preparation method, but in this case it is especially important. You’ll need an extra coarse grind of coffee – it should be a bit coarser than that used for a French Press.

Cold Brew Hand

I find African coffees, especially those from Ethiopia, to be especially pleasing as cold brews. You can greatly influence the character of the coffee just by varying the steeping time. The coffee releases its aromas through direct contact with water. The longer the cold coffee steeps, the more strength it builds. The one thing to note is that after some time, the coffee’s fruity and floral aromas will weaken.

After 8-12 hours of steeping, you get beautiful citrus bursts in your coffee. If you wait even longer, these aromas are slowly overwhelmed by a powerful fullness – the body. This can be exciting too and sometimes a syrupy cold brew is also fun. If you steep the coffee for over 24 hours, you’ll find a more heavy duty flavor that usually tastes bitter.

As always, experimenting pays off and everything is permitted as long as it tastes good. That said, I’d still keep the coffee grounds as coarse as possible.


For all the recipes I’ll introduce below, you’ll need the cold brew base recipe that’s listed first. If you like, you can experiment with the quantity of coffee grounds and the steeping time. I have already tested steeping times between 8 to 24 hours and have had interesting results. For most coffees, I tend to prefer the flavor at around 12 hours, so I’ve established this as my default recommendation.

You’ll need:

  • Quality fresh coffee beans – see coffee bean tests
  • A coffee grinder, to coarsely grind the coffee beans.
  • A brewing vessel(a glass, French press etc.) and a pour-over filter or the Hario cold brew coffee pot.
  • Fresh, clear and, if possible, filtered water.
  • 12 hours time.
  • Ice cubes to serve.

Cold Brew Recipes

Here’s the recipe for the black liquid gold that is cold brew coffee. The nice thing is that the preparation is really easy and little can go wrong. The most common mistake is using coffee that is too finely ground.

This recipe is intended for 1 liter (34-ounce) of water, but the actual amount of concentrate will be a little less. I normally add water in at the end so it comes back up to the original amount. The coffee grounds tend to absorb part of the water.

The ratio is 100g (10 Tbsp) coffee grounds per 1 liter (34-ounces) of water.

  • 1. Freshly grind the coffee beans coarsely.
  • 2. Place grounds in the filter inside the glass or Hario pot.
  • 3. Now add the water – this should be filtered and COLD.
  • 4. If necessary stir to distribute the grinds, then cover.
  • 5. Now leave to stand for 12 hours at room temperature.
  • 6. Remove the filter or filter the liquid out.
  • 7. Add water back into the solution, bringing it back up to 1 liter (34-ounces).

You are now the proud owner of one liter (34-ounces) of delicious cold brew coffee and can start having fun with the other recipes below. Cold brew can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

For Purists

You‘ll need:
  • A heavy glass and a comfortable armchair.
  • Three to four ice cubes.
  • 300 ml (10-ounces) cold brew coffee.

The purist version can also be diluted with extra water, should it be too punchy. The intensity and complexity of the aromas are reminiscent of a good whiskey.

With Fresh Lemon Juice

  • Three to four ice cubes.
  • 300 ml (10-ounces) cold brew coffee.
  • 20 ml (4 tsp) lemon juice.

To get the lemon juice, I use a juicer and use organic lemons that I juice with the peel on. The result is an intense, natural and delicious. It pays to test if the combination is good with a small amount first.

I’ve found it awesome in some coffees and not good at all in others. It’s certainly worth trying things out!

Cold Coffee with Lemon

With Tonic Water

  • Three to five ice cubes.
  • 80 ml (5 Tbsp) cold brew coffee.
  • 220 ml (7.5-ounces) tonic water.

This is a refreshing summer drink. Cold brew tonic is simply excellent on hot days. It’s an interesting combination that most people can’t really imagine before trying it for the first time.

Cold Brew Tonic

Tip: If you add the ice cubes and tonic first and then very slowly pour over the cold brew, individual layers will appear in the glass – an impressive look!

You should note that as most tonic waters contain about 10% sugar, this recipe will make a mini calorie bomb not suitable for every day consumption.

For Coffee Junkies

You can always use less tonic if you like. I find a 50:50 ratio to be very good, but you can also try it with tonic water to cold brew ratio of 2:3. It’s really a matter of personal taste.

  • Three to five ice cubes.
  • 150 ml (5-ounces) cold brew coffee.
  • 150 ml (5-ounces) tonic water.

With Almond Milk

Cold Brew Milk

Cold brew tastes good in combination with all types of milk. In the picture you can see how I’m energetically pouring almond milk into a jar of cold brew. This is African Blue coffee from Tchibo – the Tchibo “Private Coffee” is of surprisingly high quality for supermarket coffee. African Blue coffee builds to a very strong body which goes great with almond or nut milk.

Almond milk can unfortunately become slightly curdled in cold brew, which doesn’t affect the taste but can make for an “interesting” effect.

Homemade Almond Milk Blender

Homemade Almond Milk Nut Milk Pouch

Homemade Almond Milk Barista

Bulletproof Coffee

A more detailed article about the hot version of this can be found here: Bulletproof Coffee.

Bulletproof coffee is made with free-range butter and coconut oil. A lot of good things are said about this drink – but for more on that you should read through the corresponding Coffeeness article. Only the recipe is provided here. You’ll need a blender for this recipe.

  • Three to five ice cubes.
  • 300 ml (10-ounces) cold brew coffee.
  • 15 g (1 Tbsp) free-range butter.
  • 15 g (1 Tbsp) coconut oil.

Begin by putting the cold coffee into the blender together with the butter and coconut oil. The best way to do this is by melting the butter and coconut oil before adding them into the blender. This is because it’s harder for fats to dissolve in cold coffee compared to hot coffee. After blending, pour the finished drink over the ice cubes.

Bulletproof coffee and cold brew are a great combination that I personally like better than the hot version.

Cold Brew Bulletproof Coffee

Cold Brew Bulletproof Coffee

Cold Brew Equipment

You don’t actually need much equipment to make cold brew. A mason jar and a pour-over filter are sufficient. Even a cotton cloth could be used. After doing this a couple of times, I found it too much work and bought myself the Hario cold brew coffee pot.

The Dripster cold coffee dripper is something really new. I’ve tested it extensively on Coffeeness.

(video only available in German)

The Hario cold brew coffee pot is another option for cold brew coffee. It has a built-in filter which saves time. In addition, it fits into the fridge well. I’m very happy with it and have used it almost weekly for more than a year.

It’s also possible to use other items from the coffee cupboard. Here, I have already introduced a user’s guide in which I explain how you can make cold brew with an AeroPress. The AeroPress is well suited to produce small amounts of cold coffee.

These devices also automatically filter the coffee during the plunging process, making this option not as laborious as others.

Cold Brew AeroPress

For those who don‘t yet know this type of plunger, click here to be directed to my article: AeroPress.

Even a French press can be used for “brewing”. Once the cold brew has steeped, the plunger can be depressed. However, after doing so, many particles will remain suspended in the solution – this is because the long contact time with the water dissolves the coffee almost entirely. That’s why you should always filter the cold coffee again with a pour-over filter before serving.

Cold Brew Coffee Parameters

I have to admit, the method of cold “brewing” coffee passed me by for quite a long time. In good cafés, I often admired elaborate concoctions where ice cubes melted, slowly releasing water into the drink. Fascinated, but also a bit overwhelmed, I still only drank hot coffee back then.

I have since acquired quite the taste for cold brewed coffee and prepare it almost every day.

It would be pretty boring if we only had one way to brew cold coffee. You have the usual parameters with which to play:

  • Contact time of water and coffee
  • Quantity ratio of coffee to water
  • Coarseness of the grounds
  • Type of coffee used
  • Type of water used

In a Screw-Top Jar + Pour-Over Filter

The beauty of this method of making cold brew is that you don’t need much. Coarsely ground coffee. Cold tap water, a pour-over filter, woodneck or fine sieve, and a screw-top jar.

I have also seen many recipes that use a foil lid.

Cold Brewed Coffee Jar

The amount of coffee added is pretty high leading to a very full bodied coffee with a lot of aroma, but little acidity. The concentrate will be diluted when you add ice cubes.

Cold Brewed Coffee in a French Press

How practical that a French Press is a glass vessel with a lid which can also filter coarse coffee grounds.

That’s how I had imagined it anyway before actually trying it out. What I didn’t expect is that when the coffee grounds are in contact with water for over 12 hours they begin to almost completely dissolve. Especially with strongly roasted varieties, the coffee grinds start to atomize and are rather reminiscent of fine, wet potting soil. This leads to pouring some of the leftover grounds into the cold coffee itself.

It’s a matter of personal taste, but most people prefer clear coffee. So, while a coffee press is still well suited for steeping and I’d definitely use the plunger initially, I’d also subsequently pour the coffee through a pour-over filter as the final step.

This has the added advantage of the coffee running through the pour-over filter faster since less fine coffee grounds come through.

Cold Brew Drip Coffee (the laborious alternative)

In other words, the thing which makes the hearts of equipment freaks instantly beat faster. One or the other of us has certainly already seen one: a glass creation of many parts. A tower of beauty. A cross between laboratory equipment and art. I don’t know how it affects you, but it causes me to have extreme “I want” reflexes.

If you want to, you can buy a “Hario Water Dripper Clear” here for a cool US$200.

Cold Brewed Drip Coffee

Make Your Own Cold Brewed Drip Coffee Device

You will need a glass bottle with a tap, an AeroPress, a glass jar, a funnel. Two AeroPress filters.

I’ve used the funnel and an AeroPress filter to hold the coffee grounds. Below this I’ve placed a standard filter. On top of the coffee grounds I’ve sat a small cut-down filter.

The purpose of this filter is to make sure that the dripping water is evenly distributed. Otherwise there’s a risk of it only passing through the grounds in one place.

Cold Brewed AeroPress

A glass bottle serves as a water container and drip station.

Measuring the flow, I’m at about 40 drops per minute.

The remainder of the structure is made up of random support parts (the funnel, for example, was necessary to provide a better angle).

I ended up with no extra expenses. If you don’t have an AeroPress, you can also make something out of a PET bottle and use normal filters. The “oil bottle” cost me about €15 (approx. US$17).

So how much caffeine does a cold brewed coffee contain?

That’s a good question that I’ve recently spent quite some time looking into. I have read forums and blogs and interviewed experts. Where information was available, I also tried to obtain valid sources. To me, the answer seems obvious: nobody really knows.

In my subjective perception, cold brewed coffee contains more caffeine than conventional pour-over filtered coffee.

There is additional anecdotal evidence that this kind of coffee is particularly strong, with many reports of unrestrained vitality and sleepless nights.

A Few Things to Consider

With a refractometer or TDS meter it’s possible to take comparative measurements of the water and the resulting coffee. Using this method however, you can only test the amount of coffee which has actually dissolved – the correlation to the amount of caffeine can’t be accurately tested in this way.

My thoughts were that, in the case of both pour-over filtration and espresso making, about ¼ of the coffee bean’s inherent caffeine content is actually released.

In water, however, much more caffeine is soluble. The hotter the water, the more soluble it is. Even water at room temperature dissolves about 20g (0.7-ounces) of caffeine per liter. In other words, much more than would ever be found in any other kind of coffee.

Caffeine is water-soluble – but doesn’t that just mean that very long contact time with water equals a very high caffeine release? Or can hot water release more caffeine just as quickly?

So the question is really how exactly the parameters of TIME and TEMPERATURE behave in terms of their ability to release caffeine from the beans into the coffee.

If we assume that 1.3% mg of caffeine is contained in the coffee beans and 100% is released, that’s 0.1L (3-ounces) water = 130mg caffeine as a maximum (in a pour-over filtered coffee it’s about 0.1L (3-ounces) = 57mg). That’s using the same 10g (2 tsp) quantity of coffee grinds for both preparation methods. So the amount of caffeine released must be somewhere between 0 and 130mg. I suspect cold brewing causes more caffeine to be released than a traditional pour-over filtered coffee.

Are there any chemists out there who can provide more information on this?

Is there a feasible way to test this theory?

Prevalence and Outlook

Cold brew is becoming increasingly popular. It’s available for purchase at Starbucks and more recently can be found in Tchibo stores. Melitta has also developed a filter especially designed for making cold brew.

The “Third Wave of Coffee” movement has lost its monopoly over this drink, so to speak, and the “Second Wave” happily play along. Cold tea variants are also becoming increasingly popular. All of a sudden, several different startups have appeared in Berlin, all dedicating themselves to the art of cold brew. The shelf life of high-quality and ready-made cold coffee is a unique advantage. For example you can buy cold brew from Goodspirits, packaged in jars and cartons with straws.

I still prefer to make my own cold brew fresh with wonderful Yirgacheffe beans. In Germany, there is still a strong lobby for the classic iced coffee with ice cream. Unfortunately you can only make me duck for cover offering me that!

Cold Brew Glass

Whether you make it in Bodum’s coffee press or using Hario’s Mizudashi model – cold brewing basically always proves a success. The one thing yet to be proven is the exact caffeine content it contains.

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