Kitchen Confidence

How to Make Cold-Brewed Coffee

By • July 11, 2013 • 80 Comments

Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: What's the big fuss about cold brew? Let us explain.

Cold Brew Coffee

Iced coffee in the summer -- it's a given. It's cold, it's refreshing, and for many of us, it is a necessity. But what's the big fuss over cold-brewed coffee? 

There are a few things about a cold-brew that have made it into the summer beverage du jour. The first thing most people note about cold-brewed coffee is the lower acidity level. Since the grounds never come into contact with the intense heat of boiling water, the flavor profile of the final brew is different than with drip coffee. Similarly, when hot coffee is rapidly cooled, it creates a slightly bitter taste. One of the major draws of a cold-brewed cup of iced coffee is that it will have a smoother, slightly sweeter flavor.

Cold Brew Coffee 

Finally, a cold brew is pretty much ideal for iced coffee because it is more concentrated than a traditional, hot-brewed cup o' joe; the addition of ice and cold milk or cream will dilute it just enough without watering it down.

Iced coffee is more expensive than hot coffee, and cold brew is even pricier. Yet many people are willing to pay extra because they are intimidated by making it at home.

You're in luck; with only three steps, cold-brewing might be the easiest coffee method out there.

Cold Brew Coffee

Grind, Soak, Wait

The ratio of coffee grounds to water is pretty debatable; personal tastes will dictate your own. A good place to start is 1/3 cup of ground coffee to 1 1/2 cups of water. After you find the ratio that you like best, you can adjust the size to fit as large a brewing vessel as you want. The type of grind, however, has been universally decided upon: it must be coarsely ground. A smaller grind will result in a cloudier liquid.

Put the coffee in your brewing container and add the water.

Cold Brew Coffee

Stir to make sure all the grounds have been moistened, then cover and place on the counter or in the fridge over night, for at least 12 hours.

Cold Brew Coffee

In the morning, strain twice through cheesecloth or a fine-mesh sieve.

Cold Brew Coffee

Add ice, milk, or your other favorite coffee companions and enjoy.

Note: To make a simple process even simpler, this can all be done right in a French press: Add the coffee and water and put the lid on but do not plunge. In the morning, press, pour, and drink -- easy enough to do without caffeine.

Cold Brew Coffee

What are your tricks for cold brewing? Let us know in the comments!

Photos by James Ransom

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Tags: kitchen confidence, coffee, cold-brew, tips, summer, brewing, how-to & diy

Comments (80)


18 days ago cattyb

I've tried the "loose in a bucket" method described above, but got tired of waiting for FOREVER for it to strain through, plus too many vessels and tools. I then bought a 1.25 quart french press, but it doesn't make enough at once - having to wash it out every day sucked. I still had to filter out some grounds, too (cheapie press, filter has tiny gaps at the edges).
I then thought of big muslin bags! Ordered sme 5x7 cotton bags from amazon, park 1.5 cups grounds in one, use a rubber band to clse and plunk it into my 2.5 quart pitcher in the fridge. I just leave the bag in until I've finished the pitcher and let the brew get stronger each day...even sometimes adding a bit more water if I see there's not going to be quite enough for the next morning. When I'm done, I squeeze the loosely packed bag of the last drops I can get, then 'flatten' it out on a small wire rack over a plate to dry for a day or so, then dump it out in the garden or sprinkle it over the lawn.
The bags are totally washable, reusable and I never have to mess with a strainer or filter. I never worry if my grind is too fine because the bags hold all but the very finest silt (less than a tsp per pitcher) inside.


17 days ago beejay45

Are you making this regular strength? Because I'm one of the French press users, and I make mine very, very strong -- coffee concentrate in fact. If you make it that strength, no matter what your method, you'll have plenty to last more than one day. Just be sure to keep the concentrate refrigerated, then just dilute to the strength you desire. You can even make a hot coffee with the concentrate.


17 days ago cattyb

Hi, beejay45 -- The main reason my press didn't work out for me is because my son and I both consume cold coffee drinks at a phenomenal rate! Even with the 3 cup yield of concentrate (1 part coffee 3 parts water) from my press, we still would have to set it up every night and wash it out every day. More grounds added, the less actual liquid yield...and since I also strongly believe that there's a certain saturation point where the water just isn't extracting any more goodness, adding much more coffee would be a pointless waste of money.
I've experimented with ratios and found that the 1.5 dry cups (probably a bit more as I use a heaping 1/4 c. scoop times 6) of grounds in 2 quarts (8 cups) of water (so that' 1:5? I think that's the ratio most recipes I've seen recommend) gives the results that suit us. We use it with flavored simple syrup and half n half either over coffee ice cubes or blended into a frappe. I will fill a 1 liter bottle halfway with the coffee/syrup/half n half, freeze it overnight then fill up with more in the morning before work to have cold coffee all day (I use a nifty crocheted 'bottle cozy' to carry and prevent condensation drips). My son jokes that he'd do a coffee IV, but then he wouldn't be able to taste the flavors he's come to love from "Mom's Brew". His friends envy his great tasting drinks and I can't keep the pitcher full when one of them visits our house.

I'm very glad that your press works so well for you, though!!


16 days ago beejay45

Hi, cattyb! Wasn't touting the press, just the concentrate. ;) Are you familiar with kakegori (if I'm spelling that right), the Japanese shaved ice thing? I use my coffee ice cubes in that for hot weather, top with sweetened condensed milk, or your choice of creamer and/or syrup or liqueur. Whatever you like, it's great and really hits the spot when you're sweltering.
I'm not supposed to drink coffee at all, but the cold brew doesn't release all the oils that cause me problems, so I can have the occasional indulgence. Have to choose my moments, though. ;)


16 days ago cattyb

Oh my stars and garters, that sounds heavenly! It was 98 degrees here yesterday and I could have used two or three coffee 'snow cones' throughout the afternoon.

About the press/concentrate thing... I didn't mean to de-mean, if you know what I mean. :-} I really AM glad it suits your needs so closely! I just tend to get all wordy and go off on tangents when I get excited about something.

We'll occasionally use our "dregs", which are pretty concentrated, to make coffee ice cubes that strengthen rather than dilute... or for baked goods...or just as an excuse to add even more sweet creamy goodness to the last cup. >^..^<


about 1 month ago paulinchen

Hmmm so if you only have to let it sit over night, why not just use coffee pads that you can take out and discard after?


about 1 month ago maggie

Is the water supposed to be hot (boiling?) or cold when added to the ground coffee?


about 1 month ago dymnyno

cold water to make cold brew


about 1 month ago skm818

I make cold brew as per instructions above and strain thru a few un bleached coffee filters (I need to use them as my brewed coffee is made with keurig style refillable pods or an old school italian Moka pot). It works pretty well and I'm rewarded with wonderful coffee! May try my tea infuser "kettle" , but this works. Tomorrow I'm definitely tryng the martini shaker idea with almond milk, sans agave!


2 months ago Marky

I make cold brew all the time. After many times of straining the grounds out of the coffee I found a better way, for me anyway. I use NEW knee highs/panty hose. I wash them and put my grounds in and tie them up. You can get several out of one knee high. It's the same as nylon bag/filter. When coffee is done just remove bag and use it on plants discard. Nothing fancy at all but it works good.


2 months ago maria

When my favorite coffee pot finally expired yesterday, I looked for a 'back up pot' which I think I sold in my last move. (I knew better) But I remembered my old cold brew system which honestly always made the best coffee but I quit using it because it is so good I drink way to much and coffee prices are so high. Anyway I'm trying to remember the water to coffee ratios and the time to 'brew'. I'm starting with 1 1/4 cup ground to 2 cups water. But it seems like I remember a pound of ground coffee to make the entire carafe. Of course the best feature is the concentrate can be diluted as much as you like. Herein lies my issue as an old New Orleans girl I like it strong! I would like to get the most concentrate from the amount of grounds used. Any suggestions appreciated. To the design system and the cook, the Toddy System (which is what I think mine is a great way to handle the messiness and easy to clean rinsing and then into the dishwashet. I've never tried the French Press which is in the cabinet for that reason plus the cold brew keeps in frig so well. You only have to wait for the microwave


5 months ago dymnyno

I first tasted delicious cold brew coffee at my New Orleans friends and noticed that they used a vintage Toddy maker. I bought one of my own on Amazon...the design has never changed and it makes perfect cold brew coffee which I have every morning.


5 months ago jkraus10

I am an industrial design student doing research for a client that intends to manufacture a cold brew coffee system, not entirely unlike the Toddy Cold Brew System. I’ve noticed that there is a multitude of articles on how to make cold brew coffee with common household items, but there is not a great number of commercially available cold brew coffee makers.
Is there a sense of pride associated with making your own cold brew coffee with your own assembled equipment? Is this a trait of the cold brew culture? I am trying to identify the motivation for the home made systems and the possible preference over commercially manufactured ones.
If you could design a cold brewer, what features would you most like? Which features (or lack thereof) are frustrating?
Any replies are greatly appreciated. Thank you


5 months ago beejay45

For me, a cook who's infusing, then filtering, things all the time for one use or another, I just went to my fallback French press for cold brewing coffee. I am not a fan of single use appliances, but having said that, if your client were to make a cold brew coffee system that would streamline my infusing and filtering of various things, I'd definitely give it a go. My number one requirement is something that will give me a good infusion yet not leave me with a sludgy mess that needs to be filtered and refiltered and infinitum. The French press does this quite well, even for things like ground coffee. The lack of bitterness in cold brewed coffee is a factor of the low temp, so that wouldn't be an advantage in an "appliance." But something that allowed me to just pour off an almost clear (of particles, not color) liquid would be ideal.


5 months ago Iggy504

I've never tasted a commercial cold brew that is as strong as what I achieve at home. And I follow the proportion of water to coffee that the manufacturer intended.


7 months ago Ollie Bolivar

More gentle taste. Voila. As much better as sun tea is to tea that was scorched by the boil.


9 months ago bernard

I use my large pour over cone. put grinds and water in a plastic bag in the cone and freeze overnight. Remove from plastic bag in the morning and place back in cone with filter paper. Allow to thaw for several hours or more.


10 months ago Cold Brewed Co.

We love to see this growing thirst for cold brew coffee! So much so that we've put together this Cold Brew Coffee Manifesto:



10 months ago Jacque Deerwester Loveall

You can see the Filtron Cold Water Coffee Brewing System at their website at:


10 months ago Angie

I use a 1-to-1 ratio for everything the whole way through. Delicious.


10 months ago jimnjoy

Great to know for when the power is off. Thanks.


11 months ago obi7690

hi, i've just made 500 ml of cold brew yesterday. something that i improvised was using the hario v60 as the filter. Can anyone tell me what they think about my method?


10 months ago Cold Brewed Co.

Hi Obi - At Cold Brewed Co., we strongly believe that a little extra filtering goes a long way. As long as you've steeped your cold brew for long enough, putting it through a v60 is a great'll end up with an extremely smooth brew.

Learn more: http://ColdBrewed.Co


12 months ago sansan123

What is the toddy system? I'm loving summer with the french press method. However you make it, I agree with John about the bacteria. Keep it in the fridge whatever the method. I was explaining the cold brew concept to my mom over the phone who thought it sounded great. Since she was at a book store with a coffee bar she dutifully asked if the iced coffee was cold brewed. Uh well, she does live in Floriduh. She got a sweet tea


12 months ago john

This works for tea also. Approximately 1 tsp Ceylon tea (which give the best results I've had) per 6 oz in a pitcher in the fridge. You have to let it sit for longer--4 days--to get a full bodied iced tea. Strain before drinking. It's really crisp and clean. I also make sugar syrup to sweeten it--a cup or sugar and a cup of water in a Pyrex (microwave) or saucepan (stove) heated up slowly to dissolve the sugar. It's better than trying to dissolve granulated sugar in a glass full of iced tea. My only addendum to the brewing method at the top of this page is, I would not recommend leaving cold brew coffee, or cold brew anything on the countertop overnight. That welcomes bacteria.


12 months ago Steve

Just bought the Toddy system and love it. Some disagreement as to grind: is there a real downside to finer grind, which allows more flavor extraction?


12 months ago Breanna

I love the Toddy system! I sell it at my coffee shop and use it for making the cold brew that we sell as iced coffee. I also have one at home and gave one to my parents and my brother :) To answer your question: with the Toddy system, a finer grind can clog the specially-made filter and reduce the amount of coffee you're going to get out of your brew. The filter is good for up to 10 brews but you can damage it by using a finer grind. So if you use the coarse grind (as required by the Toddy instructions), you will get great brewed coffee and save yourself some money in the long run! :)


about 1 year ago Sarah J. Darlow-Parker

Made some cold brewed coffee yesterday for the first time - I love it!


about 1 year ago Jen Taillon

I've been using my french press all summer for cold brew, and my trick is adding some ground cinnamon to the coffee grounds before stirring and soaking. It adds a delicious and easy new flavor!


about 1 year ago sansan123

Great idea Jen. I've been adding mine after but your method sounds much better


about 1 year ago Sarah J. Darlow-Parker

I like this idea! I use a french press for hot coffee but never thought of it for cold brewed coffee. I'm trying that next time, thanks for sharing :)