Coffee

How to Make Cold-Brewed Coffee

by:
May 30, 2017

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

Today: We're re-running one of our summertime favorites because cold brew really is the easiest coffee method out there—as simple as one, two, steep.

Cold-brewed coffee is like iced coffee’s cooler sibling. They’re made of the same stuff, but one’s a little more “in”—and one’s well-known and loved, but a bit passé. Dare we say it: Cold brew is the summer beverage—caffeinated and cold, two adjectives you and your money can get behind.

The main difference between cold brew and iced coffee involves temperature. That is, cold brew is brewed cold and never heated, while iced coffee is normal coffee that’s then cooled down. For more detail on how this affects taste, concentration, and all that coffee jazz, see below.

Here are a few things that transformed cold-brew from alternative iced coffee to ubiquitous coffee shop darling (and why we’re all about it):

  • Lower acidity level: The grounds aren’t subjected to the intense heat of boiling water, making the chemical profile of the final brew different than that of conventionally brewed or drip coffee. Lower acidity creates a smoother cup that’s mellow on the stomach. Similarly, rapidly cooling hot coffee yields a slightly bitter taste. Cold brew’s lower acidity means it naturally tastes sweeter.
  • Watery problems, no more: Ever poured hot coffee over ice? Then you’re familiar with diluted coffee. And watery coffee is sad. Cold brew puts the dilution in your hands. Since it’s already cold or at room temperature, the addition of ice or added water is entirely optional.
  • A more caffeinated cup: While caffeine is more soluble and extracts more easily at higher temperatures, cold brew’s high bean-to-water ratio and longer brew time give it more buzz. Add milk or cream to temper intensity, if you like.

While iced coffee’s expensive, cold brew’s even pricier when you're buying it at coffee shops. It’s an issue, though, with an easy solution: Make cold brew at home—in 3 steps. It can be done in any sort of large container, French press, or even a Mason jar (there’s also specific cold-brewing contraptions, if this is going to be your new morning drink). Really, if it holds coffee and water, you can cold brew in it. We’re focusing on the container and French press methods because those are the contraptions we (and likely you) use most and will readily have around. Here’s why cold-brewing might just be the easiest coffee method out there:

Grind

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I have been brewing cold coffee for a long time. I preffer a coffe that is clear and free from clouds. I have found the for me perfect solution. Maybe it will become yours too. Find a large jar or a food thermos. I use the later, so easy to pur from when the brew is done. Buy a pair of knee-high nylon stockings. The best ones are those that are silky and run free. Place the grind in the stocking and tie. dunk the whole thing in your water and leave. when the brew is ready, just remove the stocking. The stocking can be used forever. just rinse it Note, do not use any detergent. just rinse and dry. After this I slowly decanter my brew into recycled bottles and place them in the fridge. No messing with filtering. Hurray. Greetings from the Swedish Coffee Bean”
— lenaeke
Comment

The ratio of coffee grounds to water is subjective and depends on personal taste. A good place to start is to grind 3/4 cup beans for 4 cups of cold water—the size of a 32-ounce French press. You can double—with 1.5 cups beans for 8 cups water—or even triple the quantities depending on the size of your container. Next, grind the beans very coarsely. We mean it. A smaller grind will result in cloudy coffee.

Soak and wait (and wait, and wait…)

Put the coffee in your container, which can be plastic, glass, or ceramic and doesn’t need to have a lid. The container should be deep enough to hold the coffee and water and light enough you can pick the whole thing up to strain. For a French press, pour the coffee into the bottom of the canister. For both a container or a French press, gradually add the water. Stir gently, making sure all the coffee grounds are moistened.

If using a large container, cover the top with cheesecloth. For a French press, place the top on (but don’t press down on the plunger). Let stand at room temperature for at least 12 hours. Don’t rush this. The long steep time is important for proper extraction.

Press

If you’re using a container, take the cheesecloth from the top of the container and use it to line a fine mesh sieve set over a large pitcher (or bowl or whatever else you’d like to store your cold brew in). Pour the coffee through the sieve, waiting a minute or two until the coffee’s filtered out, and discard solids and cheesecloth.

For the French press, simply press down on the plunger to move grounds to the bottom. Pour.

That’s it! You have cold brew. The concentrate will keep for up to 2 weeks covered and chilled in the fridge. Add ice, milk, or your other favorite coffee things and enjoy.

Have a method for making cold brew you'd like to share? Tell us in the comments below!

Written by Amelia Vottero and Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm. Photos by James Ransom. Video by Mark Weinberg.

This post originally ran on July 8, 2015.

291 Comments

Margaret N. September 8, 2018
<br />When My Coffee Container is<br />Down to 1/4 full <br /> Then I fill it with Water &<br />Steep 24 hours room temp.<br />24 Hours Steep Best.<br />IMO
 
jvallas December 7, 2018
So that’s basically a 1:3 ratio, just to point out the obvious for people who might find that too strong. I like the idea of just using your remaining grounds and container!
 
Jen September 1, 2018
I always have fine grounds at the bottom of my cup is this normal?
 
Margaret N. September 8, 2018
Yes, fine grind will find its way through.<br />If it bothers you...<br />Filter twice & Finer filter,<br /> ie paper after cloth.<br /><br />Try coarser grind, <br />although I believe all grinds end up w fine dusting.<br />✌<br />
 
Monica July 8, 2018
I make cold brew and I found these cylindrical metal mesh filters that fit into the mouth of a large mason jar. I use 1 - 1/4 c of coffee and about 7 c of water and let it sit overnight. Then you just remove the mesh cylinder and vwah-lah! Ya got yerself a mason jar of concentrated cold press, man!
 
Margaret N. September 8, 2018
Where to buy metal mesh?
 
LULULAND July 6, 2018
I use the magic coffee recipe here. Awesome. I make it in a glass container, 2/3 cup of coarsely ground beans, and 4 cups of water. I grind cinnamon sticks, 1teaspoon, and add 2 tablespoons brown sugar, or organic palm sugar. Let it sit overnight, strain. I add ice cubes in a tall glass, pour it 3/4 full and about 1-2 tablespoons organic half and half. Wow it is good! I have also used already store bought already ground coffee, it turns out fine. Little bits of coffee grounds in up in my glass, but I don't care. Great!
 
Monica July 8, 2018
I found these cylindrical metal mesh filters on Amazon that fit in a large mason jar, like a core. You just pull em out and rinse them (they're reusable) and you've got ground-free, mess-free coffee. No straining, just sweet, sweet caffeination. They're cheap too. I think I paid ten bucks for two.
 
Hansie March 28, 2018
1:5 Coffee:Water in a mason jar when I knock off. Use aeropresso when I get to work next morning.
 
Timothy M. March 28, 2018
Ok wait what? That’s brilliant. I’m going to try that tomorrow. Does it come out gritty???
 
Hansie March 28, 2018
Medium grind + paper filter doesn't come out gritty. I do prefer sweeter taste of coarse grind soaked for two days pressed through cheesecloth but Aeropress is way more convenient.
 
Timothy M. March 28, 2018
I’ve got some brewing now. I put my handheld burr grinder to where it literally cuts the beans into 2-3 pieces and put it in mason jars.
 
Manda R. October 29, 2017
Can you warm up cold brew coffee if you decided you wanted it warm but want to keep the acidity low?
 
Timothy M. October 30, 2017
Yep, just add hot water when you are diluting it instead of ice and cold water.
 
Kira J. October 15, 2017
Where are these amazing 2 liter plastic containers from?
 
mark May 8, 2018
If you haven't found any info on those containers, they look like a standard restaurant style food storage container, probably Cambro
 
Kira J. May 8, 2018
Thanks Mark!
 
Michelle M. October 3, 2017
it is basically your preference on strength. I use 2 1/2 cups course ground per gal water, put in muslin bag and drop into water, leave set on counter for a day the put in frig.
 
Alice P. October 2, 2017
The proportions I use are 1 cup of ground coffee to 4 1/2 cups of water. Cold brew is somewhat of a concentrate so it might be strong, but if you drink it iced there is no need to add any water to it when drinking. The ice will do that for you.
 
James October 2, 2017
I am new to this cold brew. I have a 12 oz bag of ground coffee so how many cups of water should I put in my gallon container to let it steep for 24 hours. I hate strong coffee and weak ones. Any help with this in the water?
 
James October 15, 2017
No comments to this post, nut I think I found the right amount os water and it was great. To the 11 Oz bag I put in 10 cups of cold water and let it set 19 hours. I strained the coffee and water twice and it made 2 quarts and 1/4 cup of concentrate and placed it in the fridge until the next day. Really good and smooth after putting in half and half 4 Oz's alone with coffee ice cubes and chocolate syrup.
 
Barbara R. September 4, 2017
Oh, my! Great entry! I hadn't realized how simple cold brew coffee can be! But I did manage to overlook that it brews up a concentrate! I have been brewing an 8:1 ratio, so basically a slight dilute, and I drink it black. Very smooth. And finding out I could just concoct it in my $10 IKEA French press, with cold filtered water from the fridge - win/win! Now the only problem is remembering to put it together the night before! Thank you for posting this!
 
Benandbrad W. September 4, 2017
made 4 quarts this morning. hope it comes out good.
 
DD August 29, 2017
Incredible recipe! I used a ratio of 4:1 (water to coffee) using the beans I purchased from Ikea! (yeah, that Ikea) It was simple to prepare, exciting to wait for and delicious with semi-skimmed milk from La Fresca (a local brand here). The aroma is rich and it is very smooth to drink (because of low acidity maybe?). Thanks a bunch.
 
ollie August 28, 2017
This recipe is using a ratio that's close to 5:1 (water to coffee grounds), which means it's a cold brew concentrate. The Toddy concentrate is about 4:1. Either way, you'll want to dilute this about 1:1.<br /><br />Most cold brew ratios are around 10:1 to 14:1 once they're diluted. Traditional hot coffee is about 16:1, just for reference.<br /><br />Another option that I found is to buy cold brew bags. That way you don't have to deal with grinding, straining, or messing with ratios. The ratio they use is 10:1 so it's ready to drink, but you can also dilute it if you want. I found some I like from Cold Coffee Co. (www.coldcoffees.co). Worth checking out if you struggle with cold brew like me.
 
Chris V. March 2, 2018
Are you sure traditional coffee is 16:1?<br />I'm running through some calculations, and I think the 5:1 for cold brew here is regarding volume, but it seems the 16:1 you mentioned for traditional coffee may be regarding mass...<br />Here is my main reference for data, a nice chart with volumes and masses of coffee and water: https://blackbearcoffee.com/resources/83
 
Chris V. March 2, 2018
And according to this website, if I'm correct we're dealing with volumes here as the cold brew is 5:1, then the standard brewing ratio is 6:1 (volume)... or ~16:1 (mass)
 
gaysunboy August 21, 2017
I'm not seeing the suggestion on diluting the concentrate for drinkable coffee. I know I can read, so did I miss something?<br />
 
suzygregory August 21, 2017
No, I don't think it is super clear in the directions. I am doing 1/2 concentrate, 1/2 hot (or cold) water. Plenty strong, but you will find your own favorite ratio. Cheers!
 
gaysunboy August 21, 2017
Thank you ma'am. Seems a blog post on an item should be clear from beginning to end.<br />
 
Margaret N. September 8, 2018
Apparently you missed <br />· 2nd Bold Print Bullet!<br />"· Watery problems, no more<br />Cold brew puts the dilution in your hands."
 
Margaret N. September 8, 2018
It is quite clear.<br />Watery problems, no more<br /><br />Dilution in your hands.
 
Justin August 5, 2017
I've been brewing mine in the fridge for 24 hours. I'll try at room temperature.<br /><br />Wouldn't the cloudy coffee from finely ground beans be more of the goodness of the coffee compounds?
 
Chuck August 29, 2017
This is what I was thinking. You own a french press but don't like cloudy coffee? That doesn't make any sense at all.
 
Sharon V. July 22, 2017
I've been trying to drink coffee for years because everyone else does. Finally, I discovered cold brew. Smooth. Never bitter. The easiest is a tall stainless steel strainer (like the smaller "permanent" filers for coffee makers) for the coffee. It sits in a large mason jar, pitcher, or a Chemex. I'm glad to hear how long it lasts. Now I can have coffee ready for guests.
 
suzygregory July 13, 2017
Can the writer clarify if this "concentrate" should be diluted for those of us that enjoy black coffee? Thanks!
 
Timothy M. July 13, 2017
Yes. Dilute it by about 50% - 75% depending on how strong you like your coffee. If you want to drink it hot then just use hot water to dilute it.
 
suzygregory July 13, 2017
Thanks! ;)
 
chefrockyrd July 13, 2017
Does anyone know what the slice of cake is in the first shot? It looks great.
 
Judy S. July 13, 2017
I've had a cold brew toddy maker for over 30 years... before it was cool! You can also add hot water to the brew for an incredibly smooth cup of hot coffee! Enjoy!
 
Paul F. June 16, 2018
I bought one of these at a yard sale about 12 years ago - right before Cold Brew really started taking off. Everyone thought the caraffe of concentrate I kept in my work fridge was bizarre.