Coffee

How to Make Cold Brew Coffee—No Equipment Needed!

And why it's different from iced coffee.

by:
April 19, 2022
Photo by James Ransom

Maybe you wait for the summer months to enjoy your coffee over ice. Or maybe you're someone who has iced coffee all year round. Either way, for coffee fans, there's no denying how refreshing an iced coffee can be when the weather warms up. But buying a cup of cold brew from the local coffee shop every day adds up, which is why we like to make cold brew coffee at home—and it couldn't be easier. There are so many different methods for making cold brew—you can purchase pre-portioned packets of cold brew coffee from brands like Grady’s, Chamberlain Coffee, or Stone Street Coffee, which are blindingly easy to use. Just place one steep packet in a large mason jar, fill it with water, and let it sit at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. While these are by far the most convenient method for making cold brew coffee at home, there are even more cost-efficient ways to do it.

For the least expensive way to enjoy cold brew, turn to other methods like making cold brew coffee concentrate in a French press, which requires nothing more than your favorite coffee grounds and cold water. There are a lot of pricy coffee makers that promise to make delicious cold brew coffee at home, but I promise that you don’t need them, coffee lover.

What Is Cold Brew Coffee?

But first, what's the difference between iced coffee and cold brew? Cold-brewed coffee (or just cold brew) 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 and how you make it. That is, cold brew is brewed cold and never heated, while iced coffee is normal coffee that's brewed with hot water and 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 coffee 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 mellower on the stomach. Similarly, rapidly cooling hot coffee yields a slightly bitter taste. Cold brew’s lower acidity means it naturally tastes sweeter, so you don’t need to add as much sugar or syrup if that’s your usual preference.
  • 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. Take your glass of cold brew coffee one step further with iced coffee cubes, so that as they melt, your coffee gets even coffee-ier.
  • 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 the intensity (and the subsequent jitters), if you like.

While iced coffee is expensive, cold brew coffee is even pricier, especially 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

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. If you rub the grinds between your fingers, there should be a coarse, slightly scratchy texture to them.

Soak and wait (and wait, and wait…)

Put the coffee grounds 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 you're 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 and good flavor.

Press

If you’re using a container such as a mason jar, take the cheesecloth from the top of the container and use it to line a fine mesh sieve. 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 the 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 such as vanilla or caramel syrup and enjoy.

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

Written by Amelia Vottero, Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm, and and Kelly Vaughan.

This post originally ran on July 8, 2015, but we've updated it with even more tips for making our summertime favorites because cold brew really is the easiest coffee method out there—as simple as one, two, steep.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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308 Comments

witloof April 20, 2022
I make it in the morning in my French press, using slightly more beans than I would for hot, then stick it in the refrigerator and plunge 24 hours later. My 32 ounce press makes enough for two days.
 
Maureen B. September 13, 2021
Living in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona once I started making my own cold brew, I never looked back. I use the Cold Brew Toddy maker which does with reusable filter and a bucket (to soak your beans of choice) that fits on ( to decant without mess) the included glass carafe, which I then store my concentrated cold brew for the week. LOVE IT!! ...especially when I use my locally roasted organic "Cowboy Beans"!
 
Jharl2 September 13, 2021
I drink coffee. I make coffee. I have my rights. Everyone here drinks way too much coffee and it's too strong I have my opinion.. I now have my exit. Don't forget most of all have a great day.
 
Ahmed K. January 30, 2021
very nice Coffee I already upload creamy coffee https://www.kitchencookingsecret.com/2021/01/creamy-coffee-at-home-nescafe-coffee.html
 
Bkhuna December 13, 2020
I purchased a cold brew pot from Hario. So easy. Add coffee grounds, pour in water, snap on lid and put into refrigerator. After about 8 hours or so, remove the filter basket and you have cold-brewed coffee. Very smooth and low in acidity.
 
kazithemediocre June 26, 2020
I made the account just to say what the hell is up with everyone using volume?! Not everyone is gonna grind the same! Some people are gonna have more coffee in their 3/4 cup than others!! Use grams or measure volume in whole beans!!
 
Seleena P. July 11, 2020
First, the article does say 1/4 cup of BEANS. Second, it also says adjust the ratio to your preference. You're wanting a precise measurement which just isn't necessary for this recipe. Third, calm the F down. This ain't a delicate recipe. It's freaking coffee. Some how over the years of human history, we've managed to make a million different coffee recipes without exact measurements. Maybe you need fewer cups before you post.
 
kazithemediocre July 11, 2020
Yeah you’re right idk what got into me
 
Carol N. November 24, 2019
So as not to dilute the coffee if you decide to have it iced, try making coffee ice cubes in a tray
 
tastysweet November 24, 2019
I have a silicone ice tray which I use to make coffee ice cubes. I can’t seem to clean the coffee smell it leaves, so I use that only for coffee ice cubes. And that’s even when put in the dishwasher.
Save unused brewed coffee for the ice cubes.
BTW: I used to brew my cold brew until I found through a friend’s suggestion, a product called Grady’s Cold Brew. It has chicory in it. So easy. Publix carries it.
The pods go into your pitcher, fill with cold water and after 12 hours, voilá.
 
Maureen B. July 5, 2019
I’ve been drinking cold brews coffee for about 2years now—rarely drink hot. I love and use the Cold Brew Toddy Maker (bought for around $35 on Amazon). Comes with reusable filter that fits in bottom of “bucket” that has a rubber stopper on the bottom, as well as a glass carafe with lid. I layer 3 cups water, 6 oz coarsely ground coffee beans, another 3 cups and another 6 oz beans, pouring water over coffee in a spiral to fully wet beans. Wait 4 minutes and add 4 cups of water, for a total of 10 cups water, 12 oz. coarse ground coffee. Cover with foil and let sit on counter for 24 hrs. Remove rubber stopper and place “bucket” (fits perfectly over included glass carafe) and gravity works its magic as the perfect cold brew flows into the carafe. Makes enough for a week. I dilute 1 part concentrate to 3 parts water for a perfect 16 oz beverage. Even mull in some fresh mint, 2% and a little Stevia for a real treat:-)
 
Linda V. June 11, 2019
I’ve been drinking cold brew for a couple of years. Have to drink decaf - it’s a heart thing - and discovered Barrie House decaf by accident. It’s the best decaf cold brew I’ve ever tried. Velvety chocolate notes that are sublime (especially from a decaf). Now I can really enjoy a cup of coffee again!
 
Mark P. May 27, 2019
We found Civilized Coffee Cold Brew African Blend on Amazon . It has a larger grind and produces amazing flavors ( and my wife loves their packaging)
 
Margaret N. September 8, 2018

When My Coffee Container is
Down to 1/4 full
Then I fill it with Water &
Steep 24 hours room temp.
24 Hours Steep Best.
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.
If it bothers you...
Filter twice & Finer filter,
ie paper after cloth.

Try coarser grind,
although I believe all grinds end up w fine dusting.

 
Harrison April 7, 2019
I discovered a one micron filter material that I filter my cold-brewed grounds from the water. The supplier is Duda Energy, LLC. It comes in a large sheet - which I then cut down to fit into an old Black & Decker Brew'nGo filter I kept around. I rinse the filtration material and let it drip-dry after each use; it is ready for easy re-use the next morning. To fully clean the filtration material, I've found that using the high-pressure water spray nozzle that comes out of the sink spray device does the trick perfectly.
Product Name: 1 Yard Sheet of Polyester Filter Media, 72" width, 36" Length, 1 Sheet per quantity, 1 Micron (+$1.50)
. Unit Price: $12.75
 
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?
 
Susan M. January 2, 2019
Look up County Line Kitchen, Mason jar brewery infuser - I got a large one that was maybe $30, seems sleek and simple, and it had a lot of good reviews :)
 
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.