Cold brew coffee has become all the rage recently, popping up on cafe menus across the country. But what exactly is cold brew, and how do you make it at home? This beginner’s guide will walk you through the complete process of brewing smooth, flavorful cold brew right in your own kitchen.
What is Cold Brew?
Unlike traditional hot coffee which is brewed by pouring hot water over coffee grounds, cold brew is made by steeping coffee grounds in room temperature or cold water for an extended period of time. This long, cold extraction results in a concentrate that is then diluted with water or milk.
The finished cold brew coffee is characterized by its smooth, mellow flavor. By avoiding high heat, the coffee doesn’t take on the acidic, bitter notes sometimes associated with hot coffee. The cold brewing process also leads to a higher concentration of caffeine compared to regular coffee.
Cold brew can be enjoyed straight over ice or blended into creamy, dreamy, iced coffee drinks. It’s a refreshing way to get your caffeine fix on hot summer days.
Cold Brew Coffee Ratio
One of the keys to great cold brew is using the right ratio of coffee grounds to water. This will vary depending on factors like grind size and brew time, but a good place to start is:
- 1 cup coarsely ground coffee
- 4 cups water
So for a 32 oz/1 quart batch, you would use:
- 1/2 cup coarse ground coffee
- 2 cups water
Types of Coffee to Use
Any type of coffee can be used to make cold brew. Try out different roast levels and origins to see what flavor profile you like best. Some recommendations:
- Medium roast – Provides balanced flavor, not too intense
- Dark roast – Imparts deeper, richer notes
- Single origin – Highlights unique coffee characteristics
- Blends – Allows you to customize flavor
Go with a coarser grind size than you would use for hot coffee. The coarse texture helps the water fully extract flavor from the coffee grounds over the long steep time. Using a fine grind can lead to over-extraction and bitterness.
Brewing Cold Brew Coffee
Now let’s get into the step-by-step method for brewing smooth, delicious cold brew concentrate at home.
- 1 cup coarse ground coffee
- 4 cups water
- Quart-sized non-reactive container
- Mesh strainer or filter
- Cheesecloth (optional)
- Measure out 1 cup of coarsely ground coffee and pour into your mason jar or brewing container.
- Slowly pour 4 cups of room temperature or cool water into the container.
- Stir briefly to integrate the coffee grounds and water.
- Seal the container and leave to steep at room temperature for 12-24 hours. Steeping time can be adjusted based on preferred flavor strength. ( I usually go with 16 hours)
- After brewing, assemble your mesh strainer over a pitcher or jar. Line with a cheesecloth filter if desired for clearer cold brew.
- Carefully pour the brewed coffee through the strainer to remove all grounds.
- Transfer the filtered cold brew concentrate to a clean airtight container and refrigerate up to 2 weeks.
- To serve: Fill a glass with ice, add cold brew concentrate and dilute to taste with water or milk. Enjoy!
Tips for Perfect Cold Brew
Follow these tips for making the best tasting cold brew every time:
- Use a consistent coffee to water ratio for optimal extraction.
- Grind coffee coarser than drip coffee grind size.
- Store coffee grounds in an airtight container to preserve freshness.
- Brew in a glass jar or non-reactive vessel. Avoid metal containers.
- Keep brewing container at room temperature, away from heat or light.
- Taste coffee periodically to monitor flavor; adjust steep time if needed.
- Don’t agitate or shake brewing coffee. Let it steep undisturbed.
- Filter slowly and thoroughly to remove all fine grounds.
- Dilute concentrate to taste with 1:1 ratio of water or milk.
Experiment with different coffee types, roast levels, steep times and dilutions to find your perfect cold brew balance. The simplicity of the process makes it endlessly customizable.
Once you get the basic technique down, there’s no limit to the delicious, chilled coffee drinks you can whip up all summer long. From vanilla sweet cream cold brews to caramel macchiato-inspired recipes, cold brew opens up a world of icy coffee beverages to enjoy from the comfort of home.