Cold brew fanatics everywhere: want to save a chunk of change and still get your daily fix? This is the recipe for you! Not only is it ridiculously easy and economical to make your own cold brew at home, but it also allows you to customize your perfect cup by using your favorite coffee beans and varying the brew time. This recipe yields a batch of cold brew concentrate that you can mix with water or your favorite milk or creamer to your desired strength.
Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee – What’s the Difference?
If you’re not a coffee connoisseur, you may be wondering exactly how cold brew differs from your regular, run-of-the-mill iced coffee. Is it worth the extra time it takes to brew? In my humble opinion, yes! Homemade cold brew is:
- Smoother and more full-bodied than regular drip coffee. The oils and sugars are extracted, while bitter or sour notes are left behind.
- Less acidic. It’s up to 60% less acidic than drip, making it gentler on your stomach.
- Strong: Cold brew is concentrated. You can dilute it with as much water or milk as you’d like.
- Easy to make: Combine coffee grounds and water, brew overnight, and strain. That’s all!
Tips for the Best Cold Brew at Home
Use Coarse-Ground Coffee
A coarse grind size is ideal for cold brew — similar what you’d use for a French press. The coarseness will allow water to evenly saturate the grounds for a nice even extraction.
If the grounds are too fine, they tend to float together in a dense mass and won’t be evenly saturated with water. They may also yield a brew that’s over-extracted and bitter.
Depending on the grinding method you use, too fine of a grind on your beans may also heat them up excessively and draw out some burnt/bitter notes.
Medium to Dark Roast Coffee are Ideal for Cold Brew
I generally recommend darker roasts for cold brew. These most commonly carry strong, rich tasting notes: think chocolate, vanilla, nuts, and earthy flavors.
Cold brewing tends to mute the more delicate floral notes and the acidity that lighter roasts can boast. If you love light roast coffee, you can of course feel free to try it out! If you do, I’d recommend brewing for longer than the 12-hour minimum to extract the most flavor.
Use Good Quality Water
A simple rule of thumb is to make cold brew with water that you would drink on its own. The flavor and mineral content of the water will impact the extraction process. I typically use filtered water, but if your tap water tastes good to you, feel free to use that.
It’s generally not recommended to use distilled or demineralized water. There is actually some evidence that harder water yields a better extraction, although I can’t say I’m enough of a coffee connoisseur to tell the difference.
What You’ll Need to Make Cold Brew Coffee at Home
Since the popularity of cold brew has grown in past years, there now exist quite a few different gadgets to help you make it. Luckily, it’s entirely possible to make it using tools you probably already have in your home. For this tutorial, you will simply need:
A large pitcher or jar. Really, almost any kind of container will work, as long as it holds at least 1.5 quarts. I have a 1/2 gallon mason jar that I use exclusively for my cold brew.
Small mesh sieve/strainer. This will provide one layer of filtration, but it’s not enough on its own.
Coffee filter or cloth. You’ll need an additional layer of filtration to line your strainer. Do not skip this, or your cold brew will turn out sludgy (especially as you near the bottom of the batch). You have a few options here:
- Basket-style paper coffee filter.
- Reusable cloth coffee filter. (This is what I use! I purchased mine on Etsy.)
- Nut milk bag.
- A few layers of cheesecloth. (This can be a little wasteful unless you find good-quality, reusable cheesecloth.)
- Clean handkerchief.
- Other lint-free kitchen towel.
Other Methods to Make Cold Brew Coffee at Home
If you find that cold brew coffee becomes a staple in your household, you can always explore a few of the specialized tools available to streamline the process. Many brands now make pitchers with removable mesh filters. You can simply remove the grounds after brewing and refrigerate the pitcher of concentrate, with no need to filter into a new container.
I use a stainless steel filter that’s compatible with a half-gallon mason jar. It’s easy to clean and the mesh is fine enough that it doesn’t allow any sediment through. I highly recommend this if you live in a household with many people who will be enjoying your cold brew, because you can make a large batch in one go!
How to Make Cold Brew Coffee
- 1 cup coarse-ground coffee
- 4 cups filtered water
- Large jar pitcher, or other container (at least 5 cup capacity)
- Fine mesh sieve
- A second layer of filtration such as: a basket-style paper coffee filter, reusable cloth coffee filter, clean handkerchief, nut milk bag, a few layers of cheesecloth, etc.
- Add coffee grounds and water to your pitcher, mason jar, or other container. Give it a stir to ensure that the grounds are evenly saturated with water.
- Cover the container, place in the fridge, and allow to cold brew for 18-24 hours.
- Place your mesh sieve over a bowl, pitcher or other vessel large enough to hold 4 cups of liquid. Line the sieve with your second layer of filtration.
- Pour cold brew through sieve to filter.
- You’ll be left with a cold brew concentrate that can be diluted to your preference with water, milk or creamer. I typically enjoy a 1:1 ratio of concentrate to water, but experiment to find your perfect cup.
- Transfer the cold brew concentrate to a pitcher, jar or jug that has a lid. It keeps well in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, but it will taste best if you drink it within the first week.