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Making cold brew at home is a lot simpler than you think it is. All you need are your favorite coffee beans, cold water, and 24 hours for cold coffee that is smooth, ever so slightly sweet, and still bursting with bold coffee flavor.
It’s no secret I love coffee. It’s right up there with my husband and children on the list of things I love the most in this world.
Among some of my coffee-inspired recipes over the years are a mocha cake, coffee brownies, a vanilla coffee creamer, a pumpkin spice coffee creamer, a peppermint mocha coffee creamer, coffee rolls, coffee Jello parfaits, mocha chocolate chunk muffins, and an out-of-this-world cappuccino cookie… To name a few.
I typically love my coffee bold and piping hot, often taking it from the French press and putting it right into the microwave. Even in the summer, it has to be hot hot hot.
I don’t love iced coffee. It’s just… Weird to me. The idea always sounds good, and maybe like a refreshing beverage to have in the afternoon.
But whenever I drink it, I’m reminded that it really just tastes like watered down coffee (umm, the absolute worst– no thank you, light roast). Which, essentially it is…
There’s a big science lesson brewing (<–HA, didn’t even try that!) here, can you tell? I’m about to dive into exactly what happens when we brew coffee, so if you don’t care to read about that, scroll down to the recipe and have at it.
*adjusts lab coat*
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE BREW COFFEE?
Coffee. It’s a solution, made up of coffee solubles + water. Coffee grounds contain many things: oils, acids, aromatic molecules… All of which are referred to as “coffee solubles.”
Brewing is simply the process of removing these solubles from the grounds with water.
Well, this is where it gets complicated.
Coffee solubles dissolve best at hot temperatures, producing the most full-bodied and flavorful cup of coffee. With this, the aromatics of a hot brewed cup of coffee are able to travel through the vapors and bring our noses that scent we love so much.
Along with these scents and flavors that we love so much come ones that we don’t love so much (well, some of you). Stronger cups of coffee can be described by those with a sensitive palate as “bitter,” thanks to a process called oxidation.
This is why we add cream (a fat) to our coffee– to cut the bitterness and smooth out the flavors.
HOW IS COLD BREW DIFFERENT FROM HOT BREWED OR ICED COFFEE?
This is a really great question, and really does deserve some clarification.
Though there are many ways to make hot coffee (drip, pour over, French press <– our fav!), for simple purposes here, let’s just lump all of those into “hot brewed,” which is what I explained above.
Iced coffee essentially just hot coffee that is poured over ice immediately, or allowed to cool and then mixed with ice.
Since it comes from hot coffee, it still has the same bitter and acidic properties that hot coffee does, but it’s just as affordable as hot coffee, which is typically pretty cheap if you’re buying it out and not making it at home.
Iced coffee’s flavor is balanced and aromatic, again, just like hot brewed. It does, however, welcome a fat just like hot coffee to cut some of the acidity.
When coffee is cold brewed, a lot of the same things happen, but they happen in a different way, producing a completely different tasting cup of coffee.
First of all, the time is takes to cold brew coffee is much longer than that of hot brew. We’re talking at least 12 hours but ideally 24 hours here.
Even after those 24 hours, not all of the solubles will be extracted from the coffee, so the ratio of coffee grounds to water while steeping is much higher than that of hot brewing to encourage more solubles to actually make it through to the solution.
You also don’t get as much of an aromatic experience from the whole process because there is no vapor involved.
The resulting cup of coffee, however, is not the slightest bit disappointing.
What you’ll find in a cup of cold brew coffee is all the wonderful tastes of a hot cup of coffee without the bitterness. It’s much smoother, has very low acidity and bitterness, but it still has quite a bold taste. It’s also just a tiny bit naturally sweetened, so it’s much easier to drink black than iced coffee.
HOW TO MAKE COLD BREW COFFEE
So let’s talk about just how to cold brew. It’s quite simple.
First, start with whole coffee beans. You’ll want to grind them right before you use them to preserve the freshness of the coffee.
If you don’t have a coffee grinder (this coffee grinder is our favorite!), you can use a very strong blender/bullet type of deal, or just grind the beans wherever you buy them and try to use them as soon as possible.
TO DETERMINE HOW MUCH COFFEE TO GRIND, LET’S WORK BACKWARDS
The liquid you’ll be brewing is actually cold brew coffee concentrate, which you will dilute with filtered water. We prefer our cold brew at a 2:1 ratio, but also enjoy it at 1:1.
You’re going to use 1 cup of coffee grounds per 4 cups of filtered water for brewing. You’ll wind up with about 3 and ½ cups of coffee concentrate when the brewing is all done, so you’ll have a batch of about 7 cups of cold brew coffee after diluting.
If you drink a cup a day, that’s enough for a week! Ta-da! Adjust this math accordingly if you want more or less coffee.
Grind your beans in your coffee grinder or blender to a coarse grind.
Next, add your grounds to a large container with a spout, preferably glass or ceramic (just not metal), and add filtered water.
Stir with a wooden spoon or plastic spatula (again, no metal), cover tightly with plastic wrap or a lid, and store in the refrigerator for ideally 24 hours.
Once your 24 hours is up, fit a fine mesh strainer with some cheesecloth or a paper coffee filter and place it over a measuring cup.
Pour your soaked grounds into the strainer. Measure the amount of coffee concentrate you have, and dilute as necessary into a vessel large enough for the amount of cold brew coffee you will wind up with.
Don’t forget to put this in some sort of bottle or carafe for easy pouring! Store in the refrigerator and use as needed.
COLD BREW COFFEE BENEFITS
Aside from being easier on the belly (less acidic, a smoother taste), cold brew coffee has other added benefits.
The other cool thing you can do with your cold brew coffee concentrate is make a large batch of hot coffee to serve a crowd. Simply dilute your concentrate with hot or boiling water and keep in a thermal carafe.
It sure beats brewing several pots of coffee or having guests wait for a coffee pot or French press every time they want another cup of coffee.
Add cream, milk, sugar, flavoring… Whatever you prefer. Just give cold brew a shot.
I think you’ll find the taste is worth the time it takes to put together– which isn’t really all that much time at all. A lot of it is idle!
Smooth and ever so slightly sweet yet still bursting with bold coffee flavor. Sounds like a perfect addition to your coffee repertoire.
How To Cold Brew Coffee
- 1 cup (112g) coarsely ground coffee1
- 4 cups (960mL) filtered water2
- If your coffee isn't already ground, grind to coarse grinds with a coffee grinder.
- Place coarsely ground coffee into a large container with a spout, preferably glass or ceramic (just not metal) and add the filtered water. Stir with a wooden spoon or plastic spatula (again, no metal), cover tightly with plastic wrap or a lid, and store in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours3 but ideally 24 hours.
- After your ground have been steeped for as long as you'd prefer, fit a fine mesh strainer with some cheesecloth or a paper coffee filter and place it over a measuring cup, then pour the soaked grounds into the strainer.
- Measure the amount of coffee concentrate you have, and dilute as desired4 into a vessel large enough for the amount of cold brew coffee you will wind up with. Discard grounds. Store in the refrigerator and use as needed. You may also leave the concentrate as is and dilute per cup.
- To serve hot: simply dilute coffee concentrate with hot or boiling water and keep in a thermal carafe. Again, you may leave concentrate as is and dilute per cup.
- Add cream/milk/sugar5 to your liking and enjoy.
- Coarsely ground coffee: you can use fresh grounds, but I always prefer to grind my whole beans right before brewing for best taste. This is our favorite coffee grinder.
- Filtered water: since you aren’t heating this coffee, it’s best to use filtered or bottled water for purity and best taste.
- Steeping time: the longer your grounds steep, the deeper and bolder the coffee flavor. It is best to go the full 24 hours, but 12 hours works in a pinch.
- Dilute the cold brew concentrate: I suggest a coffee:water dilution of 2:1 if you like to add cream, and 1:1 if you like to drink it black.
- Adding sugar to cold coffee: since granulated sugar does not dissolve well in cold liquid, I suggest keeping a simple syrup on hand. To make simple syrup: heat a 1:1 ratio of water:sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat (I typically do 1 cup:1 cup) until sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool and store in the refrigerator.