In this article, we will look closely at one phenomenon of the last few years, Cold Brew Coffee — coffee made with cold water, using coarsely ground beans, and how to make Cold Brew Coffee thanks to mastering a different brewing method. The slow, almost elegant extraction draws out the best flavor of the bean. As they say, some things are worth waiting for.
You can drink Cold Brew Coffee in a coffee shop, or even make your own at home. However, it is good to know the basics, before you order one, or try to make one, especially if you are a fellow coffee geek. So, without further ado:
What is Cold Brew Coffee?
In Europe or the United States, cold-brewed coffee became popular only in the last few years. You can see it on the shelves of convenience stores, gas stations, or coffee chains, such as Starbucks. There is even a Jägermeister Cold Brew Coffee!
Rumor has it that Cold Brew originates in Kyoto, Japan. History confirms it. A Cold Brew was called Dutch Coffee during East Indies times and involved ice-cold water. During my visit, I could see with my own eyes and confirm with my own taste buds, that they have nailed it, and it is perfect to the last drop.
The Japanese even make their own version of Cold brew, which takes only 8 hours to drip. This “Japanese Kyoto-style drip” is a very delicate, slow process (about 1 - 1,5 drip per second).
However, back to the “global” Cold brew coffee — as it can be stored in the fridge and turned into a drink of our choosing, fast and conveniently, it has become our friend on busy mornings.
Yes, you do not need an expensive Kyoto-style tower with a nozzle to enjoy a cup of coffee. Nothing better than a quicker and easier solution to your caffeine crave thanks to this coffee concentrate waiting for you in your fridge.
So, how is it special? Cold-brewed coffee doesn’t use hot water! If you love coffee, you know that hot coffee and hot brewing takes minutes for extraction to take place. However, cold brewing takes patience — filtering Cold Brew takes 12+ hours. I hope this article will show why it is worth the wait.
And how to brew the concentrate and make the coffee with it?
How to make Cold Brew Coffee
There are two ways to make it: “Immerse and filter it” vs “Slow drip method”.
The slow drip method is more difficult to pull off, hence, I rather enjoy it outside, in a café. It is a beautiful and calming process to watch as the cold brew goodness leisurely drips through the filter one drop at a time- a glass slow cold drip or a “glass tower” almost reminds me of chemical experiments at school.
The visual appeal is what makes it attractive, although devices can be pricey and easy to break, and slow drip takes most of the day (from 6 to 12 hours) which “slows down” the traffic of the cafe.
Therefore, it takes planning and scheduling. Glass towers even require your attention every two hours - the drip rate has to be adjusted throughout the process. That is why in some cafes, you will see glass towers with stickers or marks showing how long since the process started, or what time they aim for.
Does making Cold Brew Coffee sound scary? Complicated? Worry not, the immersion method can be learned and pulled off at home, too. The one thing they have in common is patience. The immersion method means putting ground coffee in cold water and letting them steep for some time.
The ideal is between 12 hours and 24 hours. There are many recipes out there that are easy to follow and later in the article, I will write more about making Cold Brew Coffee and storing cold brew concentrate at home.
So, what is usually done with the Cold Brew? It can be drunk as it is. Cut with cold water. Cut with cold water and ice. Cut with hot water. Cut with soda and syrup… You can even make it into a Cold Brew coffee cocktail or a mocktail!
Many opportunities out there. You can find my top 3 Cold Brew coffee drinks at the end of the article.
Is Cold brew coffee stronger than a regular coffee?
Cold brewing produces up to 67% less acidity and bitterness (according to the Toddy Cold Brew System), so it does not have that much tang and kick in my opinion. Less acidity makes it also a good choice for people with sensitive stomachs or suffering heartburn.
Many people like the mellow taste and kind of muddy look of Cold Brew. But you might ask: "Does 1 cup of Cold Brew Coffee have more caffeine than a regular coffee?" Hot or cold water, it does not affect the caffeine content.
Some people believe that the slow process of making it extracts more caffeine from coffee grounds, but I would disagree. If you use the same coffee beans, the same ratio of coffee grounds and cold water, you will get the same strength.
However, most Cold Brews are actually brewed stronger than hot coffees ON PURPOSE. Why? Because the result is only a concentrate! Then, it is up to you, and how you make it, plus what you cut it with - previously mentioned ice, water, or the milk of your choice.
Then, why do some people believe in it? If you feel caffeinated or shaky, you might be making or enjoying the Cold brew coffee wrong! Double-check your water/coffee grounds ratio, drink it slowly (no gulps), water it down, listen to your body. And if you buy bottled Cold brew, check the contents chart on the bottle to see if you might want to dilute it.
PS: If you are careful with your caffeine doses, remember this:
How do you make a Cold brew coffee the right way?
The best Cold brew is made when these 5 Rs are followed:
Right Coffee Grounds — Cold brew requires a special grind (coarse grind), that can “survive” the longer brewing process without getting bitter.
Right Coffee Grinder And French Press — Especially if preparing a bigger batch. The usual capacity of the coffee grinder is 12 cups and the usual capacity of the 12-cup french press is around 48 ounces of coffee.
Ratio to water — Cold brew usually requires a higher ratio of coffee vs water. If you are making a cold brew concentrate, the ratio is 1 part coffee/2-4 parts cold water. You can use tap water, but filtered water is the best since it is less acidic.
Relaxed straining — You can not be in a rush when making a cold brew concentrate. It is a longer process. The cold water drips over the coffee slowly and over several hours. Plus in the end, it needs to be strained slowly and gently. Ideally through more layers/more times. Then the best coffee comes to life — without grounds residue and particles you do not want to feel on your tongue. You can not be in a rush when making the concentrate itself, but later, when you dilute it to make a cold brew coffee drink, it saves you a lot of time.
Room in the fridge — Especially if you prepare a big batch, you will need some room to store your Cold brew. The undiluted cold brew can normally be stored for up to 2 weeks.
Can I make Cold brew coffee at home?
Yes! It is simple, as long as you follow the method of brewing, ratios, and measurements. You will also need these kitchen/coffee items to brew:
Coffee — The medium roast is the most popular. You can buy pre-ground coffee beans or grind them yourself. In the latter case, you will also need a:
Coffee grinder — Burr grinders are better than blade grinders because they create larger coffee grounds. Scroll through my article reviewing home grinders, espresso grinders, burr grinders, and more.
French press — It is way less expensive than devices needed for a slow drip coffee method, plus you can use it on other occasions! However, bear in mind the capacity of your french press if you would like to make a big batch.
A jar or a container with a lid (I prefer a glass one)
Strainer and a cheesecloth (Fine coffee particles can slip through both the french press and coffee paper filter, resulting in a grainy coffee. If you like your coffee pure, I recommend using both french press and one to two layers of cheesecloth, to be sure). If you do not have a cheesecloth, you can use a similar fine mesh cloth or metal coffee sieve.
Oh, and last but not least, you need free space in the fridge! 🙂
How to make Cold brew coffee at home?
Let me take you through an easy cold brew recipe (made using the immersion method and French press), step by step:
Grind the coffee beans into a coarse grind. If you prefer medium-coarse, that is ok, too. You can also buy pre-ground coffee, but I vouch for fresh coarsely ground coffee, especially if you do not know which one to buy.
Roasted coffee beans release carbon dioxide and absorb oxygen, which results in oxidation and the change in flavor — coffee can be stale, and more bitter. Why coarsely ground coffee? It will help water to drip easily as fine coffee grind would be too dense. If you grind your beans, try to rub it between your fingers — it should feel sand-like.
Combine the ground coffee and water in the french press. Pour slowly! The cold brew method typically calls for 1 ounce of coffee per 1 cup of water. Since you can store it for up to 2 weeks, you can make it in bulk — you will just need a bigger jar! Just like in the movie Jaws, listen to this advice 🙂
Gently and slowly stir the coffee until it all gets wet (no worries if some of the coffee will flow on the surface).
Do not push down the plunger, just let the coffee concentrate rest (or concentrate, pun intended) in a cool place or ideally, the fridge for 12 - 24 hours.
After this period, slowly plunge the french press filter down.
Strain it by slowly pouring it into a strainer with a fine-mesh cheesecloth — this step is optional, however, in the opinion of many coffee lovers, it can remove every last remaining grain and prolong the fridge-life of the coffee concentrate.
Make yourself a drink and transfer the rest of the concentrate into an air-tight jar of your choosing (such as mason jar) for long-term storage in the fridge.
Enjoy for up to 2 weeks! It is a cold brew coffee concentrate, therefore it is up to you, if you mix it with one or two cups of water or milk, to dilute it. That brings me to another big question since some like it hot:
Can I make Cold brew hot?
As conflicting as that may sound, the answer is Yes. It’s made in the form of a concentrate, so it is really up to your time and taste when it comes to making it. You can make it cold, and hot, too.
How to make Cold brew coffee... hot? Simply mix a couple of ounces of concentrate with boiling hot water. Depends on how strong you want it to be: the usual ratio for hot coffee is 2-4 parts cold brew to 1 part hot water.
My tip would be to brew a stronger concentrate — that way you can add as much water, or milk, as you want. However, always think about how many cups/ounces of cold brew coffee concentrate and how many parts or ounces of hot water you are using — it determines how strong, but also how hot your drink will be.
Moderately strong coffee consists of 1 cup cold brew to 1/4 cup hot water.
How long to brew Cold Brew?
The magic brewing, in this case, happens thanks to a process called steeping. First, gently and slowly stir the coffee, a long-handled spoon is the best (step 3 in the part “How to make…” in this article)
Let the soaked coffee concentrate (steep) in a cool place or the fridge for 12 - 24 hours. The longer, the better, but do not exceed 24 hours. Then you can strain it.
How long does Cold brew last?
As mentioned before, an undiluted Cold brew concentrate can last up for 2 weeks. However, in my opinion, the flavor quality will go down after the first week — especially if you did not use freshly-ground coffee beans (once coffee beans touch air, the oxidation process begins, and it continues when you open that packet of pre-ground coffee beans you bought)
Once diluted, Cold brew coffee will last 2 to 3 days in the fridge.
PS: I think that the cold brew concentrate is great to prepare beforehand for a camping trip or travel journey - easy to pack, easy to prepare coffee. You do not even have to pack a cooker or milk. Just dilute it with cold water.
Why Cold brew coffee?
Cold-brew lasts longer than hot coffee — up to 2 weeks.
It is a concentrate — up to you what you will make with it. Options range from hot coffee, Iced coffee, to even Cold brew coffee cocktails, and mocktails.
If you do not add anything too fat or sweet, this coffee is also a diet drink! It is also suitable for people who like to work-out.
Due to the absence of hot water, fruity, sweet, vanilla, and nutty chocolate notes pop-out — most of the people do not even crave any additives in their cup.
Some people even go creative with their cold brew leftovers — they add it to oatmeal, use it in a marinade, or cakes, such as Tiramisu!
The cold, filtered water is used — no more freaking out over what the water temperature should be. Normally, you have to boil water, then let it sit for a little bit before pouring it. For making Cold brew coffee, water should be cold.
You also do not have to worry about grinding that much. To make Cold brew coffee, you do not need fine, but coarse grind. It is harder to achieve finely-ground coffee beans without overdoing it, than coarse.
It saves time — yes, the process of making it (filter or slow drip) takes a few hours, but then you can store it in the fridge and make coffee quickly on those busy Monday mornings!
Making Cold Brew and selling it is getting more and more popular, and you can find it anywhere, from creme de la creme coffee shops to coffee chains.
Plus, once you learn your ratios and kitchen routine, it is fairly simple to make Cold brew coffee at home! Why not give cold brew coffee a try?
My personal top 3 Cold brew drinks
Iced Cold Brew Coffee Recipe
I like to keep it easy, and I also live in a fairly-humid country. I brew it slightly stronger, without any added heat or hot water, just cut with cold water and ice. It saves time, plus you get to enjoy the signature not acidic, sweeter taste. I use:
For Cold brew concentrate: 1 cup of coffee beans + 4 cups of water and steep it for 14 hours.
For Iced Cold brew coffee, I fill a glass with ice and fill it halfway with cold water. Then fill the rest of the glass with my concentrate, and stir. In case I am in a mood for something sweet, I add milk.
PS: If you want to step up your iced coffee game, you can also prepare coffee ice cubes!
Cold Brew Soda Recipe
In the mood for some bubbles? Make Cold Brew Soda! Get your hands on sparkling/soda water and some syrup. Top it with some ice to make it cold.
I usually go for:
Cold Brew Whisky Cocktail Recipe
I have tried this one just recently and quite enjoyed it. It is best to shake it in a shaker with some ice.
You can not go wrong with Cold brew on hotter days, if you have a more sensitive stomach, or prefer smooth, or sweet-tasting flavors.
I am going to be reviewing Cold brew-related products and writing more about Cold brew coffee. I am passionate about it, and even if the taste’s not for everyone, give it a try.
There are two main techniques on how to make Cold brew concentrate and several recipes on how to turn it into a drink of your choosing. Experiment away!
Are you “hot” for Cold brew coffee? Did you try to prepare it at home?
Looking forward to reading about your coffee experiences in the comments!