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As the days get warmer and longer, you may find yourself wanting to swap out your hot coffee for iced coffee (or maybe you’re a year-round iced coffee drinker). If you’re looking to cut back on trips to the cafe, or you just want to make sure you have iced coffee ready to go, it’s surprisingly easy to make at home. That’s why we put together this detailed guide on how to make cold brew coffee.
When it comes to making iced coffee, there are a few things you don’t want to do. If you brew a hot cup of coffee and then immediately pour it over ice, you’ll end up with a watery cup. Or you can make it hot and then put it in the fridge, but the longer you wait after brewing, the less fresh it’ll be. That’s part of the reason cold brew has gone from what may have seemed like a fleeting fad to an enduring coffeehouse staple. Cold brew is the process of using cold or room temperature water, rather than hot water, to brew coffee for an extended period of time. This results in a cup that’s smooth, strong, slightly sweet and non-acidic. And unlike espresso, cold brew doesn’t require expensive equipment or skill to master. Making cold brew at home is actually remarkably easy. All you need is:
- A vessel with a way to filter
- Patience, a lot of patience
We’ve rounded up a few different ways to make cold brew. What they have in common is that they’re all very easy, and most of the equipment, if you don’t already have it, is inexpensive.
You can use pretty much whatever coffee you like for cold brew (though if you’re unsure where to start, we did a roundup of the best coffee beans here), but the important thing is the grind. Different brewing methods require coffee beans of varying coarseness, which is one of the reasons it’s a good idea to grind your own beans. Another reason is freshness. Coffee starts to lose its flavor as soon as its ground. So the less time between grinding and brewing, the better. For cold brew, it’s best to go for a grind that’s coarse, similar to what you’d use for French press.
Burr grinders are the best kind to use because they result in a more even grind. Blade grinders are a lot cheaper, and while you won’t get even results, you’ll at least have freshly ground coffee. These are a few grinders to get for the best results.
The Baratza Encore is arguably the most lauded coffee grinder in this price category. It’s expensive, yes, but if you’re looking for a consistent grind, this is the one to get.
As far as electric burr grinders go, the Cuisinart Supreme Grind Automatic Burr Grinder is about as affordable as they come. It’s not quite the Baratza, but it’s close enough for the price.
Not ready to sink 60+ dollars into a coffee grinder? We get it, and so does Bodum. This blade grinder won’t give you precise results, but it’ll do just fine.
Coffee is mostly water. So it’s best to use water that isn’t going to impart too much-unwanted flavor into the final product. Your standard filter will work. We highlighted this pitcher from Brita because it’s relatively small and relatively inexpensive.
A specialized cold brew coffee maker can be a worthwhile investment if you want a convenient solution, but you might already have a cold brew maker in your cupboard. If you have a mason jar, congrats, you have a cold brew coffee maker! If you want to make cold brew concentrate, you can do 1/3 cup of ground coffee to 1 1/2 cups water. This ratio is best diluted over ice or with cold water. If you want something that’s ready to drink, a ratio close to 1:12 will be better. Either way, you’ll want to use more coffee than you would for hot coffee. You can measure it on a kitchen scale if you have one. Call me a heathen, but I personally just eyeball it.
If you’re using a mason jar, simply put the coffee in the jar, add cold water, stir, close the lid and leave it on the counter overnight. I’ve found that 16 hours is sufficient. The great thing about cold brew is that, since the grounds are getting extracted more slowly, you’re less likely to overdo it, meaning you can add more time if you want. You’ll need to filter it after, and here you can get creative. You can use a cheesecloth and a mesh filter as a strainer. If you have a pour-over maker like a Chemex or Hario, you can simply add a filter, and then pour the mixture into your pour-over and into a vessel. You can then refrigerate it if you want to drink it straight or add ice if you prefer it slightly diluted.
Mason jars are handy to have for so many things, so this 12 pack from Ball is a good option to get regardless.
This clever mesh basket fits in a wide-mouth mason jar, eliminating the need for a separate filter. Simply add coffee into this basket, put it in the mason jar and seal it.
By far one of the easiest ways to make cold brew is with a French press. You would make it the same way you’d make regular French press coffee, but instead of using hot water, you use cold water. It’s important to stir the coffee and depress the plunger to be just below the top of the water level. This will ensure that the grounds are fully submerged and not just sitting on top of the water. Again, 16 hours on the counter should be fine. When it’s ready, depress the plunger all the way and pour it into a glass or into a container to store it. Brew it on the counter and store it in the fridge.
The Bodum Chambord French Press is inexpensive, and it’ll look stylish on any coffee table or kitchen counter.
Don’t ever overlook IKEA’s kitchen section. The UPPHETTA is a simple 34-ounce French press with a glass beaker, stainless steel plunger and a lightweight plastic handle, lid and base. It’s insanely affordable and high enough quality to warrant the price.
Cold Brew Carafes
If you want to make things even easier on yourself, a cold brew maker will streamline the process. They typically include their own instructions for the proper ratio. Takeya makes a great option, as does Hario. These options below are designed to be brewed and kept in the fridge.
This simple plastic pitcher is from Takeya, best known for its great insulated water bottles. This coffee maker calls for 14-16 ounces of coffee for the 32-ounce model. Takeya says eight hours is sufficient with this maker.
This stylish glass option is from Hario, a Japanese brand known for expertly crafted but reasonably priced coffee gear. This cold brew maker has a narrow mouth for convenient pouring.