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Unlike most other coffee drinks, cold brew coffee can’t just be whipped up in a couple of minutes. That’s why coffee fanatics are willing to get to the cafe early enough to ensure it won’t run out of cold brew and why they’ll happily pay a premium for the good stuff. If you want to make it at home, it can be hard to remember to make it a full day in advance when you’ve probably got plenty of other things to think about. That’s why a cold brew concentrate is a great option for the busy and budget-conscious coffee lover.
Keep in mind that the best cold brew concentrate can also be used to create hot drinks, and there’s a lot of overlap between the best coffee concentrate, aka super coffee, and the cold brew concentrates.
Cold brew concentrate is simply cold brew that’s brewed at double or triple strength (or sometimes more). You’re then supposed to dilute it with water or mix it with your favorite creamers, such as almond milk, oat milk, or good old-fashioned dairy milk. Some java junkies will knock back the concentrate straight, too, though that’s likely too strong for the average coffee drinker.
How to Use Coffee Concentrate
First off: What is coffee concentrate? Essentially, it’s super strong coffee. This is why most cold brew concentrates will need to be diluted — if you don’t do this first, your coffee may end up tasting too bitter or over-caffeinated. Diluting more will result in a flavor similar to a freshly brewed pot of coffee, while diluting less will mimic the ratios and flavors of espresso. Ultimately, the ratio of water you’re adding will depend on the recipe.
A 3:1 or 4:1 ratio is standard for recipes like regular iced cold brew with milk or iced Americanos, while a 2:1 ratio is better for drinks where you’re looking to recreate an espresso-based drink. If you’re drinking it black, experiment with a 6:1 ratio.
Use filtered water when possible to enhance the taste of your coffee concentrate, and add milk or a plant-based alternative if you’re looking to reduce the bitter taste. For a coffee concentrate drink that’s bold yet smooth, fill a cup with ice and pour cold brew over without diluting with water.
A coarse grind on the beans is essential when making your own concentrated coffee versus pre-made. A fine grind will result in dry clumps and can also over-extract, causing a more bitter taste.
Popular Drinks to Make With Coffee Concentrate
Thanks to how versatile the best coffee concentrates are, you can experiment with making a range of boozy cold brew cocktails and regular coffee-based drinks at home. Here are the most popular ones.
- Espresso martinis: Make a decadent espresso martini with the help of some coffee concentrate.
- White Russian: With the help of some vodka, cream and Kahlua, this is a boozy cold brew suitable for any time of day.
- Iced Americanos: Add cold water and ice to your cold brew and finish with a splash of milk.
- Iced/Hot Lattes: By adding less water than an Americano, your cold brew acts more like espresso, allowing you to make a creamy latte, iced or hot.
- Iced/Hot Coffee: While many people buy cold brews for more convenient iced coffee, it can also make for a fast cup of hot coffee if you reheat it in a kettle or microwave for one minute.
- Affogato: Somewhere between a dessert and an espresso is an affogato. Add water to your cold brew, heat it and pour it over a scoop of ice cream.
The advantage of cold brew concentrate is that it won’t take up as much space in your fridge as a bottle of ready-to-drink cold brew. It’s also better for your wallet and the environment, as you’re paying for less water to be shipped to you — that translates to less packaging, less wasted energy in shipping and more coffee. You might get sticker shock looking at the cost of the average bottle of cold brew concentrate, but it’s important to remember that you’re getting at least twice what’s in the bottle.
There are many options, and these are some of our favorites – here are the best coffee concentrates of 2022.
1. Jot Ultra Coffee
If there’s one cold brew that should be your new obsession, it’s SPY-approved and tested cold brew concentrate Jot Coffee. While coffee concentrates typically come in a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio, Jot Coffee brews their coffee extra strong, so you just need, well, a jot of it. Specifically, they recommend just one tablespoon per 8 ounces. It’s not just for iced coffee, either. You can add hot water, too. Technically, Jot is less specifically cold brew concentrate and more of a general use coffee concentrate, but it’s a great place to start for making gourmet iced coffee, lattes and espresso cocktails at home.
2. Stumptown Coffee Concentrate Cold Brew
Portland-based Stumptown Coffee is one of the early leaders of the “third wave” coffee movement, which is coffee-nerd speak for the specialty cafes that followed major chains like Starbucks and Peet’s (now Stumptown is owned by Peet’s). Their cold brew concentrate is bold and strong, with a unique but not at all unpleasant aftertaste. This concentrate comes in a 25 oz bottle and is designed to be diluted 1:1 with water for easy mixing.
3. Chameleon Cold Brew Black Coffee
BEST ORGANIC PICK
Chameleon sells whole bean coffee, canned drinks like lattes, and other products. But they’re best known for their cold brew concentrate, for the simple reason that it’s just plain good. It’s also easy to get at a wide variety of stores, making it easy to stock up. Their cold brew is less concentrated than others — they recommend a two-to-one ratio of concentrate to water (that means two parts coffee, one part water). This cold brew concentrate is certified organic.
4. La Colombe Cold Brew Concentrate
MOST EXOTIC BEANS
La Colombe is the kind of little-big roaster that maintains a high quality of coffee but is also easy to get at major stores. This cold brew concentrate is made from single-origin Brazilian coffee beans, giving it a more distinct taste than you get with house blends. Each bottle is 32 oz., and it’s extra concentrated — they recommend a 3:1 ratio.
5. Javy Coffee Microdose 30X Liquid Coffee Concentrate
BEST EXTRA-CONCENTRATED PICK
Javy’s coffee is a whopping 30x concentrate, meaning a little goes a long way. They recommend one to two teaspoons for your coffee. Like Jot, Javy can be made for hot or cold coffee drinks, but it’s an excellent option for making as a cold brew.
6. Starbucks Madagascar Vanilla Cold Brew Concentrate
BEST FLAVORED PICK
Some flavored coffee concentrates have an unpleasant, artificial taste. But this Madagascar vanilla by Starbucks is a crowd-pleaser for anyone looking for a touch of flavor that won’t overwhelm the overall taste of the java. Just pour 4 ounces over ice and add 4 ounces of water. This bottle should make a total of eight glasses but can make more if you prefer a more diluted taste.
7. SToK Cold Brew Extra Bold Unsweetened Coffee Concentrate
Worried that you might water down your cold brew too much? Opt for StoK, which has an extra bold unsweetened coffee concentrate. Perfect for anyone who likes their coffee black, it mimics the taste of a dark roast and contains a higher caffeine level than SToK’s other cold brew varieties. It’s also one of the most affordable, making it a great trial option.
8. Cappio Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate
BEST LOW-ACIDITY PICK
There’s no denying that cold brew is delicious, but it can also give people with acid sensitivity a little heartburn. If that sounds like you, consider Cappio’s low acidity concentrate, which comes in a 16-ounce bottle. Made with triple filtered water and 100% Arabica coffee, Cappio’s unique blend is “rich and strong yet very smooth,” as one buyer described it. Thanks to its full flavor, you can dilute this coffee concentrate even more.
9. Starbucks Cold Brew Concentrate Black
BEST FOR STARBUCKS LOVERS
Starbucks isn’t for everyone, but there’s a reason it’s as popular as it is — it’s affordable, dependable, and all-in-all, pretty good. This cold brew concentrate comes in a 32-oz. bottle, and it’s designed to be mixed in a 1:1 ratio for a smooth taste.
Can You Make Your Own Coffee Concentrate at Home?
Sick of buying store-bought? Making your own cold brew is a breeze, and you don’t need to be a culinary expert. Pro tip: A dark roast will make for a stronger and more bitter finish, whereas a light roast will provide a more floral, fruitier flavor.
1. Grind coffee beans to coarse/medium-coarse texture
2. Steep your coffee in cold, filtered water in the fridge in a pitcher/ covered bowl.
3. Leave for 14-20 hours in the fridge (or 8 hours on the countertop)
4. Strain with cheesecloth, coffee filter or French press.
Use an airtight jar to store your DIY coffee concentrate in the fridge. This will slow oxidation and extend your concentrate’s quality and shelf life. It should last up to 10 days when stored properly.