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Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Design: The Kitchn

We Tried 5 Wildly Popular Cold Brew Coffee Makers — And We Have Some Thoughts

updated Jun 23, 2021
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I don’t particularly love cold coffee, but I sure do love iced coffee. While the former is the tepid punishment for not drinking my mug of hot java fast enough, the latter is a summer afternoon delight: rich, deep coffee flavor chilled into a bracingly cold refresher that jump-starts a second wind when the heat zaps my energy.

But good iced coffee isn’t made by brewing it hot and loading it up with ice. It must be brewed long and slow with cold water, which extracts all the rich, smooth, full coffee flavor without any of the bitterness and acidity you can get with hot water methods. This cold-water method I’m describing is known as cold brew coffee, and it’s basically foolproof.

Making cold brew concentrate can be as low-fi as combining water and ground coffee in your French press and letting it sit on the counter overnight before plunging. But because the yield is low and cleanup is a hassle, big-time iced coffee drinkers might want to upgrade to a specialized cold brew coffee maker. These gadgets offer things like really fine filters, smart designs, and greater capacity. The only problem? There are a lot of cold brew coffee makers out there.

Which ones are worth getting out of bed for? I put five wildly popular cold brew makers to the test to see which ones made the best cold brew and made the process a pleasure. Here’s how it went.

Related: The Best Cold Brew Coffee Makers, According to the Best Experts

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Design: The Kitchn

How I Tested the Cold Brew Coffee Makers

I used the same dark roast coffee beans (brand, varietal, and batch date) for each of the makers. All beans were ground medium-coarse with a burr grinder using the French press setting, which was what each of the devices recommended. I didn’t use filtered water, because my city is known for its great-tasting water, although filtered water was generally recommended by the manufacturers. I used each maker’s recommended measurements of coffee and water, and let them all brew for 18 hours at room temperature, which was right between the 12- to 24-hour recommendation. Some makers said the coffee could be brewed in the refrigerator, but according to my research this can slow the process down and I wanted to keep all the playing fields even.

When testing I took notes on “pain points” in the process: Was the method finicky? Did it require lots of steps? Was the device easy to use or non-intuitive? Was it bulky or streamlined? After brewing, was cleanup easy or annoying?

To determine the quality of the brewed coffee, I sampled all of them straight out of the brewer and with ice, and diluted with the recommended amount of water — both hot and iced, as they can be enjoyed either way. I tried all the coffees black, and then with a splash of half-and-half, which is how I usually drink coffee. I was evaluating each for depth of flavor, complexity, smoothness, and a lack of grit.

Note: All five of these makers say they make cold brew concentrate, however, in some cases the coffee-to-water ratio is so low that you’d be better off drinking the stuff straight, rather than diluting it. I’ve noted those instances below.

The ratings: Each brewer received a rating on a scale of one to five, with five being the absolute best. Like the rest of our showdowns, this one considers results (how was the resulting coffee?) and ease (was it annoying to set up? Was it messy to clean?). Keep reading — along with the rating you’ll find more detailed notes.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani

Method: OXO Good Grips Cold Brew Coffee Maker

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani

What I liked: You have the choice to double-filter this cold brew by using one of the enclosed paper filters along with the built-in filter. It’s kind of fun to click the lever and watch all the coffee pour into the carafe below. The glass carafe is attractive in that science-class beaker kind of way. All the parts nestle for storage.

What I didn’t like: The plastic stand that holds the brewer is kind of gimmicky and takes up a bunch of vertical space. Also gimmicky is the “rain maker” lid: The idea is you pour water over the perforated lid and it automatically wets the grounds evenly. However, this also leaves the coffee completely open to the air while it’s brewing. This definitely affected the taste. Cleaning up is on par with cleaning out a French press — get ready to get your hands dirty scooping out the grounds because there’s no separate filter insert.

Taste: This coffee tasted obviously oxidized. It had a flat, wet-paper taste that I usually associate with the kind of coffee I might get at a diner. However, it was just hints of that and was actually quite smooth and not acidic. It wasn’t bad — I just wish it didn’t have those stale notes.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani

Method: Takeya Deluxe Cold Brew Coffee Maker

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani

What I liked: The filter screws securely into the lid, and the lid screws securely onto the carafe, which means you can even lay this brewer down on its side and it won’t leak. For those with crammed fridges like mine, being able to lay it flat is a boon. It was also the fastest to set up; it was as simple as making a pot of tea. You just spoon the grounds into the filter, add water to the pitcher, combine. For those who don’t have a scale, the instructions are given in tablespoons and liquid ounces.

What I didn’t like: There’s no fill line on the pitcher, so you have to eyeball how much water to add. You also have to shake the contraption a few times during its brewing process to really get all the water circulating with the grounds. The pitcher is plastic, and though it’s BPA-free, I prefer glass. The filter is silky material, which doesn’t feel as durable as metal and it’s harder to get completely clean, as the bottom is blocked by a plastic holder.

Taste: This brewer resulted in a very light brew that wasn’t as smooth and rich as others. I followed the directions exactly and it still tasted way too diluted, even when I didn’t dilute it.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani

Method: Ovalware Cold Brew Coffee Maker

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani

What I liked: The attractive “science-chic” format of this brewer includes a glass beaker with measurements, a removable rubber bottom, and an airtight lid. The narrow metal filter that goes inside the pitcher will clearly stand up to years of use, and it’s easy enough to clean. Just give it a few taps upside down into the compost bin, then rinse under water.

What I didn’t like: You add grounds into the narrow metal filter, tapping as you go so you can fit in all your scoops, then you have to slowly dribble water through it, which does take a while. Go too fast and it overflows.

Taste: This had an impressively rich flavor and was quite smooth even though it has a higher water-to-coffee ratio than the Takeya. Clearly, taking the time to pour the water through the grounds has its dividends.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani

Method: Toddy Cold Brew System

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani

What I liked: This coffee is automatically double-filtered, thanks to the filter bag and the thick, reusable felt filter that goes in the bottom of the brewing bucket. The filter bags also make cleanup nearly effortless.

What I didn’t like: The big white plastic bucket that holds the filter bag and grounds is really unattractive and takes up tons of vertical space. There’s a really flimsy ring that goes around it to provide a handle. The bottom hole where the coffee comes out is blocked with a rubber plug. I live in fear of ever losing it. The filter bags aren’t required for use, but if you want that easy-to-clean, double-filter action, you have to keep a stock of them on hand and they cost about $1 each. No reusable metal filter here. It also takes nearly a pound of coffee per batch — more than the other brewers — which is kind of an investment.

Taste: The resulting brew was really delicious — smooth, rich, full-bodied — which is why I was willing to overlook all the complaints I listed above. The concentrate was so good I didn’t want to dilute it with water. Was it because it’s double-filtered? Not sure, but taste-wise this one comes in #1. If you’re really into coffee and willing to put in the work, this is the one to get.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani

Method: KitchenAid Cold Brew Coffee Maker

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani

What I liked: It’s attractive and low-profile. It fits on the fridge shelf nicely, with a cool spigot so you can pour yourself a glass without pulling the whole thing out. The metal filter is really well-made. It’s like a large, flat-bottomed bowl with a handle and nearly microscopic holes throughout. It was super easy to lift it out, set it askew to allow all the liquid to drain, then dump the grounds in the compost. A quick rinse with water and it was all clean.

What I didn’t like: The glass carafe is really thick and heavy. Also, the price tag is pretty steep. Dropping the carafe would be catastrophic to it, my floor, and my wallet. And the spigot makes pouring yourself a cup a little slower than a pitcher because it only goes so fast. Also, the brewing instructions are unnecessarily finicky, but after doing it once it’s second nature.

Taste: Rich and delicious, very concentrated, smooth, and acid-free. The Toddy coffee was somehow just a smidge better — richer and smoother — but this one has a really attractive form-factor going for it. If you want great-tasting cold brew but convenience is important, this is your brewer.

Do you have a go-to tool for making cold brew coffee? Tell us about it in the comments below!