The Absolute Best Cold Brew Coffee Makers to Buy Right Now
Even with summer waning, cold brew is so hot right now: Its (mostly) hands-off preparation and make-ahead convenience kind of makes it the slow cooker equivalent of coffee brewing. Because, after setting and forgetting it for 12 to 24 hours, you end up with a sizeable stash of cold brew concentrate, which you can use to your heart’s content. (I’ve even been known to make a coffee cocktail with cold brew!)
In theory, cold brew is the easiest coffee to make: All it takes is coarse-ground beans, cold or room-temperature water, and a vessel to brew the coffee in for an extended period of time. But DIY cold brew setups often involve multiple containers and lots of loose, messy grounds. So for cold brew devotees, having the right method and maker is important.
Indeed, I am one of those cold brew devotees. Which is why I set out to find the very best cold brew maker. After spending a couple of weeks testing some of the most popular models available (and being profoundly over-caffeinated), I have my top picks. Before getting into the testing nitty-gritty, here’s a quick rundown of my favorites.
The Best Cold Brew Coffee Makers
- Brew a “blank batch,” allowing the empty filter to sit in water for 12 hours and evaluating for any color, flavor, or odors imparted by the filter.
- Make a batch of cold brew, following the brewer’s instructions.
- Make a batch of cold brew, following these instructions.
- Measure the pH of the cold brew concentrate.
- Dilute the brews to three standard ratios of cold brew concentrate to water (1:1, 1:2, 1:3) and taste to compare.
- After each test, clean the brewer and its components by hand.
Note: I used the same coffee and the same water temperature for each brew. I also taste-tested the cold brew blind: Each finished brew was poured into a Mason jar labeled with the product’s name on the bottom, so I could mix up the jars and not know which coffee came from which brewer.
Why You Should Trust Us
For the past 20 years, I have been a journalist and a specialty-coffee professional, focusing on making great coffee more accessible to everyone. I was the director of education for the green-coffee importing company Cafe Imports and am the author of New York City Coffee: A Caffeinated History and the host of the podcast In Good Taste.
What to Consider When Buying a Cold Brew Coffee Maker
What’s It Made From?
I’m not just talking about the materials of the brewer itself, but the sort of filtration it has. The makers themselves are most often glass, plastic, or stainless steel (or a combination of these) and the filters are either made from paper, metal mesh, polyester mesh, felt, or cloth. There are pros and cons to all, which I’ve outlined below.
- Glass: Brewers with glass bodies can be thick-walled and heavy or thin and delicate. These types of brewers most often have a separate component for filtration (versus a built-in filter), like a paper filter or metal or mesh insert. While glass does have a greater risk of breaking if dropped or mishandled, it makes for some of the most elegant-looking brewers.
- Plastic: The most commonly used material for cold brew makers is, without a doubt, plastic, which is inexpensive and durable. Clear plastic may become discolored over time, thanks to the residual coffee oils that are left behind after brewing. However, plastic brewers are lighter than glass or stainless steel, which is a definite plus.
- Stainless steel: Cold brew makers made from stainless steel are sleek and easy to clean. However, allowing the cold brew to sit too long inside a stainless steel vessel can cause discoloration. Stainless steel models tend to be heavier and very durable.
- Paper filters: Disposable paper filters are a favorite among cold brew aficionados — especially when using brewers that are designed to make bigger batches (because it makes it extra easy to toss a ton of grounds at once). Some cold brew models call for proprietary filters that may need to be special-ordered, as most are not typically found in stores. Paper filters may or may not contribute their own taste and smell to the brew, as I discovered. While they are less eco-friendly than reusable filters, they most effectively reduce the amount of coffee sediment that winds up at the bottom of the final brew.
- Metal mesh filters: This style of filter is common and consists of a very fine woven metal not unlike a kitchen sieve or sifter. These are reusable and require some detailed cleaning, but are otherwise easy to care for as long as you’re careful not to puncture or bend them out of shape. While metal filters can let coffee sediment into the final brew, many makers that use metal mesh filters also provide the option of adding a paper layer to increase filtration. A big bonus: This type of filter imparts no taste or odor to the final brew.
- Polyester mesh filters: This style of filter is increasing in popularity and is made of incredibly fine, pliable mesh, typically woven into panels and cone-shaped. This type of filter lets more sediment into the brew, unless it has a very tight weave. I also found this filter prone to discoloration, but it doesn’t contribute any off-smells or tastes to the final brew.
- Felt filters: One of the cold brewers I tried uses a proprietary felt filter, which can be used on its own or in combination with a paper filter for cleaner brews. It needs to be replaced after every 100 or so uses. After rinsing it clean, you store it in the freezer in between brews.
- Cloth filters: A cloth filter is similar to using a fine-mesh cheesecloth (like you would in a DIY cold brew setup). Several manufacturers have developed reusable cloth filters that can be used in popular types of cold brew makers, although effectiveness and longevity tend to vary from brand to brand.
How Does It Brew the Coffee?
All of the brewers I tested used a full immersion style of steeping, where the water and coffee grounds are in contact for the entire brew time. There were some differences among the models in terms of how the water and coffee are introduced to each other, however. My overall pick features a “rainmaker” perforated lid that effectively helps to disperse the water over the coffee grounds. Some options call for the filled filter to be lowered into the water. Others call for the water to be poured through the coffee grounds to saturate them and while filling the brewing container. And others have filter baskets or sack-style filters that contain the grounds as they’re fully submerged in water. Ultimately, I found that how the cold brew makers “brewed” doesn’t matter as much has how effective their filters are or how easy they are to use.
Many of the cold brew makers can also brew either at room temp or in the fridge. Either works, but because colder water takes longer to extract, making cold brew in the fridge will take longer to reach the same extraction of room-temperature-made cold brew.
Capacity and Shape
Cold brew makers come in a wide range of sizes and shapes. Larger ones often include a separate brewing and decanting vessel and can take up a considerable amount of space; more compact ones usually brew within a vessel that is intended for use as a serving and storage container.
Depending on your needs, you might want to get both a larger and smaller maker. I’ve found that you can’t always make smaller amounts of cold brew in larger models (check the manufacturer’s’ instructions — they’ll note the proper ratios for different batch sizes). When used at reduced capacity, these larger models produced bitter-tasting cold brew. This is because larger models rely on a thicker bed of coffee grounds, but, when used to make less cold brew, a thinner bed of coffee grounds becomes fully immersed in the water for a longer period of time, resulting in a bitter, over-extracted brew. Of course, smaller cold brew makers aren’t suitable for large batches, which is why I have picks for small- and large-batch models.
Which one is right for you is dependent on, of course, how much you want to make, but it’s also important to consider if you have the fridge space — as the cold brew maker’s carafe will need to stay in the fridge after brewing.
Is It Easy to Use and Store?
Size also played a large role in usability. I found bigger models to be clunkier and harder to use, set up, maneuver, and pour from. Smaller carafes, especially if they had pour spouts, were the easiest to use. (One of my favorite models even has a dispenser, like an office water cooler!). Of course, compact models have proportionally sized carafes that are also easier to stash in the fridge after brewing.
One last point: I also like cold brew makers that have filter baskets, allowing you to lift the filter out of the maker with ease. However, these filter baskets also tend to let more sediment into the final brew. So, really, it’s a tradeoff.
A Quick Note About Acidity
Cold brew coffee is often praised for its “low acidity” and smooth flavor, but, from a pH standpoint, cold brewed coffee is no less acidic than hot brewed coffee. Cold brew generally falls between a 4 or 5 on the pH scale — and I found that to be true of all the models I tried. I took a pH reading of each brew, and also brewed a hot batch of the coffee that I used as the control: They all read a solid 4. For reference, some apples have a pH of 4, such as Red Delicious, and blueberries have a pH of roughly 3.1 to 3.3, making them more acidic than black coffee.
While many coffee drinkers find that cold brew doesn’t upset their stomachs like hot-brewed coffee does, it is unlikely to be caused by the pH acidity of the drink and more likely to be caused by some other compound in the coffee. According to recent research, it’s possible that while the pH values are relatively comparable between hot- and cold-brewed coffee, there may be different acids extracted in these two methods, which may explain the different physiological effects.
In the coffee industry, we use the word “acidity” to refer to the perceived acidity in the flavor of coffee, what we might describe as the kind of sparkle that a coffee has on the palate. Coffee does have organic acid compounds present, which contribute to flavor creation and expression, but many are surprised to learn that the pH of coffee is less acidic than orange juice or seltzer water.
For tips on making the best cold brew, head here: I Tested Dozens of Cold Brew Coffee Makers — Here Are the 5 Most Important Things I Learned
What We Look for in a Cold Brew Coffee Maker
I judged all of the cold brew makers on the following criteria, on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being the worst and 5 being the best):
- Filter: Does the filter yield any off-tastes or smells to the final brew? How effective is it?
- Coffee: How smooth and balanced does the cold brew taste?
- Ease of Use: How easy is it to fill, remove the filter, and pour from?
- Cleanup: How easy it is to clean?
Best Overall: OXO Compact Cold Brew Coffee Maker
This little brewer is a joy to use: It has a tiny countertop footprint, straightforward instructions, and a sturdy (mostly plastic) design. This maker produces a small batch of concentrate and has a rainwater head design that disperses water evenly over the grounds, and the cold brew slowly drips from the brewer to the carafe below over a 12- to 24-hour period. After brewing, the compact glass carafe fits easily in the fridge and comes with a cork lid for storage. While the carafe lacks a spout for easier pouring and it is a little thin (i.e., on the easy-to-break side for those of us who get particularly jittery on caffeine!), its compact storage and efficient brewing makes this a total winner.
- Materials: Plastic brewer, glass carafe
- Filter: Metal mesh
- Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Cold brew concentrate output: 16 oz
- Recommended brew time: 12 to 24 hours room temperature; 20 to 24 hours refrigerated
- Filter: 5
- Coffee: 5
- Ease of Use: 4
- Cleanup: 5
Who it’s best for: This little, no-fuss brewer is perfect for anyone who wants a high-quality concentrate that’ll last for a couple of days. At around $30, it’s budget-friendly, too!
Good to know: Its carafe is dishwasher-safe — all other parts are hand-wash only. OXO also makes a larger cold brew maker.
Easiest to Use: KitchenAid Cold Brew Coffee Maker
Squat, sturdy, and simple to use, KitchenAid’s Cold Brew Coffee Maker is practically foolproof. Its instructions are clear and easy to understand, complete with helpful illustrations. This brewer doesn’t require paper filters or any other special equipment and it’s easy to remove the grounds (just take off the lid and retrieve the stainless steel filter basket and you’re ready to serve). While this brewer’s filter allows a bit of sediment to make it into the brew, muddying some sips, it’s nothing that’s too unpleasant. One of my favorite parts of this brewer is its spout dispenser, much like one you’d find on a water cooler, which is supremely easy to use. One thing to note: This brewer is designed to sit on a shelf in the fridge, which means that it requires some prime real estate.
- Materials: Glass body with stainless steel features including filter basket and pour spout; plastic outer lid
- Filter: Stainless steel
- Weight: 7.2 pounds
- Cold brew concentrate output: 28 oz
- Recommended brew time: 12 to 24 hours unrefrigerated
- Filter: 4
- Coffee: 4
- Ease of Use: 5
- Cleanup: 4
Who it’s best for: Folks who want a sturdy brewer that can store and dispense coffee easily — and who have the fridge space for it.
Good to know: This unit is hand-wash only for all of its parts, and it’s important to clean it thoroughly, including its spout. There’s also an XL option.
Fastest and Easiest to Store: Hario Coffee Brewing Bottle
The wine bottle-shaped Hario Coffee Brewing Bottle is a sleek and space-saving number that fits in the door of a refrigerator for out-of-the-way brewing, storing, and serving. This brewer is slightly different from the other models in that it calls for a finer grind size, a shorter brew time, and makes a brew that’s not as concentrated as its coffee comrades. Therefore, I prefer to drink the cold brew from this maker undiluted. This model’s polypropylene filter does let some sediment through, and should be cleaned quickly and thoroughly after brewing, as it’s more likely to become stained from residual grounds and oils. However, I love how easy it is to remove this bottle’s filter (it just lifts out of the top of the bottle) and it’s easy to pour from. If you want to prep a batch of cold brew before bedtime and have it ready first thing, this a great option, because it brews in just 8 hours.
- Materials: Glass, silicone
- Filter: Polypropylene
- Weight: 1.6 pounds
- Cold brew concentrate output: 24 ounces
- Recommended brew time: 8 hours refrigerated
- Filter: 4
- Coffee: 4
- Ease of Use: 4
- Cleanup: 3
Who it’s best for: If you’re short on refrigerator space and/or want a faster-brewing option.
Good to know: While parts of this brewer are listed as dishwasher safe, I recommend hand washing, as the glass carafe is delicate. You can find it on the company’s website in even more colors.
Best Large Batch Brewer: Toddy Cold Brew Coffee Maker System
If you’re looking to make a large batch of cold brew at once, then the Toddy Cold Brew Coffee Maker System is your guy. The instructions call for a starting recipe of 12 ounces of coffee to 7 cups of water, which amounts to 54 ounces or almost 7 cups of concentrate. To use it, you add coffee and water to the plastic brewer and it drips down into the glass carafe. I don’t love the Toddy’s proprietary felt filter, which is fussier to clean and I found it worked best when paired with an additional paper filter for a grit-free brew. However, the carafe itself has a spout and is easy to pour from and comes with a lid for easy storage.
- Materials: Plastic, rubber stopper, glass carafe with a plastic lid
- Filter: Felt
- Weight: 2.5 pounds
- Cold brew concentrate output: 54 ounces
- Recommended brew time: 12 to 24 hours unrefrigerated
- Filter: 2
- Coffee: 4
- Ease of Use: 4
- Cleanup: 4
Who it’s best for: Anyone who needs to brew for a crowd — or anyone who drinks a lot of coffee and wants to make enough cold brew for the week ahead.
Good to know: All of its parts are dishwasher-safe, but the manufacturer recommends hand-washing for “longest life.”
The Kitchn’s Best List Promise
We will do our homework, going wildly in depth with our testing. But we condense the info into easy, breezy summaries so that you can see what we picked and why, then move on with your life. Because we know you’re busy!
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Do you have a question about cold brew coffee makers? Ask us in the comments!