The $20 Key to Making Perfect Cold Brew Coffee at Home

published May 10, 2018
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Iced coffee is one of the best things about summer. It’s refreshing, cooling, and heavily caffeinated. What’s not to love? The only problem is that buying iced coffee from coffee shops can get extremely expensive — especially since it goes down so quickly (you’ll need another cup before you know it!). And cold brew coffee tends to be even more expensive than regular ol’ iced coffee, which is already more expensive than hot coffee!

Fortunately, cold brew coffee is actually one of the easiest caffeinated drinks to make at home — and you don’t even need to buy anything expensive to make it.

(Image credit: Amazon)

All You Need for Cold Brew at Home: A $20 French Press

Really, you could make cold brew coffee in a Mason jar or a plastic jug. If you have extra room in your kitchen and want something fancy, there are a lot of specialty devices and carafes being marketed for making cold brew coffee at home. But Jessica Easto, author of Craft Coffee: A Manual Brewing a Better Cup at Home, says her first advice is to go with the French press.

3 French Presses for $20 or Less

“There are a lot of cold brew gadgets on the market today. Before you invest in any of those (some are quite expensive), though, I would try it out in your French press, first,” Easto says. And we tend to agree with her.

The reason? By steeping your grounds in a French press, you have a built-in mechanism to filter out your grounds (versus having to strain the liquid in a separate step).

All you have to do is put the grounds in the French press, add water, stir, put the lid on (with the plunger in the up position), and let it all sit in the fridge overnight. In the morning you can push the plunger down and pour what you want into your cup. Put the leftover coffee, if there is any, in a pitcher for later.

See our more detailed steps: How To Make the Best Iced Coffee

(Image credit: Toddy Cafe)

If you do find yourself in love with the smooth, super-caffeinated cold coffee and want one of those fancy, specialized devices for cold brewing, Easto is a fan of the Toddy Cold Brew System. “It uses a filter to keep more grinds out of the brew, it’s easy to clean, and I like that it’s easy to decant the cold brew into a separate lidded container.”

You don’t need fancy beans either!

Cold brewing tends to make coffee taste smoother and less bitter than traditionally brewed iced coffee, which means it’s a very forgiving process, so Easto says you don’t need to go all-in on the most expensive coffee beans in the shop. If you’re making cold brew, you can buy less expensive beans — like maybe Costco’s Kirkland Signature coffee beans, which sell for six pounds for $38 — and still make a really great cup of coffee, which is good because cold brewing takes a lot more coffee grounds than brewing hot.

What’s your favorite way to make cold coffee at home?