Cold Brew Basics: The 1-2-3 Plan for Better Caffeination at Home

published Jun 26, 2018
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman)

I’m not one to be hyperbolic about food stuff, but mastering cold brew at home is a game-changer. For starters, nothing will make you feel like you’ve got yourself together in the morning like having iced coffee ready to go in your fridge. Making cold brew at home is going to save you so much time (and money) this summer that you might actually find a minute to meditate in the morning — or catch up on email, if that’s more your speed.

Cold brew at home couldn’t be simpler. You just need a few basics and about 30 minutes of hands-on time to make a big batch to last all week. Plus, this method is going to give you the smoothest, sweetest cup of coffee you’ve ever had. Here’s what you need to know (and what to grab) for better cold brew at home.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Step 1: Buy the right beans (and grind them right).

Coffee beans seems like a good place to start for cold brew, right? Good news is that you don’t need any fancy roast or speciality bean to make cold brew. Seriously, your favorite bean for brewing via drip machine is going to give you a great cup of cold brew too. You’ll need quite a bit of it too, so be sure to save the super-fancy beans (read: the expensive ones) for pour over.

You will need the beans ground slightly thicker than you would for drip coffee, so grind them at home in small batches or ask your coffee shop to grind them coarse. Skip pre-ground coffee — it’s usually too fine for cold brewing and makes a bitter brew.

Tool Tip

You don’t need a fancy burr grinder for cold brew coffee. I’ve used this KitchenAid Grinder every day (sometimes twice a day) for grinding coffee and I still love it. Plus it has two extra bowls that you can reserve just for grinding spices.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Step 2: Use clean, cool water for brewing.

The other ingredient in cold brew coffee? Water — and only the purest mountain spring water will do. Just kidding! Filtered water is great, but you don’t need to buy bottles for making cold brew; filtered water from your fridge or a pitcher filter is perfect. Start with cool or room-temperature water for cold brew coffee.

The Magic Ratio

Combine the coffee and water at a ratio of 1 ounce coffee to 8 ounces water for every two servings. You can scale this recipe up for a big batch — we use 8 ounces coffee to 8 cups of water for our biggest, week-long batch.

Step: 3 Soak overnight, then strain.

Cold brew coffee is brewed via cold extraction, meaning that instead of hot water quickly running through the grounds (taking flavor and caffeine with it), cold water slowly draws out the best flavors and more caffeine. You get a smoother, stronger cup of coffee from cold brewing, but it takes significantly longer to brew. How much longer? Well, eight to 12 hours or longer depending on the batch size. And ideally you’ll chill the brew while it extracts.

Straining is the last, hardest step of cold brewing. For the best, cleanest brew — free of debris — strain the concentrate through a double layer of cheesecloth over a fine-mesh strainer. Work in batches as needed and avoid pressing or wringing the grounds or you may get better brew.

You can also use a nut milk bag if you’re looking for a hyper-minimalist operation.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Step 4: Chill, store, and serve.

Once strained, you’ll have a cold brew concentrate that can be used for simple iced coffee or even warmed for smoother hot coffee. The concentrate keeps well for seven days in the fridge, but we doubt you’ll have any left at the end of the week once you start making cold brew on the weekends.

Making a Cup of Coffee with Cold Brew Concentrate

Fill a glass with 1 cup of ice and top with 1/2 cup cold water and 1/2 cup coffee concentrate. Give the glass a quick stir and top with a drizzle of vanilla sweet cream to finish.

Get the recipe!