7 Important Tips for Better Cold Brew Coffee

updated May 27, 2019
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Iced coffee fanatics know one thing to be true: Cold brewed coffee is the best iced coffee you can drink. It takes a full day of steeping (and some time straining), but the results are worth it because you can make a big batch to last you all week. You know what is not the best? Making a big batch of coffee and later realizing you made a misstep in making it and now must wait another 24 hours (or make a trip out) for a cup of this sweet caffeinated nectar.

I’ve been making cold brew every spring and summer for the last four years, and I’ve made some of the worst and some of the best batches of cold brew through trail and error. Here’s what I’ve learned and how you can make better cold brew with these seven tips.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

1. Use good coffee beans.

Look, I’m not saying you should buy a 12-ounce bag of coffee beans for $20 just for cold brew. What I am saying is you’re absolutely getting out what you put in. My best advice is that you should continue to buy your favorite beans for drinking hot coffee. Now is not the time to switch to something cheaper!

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

2. Grind them right.

I’m putting this right up here near buying the beans, in case you grind your beans in store. Do not use pre-ground coffee off the shelf! You need a coarsely ground coffee for making cold brew — those grains are the right size for optimal extraction without bitterness. It should be about the texture of coarse sugar.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

3. Try using filtered water.

Water quality is something that makes a surprising difference in things like soup, coffee, and bread baking. You can buy bottled water, if that is easiest for you, or just invest in an inexpensive filter pitcher so you can make cold brew coffee regularly without buying more than beans.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

4. Soak it overnight.

Cold extraction is how cold brew works to draw out all the smooth, floral sweetness of coffee and none of its bitterness. Cold extraction also takes time. Rush the process and you’ll have weak or astringent coffee instead of life-changing cold brew. This is how I do it: Friday night I start my cold brew so that I can strain it on Saturday afternoon or evening for cold brew Sunday through Friday. Wash, rinse, repeat.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

5. Strain it slowly.

I once made the rookie mistake of wringing the cheesecloth of grinds while straining my cold brew. The results would be most accurately described by that stressed faced emoji — it was bitter and so was I for wasting all my coffee and efforts on a cold brew I didn’t want to drink. Never again! Strain the coffee grounds out slowly and gently without pushing, prodding, or wringing. Work in batches, if needed.

6. Keep it stored tight.

Coffee has a small amount of oil that attracts aromas easily (much like milk and cheese), so even though cold brew lasts longer than other iced coffees, you want to make sure it is covered in the fridge to protect all the tasty flavors you’ve worked so hard to extract.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

7. Dilute it.

Cold brew coffee is intentionally made with more coffee grounds to water in order to pull out the best possible flavors with the cold extraction and to allow for dilution with water and ice. For cold brew, a one-to-one ratio makes the perfect cup for most drinkers.