It’s that time of the year again – when the proverbial dust covering the ice cube trays and cold brewing devices is blown off. Step aside, hot coffee! It’s time to cold brew coffee!
What Is Cold Brew Coffee?
Cold brew coffee is very much how it sounds; brewing coffee using cold water. It’s doable in various ways – from cold drip to immersion. Every way involves having cold or room temperature water come into contact with ground coffee for a longer than ‘normal’ period of time.
- Immersion brews – 16 hours (ideally)
- Cold drip – four hours
Once the brew cycle is done, you’re left with deliciously smooth coffee concentrate (hopefully anyway). It’s a strong, thick coffee liquid. The concentration is then diluted to a 1:1 ratio with water straight over ice. If you feel cheeky, you can add in soda water, tonic or milk.
Now, you may be wondering why wait for coffee that’s going to take 16 hours to brew when you can make a hot coffee and throw in ice. Give me two minutes to explain.
Brewing coffee is the process of taking some of the water-soluble stuff from the coffee bean’s structure. Typically, when making a regular hot brew, we use hot water and pour it over the coffee. This hot water moves through the coffee, taking a percentage of the coffee’s water-soluble material with it. Voila! Delicious coffee in roughly three minutes.
Here’s what you need to understand: different temperature water extracts different flavors from the coffee.
Certain compounds that could cause coffee to taste acidic may only be soluble in hot water. Brewing with cold water may leave that part behind. Same thing goes for bitterness.
Cold brew coffee’s flavor profile, depending on the coffee, could be chocolate or fruity tastes – less bitter, less acidic than hot water brewed counterparts.
A huge plus with the cold brew method is the richness coffee is able to maintain. Coffee isn’t watered down, as you would get with ice added to hot coffee – making it cold. You get big flavors without the bitterness and acidity.
Since cold brew coffee is brewed over many hours, the grind size isn’t that important for flavor. No matter what your grind, whether you’re using filter or expresso-sized coffee, everything extractable with cold water will be.
The only reason grind size becomes an issue for cold-pressed coffee is the type of filter device being used. You don’t want to use an espresso-sized grind for cold brew because it can clog the filter.
Whether you’re using a paper filter, mesh or cloth filter, extremely fine grinds will clog it up. It’s best to use a courser grind – similar to raw sugar and what you’d use for a French press.
What Coffee Should You Use?
One of the great things about the cold brew method is that any kind of coffee will do. Want light roast? Go for it! In the mood for a dark roast? You can do that too! Different flavors will come on through using the different origins and roast.
For instance, you want a fruitier – what I call a summertime cold brew coffee. You want a lighter roast – something from Ethiopia or Kenya with big berries listed on the bag’s label. Most naturally processed coffees can function well as a cold brew because of their high acidity and inherent fruitiness.
However, if you want a chocolate and caramel taste, you want to go with the bit darker Colombian coffee.
Whatever you decide, though, you want a high-quality specialty coffee.
Cold Brew Coffee To Water Ratio
- When making hot coffee – using a Kalita wave or V60 – you’ll be using about 60 grams of coffee per liter of water or a 1:16:5 brew ratio.
- For a batch of cold brew, you use cold water to make a concentrate. The ratio increases a bit to 1:5 or 200g/L.
Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee: What Is The Difference?
Most standard hot brew methods use hot water to extract coffee. Cold brew, however, uses cold water to extract coffee. Since the extraction process is different, it means you get a different kind of taste in both.
Why Is Cold Brew So Great?
The best part about cold brew is just how easy it is. I’d have to say, outside of instant coffee (please DON’T), it’s the easiest way to make coffee. You literally throw some coffee and water together, leave it for 16 hours – all day or overnight – come back, strain the grind using a filter and that’s it!
And, you can easily upsize your cold brew too. Want to run a small 500ml batch? Then, just use 100g of coffee with 500ml of water. Want to go for a two-liter party-sized batch? Then, use two liters of water with 400 grams of coffee.
What Are The Different Cold Brew Methods?
Cold brew coffee is any coffee that uses cold water for extraction. With this simple premise, there are a few ways in which to go about it.
Immersion Cold Brew Method
The basics of the Immersion Cold brew method is similar to using a French press or cupping bowl. We’re adding water to coffee, letting it steep for a set amount of time, and then we separate the grinds from the coffee liquid.
This is the most common and easiest method of cold brewing and needs minimal equipment. You can use a simple French press to make cold brew, but you can always purchase a specially-designed cold brew device such as the Toddy cold brew system. If you do go with a French press, you use the carafe for the brewing container and a cheesecloth or V60 paper for the filter.
What You Need
- 200g ground coffee
- Cold or room temperature water
- Brewing container (large enough for the batch you’ve chosen or French press)
- Filter (or French press)
- Another container for catching brewing coffee.
How To Make Immersion Cold Brew
- Weigh out 200g of preferred coffee per one liter of water (tips on which coffee to use above)
- Grind coffee like do you for a French press (raw sugar coarseness)
- Add ground coffee to your container
- Add one liter of water to the coffee
- Stir, making sure coffee is completely saturated
- Cover and place in refrigerator or dark, cool place if not room in the fridge for 16 hours (it doesn’t have to be exact)
- Remove from refrigerator and uncover
- If you’re using a French press, press the plunger down and decant the coffee liquid.
- If using the Toddy, place the brew vessel on top of the carafe and remove the plug, allowing it to drain.
- If you’re using a DIY container/bowl/bucket, place the filter cloth over the coffee-decanting vessel, using an elastic band to ensure the filter stays in place. Pour the brewed coffee through the filter.
- Cold brew concentrate is good for up to a week
Drip Cold Brew Method
With cold drip, the idea is to have ice cold water slowly dripping onto a bed of coffee. As the water drips – drop by drop – it saturates the coffee bed. Eventually, the water works its way through the bed of coffee and drips into the carafe below. The whole process should take about four hours.
What You Need
- Ground coffee
- Preferred cold drip device
How To Make Drip Cold Brew
Directions on how to use your preferred device will vary, but this is the main idea:
- Place ground coffee as directed by your drip device manual. Most times, it’s the middle chamber.
- Add water and ice to the top chamber.
- With most devices, you will need to adjust the dripper to control the water’s flow rate. The goal is to have the water released onto the coffee at the rate of one drop per one-to-two seconds.
- Allow the water to drip completely out of the top container, through the coffee and into the carafe below. This can take up to four hours, depending on the size and device being used.
Hot Bloom Cold Brew
The hot bloom cold brew is a rather simple idea. It’s similar to the standard immersion cold brew method, but rather than brewing completely with cold water, you use a minute amount of hot water first to create the blooming process.
If you heard of the word blooming before, you know it describes the process for pour-over coffee. Pretty much the same thing, but for a different reason.
When brewing filter coffee, we have the coffee ‘bloom’ release as much of the C02 from the ground coffee as possible. This is done because releasing CO2 during the brew can create an uneven brew in terms of extinction.
When ‘blooming’ the coffee for a cold brew, it’s done to show off more of the fruity, floral or acidic qualities in the coffee. Many of its compounds can generally only be extracted using hot water.
A hot bloomed cold brew will give you a fruitier, more acidic and possibly a livelier cup of coffee— always a good thing!
How To Make Hot Bloom Cold Brew
Making a batch of hot bloom cold brew is almost identical to how it’s done with regular immersion. The only extra step will be the bloom.
- Add ground coffee to your container.
- Weigh out slightly more hot water than the coffee amount being used. If you’re making a one-liter batch, you’ll be using 200g of coffee, which means your blood will use 300g of hot water. The water should be just off the boil.
- Pour the hot water over the coffee and stir. Wait about a minute.
- Continue adding the rest of the water, which will be around 700g of cold water.
Pressurized or Nitro Cold Brew
Have you ever walked into a specialty café and swear you see someone with a glass of Guinness in their hand? Unless the café is a pub, chances are they are drinking a nice glass of nitro cold brew.
Nitro cold brew is a relatively new thing that has taken the coffee world by storm. Nitro cold brew looks beautiful, tastes creamy and has this gorgeous, velvety mouthfeel.
How Does It Work
You start with a regular immersion cold brew. You add in the nitrogen gas and let it infuse (this creates the creamy, stout-like look). Once it does, it can be poured into a nice, cold glass.
How To Make Nitro Cold Brew
Making nitrogen cold brew is similar to the immersion and hot bloom cold brew – but with an extra step at the end. You add in the nitrogen. Now, all devices are different, so for this step, be sure to look back over the instructions that came with the unit.
What Should You Look For In a Cold Brew Device?
As always in coffee, there are a plethora of options for devices to use. To narrow it down, here are a few things we look for when choosing our brewing gear.
Convenience/Ease of Setup – The easier, the better, right? Something nice and simple that produces great results is always a plus.
Serving Capacity – We want a wide range of options when it comes to serving size. For example, you may just want 250ml during the week, but come the weekend, you want something bigger. No reason for more than one device to handle the capacity. Find a device that can offer both smaller and larger capacities.
Footprint – Counter space is a precious commodity, and even though it would be nice, not all kitchens can fit a cold drip brew tower. The brewer size can affect your decision to buy or not. If it can’t fit into your brewing space, it’s not a good buy for your home. Same thing for immersion cold brewers. While it sounds nice to brew a bucket of coffee, if it doesn’t fit in the refrigerator, then what good is it?
Budget – While some devices for cold brewing and nitro brewing can be expensive, immersion cold brewing is very DIY. There is something for every budget and taste. (We’re going to break these devices down into low, mid and premium-price ranges).
Visual Appeal – While the visual aspects in most brewing situations are not important, cold brew can take hours. Do you really want an ugly device sitting on your countertop for hours? The answer to that question will play a role in your decision.
Durability – We want something that will last. Something that’s well-made and can’t easily break.
Results – The most important factor of all… how delicious is the coffee?
Cold Brew Coffee Maker Reviews: What Devices Made The Cut?
We’re breaking down our reviews of top picks into brew method – immersion, drip and nitro.
Immersion Cold Brewing
The DIY Way (Best for Budget Brewing)
When making an immersion cold brew the DIY way, you need three things:
- Container for brewing
- Cloth or paper filter (cheesecloth, Kalita or V60 wave filter)
- Container to collect and store coffee liquid
- Budget – Low
- Serving capacity – You choose the container size
- Footprint- This depends on the chosen container
- Results: Able to produce results similar to a purpose-made device
- Durability – Depends on your chosen materials
- Convenience – Since it’s DIY, it’ll take a little more effort than a purpose-made device
- Visual appeal – DIY cold brew setups are not typically nice to look at
The toddy cold brew is somewhat of a classic. It’s been around for quite some time. Simple and similar to the DIY method, it just works. It’s got a large capacity and comes with everything you need to get started – sans water and coffee, of course.
- Budget – Mid-range cost
- Serving capacity - Can make almost two liters of coffee concentrate
- Results – Ability to produce an extremely good cup of coffee
- Convenience – Very easy! Pull the plug on the bottom once the brewing process is complete. Allow it to drop then throw the coffee grind away.
- Visual appeal – One issue with the Toddy – the carafe looks nice but the brewing chamber not so much
- Footprint – Fairly big
- Durability – Carafe is made of glass
The Primula cold brew coffee maker is an all-in-one cold brew system, uses a metal filter that sits inside the carafe.
- Budget- Inexpensive
- Serving capacity - Jug can brew around 1.5 liters of coffee
- Convenience – All in one device; very easy to use
- Visual appeal – Glass jug; looks very nice
- Footprint - Fits into most standard refrigerators
- Results – The coffee may taste good, but with a metal filter, you could end up with coffee silt in the cup (Unot pleasant to drink.)
- Durability - Made of glass
Drip Cold Brewing
The Puck Puck is a very clever attachment for the Aeropress. There are two versions of it. One version includes an attachment for the Aeropress and a 500ml water vessel. The other is just the attachment, which any standard plastic water bottle can be screwed onto. To use this device, you will need an Aeropress.
- Budget – Low to mid-range
- Convenience – Extremely easy to use and clean
- Visual appeal – Looks nice and sits atop the Aeropress
- Footprint - Doesn’t take much space up
- Durability - Solid build just like the Aeropress
- Results - Great results
- Serving capacity - Standard vessel is 500ml
The Yama Cold Drip Coffee Tower looks in place pretty much everywhere it goes. It can be the centerpiece of your kitchen or coffee setup and is made of wood and glass. The tower comes in multiple sizes, but remember, the bigger you go, the more expensive it will get.
- Visual appeal - Stunning
- Results - Commonly seen in specialty coffee shops
- Serving Capacity – Various sizes
- Budget – Expensive P
- Durability – Made with a lot of glass
- Footprint – It’s a centerpiece; don’t hide it
- Convenience – Takes some getting used to (not easily convenient)
The Cold Bruer is a nice little glass drip coffee maker. It’s the same idea as the Yama tower, just on a far more scaled-down version at a significantly lower price point.
- Budget – Mid-range
- Visual appeal – Great looks; for the table, countertop or wherever. Comes in various colors.
- Results – Makes delicious coffee
- Footprint – Minimal space needed
- Convenience - Easy to set up and brew
- Serving capacity - Set serving capacity is about 600ml. If more is needed, you’ll need to make two batches.
- Durability - Bruer comprises mainly of glass.
Nitro Cold Brew
The royal brew nitro set comes with a keg, a nitrogen charger and a tap. It looks almost identical to what you’d use for beer; fairly cool setup for the home. This nitro cold brew system can produce over a liter of creamy, delicious cold brew.
- Visual appeal – It looks like a keg. What could be better?
- Results - As long as you make some delicious cold brew, the system adds the nitrogen, and you’re good to go.
- Serving capacity - Produces about 1.5L of nitro cold brew
- Durability – Comprised of steel
- Budget – Premium; high dollar
- Convenience – None of the steps are difficult, but there are more of them. You need to buy extra nitrogen canisters, which you can easily find. The continuing cost is something to consider.
- Footprint – Some people may have a hard time getting it into the refrigerator.
The ICO professional is a semi-DIY device - not specially made for nitro brew coffee. The intended use is to make whipped cream, which is cool because it’s a multi-use kitchen tool. Who doesn’t like multi-use devices? While you get nitro brew coffee, the results may not be quite the same as a dedicated nitro brew system.
- Budget - Low
- Footprint - Small footprint
- Durability - Made of steel
- Visual appeal – Not bad, not great; just is.
- Serving capacity - Produces around 400ml of nitro cold brew
- Results - Not as good as other nitro brew systems
- Convenience – Has an extra step after making regular immersion cold brew. You also will need to purchase readily-available nitrogen canisters.
5 Frequently Asked Questions People Have About Cold Brew Coffee
Does cold brew coffee contain more caffeine?
When making cold brew coffee, we’re usually making a coffee concentrate. Because we’re using a 1:5 ratio instead of a 1:16 ratio, the liquid produced is much stronger. Cold brew is almost always served diluted, so the strength balances out and is roughly the same caffeine content as regular filtered coffee.
Is cold brew coffee more acidic?
No. Cold brew coffee is less acidic, which is good news for people who are more sensitive to or simply don’t like acidic coffee.
Can I use other coffee types/roasts for cold brew?
One of the great things about cold brew is that you can practically use any kind of coffee, and it will still taste decent. Even coffee, which would taste terrible when brewed using hot water, is drinkable as a cold brew.
How long does cold brew coffee last?
A freshly brewed batch of cold brew should last for anywhere from seven to 10 days. This is assuming you haven’t diluted it with water and it’s been kept in a sealed, airtight container or carafe in the fridge. If the bottle is left open, or you add water or milk to the concentrate, it goes bad sooner.
What are the health effects and benefits of cold brew?
Through the years, there have been numerous studies showing the positive health effects of the coffee bean on the body. Not many of these studies have been based on cold brew alone. One possible benefit cold brew may have is that you might be less inclined to add sugar or milk since cold brew lacks bitterness.
Cold brew is great fun to experiment with, and thanks to its simplicity, is almost entirely risk-free. It would be difficult to make a terrible-tasting batch. So, enjoy! Have fun brewing, and we’d love to hear from you about what you’ve brewed and how it tasted.
Want to make alternative coffee brew methods? Be sure to check out other buying guides below: