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The Ultimate Guide to Making Cold Brew Coffee at Home

Coffee Styles Cold Brew Coffee

Welcome to the world of cold brew coffee, a refreshing twist on your traditional cup of Joe that's perfect for those warm summer days or when you're looking for a smooth, less acidic caffeine kick. Making cold brew coffee at home is simpler than you might think, and with this guide, you'll become a cold brew expert in no time.

What is Cold Brew Coffee?

Cold brew coffee, unlike its hot brewed counterpart, is made by steeping coarse-ground coffee beans in cold water for an extended period. This results in a smooth, rich concentrate that's less bitter and acidic, making it a favorite among coffee enthusiasts and those with sensitive stomachs alike.

While cold brew coffee has become widely available in coffee shops and even grocery stores, those are not your only options. It’s surprisingly easy to brew a batch at home, on your own! How? Let’s dive in and get on our way to a delicious glass of tall, dark, and tasty.

 

Tray of Cold Brew Coffee bottles by Cafunated.

What’s the Right Coffee for Cold Brew?

The first step in making an outstanding cold brew is selecting the right coffee. Of course, there’s a wide world of options out there, from single origin coffees to specialty blends, and a variety of roast strengths to bring the best flavor out of each bean. Our rule of thumb is simple: If it makes a good pour-over coffee, it will probably make a good cold brew, too!

Medium to dark roasts are ideal for cold brewing, as they bring out a sweeter, smoother flavor profile that cold brew is known for. Arabica beans are known for their smooth, complex flavor profiles, with a wide range of tastes including sweet and fruity, to tangy and floral. Robusta tends to have a stronger, more bitter taste. These flavor profiles make dark roast Arabica beans the preferred choice for cold brew.

 

A photo of roasted coffee beans on The Ultimate Guide to Making Cold Brew Coffee at Home at Cafunated.com.

How do I Choose the Right Grind for Cold Brew Coffee?

This step is much easier, and actually makes perfect sense. You want to use coarse-ground beans to ensure a balanced extraction and prevent your brew from becoming bitter. With the larger grind size, water has a chance to get in among the grounds, saturate them, and extract the most flavor. At the same time, it ensures that the extraction process is gradual, preventing over-extraction, which can lead to bitter flavors. A fine or espresso grind will lead to clumping and uneven extraction, and will also be harder to filter.

Is It Hard to Make Cold Brew Coffee?

Honestly, making cold brew coffee is a breeze! In just a few steps – and a few hours – you can be sipping on your very own home-brewed cold brew coffee! Here’s are four simple steps to get you started.

  • Grind Your Coffee: Start with your medium to dark roast coffee beans. Grind them to a coarse consistency, similar to breadcrumbs.
  • Mix Your Coffee and Water: Combine 1 cup of coarsely ground coffee with 4 cups of cold or room temperature filtered water in a large jar or pitcher. That’s the standard ratio (1:4), but feel free to experiment!
  • Let It Steep: Cover your mixture (we have some tips below) and let it steep in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours, depending on how strong you like your coffee.
  • Strain Your Brew: Use a fine-mesh strainer to filter out the grounds. For an even smoother taste, strain it a second time through a cheesecloth or coffee filter. 
  • Enjoy: Serve your cold brew over ice. If it's too strong, feel free to dilute it with water or your favorite milk.

 

A jar of Cold Brew Coffee steeping on The Ultimate Guide to Making Cold Brew Coffee at Home at Cafunated.com.

Simple, right? That said, there are a few considerations that may improve the results. When steeping cold brew coffee, the primary goal is to ensure that no contaminants enter the brew while allowing for some air exchange. Using an airtight container or covering with cheesecloth (or a similar breathable cover) both work well, but they serve slightly different purposes.

Airtight Container: Using an airtight container for steeping cold brew coffee can help prevent any odors from the fridge or surrounding environment from seeping into the brew, keeping the coffee's flavor pure and unaltered. It also minimizes oxidation, which can affect the taste of the coffee over time. This method is ideal if you plan to steep your cold brew in the refrigerator for an extended period (more than 24 hours) or if you're concerned about external odors affecting the taste.

Breathable Cover (e.g., Cheesecloth): Covering your cold brew setup with a breathable material like cheesecloth allows for air exchange, which can be beneficial in preventing any potential off-flavors that might develop from a completely anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment. This method can be particularly useful if you're steeping your cold brew at room temperature, as it allows gases released during the steeping process to escape, which can slightly alter the flavor profile for the better.

Cold Brew Best Practice

For most home brewers, using an airtight container is often the preferred method due to its convenience and the protection it offers against external odors and flavors. However, if you're experimenting and want to see if a breathable cover impacts your cold brew's flavor, it's worth trying both methods to see which you prefer. Ultimately, the quality of your cold brew will depend more on the coffee beans, water quality, and steeping time than on whether you use an airtight container or a breathable cover.

 

A jar of Cold Brew Coffee on The Ultimate Guide to Making Cold Brew Coffee at Home at Cafunated.com.

The Importance of Water Quality and Brew Time

The quality of water you use can significantly affect the taste of your cold brew. While bottled water might seem to be the safest way to go, keep in mind that different brands have slight variations in taste, which will influence the final product. Most people find that filtered household water works and tastes just fine. As with most things that go into making cold brew coffee at home, some trial and error will lead you to the taste you like best.

Likewise, experimenting with brew times can help you find the perfect balance of flavors. Don't be afraid to adjust these elements to suit your taste. Steeping longer will result in stronger flavors, but they can become overpowering. A short brew time leads to a lighter, less coffee-forward taste. We recommend taste testing along the way, starting around 12 hours, and then every couple of hours after that until you find your cold brew sweet spot.

How Should I Store My Cold Brew Coffee?

Properly stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, your cold brew can stay fresh for up to two weeks, though it's best enjoyed within the first week for optimal flavor. Again, you don’t need anything fancy. In fact, many people keep their cold brew in the same container they brewed it in. Our favorite is to use an iced tea jug (the kind with a dispenser nozzle) so we can easily fill a glass any time. Or all the time!

Colder Cold Brew: Freezing for Later

Yes, you can freeze cold brew coffee to enjoy later, and it's a great way to preserve its freshness and flavor for future use. Freezing cold brew coffee can be particularly handy if you've made a large batch and want to ensure it doesn't go to waste. Here are some tips for freezing and enjoying your cold brew coffee:

How to Freeze Cold Brew Coffee

Use Ice Cube Trays: Pour your cold brew concentrate or diluted cold brew into ice cube trays. This method allows for easy portion control and prevents you from having to thaw a large amount of coffee when you only want a cup.

Airtight Containers: If you prefer to freeze larger quantities, use airtight containers. Leave some space at the top for the liquid to expand as it freezes.

Freezer Bags: Another option is to use freezer-safe bags. Fill the bags, squeeze out as much air as possible, and lay them flat in the freezer. This method saves space and makes it easy to break off a chunk of frozen coffee to thaw and enjoy.

 

Pouring a glass of Cold Brew Coffee on The Ultimate Guide to Making Cold Brew Coffee at Home at Cafunated.com.

Using Frozen Cold Brew Coffee

Thawing: The best way to thaw frozen cold brew coffee is to transfer it from the freezer to the refrigerator and let it thaw overnight. For a quicker method, you can also run the container under warm water or leave it out at room temperature for a few hours.

Direct Use: Frozen cold brew cubes can be used directly in your drink without thawing, especially if you're adding them to a hot beverage or want a chilled coffee without dilution from regular ice cubes.

Considerations

Flavor Impact: While freezing can preserve the flavor of cold brew coffee, some subtle nuances might be lost in the process. It's generally best to enjoy cold brew fresh, but freezing is a good option for extending its life without significant flavor degradation.

Dilution and Concentration: Remember that if you're freezing cold brew concentrate, you'll need to dilute it with water, milk, or a milk alternative upon thawing. If you've already diluted your cold brew to your liking, it can be enjoyed immediately after thawing with no additional steps needed.

Freezing cold brew coffee is an effective way to ensure you always have access to your favorite chilled beverage without having to brew a new batch each time. It's convenient, easy, and a great way to enjoy cold brew coffee at its best, even beyond its typical refrigerator shelf life.

 

A glass of Cold Brew Coffee with cream on The Ultimate Guide to Making Cold Brew Coffee at Home at Cafunated.com.

What Basic Equipment Do I Need for Homemade Cold Brew Coffee?

The great thing about making cold brew coffee at home is that you don’t need bells and whistles! A simple jar and a strainer is all you really need, and you can be as fancy – or not – as you like.

  • Jar or Pitcher: A large glass jar or pitcher is essential for mixing water and coffee grounds. Anything with a wide opening will work well for easy stirring and straining.
  • Strainer: A fine-mesh strainer is necessary to filter out the coffee grounds after brewing. For a cleaner brew, you might also want a second strainer lined with cheesecloth or a coffee filter.
  • Coffee Grinder: If you’re starting with whole beans, a good burr grinder that can produce a consistent coarse grind is important.

Are There Cold Brew Coffee Makers for Home?

Should you want to splurge, there are specialty cold brew coffee makers available that can simplify the process. And again, the options start simple, but can be as fancy as you like. Here are a few noteworthy options:

  • Toddy Cold Brew System: One of the original cold brew systems, the Toddy is designed for both coffee and tea. It uses a felt filter and a brewing container to create a concentrate that can be diluted. It’s praised for producing a smooth, low-acidity concentrate.
  • OXO Good Grips Cold Brew Coffee Maker: This brewer features a rainmaker top that evenly distributes water over the grounds, simulating a gentle rain. It has a simple switch to start and stop the brewing process and uses a reusable stainless steel mesh filter.
  • Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffee Pot: This sleek, simple brewer from the well-respected Japanese brand Hario is designed for ease of use. It combines a brewing vessel with a reusable mesh filter, making it an all-in-one solution for cold brew.
  • KitchenAid Cold Brew Coffee Maker: Known for its build quality and design, this cold brew maker is compact and made with stainless steel and glass. It has a built-in tap for dispensing your cold brew directly from the fridge.
  • Filtron Cold Water Coffee Concentrate Brewer: Similar to the Toddy, the Filtron offers a method to brew a coffee concentrate with reduced acidity. It uses both a wool filter pad and a paper filter for clear, smooth coffee. 

Each of these brewers has its own set of advantages, from ease of use and cleaning to the quality and flavor of the coffee produced. When choosing a cold brew coffee maker, consider the quantity of coffee you want to make, the space you have available, and how involved you want to be in the brewing process.

 

A glass of Cold Brew Coffee with ice on The Ultimate Guide to Making Cold Brew Coffee at Home at Cafunated.com.

Conclusion

Making cold brew coffee at home is an easy, enjoyable way to explore the depths of coffee flavor without the bitterness and acidity of hot brewing methods. With just a few simple tools and a little patience, you can create a smooth, refreshing beverage that's customizable to your taste preferences. So why not start your cold brew journey today and see where it takes you?

Remember, the world of cold brew coffee is vast and full of possibilities. Whether you're a seasoned coffee aficionado or new to the cold brew scene, there's always something new to discover. Happy brewing!



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