How to Make Cold Brew Coffee in a French Press [Best Recipe]

As much as I look forward to summer, I know it's a trap. When summer is at its hottest and the sun is at its brightest, not only does it drench you in sweat, but it also drains your energy. I cannot think of a crueler irony than to face the inviting green openness of a clear summer day, only to have your motivation and spirit drowned in a lake of warm and salty sweat.

But hallelujah to the Japanese for inventing cold brew coffee to cool and stimulate our overheated bodies, and get us back out frolicking (yes, frolicking) into summertime.

You don’t have to brave the herd at Starbucks or order some crazy contraption off of Amazon to enjoy the rejuvenating elixir, because today I am going to show you how to make cold brew coffee with a French press.

What You Will Need

Glass jug of water, french press and coffee grounds

Bottom link: Water, a french press, and fresh ground coffee

Here is a quick list of all the things you will need to create your French press cold brewed coffee:

  • Most obvious, you will need a French press. But since you're already reading this, I'm assuming you have one. If not - go here.
  • You will also need some coffee beans. Choose one from this list.
  • To grind up those beans, you’ll need a burr grinder. Just make sure whatever you have can produce an extra-coarse grind.
  • Although it is not entirely necessary, a good scale will help you maintain accuracy (the key to tasty coffee) in your brew (​1).
  • You will need 3 ¾ cups (887 ml) of filtered, room temperature water (2). And if you use good water like this, your cold brew will taste better.
  • You will also need a sealable container, no smaller than your French press, to pour your brew into.
  • You may want to have some type of fine filter, though this isn’t an absolute necessity.*

* For the (optional) fine filter, this could be anything from a cheese cloth to a Chemex dripper with paper filters. This will simply serve as a secondary filter to screen out any sediment that your French press might let through.

How to Make Cold Brew Coffee in a French Press

Now that you have all your ingredients, let’s dive into the recipe.

1. Measure and grind coffee beans

Bowl of ground coffee

Get your beans ready. The correct coffee to water ratio for cold brewing is between 1:5 or 1:4, depending on how strong you like it. For this tutorial, we will use 90 grams (a little less than a cup) of coarsely ground coffee, which is a slightly scaled down ratio of Toddy's cold brew recipe (3).

Because you're making your cold brew using a French press, you'll need a coarser grind than you'd usually use. It should be slightly larger than a French press grind. Make sure you have a good burr grinder to help you out here (4). Once you have your grounds, pour it all into the French press.

"The first big step is quality coffee, the second big step is a grinder that can do the right job for that coffee." - Alex Choppin

2. Add Water

Fill up your French press with 3 ¾ cups (887 ml) of filtered water — pouring in a slow, circular motion — but do not stir.

French press with coffee grounds
Pouring water on to grounds

Instead, use the back of a metal spoon (to prevent any sticking) to press down on any grounds floating near the top, ensuring that all the grounds have been submerged.

3. Wait 12 hours or more

This step is the easiest, but also the most frustrating. You now need to let your brew sit at room temperature for no less than 12 hours (5). Although you want your coffee now, do not rush this process, or else you will end up with a decanter full of slightly coffee-flavored water.

"Cold-brews are prized for their natural sweetness, which is produced by the cold water’s lower extraction rate. Even though a cold brew may sit for hours, the water will never extract all of the coffee’s solubles." - Driftaway Coffee

In comparison to the standard hot brewing methods, cold brewing replaces heat with time to achieve an adequate extraction (6). Letting your grounds soak for half a day will release all the flavors and oils trapped inside your beans.

4. Pour and Filter

Now that you’ve survived the long hours waiting for your cold brew to finish, it is ready to decant. Start by placing the French press’ top on, and pushing the plunger down only a few inches, allowing it some stability for the upcoming pour. 

You don’t want to push the plunger all the way down, because it will agitate the grounds and cause them to release their more bitter-tasting solubles.

With the screen in place you can now pour your fresh brew into the large, sealable container. If you’ve ever used a French press before, you know the metal screen isn’t the best at keeping out all the sediment from your brew; therefore, you may want to use a secondary filter. You can use almost any pour over dripper for this -  or you can loosely tie a piece of cheesecloth around the opening of your container and pour through it.

Ready to drink cold brew iced

5. Enjoy your hacked cold brew!

Whichever way you go, one filter or two, once you’ve decanted your brew you are now ready to enjoy. When preparing your cup, remember that cold brew is incredibly concentrated, and that you should dilute it with a few ice cubes and a splash (or two) of water.

Now that your refreshment is ready, sit back, embrace the sun, and start planning what you’ll do on this fine summer day! Orrr.... use your cold brew concentrate for something exciting, like one of these cold brew coffee recipes.

Glass of fresh cold brew
Bird's eye view of of cold brew on ice

Cold brew coffee, although time consuming, is one of the easiest and most versatile brew methods, and anyone can make it at home. And as you’re now aware, you don’t need a cold brew coffee maker to create it!

cold brew french press coffee

FAQs

How long is cold brew good for?

Cold brew is good for up to two weeks when refrigerated as undiluted concentrate in an airtight container (a mason jar should do the trick). Adding milk or sugar to it, though, will drastically decrease its shelf life. It’s best to make each cup of cold brew fresh and leave the concentrate as is in the fridge. 

Should I steep cold brew in the fridge?

No, you shouldn’t steep cold brew in the fridge. Cold water takes significantly longer to extract the coffee’s flavor so steeping at room temperature works best. Cold brew takes between 12 hours - 20 hours to make (depending on personal preference and type of coffee used) so you’ll just add more time to the equation leaving it steeping in the fridge.

Does cold brew coffee have more caffeine?

Yes, cold brew coffee has more caffeine than other coffee beverages. Followed by drip coffee and espresso, cold brew contains the highest concentration of caffeine (7). The high level of caffeine is due to the prolonged brew method that is used to make cold brew coffee.

What's the difference between cold brew and hot brew coffee?

The difference between cold brew and hot brew coffee is the temperature and time used for each brew method resulting in a different cup of coffee. Cold brew is considered to be less acidic than hot coffee and has a somewhat smoother taste to it due to the extended extraction time with warm rather than hot water. Also, hot coffee can be brewed in many different ways using a machine or manual brew method, which typically takes just a few minutes. A cold brew coffee takes at least half a day to prepare! 


References:

  1. Mazzarello, B. (2017, February 27). Do You Need a Scale to Make Coffee? Retrieved from https://blog.bluebottlecoffee.com/posts/do-you-need-a-scale-to-make-coffee
  2. S. (2017, September 21). New and Refreshed Cold Brew Coffee Recipe. Retrieved from https://driftaway.coffee/new-cold-brew/
  3. Toddy Cold Brew System Instructions. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://toddycafe.com/cold-brew/instruction-manual
  4. Marulanda, C. (2018, December 27). Is Pre-Ground Coffee Ever Better Than Freshly Ground? Retrieved from https://www.perfectdailygrind.com/2018/12/is-pre-ground-coffee-ever-better-than-freshly-ground/
  5. 5 Ways To Make Iced Coffee Better: Stumptown Coffee Roasters Blog. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.stumptowncoffee.com/blog/5-ways-make-iced-coffee-better
  6. Boydell, H. (2018, October 28). Brew Methods Compared: How Should You Make Cold Brew Coffee? Retrieved from https://www.perfectdailygrind.com/2018/10/brew-methods-compared-how-should-you-make-cold-brew-coffee-toddy/
  7. S. (2017, September 19). Do Darker Roasts Have More Caffeine? Retrieved from https://driftaway.coffee/caffeine/

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Alex
 

Alex is the Founder and Editor of Homegrounds.co. He is passionate about brewing amazing coffee at home, and teaching others to do the same.

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