How To Make Cold Brew Coffee at Home (Recipe + Tips)

You're about to learn a simple yet delicious cold brew coffee recipe. And yes if you follow the tips below it so it tastes MUCH BETTER than the stuff you'll buy from your local coffee shop (or Starbucks).

It just takes a few small hints and tweaks (revealed below).

I'll show you how to make your own cold brew with just about anything you can find lying around in your home, and recommend a few coffee makers to make it easier if you want to batch-brew.

we'll also cover little-known cold brewing tweaks, critical yet common mistakes to avoid, and 21 mind blowing recipes you can try (once you've made some coffee concentrate).

Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee

Iced coffee and cold brew are NOT the same thing.

Yes - they both involve cold water; but there is a huge difference:

information about cold brew coffee and iced coffee

When it comes to preparation, iced coffee and cold brew are polar opposites.

While an iced coffee is prepared hot and then chilled, a cold brew is made at a low temperature, relying on time instead of temperature.

The science behind the brewing process means cold brews are generally less acidic and more mellow than regular coffee.

The Benefits of cold brew coffee:

  • It's more mellow and less acidic than hot and iced coffee
  • You get a slow release caffeine hit when compared to hot brewed coffee. (No caffeine crash even though it is high in caffeine)
  • More stomach-friendly (less acidity)
  • Properly brewed, it lasts for up to 10 days (so you can batch brew)
  • You can make cold brew coffee concentrate which can be diluted or used in various recipes.
  • Tonnes of recipes ideas are available.

The Science Behind Cold Brew

An informative information behind cold brew coffee

A lot of nice sounding benefits come with cold brew.

This coffee tastes awesome, it’s smooth and non-acidic, it’s better for the stomach...

You might be wondering if this is all just marketing talk to sell a new form of coffee to American coffee drinkers. It's not! (but now that you mention it: it IS gluten free).

There are actually simple and scientific reasons supporting a good cup of cold brew.

As you may know, the science behind a good cup of coffee is actually quite complicated.

Coffee beans contain roughly thousand different chemical compounds, including Malic acid (a sour compound also found in green apples) and Furaneol (a sweet compound also found in strawberries).

Making coffee is really the process of extracting these compounds from the beans into the water, thus turning it into the beverage we know and love.

There are two important factors to control in the brewing process: TIME and TEMPERATURE.

This is where cold brew gets interesting because the brewing process is completely different from a traditional brew in both aspects.

cold brew in a pitcher

Let’s take a look at what actually happens during the brewing process.

When we use hot water (or boiling water) the coffee compounds are released rapidly, meaning the brewing process is completed within just a few minutes.

On the flip side, the higher temperature also causes the coffee acids and oils to degrade and oxidize more quickly. This can accentuate the acidity and bitterness of the coffee.

Conversely, the cold brew method relies on a long brewing time instead of high temperature. This produces a completely different flavor profile, one that is smooth and mellow. This is because many of the sweeter flavor compounds are soluble even in cold water, but the oils and the acids are not.

Cold brew coffee is definitely “strong” in terms of the grounds-to-water ratio and caffeine content, but it does not taste harsh or bitter. This is why it turns out that cold brewing is an excellent method of extraction. It is even possible to get a decent cold brew from older beans that would otherwise produce a terrible cup of hot coffee.

Ok, now that you're sold on this brew method, let's make some!

Simple Cold Brew Coffee Recipe

Here's how to make cold brew coffee at home, right now.

Course Drinks
Cuisine American
Keyword cold brew coffee
Prep Time 5 minutes
Steep time 15 hours
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 2 cups
Calories 1 kcal
Author HomeGrounds

Ingredients

  • 1 cup coffee beans (coarse ground)
  • 5 cups water (filtered water)

Materials You'll Need

  • 1 mason jar / cold brew coffee maker
  • 1 Cheesecloth or paper coffee filter or a fine-mesh sieve (if using a mason jar)

Instructions

  1. Measure 1:5 coffee to water

  2. Coarse ground your beans

  3. Add ground coffee and water to your mason jar or brewer and give a good stir

  4. Steep for 15 hours. If possible, steep in your fridge. If you brewer/jar does not fit in your fridge its OK to steep at room temperature

  5. Strain into a clean vessel or jar. If you're using a big batch brewer, it will already have  a filtration process. If you're using a mason jar; strain your brew through a cheesecloth, or use a coffee filter and filter it like you would with drip coffee. 

  6. Mix and enjoy: add milk, or water at a ratio of 1:1 and pour over some ice cubes. Or see our recipe list below.

Recipe Video

A delicious glass of cold brew coffee concentrate, topped with water and ice.

About as refreshing as it gets: a perfectly extracted glass of cold brew with ice.


Cold Brew FAQs

Here are the most common questions regarding brewing amazing tasting cold drip coffee:

What Cold Brew Coffee Ratio Should I Follow?

As a general rule: 1:5 for a cold brew coffee to water ratio.

This is going to make you a nicely balanced cold brew concentrate which you can drink straight, or mix 1:1 with equal parts water, milk, tonic...or something else (check out some recipe ideas here).

If you're using a scale you can work that out yourself: Just add 5 times as much water as coffee. I suggest starting with this ratio and then adjusting it based on your taste.

Here's a table with some other common coffee to water ratios for cold brew:

DESCRIPTION

COFFEE TO WATER RATIO

General ratio

1:5

Batch Brew (e.g. Filtron) and cold brew concentrate ratio

1:2

High strength french press brew

1:7

Low strength french press brew

1:12

Which Coffee Beans Should I Use for Cold Brew?

This is a hard question to answer since it depends on what YOU like regarding taste.

But here's something you should definitely NOT do: brew using cheap beans.

You may be tempted to use cheap beans because to save on costs (as you use quite a lot of coffee).

I don't agree with this. 

If you want to drink tasteless cold coffee; make some iced coffee. Cold brewing brings out a beans subtle flavors, so choose something with a unique flavor profile. 

Roasted coffee beans on a table

Here are some pointers to help you choose:

  • For a fruity, winey flavor profile: try an African bean (e.g. Ethiopia or Kenya)
  • If you plan to mix your cold brew with milk or sugar, try something with a stronger flavor profile (any bean from central or South America, e.g. Colombia or Costa Rica)
  • If you just want to choose something good and get started, here's a list of the 7 best coffees for cold brew.

My Brewer Won't Fit In My Fridge. Can I Steep It at Room Temperature?

YES. Don't worry, you're not alone. Big batch brewers like the Filtron or the Toddy rarely fit in a domestic fridge (whoops!)

Steeping at room temperature is fine. But once it's ready, get it straight into your fridge.

Here's a little tip/hack: Create your own Wim Hof style ice bath around your steeping vessel (if possible) while it's steeping (e.g. use a shallow dish with ice, and cover it with a plastic bag.

Should I Use Filtered Water or Tap Water?

Filtered. Kind of. The better quality your water; the better quality your end product. 

Here's an article I wrote on choosing the best water for coffee. Let this be your guide for choosing your water. Don't skimp on the water.

How Long Should I Steep Cold Brew For?

As a general guide: steep for 16 hours.

You'll be ok anywhere from 14-20 hours, but make sure you don't steep for longer than 20 hours (You'll start getting some funky flavors)

What’s the Best Grind Size For Cold Brew?

You'll need a good coffee grinder to achieve the correct grind for cold drip coffee.

If you don't own one; ask your local coffee shop to grind your beans for you.

coarse grounds for cold brew extraction

You want a coarse to super coarse grind size. Check out our grind size chart here. Don't make the mistake of using a grind too fine: you'll end up with over-extracted, bitter coffee.

Is cold brew coffee less acidic?

Yes. In hot brewing, the oils and acids in coffee beans degrade and oxidize more quickly than in cold water, which adds to the acidity and bitterness of the coffee.

The low temperatures and long brewing times of the cold brew process capture more of the sweet flavor compounds which are soluble in cold water, without the oils and acids.

Does cold brew coffee have more caffeine?

In general, no.

Published figures for cold brew coffee from popular chains claim 200 mg of caffeine in a 16-oz cold brew, compared with up to 360 mg of caffeine in a 16-oz cup of brewed coffee.

Caffeine dissolves faster in hot water, so even at the higher ratio of ground coffee to water, there's less caffeine in your cup.

If you're brewing cold brew concentrate, it has more caffeine than regular brewed coffee because you make it with a higher ratio (up to 1:2) of ground coffee to cold water. But once you dilute the coffee concentrate with hot water to make a cup of hot coffee (or cold water for iced coffee), the caffeine is lower by a significant amount.

Cold brew coffee does have a slower release of caffeine, which gives it a prolonged caffeine kick. But in sheer volume, it's typically lower than hot brewed coffee.

Can cold brew coffee be heated?

Yes, you can drink cold brew coffee hot

The easiest way to do this is to brew cold brew coffee concentrate and then add hot water to it.

How much? 

If you brew a 1:2 concentrate, you should be able to add 8 or 9 oz. of hot water to 1 oz. of concentrate to get close to that "golden ratio" of 1:19. 

From a practical perspective, pour hot water into a measuring cup and add a little at a time, tasting it along the way. Stop when you feel bliss. (Be sure to write down how much you used, so you can feel that same bliss every time.)

I Don't Have A Cold Brewer. Can I Use Something Else?

If you want to make cold brew in another way, here are a few more tutorials. 

a jar of black coffee

How to make cold brew with:


How To Ruin Your Cold Brew (Common Mistakes)

Ready to start brewing?​

Just read through this list of the most common mistakes first, so you’ll be wise enough to avoid them from the get-go!

  • Using a grind size that is too fine - Grind size is one of the most important factors in achieving a perfect cup of coffee. For cold brew: YOU WANT A SUPER COARSE GRIND. If you use fine grounds you'll end up with over-extracted bitter coffee.
  • Wrong ratio - You should be aiming for a 1:5 ratio of coffee to water (1:2 if you're making concentrate). The most common error is skimping on the coffee grounds. Yes, you really do need that much. If you make it too strong you can always dilute it with ice or water. But weak cold brew is much trickier to salvage.
  • Under steeping - Cold brewing relies on time (not temperature) so be prepared to wait. Cold brew is beloved for its rich and smooth intensity: you’re not going to achieve that if you rush it. Patience is rewarded. Rule of thumb: 16 hours.
  • Over steeping - don't be fooled into thinking the longer you steep the stronger your brew. Once you get into the 20 hour + range your cold brew will start developing strange bitter-wood-like flavors that are not nice.
  • Using cheap coffee beans - Some people say that you should use cheap beans (to save money since you'll be using lots of coffee) but I don't agree with this. Cold brewing brings out a beans subtle flavors, so choose something with a unique flavor profile.