As much as you enjoy your daily caffeine ritual, a piping hot cup of coffee is not what you might crave on a warm summer’s day. It might be the time for a cold brew.
Cold brew is more than just a cooled-down version of hot coffee. It has a unique taste and slightly higher caffeine levels thanks to its unique brewing process.
While a few years ago, very few people would be familiar with cold brew, this refreshing coffee beverage took the world by storm and is now readily available in big coffee chains as well as on supermarket shelves.
But if it’s not simply hot coffee that’s been cooled down, what exactly is cold brew, how is it different from iced coffee, and, more importantly, can you make it at home?
If you’re not sure about the answers to these questions, don’t worry, this article will provide an ultimate guide to cold brew coffee.
What Is Cold Brew Coffee?
Although cold brew coffee gained most of its mainstream popularity in recent years, its history dates back to the 1600s when it was first discovered in Japan, as Kyoto-style coffee.
Let’s answer the first question that springs to mind: what is the difference between iced coffee and cold brew?
The main difference between these two drinks, which impacts all the other attributes such as the taste and the caffeine levels, is the preparation method.
Cold brew is unique because it is made by steeping coarsely ground coffee in cold or room temperature water for a long period of time, typically between 12-24 hours.
In contrast to iced coffee which is prepared with hot water and then cooled down, the water is never heated when preparing the cold brew.
What Does Cold Brew Taste Like?
The unique preparation method has a significant impact on the taste and is the reason why most people love cold brew coffee.
With cold brew, the coffee flavors are released slowly over a long period of time, which results in a smoother beverage with less bitterness, more pronounced sweetness, and a creamy body.
Flavors from the bean are more delicate, which means a cup of cold brew is easier to drink, without the need for sugar or cream.
Cold brew is also 60% less acidic than hot coffee and therefore good for people with sensitive stomachs.
Cold Brew And Caffeine
Apart from the flavor, the brewing process affects the amount of caffeine in your cup too.
While iced coffee gets diluted when mixed with ice, cold brew coffee extracts more caffeine during its long steeping time.
This, combined with the fact that the coffee-to-water ratio is much stronger when making cold brew, results in a refreshing cup that can contain up to twice as much caffeine as hot coffee.
Homemade Cold Brew
Now that you know all the reasons to choose cold brew over iced coffee, let’s address the question: can you make cold brew coffee at home?
The answer is YES!
In order to prepare cold brew coffee with a smooth delicious taste, you need to follow the brewing process and steep the coffee grounds with cold water for at least 12 hours.
When selecting the coffee-to-water ratio for your cold brew recipe, 1:7 is a good place to start. This means that for every part of coffee beans, you use 7 times the amount of water.
The good news is that cold brew is not as sensitive to the ratio as some other brewing methods and if the concentrate is too strong, you can always dilute it down with more cold water.
5 Best Ways To Make Cold Brew Coffee
There are two main ways in which you can make cold brew coffee: the immersion or the slow drip method.
While the slow drip method is a little more complicated and requires some special equipment, the immersion method can be done in any mason jar you have at home in a few simple steps.
Here are the 5 best ways to make cold brew coffee at home:
1. Making Cold Brew The Fancy Way: Slow Drip Method
If you see a complicated glass tower with water slowly dripping through the coffee grounds in your local coffee shop, the chances are they are making cold brew coffee.
This is the most sophisticated method of brewing cold brew coffee that is most similar to the original Kyoto-style coffee and arguably produces the best-tasting cold brew.
This glass tower requires a chamber on the top, which is filled with ice that slowly melts and drips into the middle chamber with the coffee grounds, resulting in cold brew coffee that’s slowly collected in the bottom chamber over approximately 12 hours.
While this method is visually pleasing, it is harder to recreate at home and probably only worth the hassle if you’re making large batches of cold brew.
2. Easy Slow Drip Method With An Aeropress
If you want to replicate the slow drip cold brew method on a smaller scale at home, you can do so with an AeroPress.
For this method, you need to fill the cone with ice and let it drip down through coffee in your AeroPress.
This method only takes around 6 hours but can be difficult to control and will produce a cold brew that is thinner than the one prepared with the immersion method. But it can still be a fun experiment you to try with your AeroPress.
3. How To Make Cold Brew In a French Press?
If you already own a French Press, making cold brew, or cold press coffee, using the full immersion method with this equipment would be the best option for you.
French Press is an accessible brewer that is readily available in mainstream stores all over the world, and apart from allowing you to brew a robust cup of hot coffee, its functionality extends to brewing tea, making cold foam, and now even a cold brew.
French Press Cold Brew Method:
- Grind your beans to a coarse grind
- Put your coffee into the French Press
- Fill with cold water
- Follow the 1:5 ratio for cold brew concentrate or 1:8 for ready-to-drink cold brew
- Steep for 12 hours
- Filter into your mug, add ice, and enjoy
4. Making Cold Brew: No Equipment Needed
This immersion method is easy and requires no special equipment. All you need is coffee, a mason jar, a paper filter, and ice.
- Fill ⅓ of the har with coarsely ground coffee beans
- Add water to the top
- Shake it up
- Let it steep for around 12-14 hours
- Shake it a few times throughout the process to prevent coffee from separating
- Filter, pour into a glass with ice, and enjoy!
How To Filter Cold Brew?
When preparing a cold brew with a full immersion method, you need to filter the coffee grounds.
You can use any paper filter you have at home, but the Chemex filter is most suitable and will produce a smooth beverage in your cup since it’s much thicker than other paper filters.
How Long To Steep Cold Brew: French Press And Immersion Method
There are no strict rules for how long to steep the cold brew, but bear in mind that the longer steeping time will result in a more concentrated cold brew.
I recommend starting with a 12-hour steeping time and adjusting it to your preference. You can always dilute your cold brew with more cold water if you find it too strong.
5. Toddy Cold Brew System
In addition to the methods above, there is also specialized equipment that you can buy to prepare your cold brew, with the most popular being the Toddy cold brew system.
Developed in 1964, Toddy consists of a plastic brewing container, brewing handle, glass decanter, lid, two filters, and a rubber stopper.
While it can be bulky, it can fit up to 340g of coffee and 1.65 liters of water, making it a great investment for cold brew enthusiasts.
Cold Brew Recipe Inspiration
Thanks to the smooth delicate taste of the cold brew, many people enjoy it on its own, without the need to add sugar or cream.
Don’t let this stop you and feel free to get inspired by cold brew recipes online or make your own weird coffee combinations.
You can use your cold brew to make:
- Cold brew float by adding vanilla ice cream on top
- Coconut cold brew by adding shredded coconut to the mixture along with the coffee grounds
- Caramel vanilla cold brew by adding vanilla extract, caramel syrup, and a splash of milk
- Honey cinnamon cold brew by steeping the coffee with cinnamon sticks and adding cinnamon sugar and honey
- Use cold brew in smoothies by blending it with a banana, peanut butter, or chocolate
- Use cold brew for coffee cocktails, making a smooth cold brew martini or cold brew negroni
The Bottom Line
There you have it, your ultimate guide to cold brew coffee!
Now you know how is it different from iced coffee, what to expect from it in terms of taste, and 5 methods in which you can make cold brew at home, including how to French Press cold brew.