How to Brew Cold Coffee: a Step-by-Step Guide

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Cold coffee is more than just a summer fad; it’s a year-round obsession for many. But let’s face it, not all cold coffee is created equal. The difference between a mediocre and a mind-blowing cup often boils down to the brewing process. In this guide, we’ll demystify the art and science of brewing cold coffee, offering you a step-by-step roadmap to achieve that perfect chill.

A Glass Of Iced Coffee Next To A Glass Of Brewed Cold Coffee
Cold brew coffee has a deeper, richer, and less acidic taste.

How to Brew Cold Coffee: a Step-by-Step Guide

Essential Gear

To embark on your cold brew journey, you’ll need some basic equipment. This includes:

  • A large jar or pitcher for steeping
  • A coffee grinder to achieve the right grind size
  • A filter or cheesecloth for separating the concentrate
  • Measuring cups for precise ratios
  • A stirrer for thorough mixing

Creating a flawless cold brew doesn’t have to be complicated. Follow this 6-step checklist to ensure you get the most out of your homemade brew.

Step 1: Use a Coarse Grind

Start by grinding your coffee beans to a coarse texture. This maximizes flavor extraction while minimizing bitterness. Finer grinds can lead to over-extraction, which compromises the quality of your brew.

Step 2: Follow the 1:5 Coffee-to-Water Ratio

For a balanced brew, adhere to a 1:5 ratio of coffee to water. Using less coffee will result in a weak brew, while using more can make it overly strong.

Step 3: Mix Thoroughly

Combine your coarsely ground coffee with cold water in a large container. Stir the mixture well to ensure that every coffee ground is fully saturated. Uniform saturation is key for a consistent flavor.

Step 4: Steep for 24-48 Hours

Allow your mixture to steep for a minimum of 12 hours for a lighter flavor, or up to 24 hours for a bolder profile. You can steep it either at room temperature or in the refrigerator, depending on your taste preference. I always steep mine for 48 hours but I’m a crazy man.

Step 5: Strain

Once the steeping time is up, separate the coffee concentrate from the grounds using a fine-mesh sieve or cheesecloth. You’ll be left with a potent cold brew concentrate.

Step 6: Dilute Before Drinking

The concentrate is quite strong, so you can always dilute it with water, milk, or another liquid of your choice before drinking. That said, I prefer the concentrated mixture poured over ice.

A Mason Jar Filled With Brewed Cold Coffee
Brewed cold coffee is easiest to make in a mason jar

By following this checklist, you’re not simply making a cup of coffee. You’re employing a systematic, data-supported method to brew a less acidic and more flavorful cold brew coffee. Whether you’re new to this or looking to improve, these steps are your blueprint to cold brew excellence.


Frequently Asked Questions

1. What Coffee Beans Should You Use?

Selecting the right coffee beans is crucial for achieving a high-quality cold brew. Medium to dark roast beans are generally recommended for a balanced and full-bodied flavor. The place where the beans are grown also adds unique touches to the taste.

Here are some of my personal favorite beans I use for brewing cold brew coffee. These are specialty coffee roasters, so their beans might cost a bit more than those in your local grocery store (you can find Volcanica in most grocery stores).

2. What Roast Level is Best for Cold Brew Beans?

For a cold brew that’s both balanced and robust, medium to dark roast beans are your go-to. These roasts are known for highlighting the coffee’s natural flavors while keeping acidity at bay.

3. How Does Bean Origin Influence Cold Brew Flavor?

Latin American beans tend to bring fruity undertones to your brew, whereas African beans add a floral essence. The origin of the beans can indeed make a significant difference in how your cold brew tastes.


Common Mistakes & How To Avoid Them

Creating the perfect cold brew is an art, but it’s easy to stumble along the way. Here are some common pitfalls you might encounter and actionable steps to avoid them.

1. Your Grind Size is Wrong

Choosing a fine grind can result in an over-extracted, muddy beverage. For optimal cold brew, stick to a coarse grind. This allows for a balanced extraction, leading to a cleaner, more robust flavor.

2. Follow The Steeping Guidelines

A steeping time of less than 12 hours often produces a brew that’s lacking in depth. For a cold brew that’s rich and full-bodied, aim for a steeping duration between 12 to 24 hours. This time frame allows for the full extraction of flavors, making your brew more complex and enjoyable.

3. Use Filtered Water

Don’t underestimate the impact of water quality on your cold brew. Using unfiltered water can introduce impurities that alter the taste. To achieve a clean, pure flavor, always opt for filtered water.


Best Practices for Storing Cold Brew Coffee

Ensuring that your cold brew retains its original flavor and freshness requires proper storage techniques. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your cold brew.

1. Refrigerate It, Always

Storing your cold brew in the refrigerator is non-negotiable for maintaining its freshness. Cold temperatures slow down the oxidation process, helping to preserve the coffee’s original flavors.

2. Store in an Airtight Container, Like a Mason Jar

Using airtight containers is another crucial step in prolonging the life of your cold brew. These containers prevent air from entering, which in turn minimizes oxidation and helps maintain the integrity of the flavors.


In Summary: Take Your Cold Brew to the Next Level

Creating an exceptional cold brew is more than just a step-by-step process; it’s about understanding the subtle details that make this drink unique. By steering clear of common pitfalls and applying proven methods, you can craft a cold brew that transcends the ordinaryโ€”offering a smooth, low-acid, and flavor-rich experience. Whether you’re just starting out or aiming to refine your technique, grasping these finer points is essential for elevating your cold brew.

Avatar Of Kelsey Todd
With over two decades in the coffee industry, Kelsey is a seasoned professional barista with roots in Seattle and Santa Barbara. Accredited by The Coffee Association of America and a member of The Baristas Guild, he combines practical expertise with a profound understanding of coffee's history and cultural significance. Kelsey tries his best to balance family time with blogging time and fails miserably.