What is Cold Brew Coffee? A Comprehensive Guide

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In this guide, I’ll cover everything you need to know about cold brew coffee, from its history and brewing process to tips and recommendations for making your own at home.

2 Glasses Filled With Cold Brew Coffee, A Carafe Half Filled With Cold Brew In The Background
Cold brew coffee can be used as a concentrate

Key Takeaways

  • Cold brew is made by steeping coffee in cold water, while iced coffee is made by pouring hot coffee over ice.
  • Cold brew is less acidic with a smoother flavor than hot-brewed coffee.
  • It requires a higher coffee-to-water ratio due to its extended steeping period.
  • Cold brew dates back to 17th-century Japan, where it was used to make tea-like beverages with coffee and cold water.

What is Cold Brew Coffee?

Cold brew coffee is a brewing method that involves steeping coarsely ground coffee beans in cold or room temperature water for an extended period of time, typically 12-24 hours. This slow process results in a smoother, less bitter coffee concentrate that can be diluted with water, milk, or other ingredients.

Cold Brew Coffee In A Mason Jar With A Handle
Cold Brew coffee is commonly served in a mason jar

Coffee-to-Water Ratios for Cold Brew Coffee

(0.5:1 Ratio)
(1:1 Ratio)
(2:1 Ratio)
Maker Size

How to make cold brew coffee at home:

Making cold brew coffee at home is easier than you might think! You only need good-quality coffee beans, a container, water, and time.



  1. Coarsely grind your coffee beans.
  2. Place the ground coffee in a pitcher or a mason jar.
  3. Add cold water to the pitcher or jar and stir.
  4. Cover the pitcher or jar and let it sit in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours.
  5. Strain the coffee mixture through a coffee filter, fine mesh sieve, or cheesecloth.
Infographic: Cold-Brew Coffee Ratios Simplified
Infographic: Cold-Brew Coffee Ratios Simplified

Exploring the Different Names of Cold Brew Coffee

Cold brew coffee goes by various names and variations worldwide. You might hear it being called Kyoto-Style Coffee, Dutch coffee, Toddy coffee, and more. Let’s explore some of the common monikers for this lovely chilled beverage.

1. Dutch Coffee

Dutch traders used a cold brewing method, primarily to brew a large quantity of coffee that wouldn’t spoil during the lengthy sea journeys. This cold brewing method was introduced in Korea and Japan, where it’s known as Dutch Coffee or Kyoto Coffee​2.

2. Kyoto-style Cold Brew

Kyoto coffee, also known as Kyoto-style slow-drip coffee or Kyoto cold brew, is a traditional Japanese coffee brewing style that was popularized in Kyoto, Japan (I just wrote Kyoto 4 times…) The process involves letting water slowly, drop by drop, drip over coffee grounds.

Kyoto Style Cold Brew Coffee Tower
You can find this Kyoto Style Cold Brew Coffee Tower on Amazon for $280.

Kyoto-style cold brew coffee is made using a special three-part glass machine. It starts by putting ice and a bit of water in the top part. The middle part has coffee over a paper filter. The ice water drips very slowly onto the coffee. The brewed coffee then drips into the bottom part. This whole thing takes a long time – about 8 to 12 hours or even overnight.

3. Toddy

“Toddy” is now commonly used as a synonym for cold brew coffee, but interestingly, it’s originally a brand name of a well-known cold brew coffee maker that was launched half a century ago. This is analogous to how we often use “Kleenex” as a generic term for facial tissue or “Q-Tips” instead of cotton swabs.

Toddy® Cold Brew System
Toddy® Cold Brew System – Staycation Edition | $57 on Amazon

4. Nitro Cold Brew:

Introduced in the early 2010s, nitro cold brew is a type of cold brew coffee infused with nitrogen for a smooth texture. It was possibly first made at Cuvee Coffee in Austin, Texas, Stumptown in Portland, Oregon, or The Queens Kickshaw in New York.

It landed on Starbucks’ menu in 2016, and by 2020, it was a staple at most locations in the US. Now, nitro cold brew is often available in kegs, with companies like RISE Brewing Co. capable of filling thousands daily.

Nitrotapp Nitro Cold Brew Coffee Maker With Keg

Make your own Nitro cold brew at home! Coffee lovers are getting creative and trying their hand at crafting Nitro cold brew. For an affordable option, check out NitroTapp. Their entry-level equipment, priced at around $175, is perfect for making Nitro cold brew at home.

Did you know? Starbucks only offers Nitro Cold Brew in smaller sizes to keep the drink’s quality. Larger sizes would lose the ‘nitro cascade,’ the frothy texture that makes it special. This decision is about giving customers the best drink experience3.

History of Cold Brew Coffee

The history of cold brew coffee can be traced back to the 17th century, originating in either Japan or the Netherlands. In Japan, the renowned Kyoto-style cold brewing method emerged. As mentioned above, making this cold brew style involves using a slow-drip tower apparatus to brew coffee, resulting in a smooth and less bitter cup of joe.

A Coffee Shop On The Streets Of Kyoto, Japan
A coffee shop on the streets of Kyoto, Japan

This method also produced a concentrated and easily transportable coffee, gaining popularity in Europe and Asia. However, it wasn’t until the mid-2000s that cold brew coffee became widely recognized in the United States, solidifying its position as a staple in the vibrant coffee culture of the nation.

Related: The Complete History of Iced Coffee

Exploring Flavorful Additions for Cold Brew Coffee

If you want to elevate your cold brew experience, why not explore some flavor variations? Here are a few options to tantalize your taste buds:

Vanilla Cold Brew: Ask your barista to add a few pumps of Vanilla syrup to your next cold brew. Trust me; you won’t be disappointed. This simple addition infuses the coffee with that lovely vanilla flavor which beautifully complements its smoothness.

Coconut Cold Brew: I’m in love with the tropical vibes of coconut cold brew. Adding coconut milk, cream, or even coconut syrup to my cold brew instantly transports me to a Hawaiian paradise (even though I’ve never been there). Coconut syrup reminds me of sun tan lotion and the beach, making each sip a nostalgic trip down a non-existent memory lane.

Adding Coconut Milk To A Glass Of Cold Brew Coffee
Coconut milk brings a nostalgic, refreshing flavor to the otherwise rich & bold cold brew coffee.

Mocha Cold Brew: Indulge in the heavenly combination of coffee and chocolate with mocha cold brew. It’s like an iced mocha, intense and satisfying, but with a perfect balance of sweetness.

Caramel Cold Brew: Discover a hint of sweetness by adding caramel syrup or sauce to your cold brew, elevating the flavors without overpowering your taste buds.

Hazelnut Cold Brew: The nutty aroma of hazelnuts in my cold brew is incredibly comforting. I love infusing my cold brew with hazelnut syrup or a splash of hazelnut extract. It adds a wonderful depth of flavor.

Remember, the possibilities for flavoring your cold brew coffee are endless. Feel free to experiment with different syrups, extracts, or even spices like cinnamon or cardamom to create your own signature cold brew masterpiece.

What Is Cold Brew Coffee

Cold Brew Coffee

Making cold brew coffee at home is easier than you might think! All you need is good-quality coffee beans, a container, water, and time.
5 from 1 vote
Prep: 5 minutes
Yield: 4 people




  • Coarsely grind your coffee beans.
    8 oz coarsely ground coffee
  • Place the ground coffee in the metal filter of the cold brew coffee maker. You can also use a glass pitcher or a mason jar.
  • Fill the cold brew maker with cold water (stir if using a pitcher or mason jar)
  • Cover and let it sit in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours.
  • Remove the metal filter and pour yourself a glass. If using a pitcher or mason jar, you'll need to strain the coffee mixture through a coffee filter, fine mesh sieve, or cheesecloth.

Your Own Notes


1 Cold Brew Maker easiest method
1 64oz Wide Mouth Half Gallon Mason Jar use instead of cold brew maker
1 68oz Glass Pitcher with Lid use instead of cold brew maker
1 Fine mesh strainer use with mason jar or pitcher


Caffeine: 205 mg

Nutritional Information

Serving: 16oz, Calories: 5kcal, Sodium: 15mg

The Golden Lamb provides nutritional information, but these figures should be considered estimates, as they are not calculated by a registered dietician.

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3 Coffee Beans Perfect for Cold Brew

Here are three of my favorite coffee beans for making cold brew. I chose them based on their flavor profile and roast level (medium roasts make great iced coffee).

  • Spirit Animal Coffee Bourbon Roast – $36
  • Volcanica Coffee Columbian Blend – $20
  • Koa Coffee Medium Roast – $33
Spirit Animal Coffee
Death Wish Coffee For Cold Brew
Koa Coffee For Cold Brew Coffee

Related: Explore My Comprehensive Review of Spirit Animal Coffee.

Essential Cold Brew Equipment: 5 Must-Haves for Brewing at Home

While you can make cold brew coffee with just a mason jar and a strainer, having the right equipment can make the process easier and more consistent. Here are 5 of my top choices for cold brew equipment that I recommend. I have the Ovalware one.

  1. Hario Mizudashi – $21.50 (Amazon)
  2. Cascade Mason Jar – $32.99 (Etsy)
  3. Ovalware Cold Brew Jar – $35.99 (Amazon)
  4. Kitchenaid XL – $139 (Kitchenaid) (Amazon)
  5. Toddy – $39.99 (Amazon)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What’s the cold brew coffee-to-water ratio?

A commonly recommended ratio is 1:10 of coffee to water.

What coffee grind is best for cold brew?

The best coffee grind size for cold brew coffee is a coarse grind​4.

What are the best coffee beans for cold brew?


My favorite coffee for making cold brew is the Bourbon Roast from Spirit Animal Coffee. Its distinct brightness and smoothness, coupled with floral undertones, are truly highlighted when used for cold brew. They have a wide range of single-origin, organic coffee beans roasted explicitly for cold brew.

Can I make cold-brew coffee with a french Press?

Using a French press is one of the more popular methods for making cold brew. Instead of using hot water, use cold water, and let the coffee steep for 24-48 hours in the refrigerator.

Can cold brew coffee be heated?

Cold-brew coffee can be heated, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Heating it will change the flavor and texture of the coffee, as it was specifically brewed to be served cold. Heating it up can result in a bitter taste and a loss of some of the smoothness and sweetness of cold brew coffee.

Will drinking cold brew coffee break a fast?

It depends on the type of fast you’re doing and how you define “breaking” a fast. Cold brew coffee has zero calories or sugar, which makes it a popular beverage for people who are fasting for weight loss or health reasons. However, it does contain some caffeine, which can impact your metabolism and blood sugar levels.

Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee vs. Iced Americano

Cold brew involves steeping coffee grounds in cold water over time. Iced coffee is regular brewed coffee that is chilled and poured over ice. An iced americano is made by mixing espresso shots with cold water and serving it over ice. Check out my detailed post for more info.

How do you serve cold brew coffee?

Cold brew coffee can be served in various ways, including diluting it with water or milk or drinking it as is, depending on personal preference.

Can cold brew coffee be frozen?

Yes, cold brew coffee can be frozen, and doing so in an ice cube tray can provide convenient serving options.

Why is cold brew coffee so expensive?

Cold brew coffee requires a larger amount of coffee beans and a longer brewing time, contributing to its higher cost.

Are cold brew coffees sweet?

Cold brew coffee itself isn’t inherently sweet. It often has a smoother, less acidic taste compared to hot coffee, which can give the impression of mild sweetness.

How to cold brew with a French press?

To make cold brew in a French press, mix coarse ground coffee with cold water, let it steep in the fridge for 12-24 hours, then press and strain.

Will cold brew break my fast?

Plain cold brew coffee won’t break a fast as it contains negligible calories. However, added sugars or milk will.

Can cold brew make you nauseous?

Cold brew can cause nausea in some people, possibly due to its high caffeine content or acidity. Moderation is key.

Which cold brew has the least caffeine?

The caffeine content in cold brew varies by brand and brew concentration. Look for cold brews labeled as lower in caffeine or diluted more.


You’ve now learned everything there is to know about cold brew coffee, and let me tell you, it’s worth trying! Whether you like it black, with milk, or even as a cocktail mixer, cold brew coffee is an amazing and versatile drink that has gained popularity for a reason.

Don’t miss out on the trend – give cold brew coffee a chance and discover your new favorite way to enjoy coffee!


  1. https://yourdreamcoffee.com/cold-brew-coffee-frequently-asked-questions/
  2. https://www.dutch-coffee.nl/history-of-dutch-coffee/
  3. https://www.foxnews.com/food-drink/starbucks-cant-venti-nitro-cold-brew
  4. https://yourdreamcoffee.com/cold-brew-coffee-frequently-asked-questions/
Avatar Of Kelsey Todd
Kelsey brings over 20 years of hands-on experience in the coffee industry, having honed his craft as a professional barista in both Seattle and Santa Barbara. He is an accredited member of The Coffee Association of America and holds an active membership in The Baristas Guild. Beyond his practical experience, Kelsey is deeply committed to the academic study of coffee history and its cultural impact. Outside of his professional pursuits, he enjoys quality time with his family and shares his extensive knowledge of coffee through insightful articles on this blog.

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