How to Cold Brew Coffee

Cold brew coffee makes a smooth, non-bitter coffee that is especially perfect for iced coffee. I shared this over at Mnn.com the other week, but it’s such a favorite I thought I should share it here too. Whether you should drink coffee or not from a health perspective is up to debate, but if you are going to drink coffee this is a lovely way to do it.

Coffee never really appealed to me. At least, that’s what I thought. Cold-brew coffee is what first won me over and now I enjoy coffee made a variety of ways. There are both health benefits and disadvantages to drinking coffee, but that aside, I have discovered a love for coffee, and it all started with cold-brew coffee last year. If you are looking for a smooth cup of Joe, then this is an excellent method.

Plus, it is so simple! You leave coffee in water for 12 hours or more, and then you strain it. You now have a coffee concentrate that will last at least a week. What more can you ask for? The advantages of cold brewing coffee, as I see it, are as follows.

1. It is simple and easy to do.
2. It is less acidic, which many people find helpful on the stomach.
3. There is less caffeine per cup when cold brewed.
4. The cold-brew method is less bitter, which promotes a smooth flavor.
5. The cold-brew method allows a different flavor profile to appear. Without as much bitterness, the fruity, chocolate, vanilla or other undertones are allowed to shine. So, even if you like a good cup of drip coffee, cold brewed coffee can give you a wonderful variation.

I make this the most simple way possible with a mason jar (like these ones from my Amazon affiliate). But you can also use some of the great cold brew systems out there to make the process even simpler. The Toddy was the first system, but this one is a lot more classy, and this Bodum one looks great too!

Here is how I make mine. The amount of coffee to water can be tweaked to preference. A good rule of thumb is 1/3 cup of ground coffee to 1 cup of water. I make batches of 4 cups, but you can certainly make less or a lot more by using the same ratio.

Cold Brew Coffee

1 1/3 cup of fresh finely ground coffee (Even cheap coffee tastes good using this method, but I recommend buying organic coffee beans, since coffee is a highly sprayed crop. I personally lean toward a medium roast bean)
4 cups of filtered water

1. Combine ground coffee and water in a mason jar or French press. Stir to combine well. Cover and leave for at least 8 hours, and up to 24 hours at room temperature.

2. Put a coffee filter in a fine sieve over a small mixing bowl or 4 cup measuring cup. Slowly pour coffee through the filter. This is your coffee concentrate.

3. Keep refrigerated. To serve, dilute to preference. A one-to-two ratio is common (one-third coffee concentrate, two-thirds water). For a stronger cup of coffee, use a one-to-one ratio. I like to add a little almond milk. My husband likes to add a tablespoon or two of organic cream and just a little sweetener.

It will keep at least one week.

Yield: 4 cups of concentrate (makes at least 8 cups of coffee).

KimiHarris

I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

Comments

  1. Kurt says

    That’s a neat suggestion. I will have to try it.

    Last summer I found a great recipe online for blended coffee drinks which called for coffee which had been frozen into ice cubes and then blended with other ingredients. I just used regular strength coffee for those ice cubes, but I imagine this method would work just as well, too; this way you could freeze the cold-brewed concentrate to get more coffee flavor from fewer cubes.

  2. says

    Love cold-brew coffee! It really is so easy to make. I use a basket filter inside of a funnel to strain it directly into a stoppered bottle. It’s definitely iced coffee season where I live and cold-brew is the best way to make it!

  3. Alicia says

    I might try this. Any tips for sweetening it? My usual routine for iced coffee is the French press, double strength over ice. So I can dissolve my palm sugar in a little hot coffee before adding ice and cream. I do half stevia drops and half palm sugar.

    • jesse says

      make sure to find out where your palm products are coming from. massive areas of old growth rain forest are being bulldozed for palm plantations in south east Asia. whats terrible is that the suppliers and retailers try to hide this from you. look it up. i try my hardest to avoid palm products at all costs.

      • Cat says

        Thank you Jesse! I cringe every time I see or read about someone buying/consuming palm or coconut sugar. I try to tell as many people as possible about how the harvesting of this product is destroying the rain forests. After being informed, I don’t see how anyone can continue to use these products in good conscience.

        • jordan says

          Hey moron, its palm OIL that is bad, palm sugar is very safe to the environment as no trees are destroyed in the process…. yet another uninformed, ignorant “eco-hipster” that has no clue what they are saying.

          • toast says

            Jordan, Do you find it amusing to start your conversation with an insult? And to categorize people you don’t even know with inflammatory tags is just shallow and immature. My suggestion who be to add value to the conversation and direct the person to some documentation that may corroborate your claim.

          • anywhoo says

            If you want anyone to take your educational efforts seriously, “jordan”, you should provide a) a link to your references, and b) refrain from acting like a total a—hat. Grow some manners.

        • Punkonjunk says

          Uh, I would, if I cared. or I’ll just go ahead and keep buying either coffee syrups or other sweeteners packaged in plastics, because polymers are forever. Unlike the comment base here, my goal is to have the biggest carbon footprint possible. My diesel car is old, and smells horrible, and spews garbage, but it gets GREAT gas mileage!

          There is a big difference between wanting to save the damned world, and wanting people to know how much you want to save the world.

          But not to worry! there are those, like me, out to separate the narcissism from philanthropy and caring. For every comment like this I see on the internet, I discharge an entire aerosol canister full of nothing but CFCs straight into the air. At this point, it’s costing me a lot of money, discharging all this into the atmosphere, so when I get backed up on comments, (like I am today, hoo boy!) I just go to the junkard and crack open refrigerant valves on old cars. That’s a great way to destroy the ozone!

          If I’m feeling really frisky, I empty a couple of gallons of old coolant right into the sewer. I’m sure that’ll make my point!

          • psychobilly says

            @punkonjunk – awesomeness! I almost fell out of my chair laughing. I’m going to go burn a big pile of old tires in your honor. Cheers!

          • says

            “There is a big difference between wanting to save the damned world, and wanting people to know how much you want to save the world.”

            I want to get a tattoo of these words in block letters right across my clavicle, and wear scoop-necks for the rest of my life, just as soon as I find a 100% fracked-gas-powered tattoo parlor.

            Well played!

            And thank you, NG, for the recipe. Has anybody ever tasted an espresso soda called Manhattan Special? It’s addictive, expensive, and the supply stream is, uh, whimsical. I’m going to see if I can replicate it with your cold brew. If it works, you’ll have my eternal, fidgety gratitude!

      • Shelley says

        I cringe every time people try to tell me how to eat or drink something….eat, drink and be merry any way you like..its very liberating

  4. Alicia says

    One option I just thought of upon posting is put palm sugar in the coffee grinder to make it powdered, and it would dissolve more quickly.

  5. Brenda in Phoenix, AZ says

    Thanks, Kimi, for this information. I think I’ll do this, at the latest, just prior to the next time I go on the road with my husband, then take the concentrate with me. I recently discovered another tasty, and I believe, probiotic way to drink coffee. I call it KombuCafé,

    The recipe is:

    8 cups (2 quarts / .5 gallon) of black coffee (I used an organic medium-dark roast, but use whatever roast your taste buds like)
    1/2 cup organic evaporated cane juice sugar
    1 nice Kombucha SCOBY

    Heat 4 cups of the water to just under boiling. Pour over the coffee grounds (I recommend finely ground) in an unbleached paper filter to keep it really clear of all particles. After the coffee has finished dripping through, add the sugar and stir to dissolve completely. Cool to room temperature, pour into a sufficiently accommodating glass jar or canister, add the other 4 cups of water (at room temperature), and a nice Kombucha SCOBY. Cover, and wait approximately 7 days – your nose will tell you when to taste it.

    Here too, the caffeine and sugar are reduced. Voila! Delicious coffee/Café. And no, it doesn’t taste vinegary, at least not to me, but then, my main and subsequent current SCOBYs were developed from a purchased bottle of Kombucha (a real SCOBY is now on order). A flavor caution: if you usually like your coffee strong, start at 50-75% of the amount of grounds you would normally use if you were making 8 cups.

    It makes me happy to be able to share this discovery with others who aren’t against drinking coffee. I learned to like, then love coffee when I lived in Germany where the coffee was *always* strong and delicious, and served with cream! :) I like coffee for the smell, the taste, and the ritual (I grind my own for freshness), and because it’s sometimes the only thing that helps me get up in the morning. I’ve given it up several times, and for months, or over a year once, but I really like coffee, and I always missed it. After listening to Ori Hofmekler’s healthy coffee information, I no longer feel so conflicted about drinking it.

    Thanks again!

    • Brenda in Phoenix, AZ says

      Well for all this, I forgot to say that no starter liquid is necessary, because coffee is more acidic than tea. Also, when I bottled some a few days ago, I added a chunk of cinnamon stick to a couple of bottles. It’s good!

    • anywhoo says

      Oh thanks for this! I’ve recently been brewing kombucha with black tea, but I’m not much of a cold tea drinker. Cold coffee kombucha sounds good.

  6. Judy says

    I’ve made cold coffee for years and love it. I also make my homemade hemp seed milk and add it to my coffee, along with some cocoa powder (preferably raw) and some organic maple syrup. It’s great. Brenda, I’ll have to try it your way, too – sounds great.
    Judy,
    horticulturist
    plantdrlady@yahoo.com

  7. says

    I once bought a “cold brew system” that cost big bucks. Boy, do I feel foolish now! This is a timely posting, though. Just in time for iced coffee season. Yum!

  8. says

    This is wonderful. How bad would it be to add a teaspoon of organic sweetened condensed milk? I know it’s bad … but it tastes like a Thai Iced Coffee and it cures my sweet cravings for a week.

    • krystal says

      What is bad about organic condensed milk? Try unsweetened and add a bit of agave/yacon/ stevia to your cup.

      • says

        Most condensed milk has carrageenan which effectively has MSG. I’d add 1/2 and 1/2 (most heavy cream also has carrageenan) and a favorite sweetener instead.

        • Dana says

          Carageenan’s problem is that it can be inflammatory. Nothing outside of a laboratory is going to have MSG in it naturally. It might have glutamic acid in it but that is a naturally-occurring amino acid, and is not the same as monosodium glutamate (what MSG stands for). I really wish people would distinguish between these substances; MSG is scary enough without adding unnecessary fear elsewhere.

          Glutamic acid, by the way, is a non-essential amino acid which means that your body *makes* it. If it were deadly, you wouldn’t be here reading this.

  9. says

    Sounds like a great way to brew coffee… And a way healthier one too!

    I’m going to try brewing this in the fridge. That way I can leave it sitting for longer and not worry about it going bad anytime soon. I’ll let you know if it’s worthwhile ; )

    Thanks for the great tips. : P
    Cheers,
    Andrés

  10. Peggy says

    Don’t forget to freeze some of the diluted coffee for coffee ice cubes. I like flavoring the ice with a mint leaf, crushed raspberry etc. for a subtle, real food flavoring.

  11. says

    Interesting! I had no idea it was possible to cold brew coffee. I don’t really like the idea of getting less caffeine for the money…but maybe I’ll try it on a hot weekend!

    A one-to-three ratio is common (one-third coffee concentrate, two-thirds water).
    That’s actually a one-to-two ratio.

    • KH says

      Dilution ratios can be expressed that way and still be correct. It is more common in scientific settings to have the dilution ratio be solute:total volume instead of solute:solvent. This way you can get the dilution factor. Example: 1:3 dilution of A to B would be 1 part of A to 2 parts of B (3 total). There was a x3 dilution of A. This doesn’t really matter in this situation so either way is fine. It is just nice to know that the reason why people get confused with this is because there really are two legitimate ways of doing dilution ratios. Examples: http://mathbench.umd.edu/modules/microbio_serial-dilution/page03.htm

  12. says

    Until I read this I totally forgot about the way we used to make iced coffee when I was a barista. We called it “toddy coffee” and it was made just like this, only in a large quantity. We would make it the night before so it would be ready in the morning. I’ve given up coffee for the past several weeks just to loosen my dependence on it, and see if it helps my nursing toddler sleep better. But I’ve got some toddy’s now on the counter brewing and I’m going to enjoy some delicious organic Trader Joe’s breakfast blend (seriously the most delicious smelling bean I have EVER smelled) tomorrow. Good thing I ordered a quart of raw cream from my farmer this week! Thanks for sharing this!

  13. Renee says

    Thanks for all the info. I’ve been trying different coffee/water ratios and I think I just needed more coffee grounds. I’m glad I didn’t buy a cold brew system…the old mason jar works just fine. It is a great way to drink coffee with good flavor and less acid. Great topic..

  14. Renee says

    Thanks for all the info. I’ve been trying different coffee/water ratios and I think I just needed more coffee grounds. I’m glad I didn’t buy a cold brew system…the old mason jar works just fine. It is a great way to drink coffee with good flavor and less acid. I also use the Trader Joes organic breakfast blend, good stuff. Great topic..

  15. Tex says

    I tried this method using super cheap-o ground coffee from WalMart (Don Pedro’s) that I was ready to toss. I figured there was little to lose. I measured the same amount of coffee grounds I normally use to drip brew. Clarifying it was a hassle: the fine silt kept clogging the paper filters.

    The result? It made my favorite, Aldi’s Donut Shop Whole Bean (drip brewed), taste harsh in comparison. Thanks for this great idea.

  16. says

    Interesting, I will definitely try this. I have never even thought of a cold brew coffee, so thank you for the great tips! I so agree, I always use an organic coffee bean! and drink it with raw whole milk!

  17. Matt says

    “3. Keep refrigerated. To serve, dilute to preference. A one-to-three ratio is common (one-third coffee concentrate, two-thirds water).”

    This is contradictory. 1:3 ratio would mean one-fourth concentrate, three-fourths water.
    One-third concentrate, two-thirds water actually describes a 1:2 ratio.

    So which ratio is actually being recommended? Any input would be appreciated, as I am very excited to try this. Thanks.

  18. James says

    Ratio’s are as they appear. 1:2 is one part of a product mixed with two parts of a second product. I believe the earlier blog was wanting to use a 1:3 ratio and 1:2 for stronger mix and 1:1 is even stronger (50/50 mix). Lol I almost messed this up as I was typing this response. It is easy to think that 1:2 is a 50% mix but it dilutes the cncentrate to 33.3%. So that is why it is better to forget about the percentages and what not and decide if you like the ratio of say 1:3 or the slightly stronger 1:2, or the 1:1 for the strongest before adding more concentrate than dilutent as in a 2:1 ratio.

    Hope this helps,

    James

    P.S.

    Had the best mocha ever in Traverse City Mi. Yesterday. Yes it was made with cold brewed coffee. I just made my first batch. So hello tomorrow!!!

  19. David Price says

    I tried putting 1 1/3 cups coffee grounds and 4 cups of water in a Mason jar…makes a hell of a mess. Somebody needs to edit this recipe!

  20. Kaitlin says

    I love cold brew coffee and I used to make it all the time when I worked as a barista. However, I have a different understanding of the caffeine content. I was under the impression (from what I’ve read as well as my own experience) that cold press had a LOT of caffeine–more so than drip. I was told that one of the factors in how much caffeine is how long the grounds are “processed” and since cold brew takes about 24 hours to make, it has a lot of caffeine, whereas drip coffee takes considerably less time. I could be wrong, but I know I feel especially wired when I have cold brew.

    • Jessi says

      I also have the same understanding of cold brewed coffee. We used the Toddy concentrate system and were told that basically 1shot of the concentrate is equal to 1 shot of espresso. And I also get all jittery after enough of that stuff. Still delicious though :]

  21. Truman says

    Good tutorial, but there is actually a greater concentration of caffeine in cold brew than in espresso or drip coffee

    • Rose says

      Would this also be true if using decaf coffee? I love coffee, but can’t tolerate any caffeine at all. To drink it hot, do you just heat a cup in the microwave?

    • Lisa Marie says

      This is actually not true. According to a study done by the ToddyCafe co, there was 30% less caffeine in cold brew.

  22. Regina Steiner says

    I don’t currently own a coffee pot and really don’t feel like buying one….my small kitchen is cluttered enough as it is! Came upon this post and figured I have to try this. My carafe is a BIT too small so there’s only 3.5 cups of water, hope it still comes out OK. Looking forward to trying this tomorrow morning!

  23. says

    You can use our Hi-Spirits Drink Machine to make cold brew coffee, cold brew tea or green coffee bean extract in MINUTES. You can have it fresh when you want it! Hard to believe – just go to mydrinkmachine.com.

    I am one of the inventors from New Zealand and made this because I have a passion for cold brew teas and coffees. The taste sensation is unbelievable, especially with roasted and green coffee beans.

  24. Shannon says

    I have been making cold brew coffee for the past year and a half and use the toddy (for the $35 it cost it is well worth not making a mess in my kitchen:)) I was googling one day about it and found someone brewing a second time with all the grounds and so I have been doing that and the second batch is not as strong so I just add less water when I make my latte in my little breville latte thing. I just heat up my half n half, water, vanilla, sweetener and a pinch of salt and it foams beatifully and then I add my concentrate at the end and it tastes like heaven. 1 lb of coffee is what the toddy takes and with double steeping I have to make coffee only once a month. Starbucks coffee is gross to me now.

    • Christine says

      Shannon, I love the idea of double steeping. – Very cost effective and thrifty. So, do you steep immediately after straining the first batch, and then store the whole works for the upcoming month? I guess you would have to – you couldn’t really store soaked grounds for any length of time, could you? I’ll give it a try.

  25. says

    Just found this and can’t wait to try it. You may not get this comment but can you substitute the ratio of water with almond milk instead?

    Thanks~Theresa

  26. Gloria says

    Yay!! That was the BEST F’in coffee I’ve ever made at home!!
    I knew cold brew was the way to go, and since my favorite pre-made cold brew distributor isn’t distributing for the moment (Java Juice), I had to break down and try to make my own. Wow! Thanks for this! I served it w/ heated goat milk. Yum!!
    I don’t normally have coffee, but when I do it better be awesome! Thanks for the encouragement!

  27. Merissa says

    Thank you! I love iced black coffee, but I hate how it gets watered down, and I’m sensitive to caffeine. Trying this tonight!

  28. Kitty Philips says

    I made this as part of a class I taught today. I made a vanilla bean milk that had a little raw sugar in it for sweetness. It was very good! Everyone loved it! I think I will use this method from now on. So easy and inexpensive. And no electricity needed.

  29. says

    Thank you a million times over for how to make coffee using far less electricity :) A 1-1 with boiling water from the kettle will be great. My coffee maker died this morning, so I was wondering how I’d survive!

  30. michael says

    The organic coffee I purchase it quite expensive (not starbucks expensive, but enough for me to want to conserve it). If one is going to dilute this mix with 2 parts other liquid, then one can just use 1/3 the amount of coffee in the original mix, and drink it straight up. I don’t drink coffee everyday, so this ensures fresher batches (b/c it makes 1/3 of the coffee) than making a concentrate and adding liquid.

    As for people purchasing devices to make this process easier, I say hay if you have the extra money (and don’t have debt/mortgage), and want to buy a non-essentail gadget, then go right ahead. This process is so basic that almost all people should have household things than can make wonderful cold brew coffee without buying anything except the coffee.

  31. Mitchell says

    I have made this twice in the last week and it is so easy and so good! I used more concentrate to water than the recipe said, because it was a little watery, but when I found the right ratio it was great.

    I also have used two different type of beans, one was a pretty good batch of beans I had been using daily for my hot coffee, and the other was a store bought batch that was YEARS old that I just hadn’t thrown away. Both were great and I will continue to use the crappy old coffee grounds.

    I am a big coffee snob, and generally iced coffee isn’t worth my time, but this is certainly something I will continue to do throughout the summer.

  32. Julian says

    When you don’t use a sieve to get the coffee grounds out of your coffee, it starts to smells and taste like normal coffee. One bad thing about cold brewing is that u can’t put sugar in cuz it won’t melt. You have to put like maple syrup or some liquid sweetener

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