How to Make Cold Brew Coffee

It’s easy, but there are a few important factors, including the type of coffee you use. Read on for the full scoop.

March 03, 2022

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By Fraya Berg for Food Network Kitchen

Fraya is a chef and a contributing writer at Food Network.

Cold brew is not the same thing as iced coffee, which is hot-brewed and then chilled. Instead, it's made by steeping coarse-ground coffee beans in room-temperature water for 10 to 20 hours. Making cold brew coffee at home is easy, economical and healthy. Plus, it allows you to customize the beans used and the strength. Read along for a detailed step-by-step, plus all your questions answered. And if you are looking to make iced coffee instead of cold brew? Check out our story How to Make Iced Coffee.

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1030892808

Homemade iced coffee ingredient on wooden table, stock photo

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Nalinratana Phiyanalinmat / EyeEm/Getty Images

Why Should You Make Cold Brew Coffee?

Cost: You need only to look at the cost of one cold brew - at a coffee shop or in a bottle - to understand the answer to this question. Even if you buy one of our recommended cold brew makers, you'll still save in the long run.

Time Saved: Instead of brewing coffee every morning, you can make a big batch all at once and then stash it in the fridge. It'll be waiting for you whenever you need a caffeine boost.

No Bitter Flavor: Cold brew is known for its characteristically smooth, non-bitter flavor, much less bitter than other coffee. That's because when coffee is made in a pour over or drip coffee maker, the hot water extracts bitter flavor from beans. With cold brew, there's no hot water.

Customization: Another plus making your own? You have total control over the dilution—you can make it weaker or stronger depending on your preferences.

Health Benefits: In emerging research, scientists have found links between cold brew and immune health. In addition, if regular coffee upsets your stomach, you might be able to enjoy cold brew instead because of its lower acidity. For a more in-depth look at the health benefits look at Is Cold Brew Healthier Than Regular Coffee?

Best Coffee Grounds for Cold Brew

First things first: the best coffee to use is your favorite coffee; there's no preferable roast.

However, the grind size matters. If you can, buy beans and have them ground on the coarse setting. If you can only buy pre-ground coffee, go ahead use it, but don’t let it brew as long. The smaller grind will make for faster flavor extraction and more bitter results. Avoid a really find grind: it will clump when you add the water, and you’ll end up with sediment in the coffee concentrate.

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Electric coffee grinder with ground coffee

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JulieWild/Getty Images

Cold Brew Ratio

When following our steps for making cold brew, you’ll be using a measured ratio of 1/4 cup coffee to 1 cup water. Many directions for making coffee give you a ratio of weights, which means you'll need a scale. This ratio is easier because all you need is some measuring cups—no scale required. Remember that you’re making a concentrate that will be diluted, so don’t let the 1:4 ratio of coffee to water scare you.

For more info on the ideal ratio of coffee to water for other brewing methods, see our article What's the Ideal Coffee-to-Water Ratio?.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Making Cold Brew at Home

Cold Brew Iced Coffee

This recipe makes just two servings of cold brew, so if you're new to the method, it will be a good test batch to see exactly how strong you want your steep to be. Once you've found your sweet spot of brewing time, you can double, triple or even quadruple the yield. The strained concentrate will keep tightly sealed in the fridge for up to a week.

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Ground Coffee Beans Spilled from a Coffee Scoop

Photo by: Michelle Lee Photography/Getty Images

Michelle Lee Photography/Getty Images

1. Grind the Beans

Add whole beans to a coffee grinder and grind to a medium to coarse grind.

2. Measure the Ingredients

Measure out the coffee grinds and room-temperature water in a ratio of 1/4 cup coffee to 1 cup water.

3. Steep the Coffee

Add the coffee grounds and water to a pitcher or large measuring cup. Stir to combine. Cover with a lid, and leave the coffee at room temperature, agitating periodically, for 12 hours or overnight.

4. Filter the Coffee

Strain the coffee through a coffee filter. Discard the grinds and the filter.

5. Serve the Chilled Coffee

If desired, dilute the coffee by up to 50 percent water. Pour over ice and add simple syrup and cream to your taste.

Best Cold Brew Makers

If you’d like your cold brew maker to have a bit more style than a jar, we've tested all the available makers on the market to bring you the ones that make the very best coffee and that are the easiest to use. Our suggestions range from $25 to $100; you can choose between an electric appliance or a filtration system. To see our picks, head over to the roundup: 7 Iced Coffee Makers to Upgrade Your Morning Routine.

How to Make Cold Brew In a French Press

If you have a French press, you don’t need any other equipment to make cold brew coffee. Follow these easy steps to brew a batch.

1. Mix the Coffee

Put 3/4 cup ground coffee in a large French press and add 3 cups cold, filtered water. Stir to mix everything up.

2. Steep the Coffee

Cover and let coffee brew for 12 hours or overnight, stirring occasionally.

3. Strain the Coffee

Strain the coffee by pushing the filter-plunger down about 2 inches below coffee but not all the way down. Pour the coffee into another container and store it in the fridge or use it right away.

How to Serve Cold Brewed Coffee

When you follow our how-to for cold brew, you’ll have a concentrate that is best enjoyed when diluted 1:1 with water or your milk of choice.

You can also make coffee soda by diluting the cold brew with seltzer, but use 2 or 3 parts seltzer to 1 part cold brew and add a bit of simple syrup.

One more option is to serve a bit of cold brew over vanilla ice cream and let the dish melt for a minute or two to make a faux affogato.

How Long Is Cold Brew Good For?

Although you brew cold brew at room temperature, it does need to be stored in the refrigerator after it is strained. Once refrigerated, it will keep its fresh-brewed flavor for up to 3 days. When it’s a week old, loss of flavor will be pronounced.

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