Brewing Guides

What Is Cold Brew Coffee? (& How To Make It!)

There has been a lot of talk about cold brew coffee lately, but exactly what is cold brew coffee? Can you make amazing cold brew coffee at home? Keep reading and find out everything that you need to know about cold brew coffee and how to make a perfect cold brew right at home. 

What is cold brew coffee? 

Many people think that cold brew coffee is simply coffee that is served over ice or chilled, but this is not the case. Cold brew coffee is coffee that has been brewed with cold or room temperature water over a period of hours or days instead of brewing it with hot water. 

Cold brew coffee is made by steeping coffee beans in cold water for 12 to 24 hours, and it is the time, not the heat, that extracts the flavour from the beans. By brewing coffee with this method the flavour of the coffee is smooth, naturally sweet, and less astringent and bitter than coffee that is brewed with hot water. 

How do you make cold brew coffee at home?

First, you will need a large, clean glass container. Many people find that Mason jars work very well for making cold brew coffee at home. Next, you will need coarsely ground coffee beans, if the grind is too fine you will have sludge in your cold brew coffee. Yuck! Once your coffee beans are coarsely ground pour cold water over the top of it and stir gently. Now put a lid on the jar and place it in your refrigerator to steep.

Steeping time should be at least 12 hours, but after that, it really depends on your flavour and strength preference. You can leave your coffee to steep for up to 24 hours. After the steeping process is done it is time to strain the grounds out of your cold brew coffee. You can strain your coffee through a sieve, cheesecloth, or a coffee filter. Strain the coffee as many times as it takes to remove the grounds and sludge from your coffee. Your coffee is now ready to be mixed with milk, or water, and your sweetener of choice. If you have a French press you can use it to make cold brew coffee, just don’t plunge the coffee until after the cold water and grounds have sat for at least 12 hours.

Have your cold brew fix with the help of the best cold brew coffee maker and best coffee plunger

How long does cold brew coffee last?

One of the great things about cold brew coffee is how long it can last as long as it is kept in the refrigerator. Cold brew coffee can be kept in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, and unlike hot brewed coffee, the flavour can actually get better over time. 

What are the benefits of cold brew coffee? 

Cold brew coffee offers many of the same health benefits that hot brewed coffee does, and these include increased metabolism, decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease, and reduced risk of heart disease. Drinking a cup of coffee can also boost your mood, and may even help you to live longer. Additional benefits of cold brew coffee include less acidity in the brew which may be easier on your stomach. 

How do you sweeten cold brew coffee?

There are several different methods that you can use to sweeten your cold brew coffee, but simply adding sugar as you would to a hot cup of coffee is not one of them. Since the coffee is cold, the sugar will not dissolve in your cold brew like it would in hot coffee. 

If you would like to use sugar to sweeten your cold brew coffee with sugar, you will need to make a simple syrup. Simple syrup is easy to make, simply take equal parts of sugar and water and melt the sugar down until it has dissolved on the stove. Once it has cooled add your desired amount to your cold brew coffee. The remaining simple syrup can be stored in the refrigerator for three to four weeks. 

There are other ways to sweeten your cold brew coffee too. You can use coconut water (sweetened or unsweetened) and add it to your cold brew concentrate. Almond milk is another way that you sweeten your cold brew coffee, just add your desired amount to the cold brew concentrate. One final way to sweeten your cold brew coffee, particularly if you like your’s coffee house style, use sweetened condensed milk and heavy whipping cream whipped together to thicken and sweeten your cold brew coffee. 

Do you love coffee floats? Check out our refreshing cold brew coffee float recipe here.

What is the best roast for cold brew coffee? 

You can use any type of roast to make your cold brew coffee, however, the general consensus is that darker roasts stand up better to the cold brew process. The flavours will be more robust, chocolaty, earthy, and nutty. Darker roasts also tend to be much more affordable than some of the lighter roasted single-origin beans. The lighter beans will have more delicate floral flavours, but they will cost you a pretty penny compared to the darker options. 

What is the best grind for cold brew coffee? 

The best grind for cold brew coffee is a coarse grind, that will feel a lot like sand when you rub it through your fingers. You need to use a medium to coarse grind for cold brew coffee so that the water can filter through the grounds easily. Too fine of a grind will cause you to have water that sits on the bed of the grinds that is too dense for the water to flow through easily. 

You can of course experiment with your grind size for your cold brew coffee. The taste will change depending on the size of the grind that you use. Note that finer grinds can result in over-extraction which may result in a more bitter or harsh flavour. 

What are the best beans for cold brew coffee?

The best beans for cold brew coffee are the ones that you like the best. If you typically like lighter roasts for your hot brewed coffee then start with those, if you normally buy dark roasts for your hot French press or drip coffee maker, then start your search for cold brew beans on that end of the spectrum. 

Is cold brew coffee concentrated? 

Yes, cold brew coffee is concentrated. For this reason, people often dilute their cold brew concentrate with water or milk. The ratio to which you add water or milk to your cold brew concentrate depends on the flavour that you are looking for, and how strong that you would like your cold brew coffee to be. The less water or milk that you add to your cold brew concentrate, the stronger and more caffeinated it will be. 

What is the cold brew water to coffee ratio?

Just like with bean, and grind size, the coffee to water ratio depends largely on your personal preference and how you want the brew to taste in the end. A good place to start is with a 1:5 ratio for brewing cold brew coffee. Now, remember, cold brew is making a concentrate, not a single cup so that 1:5 brewing ration will actually be a 1:17 ratio once you dilute it with water, milk, or even alcohol when it is time to drink it. 

So how much coffee and water do you need to make a batch of cold brew coffee at home? You will need 100 g of coarsely ground coffee and 500 ml of cold water. Let this mixture steep for at least 12 hours. 

How do you serve cold brew coffee?

There are several different ways that you can serve cold brew coffee. The most common way to serve it is with ice in a glass filled halfway with cold water, and then pour your cold brew concentrate over that. You can also serve your cold brew coffee over ice with milk, cream, or a combination of the two. 

Some people also like to serve their cold brew coffee as a cocktail with alcohol, and simple syrup. You can find lots of cold brew coffee recipes online that you can make at home. 

Common Cold Brew Coffee Problems

If you’re having issues making great cold brew coffee, here are some of the most common problems and how to solve them.

The coffee is too bitter. 

If your cold brew coffee is too bitter for your tastes, then either your grounds were too fine, or over-extracted from steeping for too long. For your next batch, try a coarser grind or less extraction time, but only one of these options, not both. Just try one fix at a time. 

The coffee is too strong or weak.

This one is an easy fix! Simply add more water or milk to your cold brew concentrate if it is too strong. If you want it to be stronger use less water or milk when you are mixing it to your cold brew concentrate. 

The coffee tastes too sour. 

If you find that your cold brew coffee tastes too sour then either your grind was too coarse (not likely) or you didn’t let your coffee steep for long enough. Try adding another hour or two to your steeping time for your next batch. 

If you haven’t tried cold brew coffee yet, what are you waiting for? If you have tried it, but find that it is too expensive to purchase from your local coffee shop, now you know how to make the perfect batch of cold brew coffee at home. Do you have any more questions about cold brew coffee, or how to make it at home? If so, please be sure to leave a comment below. 

See more coffee brewing guides here

Sophie is a barista and coffee enthusiast who has owned and ran a coffee truck in her remote community since 2017. She wants to cut the jargon and make brewing coffee enjoyable for everyone.