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An Introduction to Cold Brew Coffee

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It’s time to talk about cold brewed coffee. If you didn’t know or haven’t heard, it is pretty wonderful. It is a refreshing drink on a warm day, an easy hack for bypassing your horrid office coffee and actually a great way to get into manual coffee brewing with pretty much no specialized coffee equipment.

While I must admit, I typically prefer a hot brewed cup of coffee. It is a great brewing method and sometimes it just hits the spot. You owe it to yourself to try it if you never have and it never hurts to have a fool-proof cold brew recipe in your back pocket.

What is Cold Brew

Cold brew is an immersion brewing method where cold water is added to ground coffee and steeped for a long period of time, usually between 12 and 24 hours. The result is a cup of coffee that is less acidic, lacking in aromatics and has a slightly different chemical composition than a cup of coffee brewed with hot water.

Cold brew is often incorrectly used interchangeably with the more general term iced coffee. Iced coffee refers to cold brew as well as a few other brewing variants of coffee served over ice*.

Cold Brew Guide

As you become familiar with manual coffee brewing (and this blog) you will start to notice a pattern. Some will find it annoying and some will find it exhilarating. There are endless ways to execute each brewing method. Cold brewing is no exception. Technique-wise, it is one of the easiest brewing methods. Here is my recipe:

What You Need
  • Water- Don’t skimp on this one. You can expect to lose about 20 percent of your volume to the coffee grounds.
  • Coffee– The coffee should be ground coarse but don’t get too wrapped around the axle about particle size for this method. I use a dosage of 1 gram of coffee to every 6 grams of water.
  • A vessel– It should be big enough to hold your water and coffee when they are mixed together. It should also be able to be covered or sealed. Shrink wrap and a giant measuring cup work fine as does a French press for smaller batches.
  • A filtering medium- Again, don’t get too caught up in this one. You can use a manual drip brewer, cheese cloth, a strainer, even a colander lined with paper towels if you get desperate.
The Technique
  • Do the Math- Figure out how much coffee you need, how much cold brew you want and what dosage you will be using. As stated above, I typically use a 1:6 ratio. For a 1 liter batch. You will need 1200 grams of water (about 1.2 liters by volume) and 200 grams of coffee.
  • Combine- Mix the water and the coffee together. The water should be cold or room temperature.
  • Wait it out- You can leave the coffee on the counter at room temperature or put it in the fridge. At room temperature, 12 hours should be plenty of time. If you can’t get back to it until 24 hours, don’t sweat it.
  • Filter out the Coffee Grounds- If you have a manual drip brewer, it is probably easiest to just use it to filter out the grounds. Most of them will stay in the brewing vessel if you are careful with how you decant the liquid. If you don’t have a manual drip brewer, you will be fine to use any of the other filtering mediums mentioned above.
  • Storage- Your cold brew can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 weeks. It can also be frozen and stored in the freezer.

How to Enjoy

Once you have filtered out the coffee grounds, you will have a delicious coffee concentrate. You may now be wondering how to drink your cold brew. Here are a few ways:

  • Drink it “Neat”- This is for my whiskey loving friends out there. It works with whiskey why not cold brew. Put a shot or two into an Old Fashioned glass, sip on it and enjoy.
  • Drink it “On the Rocks”- Pour your cold brew coffee over some ice cubes. As the ice melts your coffee will dilute. You can also add some water. (Most recipes suggest around a 1:1 to 1:3 concentrate to water ratio).
  • Make an “Iced Latte”- Add whole milk or some cream to your cold brew on the rocks and you have an iced latte of sorts. Some people may also want to add a little simple syrup. If you are adding milk or cream start with a 1:1 concentrate to milk ratio and adjust as necessary.
  • Make Hot Coffee- Add hot water, 210 degrees or so, to the concentrate. Start with a 1:1 ratio and add more hot water as needed.

A Few Other Noteworthy Items

Brewing coffee with the cold brew method has several perks besides tasting great that make it an appealing brewing option. There are also some downsides that you should be aware of.

The Pros
  • You do not need a grinder- This is probably one of the most awesome features. You can grind your coffee at the store. Because you are not hot brewing this coffee, staling is less of an issue. I would still err on the side of grinding fresh, but when you are in a pinch, this is a viable work around.
  • You can use a blade grinder- Over-extraction is also way less of an issue. This means that particle size inconsistencies are not as big of a deal. The coarser grind will help with removal of the grounds, but if you get a few fines in your cold brew it will not be ruined**. Don’t go crazy and grind the coffee Turkish.
  • You can use older beans- Confession time. I typically use older beans to make my cold brew. If I have something that is past it’s prime I will turn it into cold brew. As stated above, freshness is less of an issue.
The Cons
  • Some preplanning is needed- You can’t get done mowing your lawn and decide you want a cold brewed coffee. You have to anticipate and plan ahead 12 hours.
  • It goes down easy- Cold brewed coffee does not hang around very long at my house. It goes down easy and (probably a lot like having a kegerator) it is pretty easy to pour yourself another half glass…
  • It is different– Cold brewed coffee is not as aromatic as a typical hot brewed cup of coffee and it is just a different thing. You may find yourself missing the acidity, aromatics and familiarity a hot brewed cup of coffee brings to the table.

Equipment to Consider

When you are ready to up your cold brew game, there is some great gear out there that will help you pursue mastery.

  • The Toddy- The Toddy has pretty much been the gold standard for cold brewing. It is a brewing vessel, filtering medium, and carafe all in one. If you like cold brewing, it is the next logical step. It makes it easier and has great results.
  • The BruerThis amazing looking device makes Kyoto style cold brew. An entire post (or two) could be written on this subset of cold brewing. Water is slowly dripped onto a filter bed over a period of 8 hours. I have not had th pleasure of brewing with this cold brewer but I’m intrigued.  The Bruer is getting good reviews.

This basic introduction to all things cold brewing should get you up and running. For something so basic, I seem to have found a lot to say about the subject. What about you? Do you have a technique, recipe or tip you would like to share? Anyone disagree with the over-extraction and particle size statements? Let’s discuss it below.

*Some may argue that cold brew should be called cold brew and is in a totally different category than iced coffee.

**There is a contingent that runs their coffee grounds through a sieve for uniform particle size for cold brewing. I would consider this an advanced technique.


  1. Kenneth

    Dear Manual Coffee Brewing peoples,

    Reading your blog stirred an idea. Has anyone tried making cold brew in a vacuum seal container? A friend of mine would marinate his steaks, by putting the liquid marinate and steak in this box then use a vacuum sealer to suck the majority of the air out. The Steak would expand and suck in all of the juices, producing a really flavorful steak. I am curious if a pressured environment (vacuum seal container) would force a fuller flavor pallet of cold brew (for better or worse)? Please let me know if y’all try it.

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