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How to Make Cold Brew Coffee

See how easy it is to make cold brew coffee and turn it into your favorite Starbucks cold brew drink.
two cups of cold brew coffee with ice and coffee beans

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Making cold brew coffee at home is incredibly simple to do and is an easy way to make a refreshing cup of ice cold coffee.

If you’ve never tasted cold brew before, I can tell you it’s smoother and sweeter than traditional iced coffee.

Of course, like all-things-coffee, Starbucks has played a major role introducing cold brew beverages to the American landscape.

And as a barista, let me just say, Starbucks cold brew drinks are wildly popular, especially topped with vanilla cold cream.

But no matter how you like it, black with ice or mixed with cream, it’s absolutely delicious.

So you may be wondering, why not just order iced coffee. Or why not brew iced coffee at home?

And the answer is, iced coffee and cold brew are two different drinks. Since cold brew never comes in contact with heat, the coffee takes on a different flavor. This is especially true since most of the bitter notes are left behind.

So, I’ve made my fair share of big batches of cold brew at Starbucks (that’s an understatement). Luckily, it’s just as easy to make cold brew at home. Here’s how.

Overhead picture of two cups of cold brew coffee with ice floating on top and coffee beans scattered on table.
Homemade cold brew coffee is easy to make and delicious to drink.

Steps for Making Cold Brew Coffee

Ready to make some cold brew?

Here’s the process: Grind the coffee coursely. Then, combine the coffee and water in a clean jar. Go ahead and gently stir the coffee and water mixture until all the grounds are soaked.

Next, let it steep for at least 12 hours, either in the refrigerator or sitting on a counter.

When steeping is complete, strain the cold brew into a clean jar or pitcher through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth.

As a final step, let the cold brew sit for around 15 minutes. This way any remaining coffee sediment can settle to the bottom.

Ready to drink your homemade cold brew? Simply pour it over ice and add cold water until it’s the strength you prefer. You can even have a little fun and make all sorts of coffeeshop-style cold brew beverages. I’ve listed some serving suggestions below.

Now that you’ve seen the overall process for making a batch of cold brew, let’s take a closer look at each step.

Homemade cold brew coffee.
Cold brew coffee is delicious served over ice or with milk.

Cold Brew Coffee Basics

What I love about cold brew coffee, in addition to its pure deliciousness, is that it’s so easy for anyone to make at home.

It only takes two ingredients and doesn’t even require any expensive kitchen tools. You simply need coffee, water, a jar with lid and some sort of strainer. Or you can use a french press if you’ve got one handy.

Of course, if cold brewing coffee is your thing and you plan on making it often, a cold brew maker like a toddy or pitcher with removable filter is worth picking up.

All that being said, success is in the details.

And when it comes to making cold brew coffee details such as type of coffee roast, grind size, coffee-to-water ratio, water quality and brew time, matter.

Select an ideal coffee roast.

Obviously, you can use any coffee roast—blonde, medium or dark—to make cold brew. It’s really a matter of personal preference.

However, a dark roast is ideal for making cold brew coffee. In fact, dark roast is what Starbucks uses.

This is because a dark roast produces a rich, robust flavor. Whereas the more floral notes found in lighter roasts are harder to extract.

Grind the coffee beans coursely.

Freshly ground whole bean coffee yields the best results for any coffee, hot or cold.

And when it comes to successfully brewing a batch of cold brew, grind size is the single most important factor.

Grind the coffee too fine and it becomes water logged. The result, an over-extracted, bitter cup of cold brew.

Whereas, a course grind allows the water to drip through the coffee grounds. The result, perfectly extracted cold brew coffee with its signature sweet flavor.

The “French Press” grind size is recommended.

As far as the process of grinding whole bean coffee goes, you have a few options.

  • Grind the beans at home with a burr grinder. (A blade grinder does not grind evenly.)
  • Use the coffee grinder in the store. (These are usually found in the coffee aisle of major grocery stores.)
  • Have a Starbucks barista grind your bag of unopened Starbucks whole beans. (They will grind any sealed Starbucks whole beans purchased from Starbucks or a store.)

Use filtered, room temperature water.

Ideally, make cold brew coffee with filtered, room temperature water.

Filtered water produces clean, crisp coffee, free of any undesirable flavors and minerals found in tap water. That’s why I recommend using a Brita filter pitcher.

Additionally, do not make cold brew coffee with hot water. Instead, make it with cold to room temperature water.

Whether you choose to brew the coffee in a refrigerator or at room temperature on the counter top is up to you. The key difference is that cold brewing in the refrigerator adds several hours to the brewing process.

Use the proper coffee to water ratio.

Cold brew coffee is typically a high ratio of coffee to water compared to hot brewing methods.

Therefore, cold brew is concentrated. To make it less concentrated, after brewing add more cold water as desired.

Food52 suggests 3/4 cup of whole beans to 4 cups water, as a starting point.

Cold brew the coffee for at least 12 hours.

The length of time it takes to make coffee brew depends on a couple factors.

For starters, the longer you let it brew, the stronger the coffee becomes. So personal flavor preference comes into play.

Additionally, if you used the fridge method plan on it taking longer than if it was steeped on the counter.

In general, it takes 12-24 hours to make cold brew.

For reference, Starbucks sweet spot is 20 hours at room temperature.

Make note, however, “Starbucks® Cold Brew is made from a custom blend of beans grown to steep long and cold for a super-smooth flavor.”

How to Serve Cold Brew Coffee

Once you filter the cold brew, store it in the refrigerator. It’s good for around 7-10 days.

And I have to say, the fact that it’s ready and waiting makes it really convenient to make a cup of coffee.

You can even make a lot of gourmet, Starbucks-style iced cold brew drinks with it.

All you have to do is mix in a flavored syrup of your choice if desired and combine it with any type of milk. For instance cinnamon with Almondmilk is a combination a lot of my customers like. And as I mentioned earlier vanilla and cream cold brew is the most popular.

But experiment with what you’ve got. That’s what’s fun about being your own at-home barista.

two cups of cold brew coffee with ice and coffee beans

Cold Brew Coffee

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Additional Time: 12 hours
Total Time: 12 hours 5 minutes

See how easy it is to make cold brew coffee at home with this easy recipe.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 whole bean coffee
  • 4 cups filtered water

Instructions

  1. Grind coffee beans coursely.
  2. Combine ground coffee and water in a container.
  3. Gently stir until all coffee grounds are soaked. Note, grounds will float on top, but make sure they're wet.
  4. Cover and let sit on counter or refrigerator for a minimum of 12 hours, but no longer than 24 hours.
  5. Filter coffee by pouring into a clean jar through a strainer lined with cheesecloth. It may drip through slowly so you may need to pour in 2-3 small batches.
  6. Store cold brew coffee in the refrigerator. Serve over ice and combine with additional water or milk and flavored syrups as desired.
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