How to Make Cold Brew Coffee at Home – 6 Easy Steps

Anyone who has visited Starbucks or their local coffee shop in the summer has heard of cold brew coffee. It’s smooth, delicious and the perfect thing to cool you down on a hot day. It’s also really simple to make at home, and so in this article we’re going to demonstrate how to make cold brew coffee.

While most people are familiar with iced coffee, cold brew couldn’t be more different both in terms of brewing methods and tastes. To start with, iced coffee relies on hot coffee poured over ice, whereas when learning how to make cold brew coffee you’ll see that it relies on steeping in tepid water as its primary extraction method.

Using hot water in iced coffee causes the final product to be bitter and acidic. The colder water used in cold brew, however, gives the drink a much smoother, less acidic flavor profile, with the natural flavor of the beans more pronounced in every sip.

You’ve probably tried cold brew coffee at Starbucks and thought about making your own at home. Well it couldn’t be more simple. Read on, follow our advice, and we’ll teach you how to make quality cold brew coffee at home in no time.

What is Cold Brew Coffee?

But we’re jumping the gun here; let’s start by defining what it is before we demonstrate how to make cold brew coffee at home.

Put simply, cold brew coffee is a method of coffee extraction that relies on soaking coffee grounds in tepid to cold water for an extended period of time. Unlike traditional coffee brewing methods which use hot water or pressure to produce your espresso or cappuccino in a matter of minutes, cold brew coffee is an exercise in patience.

There’s no skirting around this – cold brew coffee relies on time in order to draw out all the delicate flavors and oils from the coffee grounds. The entire process will take between 16 hours and a full day to achieve completion.

It’s also important to note that the resultant brew is more of a concentrate more than a straight cup of coffee. It generally has higher caffeine content that other methods of brewing, and needs to be diluted in water before you can drink it. That is, if you don’t want to be bouncing off  the walls first thing in the morning.

Needless to say, cold brew coffee is a labour of love. But it’s definitely worth it.


How to Make Cold Brew Coffee – A Quick Overview


There are a number of items which are essential to making a delicious batch of cold brew coffee. First and foremost, you’re going to need a batch of quality beans. You’ll also need a grinder, a large container (a mason jar works great for this), fine mesh sieve, paper coffee filters, and room temperature water. 

When choosing your beans it’s important that you opt for a medium roast.  Medium roast beans have been roasted to a lower temperature than dark roast beans, and that means they retain a smoother, less bitter flavor. This is extremely important as one of the hallmarks of cold brew coffee is its mellowness, and lack of bitterness within the flavor profile.

Time needed: 16 hours.

Once you’ve gathered all of your equipment and ingredients, it’s fairly straightforward to make cold brew coffee:

  1. Measure your beans and water so that they’re sitting at a ratio of about 1:5. 

  2. Grind your beans until they’re coarse, NOT medium or fine.

    This will give them a greater surface area and allow the water to extract the oils and flavors more efficiently. 

  3. Next, add water to your grounds.

    Make sure you stir the mixture so that the coffee grounds are thoroughly saturated.

  4. Place the mixture in the fridge and leave it to steep for around 15 hours.

    Depending on how strong you like your coffee, as well as the ratio of grounds to water, you may want to let it steep for longer.

  5. Take the readied mixture out of the fridge and strain it through a paper filter placed within the wire mesh sieve into a bowl or container.

    Let it rest in the sieve to ensure you draw out as much liquid as possible.

  6. To serve, mix the concentrate with water at a ratio of 1:1, pour over ice, add some milk and enjoy.

All in all you’re looking at a full day’s worth of brewing time in order to get this right. Don’t be alarmed when you strain your mixture and end up with less concentrate when you thought. Once you dilute it with water you’ll see that this drink goes a long way.

If you’re not using all of your cold brew coffee at once, simply pour it into a sealable container and place it in the fridge. It should keep for up to 10 days, meaning you can produce batch brews in advance in you like. 


How to Make Cold Brew Coffee – The Full Guide


Now that we’ve outlined the process we’re going to take a look at it in more detail. When it comes to learning how to make cold brew coffee, even the smallest details can have a profound impact on the final flavor, so it’s important to get them right.

1- Beans and Grinder

Coffee, no matter what style, is nothing without good quality beans and a grinder that can produce consistent grounds.

As we mentioned above, it’s important that you choose a medium roast in order to avoid bitterness and ensure the cold brew is as smooth as possible. 

Because many of the sweeter flavor compounds of coffee grounds are soluble in cold water, whereas many of the acidic oils are not, using a medium roast always lends your cold brew a sweeter taste. Because of this, you want a bean that has an inherent sweetness as this will really show in the final product. 

Some of our favourite beans include:

Once you’ve decided on the type of bean you want to use, you’ll need a way to grind them coarsely. We’ve waxed lyrical on this topic in our articles concerning the best coffee grinders for French press coffee as well as the best manual coffee grinders, but it bears repeating. Beans aside, a grinder is probably the most important tool for producing consistently delicious, smooth and robust coffee.

For cold brew coffee a coarse grind works best. This exposes more surface area of the bean and means that it’ll be able to get extracted more fully. If you grind your beans too finely you’ll end up with a sludgy mess on your hands; too chunky and the oils and flavors won’t be able to be extracted efficiently.

With a consistent grind in mind, we’ve listed a few of our favorites below:

OXO Brew Conical Burr Coffee Grinder

JavaPresse Manual Coffee Grinder

Wheroamoz Manual Coffee Grinder

2- Water

The next step in the process is adding water to your grounds. You’ll want a ratio of five parts water for every one part coffee. The final concentrate is going to have less yield than the amount of water that you put in, because some of that water is going to be absorbed by the grinds.

That’s nothing to worry about though. As mentioned above, you’re going to dilute the final product with water before you drink it anyway.

While the words used to describe cold brew coffee give the impression that it’s going to be freezing, the actual water used should be room temperature. Hot water will cause the extraction to take place much too quickly, leaving you with bitter coffee, and defeating the entire point of cold brew coffee in the first place.

Once you’ve added the water it’s important that you stir the grinds thoroughly and ensure that they’re fully saturated. If you’ve got an Aeropress starter kit, the stirrer that comes with it is a great tool for mixing your cold brew mixture thoroughly.

There are some rumors that the type of water you use will also affect the flavor. Using mineral water, for example, supposedly results in a much smoother finish. If you’re not willing to run out and buy five liters of Perrier, however, don’t worry – tap water works just fine.

3- Steeping

Steeping is the step that sets cold brew coffee apart from other, similar iced coffee methods. Whereas traditional Vietnamese iced coffee, for example, produces a delicious and chilled drink, it does this by adding hot coffee to ice. Cold brew coffee relies entirely on steeping as the primary extraction method.

There are two factors which are going to ultimately affect the flavor of the coffee here – the volume of water used in relation to the amount of coffee grinds, and the amount of time that the mixture is left to steep for.

It goes without saying that the longer you leave your cold brew to steep, the more intense the final flavors will be. However, this isn’t necessarily a good thing. Leaving your coffee to steep for too long is an easy way to end up with enough caffeine to send you to the moon.

The optimal time for steeping is around 15 – 18 hours (Starbucks steep theirs for 20). However, some people have found that steeping up to 24 hours is the way to go. At the end of the day, it all depends on your palate and how strong you like your coffee.

That being said, there’s such a thing as overkill. So it’s recommended that you try it a few times in order to find your sweet spot.

4- Straining

Once your coffee has finished steeping, you’ll need to strain it to get rid of all the leftover coffee particulates. Using only a fine mesh sieve or French press plunger won’t be enough here, and using either method will likely leave you with a sludgy, undrinkable mess – you need something finer.

We found that using paper coffee filters or cheesecloth is the way to go. Using either, line a fine mesh sieve and place it over a container. Then simply pour your cold brew mixture into the sieve and give it about 15 minutes to drain, stirring it with a wooden spoon in order to get out every last drop.

If you decide to use a paper filter then it would be good to wet it beforehand. This will ensure that the filter absorbs as little of the precious coffee concentrate as possible. It will also prevent the concentrate from acquiring a papery taste that sometimes gets passed on from dry filters.

5- Ready to Drink!

Once you’ve strained your coffee through the fine mesh filter and the paper coffee filters, you’re good to go. You’ve successfully produced cold brew coffee concentrate and learned how to make cold brew coffee at home – congratulations!

However, drinking it in this form might cause your heart to explode, so we recommend diluting it first. A 1:1 ratio of cold brew concentrate to water is usually sufficient for a smooth, sweet and velvety drink, but some people prefer it slightly to either side of the strength spectrum.

Pour the concentrate into a glass of ice, add your water and then top it off with some milk for enhanced smoothness.

If you find that the coffee is too strong, simply dilute it more until it’s more palatable. Likewise, if the coffee is too weak, just add more concentrate until you reach your desired strength.

Some people like to add sugar, but we find it isn’t necessary. As we mentioned earlier, the unique nature of the cold brew extraction process means many of the sweeter notes of the coffee bean are brought to the front. This should be ample sweetness for anyone who’s used to drinking espresso or pour over. 


The Paradox: HOT Cold Brew Coffee 

What many people don’t know is that you can actually use cold brew concentrate to make… hot coffee! It may seem a little counterintuitive at first (after all, cold brew suggests a drink you’re unlikely to consume in winter), but it’s actually a delicious and time-saving alternative to other styles of coffee.

It’s also really easy to make. Simply pour your concentrate into a glass or mug, then add hot or boiling water, the same amount as the cold water you would normally add when making regular cold brew. The result – a hot, less acidic and extremely smooth variation of an Americano.

This method is great for people who want to enjoy quality coffee in the morning, but don’t want to spend fifteen minutes grinding beans and waiting for their drinks to settle. Using previously made cold brew coffee takes as long as adding hot water and maybe some milk into a jar, and you’re ready to go.

Martin Stokes

Martin Stokes

novelthings

Martin Stokes hails from Johannesburg, South Africa. He enjoys writing about all manner of things and can quote lines from films like nobody’s business. He moved to Berlin in 2015 and is working tirelessly at broadening his repertoire of bad jokes.

AeroPress vs French Press: What You Need to Know

Espresso, macchiato, cappuccino, AeroPress and French press – these are just some of the more popular styles of coffee on offer when visiting your average coffee shop. They’re designed to appeal to a broad range of tastes, and this often leads to a lot of amicable disagreement about which style is the best.

The answer, as you might imagine, isn’t so straightforward and requires quite a bit of unpacking.

While it does depend in part on your taste and preferred style, many coffee experts across the board all agree on one thing: when it comes to brewing coffee at home, it’s hard to beat press style coffee. And at the forefront of the press movement are the two firm favorites: the French press and the Aeropress. 

But what sets these apart from other brewing methods, and what makes them so superior? At first glance it might not even seem obvious, especially since both contraptions look quite similar in style and produce a similarly high quality cup of coffee. The details are in the process, however, and it’s this that has placed them firmly in the good graces of coffee afficandios across the world.

The secret? Hot water and pressure and lots of it. Utilizing these two factors in both the Aeropress and the French press provides the means to expertly manipulate and extract delicate flavors where other methods fall short.


What do French Press and AeroPress have in common? 

As we mentioned briefly above, to the layman who doesn’t know too much about coffee production, the AeroPress and French press might look similarly strange. Both feature a plunger mechanism and a large chamber for storing liquid, and they also rely on the same mechanism for actually brewing the coffee – steadily applied pressure.

Unlike other methods which rely on complicated coffee machinery, these two tools are remarkably simple. Both use very few moving parts and rely on first steeping the coffee grinds before filtering them out and extracting the final product. It’s this steeping technique – all called immersion – that is unique from other coffee production methods.

The process of steeping coffee grounds allows for a lot of control over brewing variables which ultimately affect the final flavor. These variables include the steeping time, the temperature of the water, the amount of coffee grinds used and the volume of hot water added.

But for all their similarities, they’re still very distinct pieces of equipment.

AeroPress vs French Press – The Big Difference: 

Mechanically, the major differences between the French press and the AeroPress have to do with the way in which the coffee grinds are filtered. While both methods rely on steeping the coffee grinds in order to extract the flavor, the filters they employ to the job are quite different.

The AeroPress relies on a very fine, disposable paper filter in order to filter out the coffee grinds, while the French press utilizes a much more coarse steel filter which is attached to the plunger. The AeroPress also uses air pressure in order to force water through the filter and separate the grinds, while with the French Press the grinds are separated by being forced to the bottom of the chamber.

The use of a paper filter in the AeroPress means that a lot of the essential oils and aromatic essences of the coffee are going to be filtered out, while the coarser filter used in the French press allows them through. The trade-off for losing some of this intensity is that an AeroPress is going to deliver a much more balanced and consistent cup of coffee.

That being said, if you want don’t want to settle for your standard AeroPress kit, you can always invest in a set of reusable stainless steel filters of varying finenesses to take it to the next level. This will give you greater control of your coffee’s flavor, acidity and intensity. 


AeroPress Coffee

What is it?

But for all of its hype and praise, what exactly is an AeroPress? Invented in 2005 by Alan Adler, the AeroPress is probably the youngest and one of the most recent coffee inventions to change the coffee industry entirely. 

Its build consists of two cylinders made from high quality plastic. The smaller cylinder has a flexible airtight seal and rests inside the larger cylinder, similar to that of a syringe. The larger cylinder has space for either a disposable paper filter, or reusable steel filters, which the coffee grinds and hot water are then placed on top of.

The AeroPress is famous for using pressure in order to extract flavor from coffee beans and produce an espresso-style drink. While it will never be able to match the 9 bars of pressure produced by an espresso machine, the pressure it can produce by hand is quite impressive. Keen baristas can also invest in filters such as those by Fellow Prismo in order to achieve even greater levels of pressure for a more fully-extracted final product.

Unlike the French press, which has been around for quite some time and exists in many different variations, the AeroPress is unique in that it is not only a device, but a brand name, too. This means that there is only one variation of this particular device which is used across the coffee industry.

 AeroPress’ hidden Superpowers 

From the outside looking in, it may seem as though you need a plethora of intricate equipment in order to produce coffee even marginally better than a mug of freeze-dried instant. The AeroPress, with its simple design and affordable price tag, dispels those myths instantly upon use.

These aren’t the AeroPress’ only positive attributes, however. In fact, the device is so popular among coffee fans because of everything else it delivers.

To start with, the AeroPress is extremely durable and light. This makes it the ideal travel companion, and perfect for someone who is always on the go but wants to enjoy a proper cup of coffee in their hotel room or AirBnb. 

It’s also extremely affordable compared to other brewing methods of comparable quality. An AeroPress starter kit with a year’s worth of filters will only set you back about $30 depending on where you buy it from.

Brewing coffee in an AeroPress results in a much smoother brew over other conventional brewing methods. This has to do with the fact that grinds are being steeped in hot water before being filtered, and that nothing is left out during the extraction process. This also results in a much shorter brewing time than something like drip coffee.

The shorter brewing time is also a key factor in the final taste of the coffee, which by and large is much less acidic than even French press brew. All of these factors result in a smooth, easy to drink and consistently great cup of coffee.


How to make AeroPress Coffee

So after reading the above guide, we assume by this point you’re hooked. You’ve got your AeroPress and now you’re wondering exactly how to use this contraption and create the wonderful coffee we’ve waxed lyrical about. It’s pretty simple:

  1. Boil some water, let it rest then set it aside while you prepare the other components of your coffee.
  2. Grind your beans. The AeroPress usually requires a finer grind that even espresso, so make sure you have a grinder that can handle this. You want to use about four tablespoons of coffee grinds. 
  3. Assemble the AeroPress by placing your filter in the bottom of the larger cylinder, then placing it on top of a mug or other container. Splash a little hot water onto the filter before you start to avoid having the papery taste of it affect the coffee.
  4. Add the coffee grinds. If you’re unsure about your aim use the funnel provided.
  5. Once your water has rested add it into the coffee grinds until it’s near the top line.
  6. Stir the mixture briefly and then allow it to steep for 20 – 30 seconds.
  7. Insert the plunger on top of the AeroPress. Apply steady pressure to the plunger until you begin to hear a long hiss and the coffee accumulates in the mug below.
  8. Enjoy your creation. The AeroPress is known for quite strong espresso-style coffee, so if you find that it’s a little bit too intense try splitting it between two or more cups.

An Alternative Way to Make AeroPress Coffee

Introduced in 2005, the AeroPress is definitely one of, if not the, youngest brewing methods to hit the coffee market. Bluntly put, it took the world by storm, and baristas have been figuring out creative ways of using this device other than its intended purpose ever since. And while numerous methods have made the cut, perhaps the most popular is the Upside-Down AeroPress Brewing Technique.

Upside-Down AeroPress Technique
Upside-down AeroPress Brewing!

To make it you’re going to need all of the same ingredients used to make normal AeroPress coffee. The main difference is the setup of the AeroPress itself. 

You’ll want to start by placing the plunger on the counter facing upwards. Then, turn the brewing chamber upside down and place it securely on the plunger, resting the stopper around the #4 marking on the chamber. Now add your coffee and hot water just as you normally would.

Secure the filter to the top of the AeroPress and let the coffee brew for around 90 seconds. Unlike a normal AeroPress setup, this method allows the coffee to become fully immersed in a process actually quite similar to the French press. 

When you’re ready, flip the AeroPress and place it on your mug or desired container. Apply pressure as you normally would and in 20 seconds or so your Upside Down AeroPress coffee is ready to go.

Since making coffee this way can occasionally get a little bit messy, it helps to have something like the AeroPress organizer just to ensure all of your AeroPress parts are properly stored and ordered.


French Press

What is it?

Now that we’ve spoken at length about the AeroPress, it’s time to address the other device in the room.

The French press is a staple piece of kit for anyone looking to make premium, delicious coffee at home. It consists of a glass cylinder and a plunger with a fine wire mesh attached to it. Some variations of the French press are also made from steel or ceramic.

We went into detail about the history of the French press in a previous article, but some pertinent facts are worth repeating. Patented by Milanese designer Attilio Calimani in 1929, the French press is actually an Italian design, although it may have been first created in France.

It saw a rise of popularity across Europe in the 60s and eventually became a common household device for making coffee. Its ability to make copious and consistently delicious cups of coffee, as well as draw out the best quality of the coffee being used, also makes it a firm favorite among baristas.

The Myriad Advantages of using a French Press

To start with, the French Press is a very simple device. Consisting of only two separate parts, it makes producing a surprisingly good cup of coffee a very easy affair.

Unlike other methods of producing coffee – looking at you, espresso – the French press is also able to produce relatively large amounts of coffee per brew. Whereas the AeroPress, for example, will only produce enough coffee for one or two people, the French press makes enough for six. This means you don’t have to brew multiple times when having guests over.

The French press is also renowned for allowing maximum control when it comes to manipulating the flavor profile of the coffee. From the amount of coffee used, the water temperature and volume, and steeping time of the coffee, the French press lets you fully determine how long you would like to extract the coffee for.

And because the grinds are steeped before it is filtered, the French press retains many of the oils and aromas that other methods lose. The resultant brew is more textured, intense and contains a more complex flavor profile that other filtered coffee.

How To Make a Perfect Cup of French Press Coffee

Making the perfect cup of French press isn’t rocket science. In fact, it couldn’t be simpler.

  1. Grind up the bean of your choice – about 8 grams of coffee to 200ml of water. The type of bean and roast you choose are the main determinants when it comes to your coffee flavor. The grinder you use, and the way you grind it, also play a role, so ensure you pick the correct fineness.
  2. Add the ground up coffee to the cylinder.
  3. Boil some water. Let it rest for about 30 seconds and add it to the cylinder.
  4. Stir the mixture gently with a spoon or coffee stirrer.
  5. Place the plunger on top of the cylinder but don’t push it just yet. Allow the French press to sit like this for around 3 to 4 minutes. If you like your coffee extra strong, let it steep for longer.
  6. Once it has rested, push the plunger down slowly, applying steady, even pressure.
  7. Enjoy! Some sediment may find its way into the final brew. This is normal and shouldn’t affect the final flavor.
Pouring a cup of French Press Coffee

AeroPress vs French Press – Which is Best?

The showdown between the AeroPress and French press is one of the most heated in the coffee world. While both devices require manual use, and utilize steeping as the brewing technique – admittedly very similar functionalities – the distinct difference between them lies in the way in which the coffee is filtered.

And because so many coffee aficionados want to have ultimate control of the exact flavor of their coffee, this is oftentimes the deciding factor on which device they opt to buy.

While both brewing methods offer control over most of the crucial variables that determine coffee flavor, each method possesses a quality that sets it apart from the other.

With the AeroPress, it’s pressure. While you won’t achieve anything close to the massive amounts of pressure generated by an espresso machine, you can produce a not insignificant amount of force with this trusty little hand brewer. It’s this pressure which allows for a faster and (some would say) more complete extraction.

The French press, on the other hand, allows for more complex flavors and aromas. Because the filter used is a more coarse and made of steel, many of the oils found within the coffee are retained. The resultant brew is generally tastier, more intense and more aromatic. 

So if you’re after a cup of coffee with a stronger flavor profile, then the French press is your friend. If, however, you prefer a more rounded cup of coffee, then you can’t go wrong with the AeroPress.

Martin Stokes

Martin Stokes

novelthings

Martin Stokes hails from Johannesburg, South Africa. He enjoys writing about all manner of things and can quote lines from films like nobody’s business. He moved to Berlin in 2015 and is working tirelessly at broadening his repertoire of bad jokes.