When the hot months roll around, there are a few things we can’t help but spend more money on; sunscreen, the A/C bill, and cold brew are chief among them. And while you may justify the expensive drink to yourself as being just another way to beat the heat – just a few cups of cold brew at the cafe can really add up. Five dollars here or four dollars there every other day for the summer can do some damage to the budget.
Yet, not drinking coffee isn’t a viable option either. So instead of preaching abstinence from our favorite caffeinated brew, we’ve put together a basic step by step process of how to make cold brew coffee yourself. Not only will you be able to save yourself some dough using this method, but you’ll be able to have more control over more aspects of your brew – like the strength, the flavor, and the smoothness.
What You Need
So, we all know how to make hot coffee using the pour-over method – hot water over grounds, legit drip, repeat 10 or 20 times over the course of the day. But what do you need in order to make the cold smooth stuff? Well, first you need to consider how it is made and what makes cold brew unique.
Unlike with hot coffee, which takes just a couple of minutes to brew, cold brew requires lots of grounds and an extended steep. This is due to the fact that water particles move around less violently when at colder temperatures, making it harder for them to penetrate the cell walls of ground coffee and pull the dissolvable solids from the grounds to the solution. Cold brew makes up for this by heaping on a lot more grounds and letting it sit in water for a whole lot longer.
Naturally, there are a bunch of different ways to do this. The basic methods you can choose from are as follows; Toddy or Filtron method, Immersion brewing, Coffee Sock brewing, French Press, and Drip. The only significant difference you are going to find between most of them is how easy they do or don’t make it to clean up all those grounds afterwards. Really any method that allows you to steep coffee grounds in water for an extended period of time is going to work.
While each of these different options offer up their own set of benefits (most of which focus on ease of clean-up rather than flavor of coffee), the basics are all going to be the same. You’re going to need beans, water, a grinder, a sieve, and some room in your fridge.
Step 1: Grind
This is probably one of the most important variables that you’re going to work with while making your cold brew. You gotta channel your inner Goldilocks here; if you grind your beans too fine you’ll end up over-extracting and making a bitter and harsh concentrate. Grind too coarse? You are going to end up with a weak, uninteresting brew that will leave you wanting. A medium-coarse grind setting is usually a good way to go.
If you have an electric burr grinder, set it to French Press and go from there. And yes, you are going to want to use a burr grinder here. Like when you are making pour-over, espresso, or even iced coffee, a consistent grind here is going to really help you get a more uniform taste from one batch to the next. The more you can control your variables, the more reliably you can make changes in your recipe and create something truly unique to you.
Step 2: Ratio
Once you have your grind dialed, you need to make sure you have the right ratio of beans to water. Cold brew really does require a lot more coffee. So, in our minds, if you are going to go through all of the effort to make up a batch we suggest you use at least one full pound of coffee.
All Hopped Up
If you are looking to get a bit more hopped up and ready for the day, cold brew is most definitely a good choice. The fact that the beans are steeped so long in water means that you get a whole lot more caffeine in every sip. Here is the break down of your normal cup of coffee, cold brew, and espresso:
Cold Brew: 279mg per 10 fl. ounce cup.
Coffee: 163mg per 8 fl. ounce cup.
Espresso: 77mg caffeine per 1.5 fl ounce shot.
When it comes to how much water you are going to put in – there is no one right answer. If you look at recipes people share online, it can vary from everything from 1:3 coffee to water to 1:10. Our rule of thumb here is to go with a ratio of 1:6 Coffee to water. This will, without a doubt, produce a very strong concentrate. But don’t feel married to this ratio – or really any other recipe. Run with it to start, but take notes and fiddle around until you find yourself something you like. Just keep in mind that when you make cold brew what you are producing is a concentrate intended to be cut 1:1 with water so you’ll be getting a double the amount of coffee that you are actually brewing up.
Step 3: Let Steep
Once you’ve set up your Toddy brewer, your coffee sock, or whatever brew method you’ve chosen – you are going to want to let your ground beans sit in the water for at the very least 10 hours and at the most a full 24. A good sweet spot to go to is 12 hours. Set this all up is at night before you head to bed or in the morning before you head off to work. While you’re gone or asleep water will get to work pulling all of the good acids, fats, and other dissolvable solids into its solution.
How to Drink It
Cold brew is great just with a splash of milk or simply cut with some water and simple syrup – but the caffeinated concoction actually offers up a lot of opportunity for fun, and even boozy drinks for the summer. We wanted to share just some of the different things you can do with the good stuff.
Cold Brew G&T: 25ml pour of quality gin, 25ml pour of cold brew, 75ml pour of tonic water.
Cold Brew Ice Cubes: Pretty straight forward- pour out your cold brew into an ice tray, let rest. Once frozen, you can throw them into your iced coffee or cold brew to cool without diluting it.
Cold Brew Popsicles: Whisk up 1 1/2 cups of cold brew, 3/4 sweetened condensed milk, 3/4 cup whole milk, and 1 1/2 Carmel syrup. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze for one hour – enjoy buzzy pop while hot.
Cold Brew Lemonade: Pour in 2 ounces of lemon juice, 30 grams of simple syrup, 5 ounces of cold brew, and 5 ounces of simple syrup. Toss in a little ice for good measure and you’re good to go.
What's The Difference: Cold Brew Vs. Iced Coffee
Ok, so now you know how to make yourself a big batch of cold brew – but do you know the how to tell iced coffee from cold brew? We do – and we laid it all out in our guide to the differences between iced and cold brewed coffee.