How To Make Delicious Cold Brew At Home, According To An Expert Roaster
Sure, there's a subset of people who drink cold coffee year-round. But for the rest of us, sunny days mean it's finally cold brew season. While cold brew from your local coffee shop may be delicious, you can also make it at home—and it's surprisingly simple.
Coffee expert and owner of Fazenda Coffee Roasters Phil Schein explains what cold brew is, how it differs from iced coffee, and how to make cold brew at home.
What is cold brew?
Cold brew is made from coarsely ground coffee, which is steeped in cold water overnight (approximately 12 hours). This process extracts the coffee and creates a concentrate.
Because it's concentrated, cold brew is much stronger than traditional drip coffee. You can dilute it with more water or milk, although this step isn't required. "Some people will drink it almost straight, with maybe a little bit of milk," Schein says. "Others might do a one-to-one or a two-to-one ratio of water to concentrate."
How does it differ from iced coffee?
Brewing iced coffee is the same process as brewing hot coffee—it's simply left out to cool and poured over ice rather than being served hot. Cold brew, on the other hand, is made by steeping ground coffee in water overnight and does not require any heat to make (hence the cold in cold brew).
Since it is a concentrate, cold brew tends to be stronger than iced coffee, and according to registered nutritionist Nour Zibdeh, M.S., RDN, "cold brewing extracts less acid and bitter compounds from the beans, which can make coffee easier to tolerate."
Here: a deeper look at the difference between cold brew and iced coffee.
How long does it keep in the fridge?
Since there's no heat to break down the flavors, Schein says cold brew has a longer shelf life than other coffee might. It can generally keep in the fridge for about two weeks.
How to make cold brew at home.
To get started on your homemade cold brew, all you need are coffee beans, a filtration device, and a container to steep and store your brew.
To filter the grounds, you can use something as simple as a paper coffee filter or a cheesecloth. "You can also use a French press if you want to," Schein says. "That wouldn't filter it the same, but it's an easy way to do it, and it works well."
If you're interested in buying a more specific piece of brewing equipment, Schein recommends this cold brew maker from OXO.
Here's exactly what you need to do to make your own cold brew:
- Ground coffee.
- Cold water
Half a pound of coffee will yield about a half-gallon of cold brew.
- Combine 1 part ground coffee with 4 parts cold water in Mason jar or container of choice.
- Steep overnight (or for 12 hours).
- Strain through filter.
- Add milk or water to concentrate (1:1).
- Mix and serve.
Optional: You also may want to consider zipping your fresh cold brew in a blender with some grass-fed collagen and milk of choice for a yummy treat with an added nutritional boost.
What kind of coffee beans should I use?
The type of beans you choose really comes down to your taste. For chocolate notes, Schein suggests a medium roast from Central America. For fruity notes, try light roasted African coffee beans. "The lighter roast will be brighter and maybe not as appealing," Schein says. "The taste is going to be kind of interesting—maybe you'll get some fruit and lemon notes."
How you steep the grounds can also alter the flavor. There's no right or wrong way to steep them, but some people choose to leave theirs at room temperature for 12 hours, which will create a bigger mouthfeel with more chocolate notes, according to Schein. Whereas, steeping in the fridge will lead to cleaner and brighter notes.
It's really all about preference, though. Try a variety of steeping methods and beans (including decaf, if that's your thing) until you find your favorite.
If you're celebrating warmer weather with cold brew, these tips make it simple to create at home. Whether you're opting for a dark or light roast, make sure you're diluting the concentration with water or milk—trust us, this isn't as mild as iced coffee would be.
Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine. She has covered topics ranging from regenerative agriculture to celebrity entrepreneurship. Moore worked on the copywriting and marketing team at Siete Family Foods before moving to New York.