Have you tried cold brew? It’s as refreshing as iced coffee-and almost as trendy as unicorn frappuccino. But unlike those drinks, cold brew coffee is wildly easy to make at home, with results that rival those of the best coffee shops. (Want to make more coffeehouse drinks at home? We’ve got plenty of recipes.)
The cold brewing technique reduces the acidity of coffee, which in turn enhances its natural sweetness and complex flavor notes. Even those who take hot coffee with sugar and cream might find themselves sipping cold brew plain. The secret? It’s all about how you treat the two ingredients that make up cold brew. Read on to learn how it’s done.
3 Must-Do’s for Cold Brew Success
1. Pick your roast
You can cold brew any roast of coffee-but each has its pros and cons.
The most popular choice for cold brew, these low-acid coffees are mellow and smooth, with rich flavor. The drawback? They produce more sediment than other roasts, and they may be cloudier.
We love medium roast beans for cold brew. Their flavor is brighter and more complex than many dark roasts. They’ve been roasted at a lower temperature than dark roast beans, so you don’t risk any burnt flavor. They’re also less acidic than mild roasts.
Light roasts often have the brightest flavor notes. Still, they’re our last choice for cold brew. Grounds will need to soak longer to extract the full flavor, and your coffee may have an acidic quality.
2. The grind matters
Here’s the only fussy thing about making cold brew coffee: you should take care to use coarsely ground beans. Make sure to grind them at the store or in your home grinder. Grounds should be the size of breadcrumbs.
Why? Using finely ground coffee will give cold brew a cloudy appearance and a gritty texture.
3. The big trick: The ratio
Cold brew is just coffee and water. Simple, right? But search for a cold brew recipe, and you’ll find a huge range of ratios. We’ve seen everything from 1 part ground coffee to 4 parts water, to 1 part ground coffee to 16 parts water. We prefer somewhere in the middle, about 1 part coffee to 8 parts water.
The ratio you prefer will depend on how strong you like your coffee, and how dark your beans are. Think of it like this:
Stronger- use dark roast coffee and/or brew grounds in less water
Weaker-use light or medium roast coffee and/or brew grounds in more water
Test Kitchen Tip: Just getting started? We recommend making a stronger brew. You can always dilute it with cold water or milk. If you brew it too weak, it’s harder to correct.
How to Cold Brew Coffee
1 cup coarsely ground coffee
1 cup 205° water (simmering, not boiling), optional but recommended
6 – 7 cups cold water
Step 1: Combine coffee and hot water, and watch it bloom
Place the coffee grounds in a clean glass container and pour in the hot water; let stand 10 minutes. You’ll see the coffee swell and bubble up. That’s called “bloom.”
Test Kitchen Tip: While many cold brew recipes don’t use any hot water, we like the effect. The near-boiling water releases carbon dioxide in the grounds, extracting more flavor from the beans. If you want to use cold water only, simply skip this step and add an extra cup of cold water to this recipe.
Step 2: Add cold water
Once your grounds have bloomed, stir in the cold water. Cover the container and refrigerate for 12 – 16 hours, or up to 24. The longer the coffee sits, the stronger the flavor.
Step 3: Strain
Strain the coffee through a fine mesh sieve. Discard the grounds. Then, do a second strain, this time pouring the coffee through a coffee filter. This will remove any fine particles or grounds, yielding the smoothest possible cup.
Step 4: Enjoy immediately or save for later
Serve the coffee over ice. It’s delicious black or with a dash of milk or cream.
You can store the cold brew, refrigerated, for up to two weeks.
Test Kitchen Tip: Some people enjoy a tiny pinch of salt instead of sugar in cold brews. Salt brings out the inherent sweetness of the coffee. Weird but true!
Another Test Kitchen Tip: Freeze some coffee in ice cube trays. The frozen coffee cubes will chill your beverage without watering it down.
Make a big batch
Since it keeps in the fridge for up to two weeks, I like to portion mine out in jars to bring to work throughout the week.
Test Kitchen Tip: Pour cold brew into a small mason jar, add milk or water, sugar or honey if you’d like, and you’ve got a homemade to-go cold coffee.
How to Cold Brew in a French Press
With its built-in filter, a French press makes cold brewing easy. Simply mix the coffee and water in the chamber and then, without pressing the plunger down, place in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, slowly press the plunger down. Then pour the brew through a coffee filter to remove the fine sediment.