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Making Great Cold Brew Coffee at Home

Cold brew coffee has made a big splash in the coffee world over the past 5+ years. Once looked at with skepticism by Specialty Coffee professionals who dismissed it as a passing fad, quite the opposite has happened: Cold brew coffee just keeps gaining steam in the marketplace and shows no signs of going away. It has become a permanent fixture.

And it's easy for me to see why: Cold brew coffee appeals to people who normally don't drink hot coffee because of its bitterness. For me as a roaster & shop owner, I've viewed cold brew coffee as a "gateway drug" to help ease people into the wonderful world of Specialty Coffee.

In this post, I will explain what Cold Brew coffee is and how it differs from other cold coffee drinks, and then give you a simple recipe to make cold brew concentrate at home with recommendations on which roasted coffees are well-suited for it.

Iced Cold Brew Latte

Cold Brew: What it is (and isn't)

This is usually what I run into when introducing people to the idea of cold brew: When I say "cold brew," many normal coffee drinkers hear "cold coffee" and think I'm talking about coffee that was brewed hot and then made cold somehow. "Iced coffee" is something that has historically been seen on cafe menus, and it is hot-brewed coffee that's been cooled down, usually very quickly. Hot coffee drinks in their various forms can be brewed in anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes.

Cold Brew, on the other hand, employs cold water from start to finish, and utilizes brewing/steeping times of 12-24 hours. This "low (temp) and slow (time)" brewing method produces a drink that has much lower bitterness levels than coffee brewed with hot water, but still contains the unmistakable and delightful flavors of coffee.

And it's precisely this lower bitterness that many people who don't normally drink coffee can easily get into drinking cold brew. Through biology and conditioning, some people just can't withstand the bitterness of hot coffee, but are capable of drinking smooth, less bitter cold brew. And there's no shame in that! 

Note: Some claim that cold brew has lower acidity, but this is not the case. Acidity and bitterness are related, but distinct. Cold brew coffee has similar levels of acidity to hot coffee, but is far less bitter. Just remember: Acidity ≠ Bitterness. It is the case that some people with sensitive stomachs have an easier time with cold brew than with hot coffee. I'll leave this up to the individual to test out.

Make Cold Brew at Home

Another nice thing about cold brew is that it is super easy to make at home, and you don't need any fancy expensive gear to do it (though such gear does exist). Here's how I make cold brew at home using a few common kitchen items.

Here's what you'll need:

Here are the steps to make cold brew concentrate:

  1. Measure 2 Cups of coffee beans and grind them as coarsely as possible
  2. Add coffee grounds into the filter and place inside the Mason jar
  3. Slowly fill the rest of the jar with water, through the grounds in the filter - You can use a long spoon to help agitate the grounds to ensure they get fully saturated
  4. Put the flip cap lid on the jar and place it in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours (Overnight usually works well, so you have it ready for your morning coffee!)
  5. After the steeping time, remove the filter from the Mason jar and dispose of the grounds (composted coffee grounds make good dirt!)
  6. Put the flip cap back on the Mason jar, and you're done!

Wala! You now have about 6 Cups of Cold Brew concentrate. It's concentrate, because the ratio of coffee grounds to water used was about 1:3, versus the usual 1:17 to 1:20 of the typical cup of hot drip coffee. Because of its strength, you will mostly likely want to dilute it down to "ready to drink" strength, and here are a few ways you can do that...

Ways to enjoy your cold brew:

  • Iced black cold brew - Fill a glass with ice, fill it half full of concentrate, then top off with more cold water
  • Iced cold brew latte (pictured above) - Fill a glass with ice, fill it half full of concentrate, then top off with cold milk/cream or milk alternative, then stir it all up
  • Sweeten the deal - We don't sugar shame here at RSR, so if you add some syrups and/or sugar, go for it. It's yummy! :) 
  • Iced Irish Coffee - Cold brew makes a great mixer with Irish whiskey and Bailey's! Put it on ice and top with whipped cream, and mmmmm!

If you've never made cold brew at home, all this might seen like a lot of work at first. But once you've done it a few times and figured out how to work it into a schedule, starting a batch the night before and straining it out the next morning will become second nature in no time. And you'll have awesome cold brew concentrate ready to go for whatever way you'd like to enjoy it most.

Note: You can use the recipe above without our cold brew maker, but it does make things much easier. Otherwise you're fiddling around with ways to strain the coffee after the steep. But if you just use a 1:3 coffee-to-water ratio, it's still pretty easy to make cold brew at home.

Happy cold brewing, folks! 

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Photo credit: Tyler Nix, via Unsplash



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