How to Make Cold Brew Coffee at Home

You can enjoy the smoothest richest coffee flavor you've ever tasted when you learn how to make cold brew coffee at home - it's easy.
French press in background with jar of coffee beans in foreground
© Madalyn Cox / Unsplash

Cold brew coffee is a great way to enjoy a smoother cup of coffee, especially if you have a sensitive stomach, or find regular hot coffee overpowering.

It has subtle flavors and lower acidity than regular coffee and is also a lovely refreshing way to drink coffee in the summer.

Cold brew coffee (as the name implies) is coffee made without the application of heat. The coffee is brewed by steeping coffee grounds in cold water for a period of time (12-18 hours).

Cold brew coffee can be served black simply diluted with cold water, or you can serve it with ice, or with milk.

Any of these ways of serving cold brew will allow you to taste the smooth subtle flavors extracted by the cold water over the last 12 hours or so!

Making Cold Brew Coffee

If you go to your nearest coffee shop, you’ll probably find that Cold Brew Coffee is more expensive than regular hot coffee or iced coffee. That’s why it’s great that it is so easy to save money and make your own cold brew coffee at home.

It’s best to make a cold brew concentrate (due to how long it takes to make each batch) and store it in the fridge for use over the next few days.

Coffee jug with filter in top and 4 white cups next to it
Paper filter © Sandor B / Pixabay

All you need to make cold brew concentrate is:

  • Coffee beans or coarse ground coffee
  • Cold water
  • Jug or jar for steeping the coffee grounds
  • Spoon for stirring
  • Filter to strain the grounds once brewed
  • Container (jug or bottle with a lid) to store the finished concentrate

If you are transferring the concentrate into a narrow-mouthed bottle, you’ll find a funnel useful too.

Here are 7 easy steps to create perfect cold brew coffee concentrate:

1. Grind

If you are starting with coffee beans, grind them to create coarse grounds. Don’t grind for too long – the grains need to be coarse, not powdery.

If you are buying pre-ground coffee, make sure it is coarse ground.

Coarse ground coffee in container on electronic weighing scales
Coarse ground coffee © Wade Austin Ellis / Unsplash

As I am explaining how to make cold brew coffee concentrate, I recommend that you use twice the amount of coffee grounds that you normally would for hot coffee whilst keeping the amount of water the same.

If you are using a different brand of coffee to normal, check on the packet and again use twice the recommended amount (unless they have their own instructions for cold brew concentrate of course).

2. Mix

Put the coffee grounds into the container that you are using for steeping.

French press with top laying on table with white mug
French Press © Ivan Calderon / Unsplash

Pour a small amount of cold water in first, to cover the coffee grounds, and leave for a few minutes to soak in. Then pour the rest of the cold water over the grounds, and stir so that they are thoroughly wet.

Make sure there are no dry pockets of grounds left. It is ok for the grounds to float on top of the water as long as they are all wet.

Glass jar of coffee grounds floating on water
Wet coffee grounds floating on cold water © K8 / Unsplash

If you’re using a French press do not push down the plunger – leave it in the up position whilst your coffee is steeping.

3. Steep

Find a safe place to put your steeping jug to let the coffee grounds brew. Leave them in the water for a minimum of 12 hours (it’s ideal if you can leave them to steep overnight).

You can leave the container on the counter or in the fridge – it doesn’t affect the steeping time.

However, make sure you keep the coffee out of direct sunlight, as this will warm the coffee and affect the end result.

4. Strain

If you are using a French press, straining is easy – just push down the plunger!

French press jug of cold brew coffee on wooden tray with snow scene in background
Cold brew coffee in a French press © Ian Lai / Unsplash

If you are using a cloth or paper filter, pour the coffee from the steeping jug into your storage jug or bottle through the filter.

It is important to get as much of the grounds out of the coffee as possible, otherwise, it will be gritty and cloudy when you drink it. You may need to strain it twice to get rid of the cloudiness.

5. Store

Transfer your cold brew to a jar or bottle with a lid that you can use to store in the fridge until you’re ready to drink it.

It will stay fresh in the fridge for a week to 10 days.

6. Serve

When you are ready to drink your cold brew, dilute it with cold water. It is normal to dilute cold brew with about an equal amount of water, but you will need to experiment to get the exact taste you like.

Cold brew coffee in small glass jug with glass cup and sugar
Cold brew coffee at home © Toa Heftiba / Unsplash

If you make a particularly strong concentrate you can dilute it with more water to create a weaker coffee. This also means you can dilute with differing amounts of water when you serve to suit individual preferences.

If you have milk in your coffee, I would recommend diluting the cold brew with cold water and then adding a small amount of milk to taste. Don’t add too much milk, or you may overpower the coffee flavor.

Tall glass of cold brew coffee and ice with milk being poured in
Cold brew coffee served with ice and milk © Jorik Blom / Unsplash

If you want to serve your cold brew with ice cubes, bear in mind that they will dilute your coffee, so don’t add too many (you may want to reduce the amount of cold water you add if you serve with ice cubes).

7. Dispose of Coffee Grounds

Don’t pour your used coffee grounds down the sink or waste disposal – they will clog your pipework. You can throw your used coffee grounds in the trash, but that isn’t ideal. Here are a few creative ways to use your coffee grounds instead:

  • Put on flower beds as fertilizer
  • Facial scrub (do not wash off into the drain!)
  • Insect repellent
  • Natural dye for fabric or paper
  • Rub into meat as a tenderizer for tough meat cuts

Cold Brew Coffee At Home FAQ

I know that people have a lot of questions about cold brew coffee, and how it’s different from other sorts of coffee, so I’ve compiled this FAQ to help.

Q. What is cold brew coffee?

A. Cold Brew coffee is made by steeping ground coffee in cold water to extract the flavor. Heat is not used at all in the preparation of cold brew coffee.

Tall glass of cold brew coffee and ice with milk being poured in
Cold brew coffee served with ice and milk © Jorik Blom / Unsplash

Don’t confuse cold brew coffee with iced coffee – iced coffee is made using regular hot coffee which is then cooled with ice.

Q. Can I make cold brew coffee at home?

A. You most certainly can! You can purchase various coffee makers which are purpose-made for the job, or you can improvise using a jug and filter that you will probably already have at home.

There are coffee machines that are made specifically to create cold brew coffee at home from popular coffee machine manufacturers such as Ninja or Cuisinart.

Glass with ice cubes balancin on book and chopping board, with black coffee being poured into it
Making cold brew coffee at home © Pradeep Javedar / Unsplash

There are also some drip coffee machines that have been designed to make both hot and cold brew coffee, but these can be very expensive.

The simple French press or cafetière is one of the best ways to make cold brew coffee – it keeps all the grounds under the plunger once the coffee has brewed and doesn’t require a separate filter.

If you wish to improvise, all you need is a jug or mason jar and a filter (coffee or muslin) to separate the grounds from the concentrate once the coffee has finished steeping.

Q. Can I buy cold brew coffee at the grocery store?

A. You can often find lots of ready-made cold brew coffee brands in your local grocery store.

Hand holding bottle of Later Days cold brew coffee with sunny background
Later Days Cold Brew Coffee © Daniel Hooper / Unsplash

You buy concentrate which you dilute with water at home, or ready to drink cold brew which you can drink whilst you are out and about, as you don’t need to add water.

Bottle of Stok cold brew coffee poured in to glass of ice cubes
Stōk Cold Brew Coffee © Ryan de Hamer / Unsplash

Some of the most popular store-bought cold brew coffees include: Rise Brewing Co. Nitro Cold Brew Coffee (comes in cans or kegs only), Califia Unsweetened Black Label Cold Brew, Later Days Cold Brew Coffee, Chameleon Cold Brew Organic Black Coffee, Grady’s New Orleans-Style Cold Brew, Morning Kicks Cold Brew, and Stōk Not Too Sweet Black Cold Brew.

Bottle of Morning Kicks Cold Brew Coffee surrounded by rope
Morning Kicks Cold Brew Coffee © Amr Taha / Unsplash

Q. What makes cold brew coffee special?

A. Cold brew coffee is known for being a smooth, less acidic coffee. It is refreshing as it is served cold, and it does not have the bitter taste sometimes associated with traditional hot coffee.

Bottle of Starbucks Cold Brew Coffee on wooden table with leaves
Starbucks Cold Brew Coffee © Joseph Gonzalez / Unsplash

Q. How long does it take to make cold brew coffee?

A. As there is no heat involved in making cold brew coffee, you need to steep the coffee in cold or room temperature water for a number of hours to extract the flavor.

The exact number of hours to leave the coffee to brew is down to personal taste, but it is usually between 12 and 18 hours.

The longer you leave the grounds to steep, the stronger the brew, but don’t leave it too long, as a bitter taste can start to appear.

Large wall old-fashioned wall clock with roman numerals
How long to brew cold brew coffee? © Pixelheart / Pixabay

You usually make a batch of concentrated cold brew coffee and keep it in the fridge ready to dilute whenever you want a coffee over the next few days.

That way you won’t have to wait 12 hours for each cup!

Q. Can you brew cold brew coffee for too long?

A. If you brew your coffee grounds for longer than 24 hours the bitterness of the grounds will return, and the coffee will taste musty or woody.

Q. How long can you keep cold brew coffee in the fridge?

A. I’d recommend 7 to 10 days – any longer than that and the coffee will be past its best.

Q. Can I add milk to cold brew coffee?

A. It’s fine to add milk or cream to your cold brew coffee – it’s a matter of personal taste. Some people add sugar and milk to their cold brew, whilst others just add milk or drink it black.

You’ll probably want to be careful with the amount of milk you add when you first try it, as you may drown out the coffee flavor and end up with a milky drink!

Try increasing the amount of milk gradually until you reach a flavor you like.

Q. Can you make cold brew using regular coffee?

A. Yes, you can make cold brew coffee using your usual favorite coffee beans – you don’t need to buy any special type of coffee.

Coffee beans spilling out of black and yellow pouch
Coffee beans © Cedrik Wesche / Unsplash

You might find that your normal hot coffee tastes different when made into cold brew, so you may prefer a different brand for cold brew.

Have fun and experiment with some different types of coffee!

Q. Can you make cold brew coffee in a French press?

A. This is, in fact, one of the easiest ways to make cold brew coffee at home. All of the messy coffee grounds are contained in the glass jug, and you don’t need a filter paper or muslin for straining as the French press has the filter built-in.

If using a French press you must make especially sure that the coffee is coarse ground, as if it is too fine the end result will be cloudy, and you will need to strain it with a paper filter or muslin cloth as well as in the French press.

Here’s how to use a French press to make cold brew coffee:

French press containing cold brew coffee
French press cold brew coffee © Oxa Roxa / Unsplash
  1. Put your coarse ground coffee in the French press jug, pour the required amount of cold water over the grounds and stir until the grounds are all wet.
  2. Place the lid onto the jug, but do not press down the plunger.
  3. Leave to steep for 12-18 hours, and then press down the plunger to separate the coffee concentrate and the grounds.
  4. Pour the coffee concentrate into a bottle or jug with a lid ready to store in your refrigerator.

Q. Is it cheaper to make cold brew coffee?

A. I think it will probably cost about the same to make cold brew coffee at home as it does to make hot coffee (assuming you like the same type of coffee bean and strength for each type of brew).

You will use more coffee grounds at first when you are making the cold brew as you will make a concentrate, but of course, you will be able to make the same number of cups to drink as with the hot coffee as you will dilute the concentrated cold brew.

Q. Can you heat up Cold Brew Coffee?

A. Heating cold brew is fine. It will keep its smooth flavor and lower acidity, as the grounds have already been taken out. Some people prefer heating up cold brew coffee to drinking regular brewed hot coffee, as it makes a nice smooth hot drink.

Hands pouring cold brew coffee from glass jar into speckled white mug
Cold brew coffee © Gerson Cifuentes / Unsplash

There are a couple of ways to heat cold brew coffee – either combine your cold brew concentrate with the required amount of cold water and then heat in a pan on your stovetop, or dilute your concentrate with hot (not boiling) water to make it up to the correct amount of liquid.

Q. Is cold brew stronger than regular coffee?

A. This depends on how much coffee you use to make the cold brew. Often, people make cold brew concentrate at home (usually twice as strong as you would make for regular hot coffee) and then dilute it as required.

The reason cold brew is often seen as stronger than iced coffee is that the ice dilutes the iced coffee whereas cold brew is usually served without ice.

I hope I’ve inspired you to try making cold brew coffee at home – I love the cold brew smooth coffee experience and I’m sure you will too.