Let’s make cold-brew coffee at home! It’s incredibly easy to DIY, it doesn’t require any fancy equipment, and it’s 100% budget-friendly because it’s so much more cost-effective than running to the coffee shop.
Even better? You can batch-make cold brew ahead of time and you will be set all week long. No more busy morning rush where you’re scrambling to make coffee. It will already be made, leaving you plenty of time to savor each sip while enjoying your favorite breakfast.
Iced Coffee or Cold Brew?
Let’s get this out of the way first: there is a difference between cold brew and iced coffee. Cold brew is a type of iced coffee, but iced coffee is not always cold brew.
Cold Brew is a type of iced coffee, made when coarse coffee grounds are steeped in cold water for 12-24 hours, then strained. This brewing process results in a less acidic, smooth coffee that is then served cold, over ice, and/or diluted with additional milk or water to a desired strength.
Iced Coffee is when coffee is brewed using hot water and is then poured over ice. Iced coffee does not inherently eliminate the acidity that comes from hot brewed coffee, as the cold brew method does. However, the flavor nuances in the coffee do shine through more.
The Perfect Ratio of Beans to Water
In my many years of making cold brew coffee at home, I’ve found the ratio of 1:4, grounds to water, is perfect. For me, this typically looks like 1 cup of beans, ground, to 4 cups of water. Easily double this for more coffee, too!
Because the coffee grounds absorb water, the final result will have less liquid than you started with.
The Best Coffee Beans for Cold Brew Coffee
Above all, I recommend using coffee beans that you love! You can use a light or dark roast, it’s simply about the flavor you prefer.
If you’re not sure, I find the best results with medium to dark-roast coffee beans for cold brew. Because the cold brew process results in a smoother taste than a cup of hot coffee, and is, therefore, less acidic, using a darker roast creates a rich, smooth coffee flavor in the cold brew.
Steps for Making Cold Brew at Home
It only takes a few simple steps to make cold brew — with equipment you likely already have in your kitchen. A coffee bean grinder) will make the process even easier, but it’s not necessary.
1: Grind the Coffee Beans
Regardless of how you’re brewing coffee, using freshly ground coffee beans always results in the best flavor, but it’s especially important when making cold brew.
For cold brew, coffee beans need to be coarse ground. If grinding them at home, use the “French Press” setting.
If you don’t have a coffee grinder at home, buy the beans at a coffee shop and ask them to grind them, or do it yourself at the grocery store in the whole coffee bean section.
I do not recommend using preground coffee to make cold brew. Preground coffee is finely ground and ideal for coffee machines, not for cold steeping. It’s too fine and will over-extract in the cold brew process, resulting in a bitter cup.
2: Combine with Cold Water
Add the coffee grounds to a container of choice, then pour cold water onto them. If needed, use a spoon to gently press the grounds down once you’ve added the water to ensure they are all thoroughly wet.
A variety of vessels will work. Try one of these:
- I like using a quart-sized wide-mouth mason jar. It does hold a little less water than I’d like for the perfect ratio, but it’s super convenient.
- A large quart glass measuring cup, bowl, or pitcher.
- Use a French Press. Then, when it’s time to strain, you simply have to press down on the filter.
3: Cover and Steep
Now it’s time to let time work its magic. Cover the jar, pitcher, or whatever you used, with a lid or plastic wrap. Leave some room for expansion, as the coffee grounds absorb the water. Place it on the counter or in the fridge and let it steep for 12 to 24 hours.
I find that right around 18 hours is the sweet spot for me; the coffee has had time to fully brew and is rich, bold, and smooth.
4: Strain the Coffee Grounds
Once the coffee has brewed, it’s time to strain it. There are several methods to strain the coffee grounds that I’ll share with you, but the most important part of straining is ensuring you’re using a method that is fine enough to catch all the grounds. Let’s have a look at our options:
- Fine Mesh Coffee Strainer – you can purchase a fine mesh strainer specifically designed to filter coffee or tea, and that fits in a mason jar for brewing.
- In my experience, it’s best when the grounds have direct contact with the water while steeping. So, I often just pour the cold brew through this strainer once it’s ready. You can also purchase a reusable coffee filter.
- Fine Mesh Sieve paired with a Fine Cloth or Nut Milk Bag – Adding a finer strainer on top of the sieve catches the little grounds that would otherwise sneak through. This wonderful reusable option is pictured.
- French Press – this makes it easy to strain out the coffee grounds just like you would coffee.
Save the grounds and add them to your compost or work them into your garden soil to use as fertilizer.
How to Store Cold Brew Coffee
Cold brew coffee needs to be stored in the fridge once it has been strained. A jar or pitcher with an airtight lid is best. It will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week before it starts to lose its flavor.
Ways to Serve Cold Brew
Fill a glass with ice and pour in the cold brew, topping off with creamer, milk, or sugar – however you take your coffee. If the cold brew concentrate is too strong, dilute it with additional water.
Elevate your cold brew with flavor! Here are a few of my favorite ways:
- Stir vanilla syrup into your glass of cold brew.
- You can also add 1 tablespoon of vanilla bean paste or a split vanilla bean pod to the grounds when you brew them.
- Add a cinnamon stick to the grounds before brewing. The flavor is incredible! It leaves a hint of warm cinnamon in each sip of the finished cold brew. You can reuse the cinnamon stick several times to save on cost and get the most out of each stick.
- Add maple syrup. This is a great way to add a hint of flavor and sweetness. Just pour a little into your glass, add the cold brew, and stir to combine!
- Stir in syrups like caramel, lavender, autumn spice, rosemary simple, or almond syrup. Just like iced lattes, you can flavor cold brew in many ways!
- Use coffee ice cubes to prevent further dilution from regular ice cubes. Simply pour leftover cold brew or coffee into an ice cube tray and once frozen they’re ready to use.
Cold Brew Product Resources
Here are a few of my favorite products mentioned in the post for making cold brew. Again, you can easily use what you have on hand to make cold brew following the simple steps, many of these are just nice-to-haves. These are affiliate links.
- Wide Mouth Quart Mason Jars – the perfect multi-use-what-you-have vessel
- Fine Mesh Mason Jar Strainer – a specific-for-brewing filter that can also be used for cold brew tea
- Fine Mesh Sieve – a good base option for straining
- Nut Milk Bag or Cheese Cloth – easy methods for straining out coffee grounds
- Coffee Grinder – coarse and freshly ground coffee is best
- Cold Brew Coffee Maker – this is essentially a large French Press that’s perfect for beginners
- Reusable Straws – why is it that straws are a must-have for cold brew?
Did you make this recipe? Please leave a star rating and review in the form below. I appreciate your feedback, and it helps others, too!
Get the Recipe How to Make Perfect Homemade Cold Brew Coffee
- 1 cup (82 g) whole coffee beans, freshly ground
- 4 cups (946 mL) filtered water
- Freshly grind the coffee beans on the coarsest setting. If you don't have a grinder, ask a local coffee shop to grind their beans on the coarsest setting, or grind them at the grocery store. I don't recommend using preground coffee.1 cup whole coffee beans
- Place the grounds in a quart-sized mason jar or another large vessel like a pitcher. As long as you can cover it – even with plastic wrap – and the liquid will fit, you're set! If adding a cinnamon stick or vanilla bean paste, do so now.1 cinnamon stick, 1 Tablespoon vanilla bean paste
- Pour the water over the beans, working to saturate all of the grounds. As needed, use a spoon to gently mix in all the grounds to ensure that they are all wet.4 cups filtered water
- Cover the cold brew and let rest on the countertop or in the fridge for 14-24 hours, as desired. I find the sweet spot is 18 hours.
- Place a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl and spread a piece of cheesecloth or a nut milk bag on top of the sieve (see the post for additional straining options). Pour the coffee into the bowl to strain it.
- To serve, fill a glass with ice and add the cold brew. As needed, dilute the concentrate with water, cream, or milk. Stir in flavored simple syrup as desired and enjoy!
- This recipe makes around 20 ounces of strong cold brew. Keep in mind that ice and any dilution will extend it to 3-4 servings depending on the above.
- My favorite ratio for cold brew is 1:4 beans to water; feel free to double or triple the recipe as needed, or adjust the ratio as needed based on your preferences.
- 1 cup of whole beans is the same amount as 1 cup of coffee grounds.
- Time matters – if it steeps for less than 12 hours, it will taste watered down because it hasn’t extracted enough coffee. Longer than 24 hours, you might find it too acidic and/or bitter (just dilute it down more).