What is Cold Brew Coffee?

Cold brew coffee is exactly what it sounds like: coffee brewed cold. In lieu of using hot water to extract caffeine–and, thus, flavor–from a coffee, it is steeped in cold water like a tea. This process involves less oxidation and degradation of beans’ soluble compounds, which is what leads to a coffee tasting acidic or bitter. Cold brew, by comparison, is consistently sweet and smooth, neither acidic nor bitter. Cold brew coffee is a robust beverage of pleasantry.

How to Make Cold Brew Coffee

With the help of a cheesecloth and strainer, making a cold brew at home is a breeze. It’s also a versatile way to make coffee and perfect for DIYers: There is no mandatory device for crafting it. You can get creative with any container as long as it’s big enough and relatively air-tight. It’s worth nothing, though, that there are several products on the market designed to streamline the cold brew recipe process by including built-in filters.

Here’s how to make cold brew coffee at home.

Standard Method

  • First, gather materials: coffee beans, a grinder, a container, a strainer, cheesecloth, and a bottle for storage.
  • Measure out 4 ounces of coffee beans and 32 ounces of filtered water. (Note: recipes vary and are entirely dependent on a drinker’s preference–don’t be afraid to experiment.)
  • Grind the coffee or purchase preground coffee. You’ll want a coarse grind to decrease bitterness and improve filtration, ensuring sediment isn’t in the coffee that muddies the brew.
  • Place coffee inside a glass container and pour water. Close the lid and let steep in the refrigerator for approximately 12 hours.
  • Strain the cold brew concentrate by placing a metal strainer over the bottle meant to hold the brew, then use a cheesecloth as a filter.
  • Pour the mixture over the strainer and cheesecloth.
  • Store for as long as two weeks, but for best taste, consume your homemade cold brew coffee within a week.

How to Make Cold Brew Coffee With a French Press

  • Follow the steps above, but adjust the coffee-to-water ratio for the size of your French press.
  • Instead of using a strainer and cheesecloth, simply plunge at the end of the process and pour into a new container for storage.
  • If you’re steeping the French press in the fridge without the plunger lid placed on top, make sure it is covered with something else to avoid absorption of surrounding odors.

How Much Caffeine is in Cold Brew Coffee?

Worth realizing up front is that caffeine is a finicky drug that is extracted inconsistently. One coffee may have a significantly different caffeine content from the next, despite being prepared the same way or with the same roast. With that in mind, a 16-ounce cup of cold brew can contain approximately 200 mg of caffeine, which is quite a bit more than the average 16-ounce hot coffee’s 160 mg. This is not because of how it’s brewed, but instead a result of how much coffee is used to make cold brew and how much water or ice is used to dilute the concentrate. Cold-brewing coffee beans leaves a lot of caffeine unextracted, so cold brew caffeine content can actually be less depending on how much coffee is used.

How is Cold Brew Different From Regular Coffee?

Cold brew is different from regular coffee because it’s never exposed to heat. In comparison, iced coffee is brewed just like a regular coffee, only with ice added–or, with a “flash brew,” the coffee is still brewed with hot water, but made to be more concentrated and is diluted by pouring directly over ice. Lattes, of course, are a hot-brewed form of espresso containing milk or milk alternatives.

Cold brew is also made as a concentrate, meaning it’s not intended to be consumed until it’s been cut with another liquid. Unless you’re really craving a strong, powerful shot of cold brew.

How Long Does Cold Brew Coffee Last at Home?

Regular coffee does not keep well in the fridge for more than a few hours. Cold brew, however, will keep for a few hours, days, or even weeks in the fridge. The uncut concentrate should last for about two weeks in the refrigerator if maintained at the same temperature throughout. It will, all the same, lose much of its flavor by the end of the first week. Do not cut it with water before storage, or it will lose its flavor even faster: in about three days. Keep the cold brew concentrate in an air-tight bottle or carafe and discard if left unattended for a long period of time outside of refrigeration.

What is Cold Brew Concentrate?

Cold brew concentrate is what remains once the brewing process is done and the coffee has been extracted in the 24-hour steeping process. This liquid is visibly dark and loaded with caffeine–more than would be agreeable to consume on its own. For this reason, cold brew coffee concentrate is cut with water–about half concentrate and half water, though preferences vary. It can also be cut with milk, or can be kept as a potent addition to smoothies, baked goods, or other treats in small servings.

Cold brew shines as a satisfying morning jolt while doubling as an all-day sipper. Its reliable smoothness and rich chocolate notes mean it’s popular for good reason.