How to make your own cold brew coffee in 4 easy steps

You came here because you already know how amazing cold brew coffee is — you just want to know how to make it yourself.

I prefer cold brew (aka, cold press) over regular coffee these days because it’s less acidic, and in the summer it’s already cold so you don’t need to add ice to cool it down.

I’d like to let you in on a little secret:

when it comes to making coffee, nothing is easier than making cold brew!

In fact, the process is brain-dead-simple if you know what you’re doing.

There are a few reasons for making your own cold press:

Prep-work

There are a few items you will need before you get started. Most of them are one-time purchases, which is awesome, and the rest are pretty obvious: whole beans and water.

Required materials

  1. Container (one-time purchase)
  2. Filter (one-time purchase)
  3. Grinder (one-time purchase)
  4. Whole beans
  5. Water

Before you begin making your own cold press, you’ll need to know the recipe size — and this is primarily determined by the size of your container (explained below).

Calculations to know

1. Size of container

The size of your container depends on the volume of coffee you want to make each time.

I recommend deciding this based on how much coffee you drink in a day.

Personally, I drink 2 cups of cold press per day, so a 12 gallon mason jar is a great place to start.

I might upgrade that to a full gallon at a later point, but then I need to consider (a) the height of my shelf in the fridge, and (b) how much space I’m willing to dedicate to storing coffee.

Two big reasons for using a large container (like a gallon) over a smaller one are:

2. Coffee beans

How much coffee beans do I need?

Whole bean amount required for making cold press
4 Tablespoons of whole beans per 1 cup water

Depending on the size of your container, that means:

IMPORTANT: Because of the space that your grounds and filter will take up inside your container, you will need to adjust your calculation to account for the true quantity of water you can fit. After making my first batch, I could see how much water I actually was putting in (6 cups rather than 8) and had to go back and recalculate the amount of grounds I needed. For me, I reduced the original requirement of 2 cups of beans down to 1.5 cups. Put another way, I ended up needing 25% less beans (6 cups of water as a percentage of 8 cups is 75%).

Once you get your calculation down and you know what your favorite beans are, it makes sense to start buying your beans in bulk to save you even more time and money. Then you always have plenty of beans on hand, and it’ll cut down on the number of trips to the store.

3. Filter

The filter you use should be able to hold all of your pre-calculated grounds, and of course should fit in your container.

I prefer to use a stainless steel filter because it lasts forever, saves you time, money, and is better for the environment (due to less waste over time).

4. Water

It’s critical to know the total amount of water that fits in your container after adding your filter and grounds, because this is the amount you use for the calculation you made above.

My mason jar can fit 8 cups of water easily without anything else in there, but with the grounds and filter only 6-6.5 cups of water actually fits. The 6 cups is what I’ll use in the calculation, because again, the amount of water you actually put in your container is what you should use for your calculation.

Step 1 - grind whole coffee beans

Action item - take your whole beans and start grinding them.

A coarse grind is required for making cold brew coffee.

The beans you choose play a role as well. If you aim to match most coffee shops then starting with a medium roast is a good choice.

Step 2 - add grounds into filter

Action item - this is the easiest step of all: just pour the grounds into the filter.

If after pouring in the grounds you realize that you don’t have enough room in the filter, your calculations might be off or you might have the wrong filter size. Go back to the prep-work section.

Step 3 - add water

Ok you got me. This step is easy too:

Action item - simply pour water in until you reach the top of your container.

A few process notes:

What kind of water should I use?

The type of water you use can make a difference in taste. Tap water typically contains fluoride and minerals, and can change the taste of your coffee.

The easiest thing to do here is just use whatever water you normally use to make your regular coffee.

But if you want a recommendation, using filtered water in your home or purchasing spring water are both good options.

Step 4 - wait & enjoy

Step 4 might see too obvious and potentially unnecessary to list, but I assure you: steep time is arguably one of the most important steps in the process of making your own cold brew coffee.

This is because the time spent steeping is what creates your cold brew, affects strength, and ultimately affects how it tastes.

There are two options for steeping:

  1. Refrigerated
  2. Non-refrigerated (i.e., on the counter)

Refrigeration required time is 24 minimum, and up to 30 hours or more to taste.

Non-refrigeration required time is half that of refrigeration time, or a minimum of 12 to 15 hours or higher to taste.

Personally, I use the non-refrigeration method for 12-14 hours on average, because I typically don’t have the extra time for the refrigerated steeping option (although when I first learned how to make cold press I started with the refrigeration method).

Remaining steps

These steps are not listed as explicit steps because they are somewhat obvious, but for first time cold brewers you’ll need to know them.

Remove filter and grounds

Once the desired steep time has passed, it’s very important to remove the filter and all grounds from your container so that it doesn’t continue to steep. If you forget this step, you will wind up with some wickedly strong coffee.

Refrigerate

Once you are done making your cold press, make sure to refrigerate the coffee so that it keeps. This is one of the big advantages of cold press: it keeps up to 2 weeks in the fridge.

Is it possible to make my cold press stronger or weaker?

Yes.

A few factors make a difference in how strong your coffee is, or how strong it is perceived to be.

How do I reduce leftover sediment?

You may find a small amount of sediment left from the steeping process, that has settled at the bottom of your container. This is normal, and is a product of the quality of your filter.

Filters that are very fine will reduce the amount of sediment leftover, while filters that are less fine will generate a lot more.

There is not a filter out there that will create zero sediment, so the question becomes: what is the best way to minimize it?

I’ve also talked to some coffee shops, and have learned that some don’t use containers at all, but rather a type of permeable plastic bag. In this way, you are not using a regular filter that is limited by the ability for a machine to create a mesh like material out of metal, but rather a completely new product from a plastic-like material.

Personally, I prefer stainless steel over plastic, so one potential solution is to purchase some cheese cloth.

The cheese cloth can be used as a final filter: either after you have made your cold press, or once you are serving it. It acts as an additional filter, with a different degree of fineness, and can catch more if not all of the leftover sediment that you may find.


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