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7 Fail-Proof Tips For Making Cold Brew Coffee At Home

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Making better cold brew coffee at home is easier than you think.

But before we share our helpful tips for making cold brew coffee at home, let’s back up for a hot minute (or a cold one, as the case may be). What’s cold brew coffee?

Put simply, cold brew coffee is different because it’s brewed using cold water (um, duh) at a much slower pace than traditional hot coffee brewing methods. 

The result is a lighter, less acidic, and more refreshing iced coffee than your traditional drip coffee drinks and arguably the best iced coffee you can drink. 

Cold brew coffee is easy to make at home but requires some finessing to get it right. But fear not. Our tips for cold brew coffee will have you brewing the perfect cup (or mason jar) in no time.

Tips For Making Cold Brew Coffee At Home

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1. Use Filtered Water

This may seem the most obvious of our tips for cold brew coffee, but it’s frequently overlooked. 

Think about it: coffee made by any brewing method is mostly water, right? 

Using filtered water for coffee has a big impact on its taste, so skip the tap and opt for the good stuff when making cold brew coffee at home.

2. Get The Right Ratio For Cold Brew

The cold brew ratio isn’t an exact science, unfortunately. We all have different tastes and preferences, but a great starting point is a 1:5 coffee-to-water ratio for cold brew concentrate. 

This ratio for cold brew will work well for most roasts.

However, a brewing ratio of 1:6 coffee to water may work better for darker roasts.

Adjust as you like; however, the best cold brew ratio will result in a cold brew concentrate that’s delicious when diluted with milk or water (more on that later).

Experiment with the brewing ratio and dilution to get your perfect cup of cold brew.

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3. Buy Better Coffee Beans

So, what are the best coffee beans for cold brew? Well, that depends on your personal taste.

But one thing is for sure: don’t opt for the cheapest beans you can find. You will use a good amount of coffee when making cold brew, so it’s tempting to grab the cheap stuff. We get it.

But you’ll want to use high-quality beans to ensure the flavor of the cold brew is exceptional (and suits your tastes). This is one of the most important tips for cold brew coffee.

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Now, we’re not saying you must buy the best coffee beans in the world. Some of our favorite go-to coffee beans are at Costco and Trader Joe’s.

We love cold brew coffee with nutty or chocolate undertones, so we often use Latin American coffees when preparing this recipe for cold brew coffee (like this Organic blend). 

If you prefer a lighter, fruitier brew, opt for a light roast from Africa like this one

(Tips for cold brew coffee newbies: a light roast is a great choice for tea drinkers who are just dipping their toes into the world of cold brew coffee. Using light roast results in a subtler, more delicate brew that often resembles iced tea)

4. Grind Your Own Beans

The most critical of all the tips for making cold brew coffee is that freshly ground coffee beans are always best (for cold brew or any coffee brew).

Buy whole-bean coffee and grind before each brew using a cold brew coffee grinder.

fellow opus grinder
The Fellow Opus Grinder

Regardless of which recipe for cold brew coffee you’re using, you’ll want to use a coarse grind for cold brew coffee, slightly more coarse than the coffee grind size for a French press. A coarser grind will allow for easy filtration and flavor extraction.

If you don’t have a coffee grinder at home and are opposed to purchasing one, Costco and Trader Joe’s have grinders available. But, again, we do not recommend grinding coffee until you’re ready to brew.

This is hands-down the most important of our tips for making cold brew coffee (and any other type of coffee, for that matter).

hand holding small white old fashioned alarm clock, cold brew steeping time, cold extraction, steeping cold brew, making cold brew

5. Experiment With Cold Brew Steeping Time

One of the defining characteristics of cold brew coffee is that it is steeped slowly. This slow, cold extraction process ensures that all the delicate, smooth, fruity goodness is extracted from the beans without bitterness.

Like the cold brew ratio, cold brew steeping time isn’t an exact science. A good rule of thumb is to steep for 16 hours to start, then adjust your recipe for cold brew coffee as needed.

Our tip for making perfect cold brew coffee is to steep it at a cool temperature. Your kitchen counter is fine in most cases; however, if your kitchen gets really warm, you may want to steep cold brew in your refrigerator in warmer months of the year.

If using your fridge, we recommend steeping for closer to 20 hours (but, again, experiment with this to get the flavor just right). 

Our favorite cold brewing method is the French press. This recipe for cold brew coffee is pretty basic. With a few adjustments to the coffee-to-water ratio, water temperature, and steeping time, you’ve got cold brew ready to go. So easy!

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6. Refrigerate Cold Brew In A Sealed Container

One of the most important tips for making cold brew coffee has little to do with the brewing process and everything to do with storage.

If you steep cold brew at room temperature, refrigerate it immediately once steeping is complete to get the coffee cold as quickly as possible.

If your brewing container is too large to fit in your refrigerator, divide the cold brew concentrate into smaller containers, seal them, and store them in the refrigerator.

Using a container(s) with a lid (or covering it with tight-fitting plastic wrap) is an important step in proper cold brew storage. Like dairy products, cold brew coffee tends to absorb other aromas in the fridge, so you’ll want to store it covered to keep it tasting its best.

Cold brew coffee that is stored covered in the refrigerator will last for 7-10 days!

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7. Dilute Cold Brew Concentrate

Once you’ve followed these tips for making cold-brew coffee and are ready to enjoy a cup of the delicious cold brew you’ve patiently waited for; you’ll want to dilute it for the best results.

Our suggestion for diluting cold brew coffee is to use a 1:1 ratio of 1 part cold brew concentrate with 1 part water or your favorite type of milk.

To achieve a stronger cold brew, adjust the dilution ratio rather than the brewing ratio or steeping time. If you prefer a stronger cup, dilute the concentrate with less water or milk.

The most popular combination is typically equal parts cold brew concentrate and water served over ice. Our favorite cold brew is made with equal parts cold brew concentrate and low-fat milk (we know, we know).

But we’re also big fans of non-dairy milk alternatives and love using pea or oat milk when we’re in the mood for something different.

A medium or dark roast blend tastes amazing if you’re using milk to dilute your cold brew. Try a lighter roast for a smooth, floral experience with a black cold brew diluted with water.

Final Thoughts: Tips For Cold Brew Coffee

No matter how you take your cold brew, one thing is clear. Cold brew coffee is a smooth, refreshing treat on a hot day (or any day).

Ready to use what you learned from our tips for making cold brew coffee at home? Check out our picks for the best grinder for cold brew!


Heather Calatrello

Heather Calatrello owner of ShedLight Coffee Roasters