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Summer, spring, fall and even during the excruciating Chicago winter, you can find my boyfriend sipping on a chilled cup of joe. He’s a cold brew guy through and through. As a hot cup girl, I decided to gain a few points with my boyfriend and learn the art of creating the perfect cold brew at home. Home cold brew is not only easy to create, it saves a nice chunk of change compared to $4 and $5 cups you find in coffee shops across the country.
As someone mildly obsessed with all things coffee ― I go so far as to roast my own for friends and family ― you can bet when it comes to determining a cold brewing process, I was going to do my research. Like most things on the internet these days, people have a lot of opinions on cold brew and how precisely you should make it. From coffee selection to grind size and containers, I’ve dug into it all. It’s very easy to get lost in the rabbit hole of extraction times and water chemistry, but the right equipment takes the guesswork out of making the perfect cold cuppa.
As a result, I’ve compiled my best notes and put together my two cents on some simple tips and tools for those of you who want to become a cold brew hero for your significant other, your family, your coworkers or to simply fuel your own cold brew addiction at home.
Take a look below at seven tips to achieve a coffee-house cold brew at home:
1. Experiment with your beans. A coffee subscription is a fun way to try new blends.
No matter how you brew your coffee, a good cup always starts with the beans. Buying from your local coffee roaster ensures you’ll get the freshest batch. Local coffee shops may also use higher quality coffee beans than bigger brands and employ “profile roasting”― meaning they roast each type of bean a certain way to best bring out that bean’s flavors when you brew it. Since it’s more difficult to extract specific flavors in cold brew, don’t stress if the coffee you use is a few weeks old or on the less expensive side. Cold brew is very forgiving.
Just remember: Coffees you love when brewed hot might not taste exactly the same when brewed cold.
As for bean type and roasts, my best advice is to experiment. Personally, I prefer medium-dark roasts for a velvety, chocolatey flavor. Just remember: A blend you love when brewed hot might not taste exactly the same when brewed cold.
2. Invest in a burr grinder.
Grinding coffee right before you brew it is the best way to keep beans fresh. You will primarily find two types of coffee grinders: blade grinders and burr grinders. A blade grinder uses a single blade that helicopters around to slice up your coffee beans. While these grinders are typically less expensive, they’re also inconsistent. You may have large pieces of beans along with fine bean pieces. A burr grinder uses two revolving surfaces to basically crush beans a few at a time. This leads to a more consistent grind and, ultimately, a better cup of coffee. Although it depends on your cold brewing method, a French press grind or coarser is best for cold brew.
I use the Cuisinart DBM-8 Supreme Grind Automatic Burr Grinder, but if you’re up for a small workout, there are several manual burr grinders to choose from that tend to be a bit more budget-friendly.
3. For beginners, start out with an immersion brewer.
Immersion brewers are the easiest way to start making cold brew at home. With immersion brewers, your ground-up coffee is literally immersed in water for anywhere from 12 to 24 hours. I like to fill up a pitcher and toss it in the fridge when I get home from work so it’s ready when we leave the next morning. You can store cold brew in your fridge for up to 14 days. I use an immersion brewer pitcher because it’s fast, easy to use and it squeezes perfectly into the door of our fridge.
Important note: Since cold-brew methods typically use a higher ratio of coffee grounds to water, you will want to make sure to dilute your cold brew concentrate by adding water ― unless you like it strong!
4. If you’re feeling more adventurous, try the classic Toddy Cold Brew System.
The Toddy Cold Brew System has been around for more than 50 years and claims to let you create “coffee house” coffee at home. The Toddy system comes with a brewing container, a glass decanter with a lid, reusable filters, a rubber stopper, paper filters and instructions. You can leave the Toddy out on your counter instead of sticking it in the fridge.
5. For a true coffee house aesthetic, consider a Kyoto-style brewer.
If you’ve been to any stylish coffee shops lately, you may have noticed an intricate wooden and glass contraption sitting on a table. These Kyoto-style brewers are not only beautiful, they make amazing cold brew coffee through the “drip style” process. The resulting cup pulls out some great flavors.
A full Kyoto-style coffee maker is best for households who down several cups of cold brew each week. For those single-cup drinkers, you can find smaller drip brewers at a more budget friendly price as well, like this $30 one on Amazon or this $80 version from Uncommon Goods. These brewers are sometimes also referred to as Dutch drip coffee makers― don’t worry they operate largely in the same way!
6. For those who want to make cold brew with equipment already in their kitchen, try the Japanese iced coffee method.
Most cold brew coffee is concocted at room temperature or colder. It makes sense. However, the Japanese iced coffee method turns this strategy on its head. With Japanese iced coffee, you brew your coffee hot first ― experts say this allows you to extract more coffee flavors ― and then pour it over ice. Since your ice is likely to melt and dilute your coffee a bit, try brewing it a bit stronger if you still want a kick in your cup. One way to do this is to place ice in the bottom of a Chemex brewer. This video below shows you more specifically how to do this.
When it comes down to it, cold brew is best one way: Cold. Travel mugs aren’t just for hot coffee. Find an insulated travel mug to keep your cold brew refreshingly chilled throughout the day. A larger size might be best to accommodate any ice you add to your drink. This Klean Kanteen claims to keep your coffee cold for up to 20 hours.