If you are looking to learn how to make cold brew coffee, you are in for a pleasant surprise; this is the simplest brewing method. No other coffee brewing technique is as simple as cold brew. For all other brewing methods you need to tweak a few parameters, such as grind size, temperature, brewing pressure, tamping pressure, etc… For cold brew all this is so much simpler, you almost can’t get it wrong. So next time you are buying that iced coffee from Starbucks, remember that you can make it at home.
A freshly brewed coffee is one of the most satisfying drinks around. Its aroma soothes your senses and revitalizes your body to keep you perked up and be alert all throughout the day (or night for some). But a hot brewed coffee sometimes become inappropriate on a hot summer day, thus a cold brew coffee will be a better substitute.
Cold Brew Types – Iced Coffee vs Cold Drip vs Steeping, (Immersion)
There is a common confusion between cold brew and iced coffee. Here are the differences between the two.
One of the most popular choices in Japan is iced coffee. Japanese iced coffee is just a hot drip, brewed over ice cubes. We can use a regular drip coffee maker, or manual drip, or even an espresso machine. The special thing about iced coffee is to brew it over ice cubes. We do this in order to cool down the beverage very fast. When we cool brewed coffee, we slow down the oxidation. This way we preserve the specific flavours of hot extracted coffee. Peter Giuliano has a convincing post about Japanese iced coffee here.
Cold Brew Coffee
Cold brew coffee is also known as cold press coffee. The main difference is that cold brew is extracted with cold water, ranging from fridge temperatures to room temperatures, whereas iced coffee is extracted hot and cooled down immediately. Another major difference is that the cold extraction will prevent coffee oils to be extracted. Cold brew contains less of the substances that irritate stomach, and cause acidity and pain, as this article explains it. At the same time, highly volatile compounds, which are usually destroyed with hot preparation methods, are preserved with cold brew. This means that cold brew has a totally different taste profile than any coffee you have tasted before.
Furthermore, among cold brew methods we differentiate the steeping method, (or immersion), and cold drip. Steeping involves mixing ground coffee with water and let it steep statically. After 12 to 24 hours, coffee is strained and transferred. Cold drip involves slow water dripping over a bed of ground coffee. The method uses gravitation for extracting the soluble mater from coffee. This difference will result in a taste difference that some coffee lovers can quantify. Others can’t.
Here are some of the types of cold brew coffee and the simple steps on how to make it.
Toddy Cold Brew Method
Toddy is a cold brewing device invented in 1964 by Todd Simpson. For many years this was an exclusive on the North American market. This type of cold brewing is based on immersion extraction, and uses a special coffee press designed to make large batches of coffee. Ground coffee is mixed with spring water and is allowed to steep in for 12-24 hours. The finished product will be a thick coffee concentrate with sweet and malty chocolate flavours. Here’s the more detailed steps in making cold brew coffee by Toddy method:
- First thing - insert the rubber stopper into the outer bottom of the brewing container.
- Place a filter on the bottom of the brewing container.
- In a separate pitcher mix 1.5 medium-coarse ground coffee with 3 cups of water.
- Stir the mix until all the grounds are wet, this ensures a uniform and complete extraction.
- Pour the mix into the brewing container.
- Pour another 3 cups of water over the coffee grounds. To ensure all the grounds sink, pour the water in a circular motion.
- At this point resist the temptation to stir in the brewing tank, by doing so you risk clogging the filter.
- If coffee grounds still floats, use a wooden spoon, and lightly press them down to make it sink.
- Allow coffee to steep for about 12 up to 24 hours. With 24 hours steeping time, you get a stronger coffee.
- Finally, after steeping phase is done, place the brewing container on the glass decanter. Remove the cork and allow the coffee to flow into the glass.
- Prepare the coffee in a 1:1 ratio of coffee concentrate and water.
- Store in the fridge for up to 10 days.
How to Make Cold Brew Coffee with a Cotton Bag
The coffee sock method is the simplest method of making cold brewed coffee. The method uses a sock to filter the coffee. You can probably use any sock, but a closely knit sock will ensure there are no grounds in your cup. There are also cold coffee brewing bags on the market, which are both very inexpensive and efficient. Those are the ones we recommend using. Here’s how to make cold brew coffee using cotton bag:
- Start by placing the coffee sock into a mason jar, or simply a mug. Using a mason jar allows for larger batches.
- Dump 1 cup of medium ground coffee in the coffee bag.
- Pour 1 cup of cold water slowly, over the grounds.
- Mix the grounds until they are all wet. This ensures uniform extraction, and avoids under-extracted grounds.
- Add the rest of the water, up to 1 liter, and make sure all the coffee grounds sink.
- Let the coffee steep for 12-24 hours.
- Finally, when the steeping is done, lift the bag and let it drain. Wait for about 3 minutes before completely removing the sock from the jar.
- At this point, you can drink as is, or dilute it to your taste.
- Store in the fridge for up to 10-14 days.
- If you want to make a coffee concentrate, use only ½ litre of water.
Reusable Cold Brew Coffee Filter
The Brewing Dad's cold brew cotton bag was specifically designed for making cold brew coffee. Yes, some people use the nut milk bags for cold brew, but that solution is not great.
Firstly, the nut milk bags are made from nylon, which is not the ideal material for making coffee. Consider that the bag is immersed for 24 hours in your beverage.
Secondly, the weave for nut milk bags is not perfect for straining coffee. The weave for a milk strainer is going to allow some silt to escape into your cold brew.
The cotton bags from The Brewing Dad are well made, and if cared properly for, they will last you for a long time. The kit includes two bags, proudly made in Canada.
Video - How to Make Cold Brew Coffee with a Cotton Pouch
Cold Drip Method – Cold Brew Recipe
The best brewing method is the cold drip. Also known as Dutch coffee, it is easy to make, but the equipment is more expensive than the immersion brew equipment. Aficionados think that cold drip tastes better than immersion cold brew, and it does for those with great palate. Most of us though will not detect any difference.
Here’s how to make a cold brew coffee using a Yama dripper:
- Place the bottom filter into the coffee grounds holder.
- Measure 9 grams of coffee per 100 ml of water. For a Yama cold drip maker, you will use 1 litre of ice water, (4 US cups), and 90 grams of ground coffee, (about ½ US cups).
- Place the ground coffee over the bottom filter.
- Place a paper filter on top of the coffee grounds. This will ensure equal spread of the water for a uniform extraction.
- Place the ice water on the top reservoir of the coffee maker.
- Pre-wet the top filter, and pour about 2 cm of water over the grounds.
- Select the drip speed to ensure the correct brew. Drip speed is typically four times per 10 seconds.
- The brewing can take anywhere from 3 to 5 hours depending on the grind size and the drip speed.
- When is ready, transfer into beer bottles, or any airtight bottles, and refrigerate up to 2 weeks.
Best Coffee Beans for Cold Brew
Knowing the brewing technique, however, it is not everything. You need to choose the right beans for cold brew. The wrong beans, roast level, and grind size could ruin your coffee no matter how good is your equipment. The best coffee beans for cold brew are single origin, with a light or medium-light roast.
Dark roasts are probably not the best choice for this type of coffee preparation. One of the reasons is that dark roasts are almost flat from a taste perspective, there is a single dimension to its flavor. This is because dark roasts kill the “origin character” of the bean, turning it into a predictable “roast flavour”. Another reason is that dark roasts taste like smoke, and this taste is passed on into the brew because of the longer steeping time. Not all single origin coffees are great roasted light, so you need to make sure you choose a good one. African beans, for instance, make a great cup when roasted light.
We already talked about grind size, but I’d like to emphasise that depending on the filtration method, you can use a medium to coarse grind. With a medium grind there is a chance to get some silt into your cup, if the filtration is not perfect. This is why many people prefer to use a coarse grind to avoid the sediment.
San Diego Coffee Guatemala – Medium Roast
San Diego Coffee Co. has this medium roast Guatemala Antigua beans, that are very versatile. These beans come from a single region, so they are a single origin. You can use them with any brewing technique, and they are great for a cold brew. Maybe just a bit over roasted for a cold brew, but still a great choice.
The beans are roasted in small batches, for perfect control. The beans have a complex aroma profile with some apple acidity, dark molasses and toasted almonds. This single origin makes a perfect cold brew, drip or immersion.
So there you have it. Cold brew coffee is a truly satisfying drink and there a lot of ways to prepare it and to serve it.