Cold brew is by far the easiest way of making delicious coffee. It requires very little effort, is inexpensive and produces an outstanding cup of coffee. It can be consumed as is, with ice, with milk, or even with soda water.
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Using a few bits of inexpensive gear, you can easily produce a batch of cold brew that could compete with some of the best coffee shops around.
Let’s jump into the world of cold brew. We’ll look at exactly what it is, the gear we need to make it, and why you might want to brew some of it yourself. With just a few tips, you’ll be well on your way to making the best cold brew coffee of your life!
What Is a Cold Brew Coffee Maker
You might have seen it in bottles at coffee shops, supermarkets, and possibly all over Instagram— cold brew coffee. But what exactly is it?
Cold brew is coffee that has been brewed using cold water rather than hot water. It is usually brewed in a large batch of what is known as ‘cold brew concentrate.’ This concentrate is essentially a very strong filter coffee, similar to French press coffee. Because the concentrate is usually too strong to drink on its own, it is often consumed with milk, soda water, regular water, or ice. It can also be used to make a cup of smooth, low acidity hot coffee, too.
A cold brew coffee maker is what we use to brew our cold brew coffee. While each manufacturer has its own type of cold brewer coffee maker, almost all consist of three main pieces— a brew chamber, a filter, and a carafe or liquid coffee container.
The idea behind a cold brew coffee maker is to brew, filter, and store your cold brew in one, easy to use system.
We’ll get into how these cold brew systems work in a moment. First, let’s look at the benefits of owning a cold brew coffee maker, and the overall benefits of drinking cold brew coffee.
Benefits of Using a Cold Brew Coffee Maker
Ease of Use
Without a doubt, the best thing about a cold brew coffee maker is their ease of use. As opposed to other brew methods, such as pour-over or espresso, cold brew is so easy and almost impossible to mess up.
If we’re talking about French press vs pour-over coffee brewing, which do you find easier? I think most people would agree that brewing a French press is, by a large margin, the easier method. And because cold brew is done in a very similar way, it is just as easy.
But ease of use isn’t where the benefit of coffee brew coffee makers end!
Good for People Sensitive to Coffee Acid
Cold brew coffee makers can be an excellent option for people who are sensitive to the acid found in coffee. Because cold brew extracts the coffee in a different way, the result is a very low acidity coffee. This means that you can try coffees that may have been off-limits to you before. A juicy Kenyan that is too acidic when brewed hot might be perfect for you when cold brewed!
Thanks to these lower levels of acidity, cold brew coffee can be better for your teeth, too!
Doesn’t Require Sugar
Cold brew coffee is typically very smooth, rich, and tasty. It is usually quite naturally sweet, and as such, will rarely require sugar to be added. Because of this, it can be enjoyed black. Black coffee contains antioxidants and minerals, both of which have their own health benefits.
Another excellent thing about cold brew coffee makers is that they are inexpensive. They contain no complicated parts and no electronics. With just a couple of contains and a filter, they are super easy to use and to clean.
How Does a Cold Brew Coffee Maker Work
Cold brew coffee works in a very similar way to French press coffee. They are both immersion methods that require ground coffee to be steeped in water, for a certain amount of time, in order to achieve an ideal extraction. Once the extraction is complete, the coffee grinds and the liquid coffee are separated using a filter.
The difference between the two lies in the temperature of the water and the amount of time the ground coffee is left to steep.
A French press uses hot water, usually around 95°C, and is brewed for 4 minutes. A batch of cold brew, on the other hand, uses cold water and is brewed for up to 24 hours.
Why such a big difference in time?
Hot water extracts coffee much, much faster than cold water does. So in order to extract all those delicious flavors that we want from the coffee using cold water, we need to let it brew for a lot longer.
Let’s quickly run through the process of making a batch of cold brew.
First, we need to grind some coffee fairly course. If an espresso grind is a 1 out of 10, and a pour-over is a 5, the grind for cold brew would be somewhere around 10. This varies depending on the specific filter you are using, but most cold brewers need a coarse grind, similar to bread crumbs.
Next, we add our ground coffee to the brew chamber, followed by 6 times the amount of cold water. This will mean we are using a 1:6 ratio, which is 1 part ground coffee to 6 parts cold water. This may seem like an extremely strong ratio, but keep in mind, we are brewing a concentrate.
The coffee is then left to steep for up to 18 hours. Once the time is up, we filter the mixture, separating the coffee solids from the liquids. And that’s it! We’re left with a delicious and super clean tasting batch of cold brew coffee.
One of the many cool things about cold brew is that it can be up, or downsized as much as you like. You could brew 1 cup, or you could brew 5 liters. It all depends on your needs and the size of your brewing chamber.
Pros and Cons of a Cold Brew Coffee Maker
- Easy to up or down-size a batch.
- Very easy to use.
- Easy to clean.
- A batch of cold brew coffee lasts for up to 10 days in the fridge.
- Takes a long time to brew.
- Some cold brew coffee makers are quite large and chunky.
- Because cold brew uses so much coffee at one time, grinding for it can be a hassle if using a hand grinder.
How to Choose the Best Cold Brew Coffee Maker
Now we know what a cold brew coffee maker is, let’s take a look at how to choose one. What makes a cold brew coffee maker good? What makes a bad one? Here are a few things to look at when you are choosing a cold brew coffee maker.
Size and Capacity
Both size and capacity are make or break factors for many cold brew coffee makers. If a cold brewer has a 700ml capacity, but you want to brew 2 liters, that’s clearly not the cold brew coffee maker for you!
This might lead to the conclusion that a bigger cold brewer is better. A large cold brew coffee maker will certainly give you more options when it comes to the amount of coffee you want to brew. But the downsides of a large capacity cold brew coffee maker is its physical size.
Be sure that you have somewhere to safely keep it while the coffee is steeping for up to 24 hours. Keeping it in the fridge is ideal, but anywhere away from heat and direct sunlight should do the trick.
Take a look at the filter that the cold brew coffee maker uses. Fabric, paper, and metal are all fairly common, and each filter has its own benefits and downsides.
Fabric filters, like the ones used by the classic cold brew coffee maker, the Toddy, are great because they are multiple-use. They filter the coffee nicely and don’t allow much grit into the cup. However, because they are fabric, they do require a bit of cleaning and maintenance to keep them clean. If a fabric filter isn’t cleaned properly, the coffee filtered by it can taste a bit old and stale.
Paper filters produce a very clean cup of coffee. They allow no coffee grit or sludge through into the cup. They require no cleaning because they are single-use. On the downside, they can become blocked much easier than metal or fabric filters and, because they are single-use, need to be purchased often.
Metal filters are a nice middle ground. They are super easy to clean, meaning the coffee will taste cleaner and less like old coffee. They are, of course, reusable, so there is no need to constantly buy filters. The only real downside to metal filters is that they allow some of the fine coffee particles into the cup.
Ease of Use
Cold brew coffee makers are notoriously easy to use. Even easier than that stainless steel coffee maker that’s 100% programmable!
How easy a cold brewer is to use will largely come down to personal preference. Some people might think the Toddy cold brew system is easy to use, while others might think the Hario Mizudashi cold brew coffee pot is easier. It all depends on your home, your workflow, and how you like to do things.
The most common materials found in cold brew coffee makers are glass and plastic. And as with the filters, each material has its own pros and cons.
Glass cold brew coffee makers look better, and will not impart any taste on your coffee. You can try hot bloom cold brew methods with glass cold brewers without needing to worry about the plastic leaching chemicals into your brew. Glass cold brewers are fragile, though, which can be a big downside for many people. They can also be more expensive than their plastic counterparts.
Plastic cold brewers are inexpensive and durable. They can take a beating, which is why most cafes that make cold brew use plastic cold brewers. Cheap plastic can impart an unpleasant taste to your coffee though, so be careful about the quality of the plastic to avoid this.
Cold brew coffee makers use a grind size that is on the courser end of the spectrum. This is for a couple of main reasons. The first is to ensure the coffee doesn’t over-extract. Over-extraction can lead to bitter and woody flavors in the coffee. The second is to make sure the coffee doesn’t clog or block up the filter. A blocked filter will mean the coffee can’t drain properly.
While most grinders won’t have an issue, it is worth checking to make sure that your grinder is capable of producing the coarse grind that is necessary.
The same grinder for your French press coffee is perfect.
The durability of a cold brewer will largely come down to the materials it is made of. But a glass brewer smashing isn’t the only thing to consider here. Durability also includes how long a brewer might last.
Though glass is much more likely to break from being dropped, it will far outlast plastic over time. Plastic can warp, and it can eventually become unsafe to use. If you want ultimate smash proof durability, choose plastic. If you want something that will last for a long time, and you’re confident you won’t drop it, go for glass.
Variety of Drinks You Can Make
Some cold brew coffee makers are designed to make a concentrate, while others are designed to make ready to drink cold brew. The main difference between the two is their strength.
A cold brewer like the OXO brew makes a batch of rich yet smooth cold brew concentrate, perfect for cutting with water, milk, soda water, or ice. Cold brew concentrate can also work well in desserts, cocktails, and baking. If you like to drink a French roast coffee, you’re in luck because those work excellently in a cold brew concentrate.
The Hario Brewing bottle makes what is known as ready to drink cold brew. This ready to drink cold brew has a similar strength to a regular filter coffee, and is designed to drink as is. Because ready to drink cold brew is much lighter than concentrate, fruity coffees like Kenyans and Ethiopians work well. Ready to drink cold brew is incredibly refreshing on a hot summer day!
It seems so simple, doesn’t it? Add the coffee and water, filter it, and viola— cold brew coffee! But the truth is, there are certain things that can go sideways at any one of these steps. An inadequate brewing chamber, improper filtration, or a leaky lid can all affect the performance of a cold brew coffee maker.
If a cold brewer is super cheap, but doesn’t give us the results we are after, there isn’t much point in having it!
For a brewer to be good value, it needs to do its job day in and day out. It needs to be reliable and the results need to be repeatable.
How to Use a Cold Brew Coffee Maker
Now we know what to look for in a cold brew coffee maker, let’s make some tasty cold brew!
Making a batch of delicious cold brew is incredibly easy. We just need to follow a couple of simple rules. These rules relate to the amount of coffee and water we use, and how long we leave our coffee to brew for.
For this recipe, we’re going to be making a batch of cold brew concentrate. This concentrate will be nice and strong, perfect for adding milk, soda, tonic water, or ice. You could even use this concentrate to add some intense coffee flavor to baked goods and cocktails.
Now, our first rule: the ratio. We are going to use a 1:6 ratio. This means that if we use 200g of ground coffee, we’ll add 1200g of water or 1.2L. This will give us a good balance between strength and flavor.
Next, our second rule: time. While you can let your cold brew steep for anywhere between 12 and 24 hours, 18 hours tends to taste the best.
Using these two simple rules, you will end up with around a liter of tasty cold brew that will last for about 10 days, kept in the fridge.
We will be using a classic Toddy cold brew system for this recipe. If you don’t have the same cold brewer, don’t worry, the rules stay the same. Even if you are using a mason jar as the brewing chamber and a V60 as a filter, these same steps apply. We will also be using a scale to measure coffee accurately. While this isn’t 100% essential, it is recommended in order to make each batch of cold brew the same, every time.
- Cold brew coffee maker
- 200g roasted coffee
- Room temperature water
- Grinder (optional)
- Scale (optional)
Step 1 — Grind the coffee
First, we need to measure out and grind our coffee. We’ll use a fairly coarse grind size, around the texture of bread crumbs. If you don’t have a grinder and are using pre-ground coffee, use 2½ cups, which should equal about 200g.
Step 2 — Add the coffee
Insert the plug into the bottom of the brewer, along with the fabric filter. Add your coffee to the brewer and level out the bed.
If you are using a mason jar or similar, simply add the ground coffee to the jar.
Step 3 — Add the water
Pour 1200ml of water over the coffee bed. Try to make sure that every grind gets wet. With a pour-over kettle, you can pour water slowly and evenly, so if you have one, feel free to use it. You certainly don’t need one though.
Now take your spoon and make sure all the coffee is saturated. Don’t stir the coffee, just push it using the back of the spoon.
Step 4 — Cover and steep
Cover the brewer and place it in the fridge. If you don’t have space in the fridge, no worries, the kitchen countertop is also fine. Just make sure it isn’t being exposed to too much heat or sunlight.
We’re going to let the coffee steep for 18 hours.
Step 5 — Filter
Once the 18 hours is up, our cold brew is ready to be filtered!
If you are using the Toddy, get your carafe ready. Pull the plug from the brewing chamber and place it onto the carafe.
If you are using a mason jar and a filter, place your filter over your carafe or second mason jar. Pour the cold brew mixture into the filter. This may take a few rounds of pouring and letting it drain a little.
Step 6 — Enjoy
Once all the liquid has drained from the cold brew coffee maker and into the carafe, it is now ready to drink!
Enjoy it with oat milk, regular milk, soda or tonic water, plain water, or over ice! You can make your drinks as strong as you like. A good starting point is a 1:1 ratio— one part cold brew concentrate to one part of something else.
This concentrate will last for up to 10 days in the fridge.
How to Clean a Cold Brew Coffee Maker
Cleaning a cold brew coffee maker is easy. You don’t need any specific cleaning products or equipment, just some dishwashing liquid and a sponge is all you need. Let’s get to cleaning the Toddy cold brew coffee maker!
Step 1 — Empty the brewer
You have a couple of options here. You can either throw away the used coffee grinds, or you can use them for something else. Some people like to compost theirs, while others use it to make soap or as a body scrub. There are plenty of things you can do with it! It’s always better to reuse something than to waste it, so try to find a use for it.
Step 2 — Clean the filter
Remove the filter from the brewer and rinse it under the tap until it is clean. Do not use detergent to clean your filter. Squeeze the filter dry then store it in an airtight container in the freezer.
Step 3 — Clean the brewing chamber
Now, all we need to do is clean the brewing chamber. We can wash the brewing chamber as we would any other plastic container. Just wash with some detergent, rinse thoroughly, and leave it to dry.
Once your carafe is empty, it too can be washed in the same way— using detergent and water.
Does Spending Mean More Quality
When it comes to cold brew coffee makers, there is no need to spend an arm and a leg. Cold brewers are not high tech like a dual coffee maker with controllable heating levels. All a cold brewer is, is essentially a bucket and a filter. They are so simple that you can improvise your own DIY cold brewer from a mason jar and a coffee filter!
There is no need for a device with loads of functions. Just a quality plastic or glass container, a good filtration system, and a good carafe are all we need— none of which should be overly expensive.
Do’s and Don’ts With a Cold Brew Coffee Maker
- Do try different coffees for different flavors. Premium Ethiopian coffee can be absolutely perfect for cold brew. So fruity and fresh— delicious!
- Do keep your filter clean. An unclean filter will lead to a muddy tasting cold brew.
- Do experiment with different ratios of coffee to water. Some people love a 1:6 ratio, while others swear by 1:10. It’s totally up to you.
- Do use a coarse grind size. A grind that is too fine may clog your filter.
- Do try to reuse your used coffee grinds for something.
- Don’t leave your cold brew for too long. Leaving it for much longer than 24 hours will result in a woody, bitter coffee.
- Don’t leave your coffee for too little time. Likewise, if you don’t let your coffee steep for long enough, it may taste weak and lack the bold flavors that we love in cold brew coffee.
FAQ About Cold Brew Coffee Makers
Which roast is best for cold brew?
One of the beautiful things about cold brew is that you can use any coffee! While medium roasted Brazilian coffees are a popular choice for cold brew, anything from a light roasted Ethiopian to a dark roasted Indonesian can be super tasty!
If you want a fruity tasting cold brew, try a naturally processed coffee from Ethiopia. If you like chocolatey vibes, try a Brazillian or Colombian coffee. Decaf coffee can be delicious too as a cold brew.
Is cold brew stronger?
A cold brew concentrate is strong. Quite a bit stronger than a cup of regular filter coffee. But cold brew concentrate isn’t designed to be consumed as is. It is supposed to be cut with water or milk. When diluted using a 1:1 ratio, a cup of cold brew is about the same strength as a cup of filter coffee.
Can you reuse coffee grounds for cold brew?
Unfortunately, no. You can’t reuse coffee grounds for another batch of cold brew. Because cold brew coffee is brewed for so long, any flavor we can get out of the ground coffee, we will have already gotten. If we tried to use our cold brew coffee grinds in another batch, we would end up with unpleasant, coffee-ish tasting water.
Used cold brew coffee grinds can be used for a variety of other purposes, including:
- Making a body scrub.
- Using in compost.
- In homemade soap.
- To fertilize your garden.
How long does cold brew take?
Cold brew coffee is best brewed for between 12 and 24 hours, with 18 hours being optimal.
The longer you leave the coffee to steep, the more that the water will extract. If left for too long, the coffee will end up tasting woody, dry and bitter. If not left for long enough, your cold brew will taste weak, thin, and empty.
What is the difference between cold brew and iced coffee?
Iced coffee is essentially any coffee that is served cold. This might mean that the coffee was brewed hot and chilled with ice or refrigeration. This is the case with both a Japanese iced coffee and an iced latte.
Cold brew, on the other hand, is actually brewed cold, using cold water. As a result, it will not have been diluted with ice.
Cold brew coffee is absolutely delicious. And luckily, it is also incredibly easy to make. With just a few bits of gear, you can brew a tasty batch of cold brew, perfect for hot summer days and poolside caffeinating! Just follow the simple rules mentioned above and you’ll be well on your way to some delicious cold brew!