You’re 12 hours away from a refreshing, extra-caffeinated beverage.

By Zoe Denenberg
April 07, 2020
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Once the temperature soars above 70 degrees, I officially trade in my hot coffee for iced. Iced coffee is a refreshing drink perfect for hot summer days—but if you’re anything like me, you’re not used to making your own iced coffee at home. I’ll admit it: I run on Dunkin'. But uncertain times like these call for new habits, and with plenty of time on my hands, I decided to upgrade my morning coffee routine, cutting out trips to the coffeeshop in favor of home brews.

The process of making iced coffee can be as simple as brewing your normal, piping-hot cup of joe and pouring it over ice—this method, however, may not deliver the best results. Hot coffee tends to melt the ice cubes, leaving you with a watered-down cup of lukewarm coffee. Luckily, there’s another technique that’s known to produce a quality cup. If you’re looking for a real coffeeshop-quality iced beverage, consider a cold brew.

What is Cold Brew Coffee?

You’ve probably seen the term “cold brew” on coffeeshop chalkboards or restaurant menus (and likely assumed that it was a fancy way of saying iced coffee), but the two varieties are actually quite distinct.

Cold brew refers to the technique of grinding and soaking coffee beans in room-temperature water for a longer period of time, typically 10-15 hours. In your standard cup of coffee, the beans only come into contact with the water for around 5 minutes. This means that the flavor of cold-brewed coffee is much more concentrated than that of your average drip. Cold brew coffee may be soaked in room-temperature water, but the final product can be served hot or cold (although it’s most commonly served with milk over ice).

Why has cold brew coffee surged in popularity? “Cold brew coffee doesn’t use hot water, so it doesn’t break down and extract many of the compounds that are responsible for the acidity and bitterness,” writes Javapresse. Cold brew is known for its smooth texture and low acidity—and the fact that it packs a caffeine punch doesn’t hurt, either.

How to Make Cold Brew Coffee

Although cold brew coffee may sound like something you could only get at a fancy coffeeshop, it’s actually quite easy to make at home. All it takes is time, which we have plenty of these days.

The technique of cold brew is fairly similar to the French press: Both draw inspiration from the technique used to make tea, steeping the coffee beans in water to extract their flavors. But there are two notable differences between these methods: A French press uses hot water, while a cold brew uses room-temperature water, and cold-brewed beans soak for an extended period of time, whereas French-pressed coffee is ready in a matter of minutes.

To make cold brew coffee, you’ll want to start with cold brew concentrate. You can buy concentrate pre-made online (like Austin-made Chameleon Cold-Brew) or from your local coffeeshop, or you can make your own. If you choose to go the latter route, here’s how to do it:

  1. Pick your beans. You can use any coffee beans you’d like to make cold brew coffee—it’s entirely dependent on how you like your coffee. Since this method coaxes more flavor out of the beans, you’ll want to use high-quality beans with a dynamic flavor profile. Medium to dark roasts tend to hold up well to cold brew’s soaking technique, resulting in a more flavorful product than light roasts.
  2. Grind your beans. Similar to French press coffee, cold brew coffee calls for a coarse grind. This ensures that the coffee bean particles don’t essentially dissolve into the water, resulting in a gritty texture. You'll always want to use freshly-ground coffee beans for maximum flavor.
  3. Set up your equipment. That French press that’s been sitting at the back of your cabinet for ages? It’s time to use it. Brewing your cold brew coffee in a French press makes the process easier, as it comes with a built-in plunger to filter the coffee once it’s finished brewing. If you don’t have a French press, use a large cup or mason jar, straining the coffee with a coffee filter or a sieve.
  4. Measure your ratios. Regular drip coffee uses a 1:14 ratio of grounds to water; since cold brew results in a doubly concentrated drink, you’ll want to use a 1:7 ratio. So if you’re using 100 grams of ground coffee beans, you’ll want to add 700 grams of water. (After your beans have steeped, you can add more water to dilute the concentrate and make it more suitable for drinking.)
  5. Pour water over the coffee grounds. Pour the water slowly, ensuring each bean is evenly saturated. Let sit for 5 minutes, then mix.
  6. Let soak for 10-15 hours. You can leave it to brew on your countertop or in the refrigerator.
  7. Strain. Press down on the French press plunger or run your cold brew through a coffee filter or a sieve to separate the grounds from the coffee. Pour your finished cold brew concentrate into a jar or glass and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Since cold brew coffee is stronger than a regular drip coffee (one cup can contain double the caffeine as regular coffee), you don’t need as much of it to achieve the same effect. You’ll want to combine your cold brew concentrate with an equal part of water or milk to dilute it slightly. Pour it over ice and enjoy!

Once you’ve mastered the basic technique, there are plenty of ways to jazz up your cup of cold brew. Use it in a cocktail or a big batch of coffee punch. Try making a flavor-infused simple syrup to bring a bit of sweetness to your coffee. If you want a frappe-style beverage, combine cold brew coffee with milk, ice, and a pinch of sugar in your blender. Or you can take a cue from Italy and pour cold brew concentrate over ice cream to make an affogato.