Contents Icon


How to Make the Perfect Cold Brew Coffee



on May 28, 2023

header image

It’s the latest drink sensation that has java lovers lined up at their nearest coffee stand or storefront. The cold brew coffee isn’t your average iced coffee beverage because the flavor profile is in a league of its own. It has no added sweeteners or anything that distracts from the pure yet layered taste of real coffee. However, this highly unique taste isn’t something you’d find in most iced drinks made with a little coffee. This non-percolated beverage has a higher level of caffeine than most iced coffee drinks but is less acidic, making it ideal for cooling off in warm weather. In the past decade or so, people have raved about this new kind of coffee but the process actually dates back many centuries. Discovered by the Japanese as Kyoto-style coffee, this manual process originated in the Kyoto region in the 1600s. Japan is also recorded as the originator of this layered, silky beverage although the French and Dutch are credited for their versions in later history.

Today, this manual mode of making coffee is sometimes called the Immersion Method. As there are other ways to make cold brew coffee, this process is the most popular. A French Press, a non-electric, portable coffee maker, also mimics this process with its built-in plunger with a filter attached. However, there’s a manual method that can be done with a few small items and easy clean-up.

Looking for the best coffee? Check out the best coffee subscriptions here.

Making Cold Brew at Home is Easier than You Think

Today, people want to know how they can get that perfectly roasted taste at home. Making it at home saves money, as well as time spent waiting in line at your local coffeehouse. While this can be made with a French press, you can actually brew this using a few simple ingredients. Most coffee chains steep their grinds for about 24 hours but if a milder flavor is what you want, a few as 12 hours may suffice.

What many coffee aficionados appreciate most is the brewing process is fairly quick and simple. Also, coffee grinds from the past day or two can be repurposed to get that delicate caramel flavor that comes from the beans. Since this recipe calls for coarsely-ground beans, combining fresh with used coffee beans may present a smooth, coffeehouse quality while staying on budget. Below is a basic list of ingredients, followed by the steps, along with simple recipes to bring the cold brew taste to your home.

Ingredients Needed for The Immersion Method

  • Small or medium-sized mesh bag or cheesecloth (grade 50 or higher) cut in a 4x4 inch square
  • One cup of coffee beans (coarse grind)
  • Four cups of filtered or bottled spring water, chilled
  • Paper coffee filter or other product made for holding grounds
  • About three inches of cloth or plastic string
  • Fine mesh bag, small or medium-sized
  • Large pitcher or container (preferably glass or other non-staining material) with a lid

If you don’t have a grinder with variable settings, most supermarkets or specialty retailers will grind coffee beans at no extra charge. Should you have access to a self-serve grinder, make sure it's cleaned regularly or has no visible grinds inside. This is to ensure you don’t pick up fine or medium grounds in your batch.

The Immersion Method in 6 Steps

1 - Gather everything on your ingredient list, including the container you’re going to use to brew the coffee. To get the most robust taste, medium or dark roast flavors work best. While this recipe gives you about eight cups, keep in mind that the ratio of water to coffee is 4:1 cups.

2 - Grind your coffee at the coarsest setting, as coarse grinds produce the best flavor and are less likely to seep through the filter. While a medium ground is acceptable, coarsely-ground beans result in a better drinking experience.

3 - Make your dumpling. This isn’t a pastry but a filter and holder for the grounds. Place your coffee inside the paper filter, then place it inside the mesh bag or cloth. Bring the edges together and secure everything with your string. If you don’t have any string, a clean, strong rubber band will suffice. This is kind of like making a single tea bag but larger. Before immersing the dumpling into the water, ensure that the seal is tight and no grinds can escape.

4 - Place the dumpling at the bottom of your container and follow with two cups of filtered water. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes, as this is to ensure that all of the beans are saturated. Some prefer to do this step before sealing the bag but this method saves time and cleanup.

5 - Add the remaining water to the container. Once you see the grinds bloom and give the water a deep brown color, this is your cue to proceed. If the water is still clear or some grounds got loose, you can either let the dumpling sit longer or start over using a tighter or slightly loosened string or band during this initial brewing stage.

6 - Seal the container and let it sit in the refrigerator for 18-24 hours. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, you may want to limit time to 12 hours. This is enough time to experience the layers of flavor that result from this brewing method.

Once you’ve made your pitcher, you can put the dumpling in the trash. While some experts say repurposed coffee works best in creating a complex taste, there’s only so much flavor that can go around more than once. If you like to do the sustainable thing and use the bag again, a quick hand washing with mild or unscented detergent will do fine.

Alternate Preparation Method: If using a French Press or another manual coffee maker, this recipe works best with larger (8 or 12-cup) models. In this case, add the fresh grounds to the glass container. During the first pour (two cups), stir the grounds gently and let sit before adding the rest of your water. Cover with a plunger lid and let sit to desired strength (at least 12 hours). Once the chosen strength has been achieved, slowly push the plunger all the way down and let it sit for a minute before serving. If you’ve never used a French Press before, it’s important to not push the plunger too fast because grinds will seep through the filter and into your drink. While some people like to use a small coffee filter at the very bottom for easier clean-up, this isn’t necessary. Experts also recommend taking apart the plunger and cleaning thoroughly between uses in order to achieve the freshest flavor in every batch.

Get the Coffeehouse Experience at Home

This recipe yields about a half-gallon of cold brew concentrate that lasts between 1-2 weeks. If you find this is too much java to consume, freezing a cup or two for a short period shouldn’t hurt. Another idea would be to share your fresh coffee creation with people you may come in safe contact with. You can also switch things up by trying the many recipes some coffee lovers enjoy.

Indulgent Coffee Recipes Worth Trying

If you’re a person that likes to keep it simple, a little cream or half and half enhances that natural sweetness factor. Some people appreciate their coffee at its strongest, while most dilute the concentrate by matching equal parts of water. Other variations include adding lightly sweetened creamer (like vanilla or hazelnut), a drizzle of dark chocolate syrup, or even a shot of Kahlua. While adding too much sugar takes away from the unique flavor profile, here are some recipes that bring the modern coffeehouse experience to your home.

Black Forest Cold Brew
  • A half-cup of cold brew concentrate
  • A one-third cup of milk* or cream
  • One tablespoon of semi-sweet cocoa powder or syrup
  • 1-2 maraschino cherries with a teaspoon of jar syrup

Mix cocoa product and milk until smooth, followed by the cherry syrup and concentrate.

Top with cherries and whipped topping, if desired.

Cinnamon Roll Cold Brew
  • A half-cup of cold brew concentrate
  • A one-third cup of milk* or cream
  • One cinnamon stick
  • One teaspoon of vanilla extract or syrup
  • One crumbled cinnamon or plain graham cracker

Let the cinnamon stick steep in the concentrate for at least 30 minutes before preparing the drink.

Mix milk and vanilla flavor in a glass or mug before adding concentrate. Top with graham cracker crumbs.

Skinny Turtle Cold Brew
  • A half-cup of cold brew concentrate
  • A half-cup of skim milk (or another low-fat version)
  • One teaspoon of semisweet cocoa powder or syrup
  • One teaspoon of caramel or butter pecan syrup
  • Drizzle of caramel sauce (optional)

Mix milk with cocoa flavor and syrup until a smooth consistency is reached. If using a tall glass, drizzle with sauce in a circular or zig-zag pattern. A

dd concentrate to the liquid and mix before pouring into a glass or mug. Ideal for those wanting less lactose or are watching their waistline.

Soy, plant, or nut milk alternatives may be substituted for dairy milk products. If using a flavored creamer or milk product, make a note of the sugar content, as too much will take away from the natural flavor of this beverage.

Also, you can amp up the chill factor by making cold brew pops. Just add a cup of milk or cream to two cups of concentrate.

For additional sweetness, a teaspoon of chocolate, caramel, or vanilla syrup may be mixed into the liquid before pouring into a large popsicle mold.

Place in the freezer either overnight or for at least six hours. Makes 10-12 single servings.

If you discover that your coffee is too strong or not what you expected, try experimenting with different roasts. One thing aficionados recommend is not skimping on quality beans. Great places to find for less include big-box discount stores, off-price retailers, or visiting coffee vendor sites that offer clearance prices sometimes. Most of these beans are fresh but were originally sold as a seasonal flavor or intended for promotional use. Just remember to look for beans instead of grinds because you won’t get the superior flavor profile.

While your concentrate is meant to be enjoyed for personal preference, use caution when adding more water or ice to the pitcher. Diluting your coffee concentrate can lessen the fresh taste, making it good for only a few days. It’s better to add more water (like a 7:1 ratio) during the brewing process instead of afterward. According to health experts, fresh coffee brings the best wellness when consumed regularly. Besides the decreased acid content, cold-brewed coffee also increases metabolism. It’s been known to reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease, as well as neurological disorders. It can even be a mood booster, as one medical group study showed in people dealing with depression. Some of those participants also experienced better function and mobility.

About the Author



For All Your Favorites

Favy offers comprehensive reviews and comparisons of our favorite products and brands.

Favy offers comprehensive reviews and comparisons of our favorite products and brands.