Have you heard the latest coffee buzz? Iced coffee is out. Cold brew is in. What’s the difference? Well, there is one. Iced coffee is when you take regular drip coffee, which has been brewed with hot water, and simply pour it over ice. But cold brew starts with cool water and steeps for hours or overnight. The resulting brew is black as a jaguar, so smooth it practically purrs, and has an extra concentrated dose of caffeine that springs like a jungle cat. (Tread carefully, or you could turn nocturnal.)
Cold-Brew Coffee Flavor & Benefits
“We fell in love with the flavor,” says Grady Laird, founder of Grady’s Cold Brew, made and bottled in Brooklyn. “Cold brewing produces a smooth, pure quality without any of the bitterness that comes from heating coffee up.” Although there isn’t much research yet, cold brew may contain less acid than regular drip coffee—up to 67 percent less when made with Toddy, a third-party tested home brewing system. “Black coffee can be anywhere from 4.3 to 5 pH, and our cold brew comes in at 4.9, so it’s on the less acidic side,” explains Laird. “We’ve had many people tell us they had to give up coffee, but are able to drink cold brew, because it’s easier on the stomach.” For runners in particular, that’s super appealing. Instead of slamming several cups of hot coffee before a big race, you can have a quick shot of concentrate, get your buzz going, and get out the door fast.
But whether or not you’re an athlete, cold brew is cheap, easy, and convenient. You can make it ahead and store it in the fridge for weeks. Compared to a morning latte habit, it can save you hundreds of dollars. Plus, it’s a seductively delicious way to stay cool and caffeinated this summer. So pull out your favorite mason jar. Here’s how to master the art of cold brew.
How to Make Cold-Brew Coffee at Home
“It’s incredibly easy to home brew, it just takes a little bit of time and planning,” explains Laird. “You don’t need to buy any crazy expensive equipment, and you don’t need fancy beans.” Here are his top tips for crafting a smooth and flavorful batch.
The best tools: All you need is a container and a strainer. A French press offers both. But a large mason jar or pitcher also does the trick, provided it’s at least half a gallon in size. If you don’t use a French press, strain through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. “A coffee filter also works, but you’ll be there for a very long time.”
The best beans: You don’t need expensive beans, but make sure they’re freshly roasted and ground for the best flavor. Laird recommends a medium roast. “Don’t go too dark, or the boldness will be overwhelming. Too light, and it will taste watered down.” With grinding, less is more. A coarser grind is easier to strain, avoiding any sediment or cloudiness.
The right ratio: Laird recommends a 1 to 1 ratio of ounces of coffee to cups of water to create a concentrate. “It makes for a richer experience, and it takes less space in the fridge.”
The right temp: There’s some discussion about whether it’s better to brew at room temp or in the fridge. Laird is team countertop. “I prefer brewing on my kitchen counter with room temperature water. Once strained, I refrigerate, but I find the flavor extraction is much better at room temp.”
The right timing: Most recipes recommend brewing for 12 to 24 hours. The longer you go, the stronger it gets. Laird likes 12 hours, mostly because it’s easy to remember. “But cold brew is very forgiving,” he reassures. “You can always adjust when serving, and make it stronger or weaker.”
How long it lasts: Once strained, pour the concentrate into a clean container, and transfer it to the fridge. From that point, the shelf life is pretty awesome. “You can keep cold brew at the back of the fridge for up to 2 weeks,” confirms Laird. “Although it does taste best during the first week.”
Remember—it’s concentrated. When you’re ready to serve, pour half a cup of concentrate over ice, and add plenty of milk or water to taste.
Ready to get grinding? Here’s a simple recipe for cold-brew coffee, if you want specific instructions.
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.