Confident home cooking
All doctored up.
Breakfast/Brunch, The Drink

Cold-Brewed Coffee

by Nick

I really like iced coffee. There just isn’t much that’s more refreshing on a hot summer day than a really good iced coffee. I have a major issue though with iced coffee from most chain coffee places. They tend to… what’s the phrase… mutilate it.

They take their normal coffee which has been brewed and probably burned and stick it in a plastic cup with ice. Done deal. This means that the coffee not only tastes burned (more so than if it were hot), but it’s also watered down because the coffee isn’t cold when they add the ice.

I get visibly distraught when this happens to me after I fork over my hard-earned bucks. So now I have a one strike policy with coffee joints. It’s harsh, but whatever. You serve me one cup of bad coffee (especially iced coffee because I love it so) and you are forever blacklisted.

Most DC coffee joints are blacklisted. Luckily, I’ve learned how to make my own.

You'll never go back.

You'll never go back.

In my opinion, the real way to make really good iced coffee is to cold-brew it. Well, actually you room temperature brew it, but it’s colder than how you would normally think to brew coffee.

Instead of letting heat do the work for this coffee, you let time do the work which results in a really mellow but still very intense coffee flavor. It’s so good.

Yield
1 pitcher
Prep Time
Total Time

Just a moment please...

Print Recipe Cold Brewed Coffee

Ingredients

  • Cold-brew Starter (for lack of a better word)
  • 1 part coarsely ground coffee. Freshly ground is best.
  • 4 parts room temperature water.
  • Cold-brewed Iced Coffee:
  • 1 part coffee starter
  • 1 part water (adjust the ratio depending on how strong you like your coffee, but a 1-to-1 ratio makes for a pretty good starting point.)
  • Ice (If you want to get really crazy you can pour 1 part water and 1 part coffee starter into ice cube trays and freeze it. Then you're coffee will stay equally delicious throughout the glass.)
  • Sugar and cream (optional)

Helpful Equipment

Directions

1) Pulse coarsely ground coffee in grinder for a few seconds.

2) Add room temperature water slowly and give the mixture a stir to make sure that there aren’t a lot of clumps.

3) Let this sit at room temperature covered for at least 4 hours (or overnight).

4) Strain twice - line a sieve with a normal coffee filter and pour it through slowly. Try not to press down on it or anything.

5) Use this mixture to make a cold-brewed iced coffee.

I’ve only used coarsely ground coffee for this. Just pulse it in the grinder for a few seconds until it looks like this.

A coarse grind is your friend here.

A coarse grind is your friend here.

Then add your room temperature water slowly and give the mixture a stir to make sure that there aren’t a lot of clumps.

A strange brew.

A strange brew.

Forget about it

Let this sit at room temperature for at least 4 hours. I let it sit overnight and that works great. Cover it though or your cat might drink it and that would leave you with a very hyper cat. If you don’t have a cat, well, cover it anyway.

Straining it

To strain this, just line a sieve with a normal coffee filter and pour it through slowly. Try not to press down on it or anything. Just let gravity do it’s work for a few minutes.

I strain mine a second time through a fresh filter just to make sure I get all the little particles.

Have patience. Let it drain slowly.

Have patience. Let it drain slowly.

You’ll end up with a very fragrant and richly colored liquid. I wouldn’t recommend drinking this straight. It’s very intense.

A very clean final product.

A very clean final product.

What I would recommend doing is making the best glass of iced coffee you’ve maybe ever had with it.

This coffee is so smooth and delicious that it really doesn’t need much, but some days I feel like adding some extra sweetness to it. A little cream or milk and some sugar can do the trick. Plus the milk makes it pretty. A glass of black liquid isn’t all that photo-friendly.

All doctored up.

All doctored up.

This is one of those posts that I really feel like should be accompanied by a warning. If you have this coffee, it will be very hard to find a good cup of iced coffee that compares. I know of very few places in DC that match up to it. And I really don’t even know all that much about coffee – although I’m learning.

I’m serious. Make this. For better or for worse, you’ll never look back.

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29 comments on “Cold-Brewed Coffee

  1. I bought something called a "Toddy" something (brain isn't working this morning .. coffee required???). It is strictly for cold-brewing coffee like this. Congrats to you for figuring it out on your own though.

    A couple groovy things about cold-brewing coffee: 1) supposedly the acid content of the coffee is much lower, making less-harsh on your system & 2)It's much, much more eco-friendly!! You don't use any electricity in brewing.

    Toddy also claims that what you're calling the "coffee starter" will stay fresh in a fridge for several weeks. Meaning it will taste freshly brewed. You can use this to make hot coffee by simply adding hot water to the starter.

    We took it with us on a camping trip. Fantastic way to have fresh coffee when there is no electricity around!

  2. I do this all the time – you're right, I'm totally spoiled now! I rarely get iced coffee from coffee shops anymore. I usually mix up a large batch in a big giant bowl in the evening, let it sit overnight and strain it in the morning. It keeps in an old Nalgene bottle in my fridge for at least a week, but I don't know if it still tastes good after that, because we go through it like CRAZY all summer long.

  3. Although you'll still get some coffee ground grit, you could use a french press too, I suppose. BTW, I totally agree about iced coffee at coffee shops.

  4. i'm so with you – i hate iced coffee. well, the store bought kind. might have to get my act together to try this. let iced coffee redeem it self. the only iced coffee i like is thai iced coffee. crazy strong and deliciously flavored. i think they use different beans and def a different brewing method.

  5. Re iced coffee, several years ago I started to make ice cube with the leftover coffee of the day – best idea I’d had in a long time – I drink freshly ground hot coffee every morning and have discovered that even letting it sit during the day, it can either be gently reheated or in the hot NC weather poured over coffee ice cubes and enjoyed. I might just have to try the cold brew which I have been reading about for a while -

  6. i'm sure you've tried vietnamese iced coffee. super strong and sweet…i love the stuff. i'm with you about blacklisting places because i don't need to spend more money on a place when there are so many more to try.

  7. I've been drinking iced coffee all summer, and found my french press works great for this type of application. Good lord is strong coffee delicious!

  8. Nick,

    As you know, I love coffee. I think it's important to add one thing–the roast of the coffee matters. The darker the roast the better. The dark roast means that the coffee will be more full bodied and have a richer flavor. So if and when your ice melts, your coffee wont taste watered down. Also only grind what you need for each use and then keep your bean in an air tight container.

    CE

  9. I broke my coffee addiction a few months ago (although I sometimes wonder why) and only have one cup (o'kay large mug) of coffee a week so I want it to be amazing. My husband prefers iced coffee and we used to have a Toddy but it has gone by the wayside, but guess what? You can make iced coffee just like you recommend in a French press. It has a cover/built-in strainer/spout, perfect!

  10. Nick, great post. I wonder if you have ever given a french press a try? You never have burnt coffee, and the leftover can be used as iced.

    Once you have the french pressed coffee, it is VERY hard to go back to the filtered kind. Do a search on Bodum for info.

  11. A friend sent me this link and I posted it on my blog. And now SO many of my readers are in love with you! I have made iced coffee every day since I saw how easy & yummy it is. THANK YOU!!!!

  12. (also- I like this method as it is SO much easier to clean up with the filter than scraping around the bottom of my french press…)

  13. Caribou Coffee, for whom I am a lowly employee, employees a similar technique for their Iced Coffee. Our cold press is steeped overnight for 12-16 hours. And there are locations in and around DC.

  14. I just found your website and LOVE IT! I am a “coffee whore” for better or for worse – ha ha. And I will try this AT ONCE!!! What are your thoughts on the French Press method of brewing for hot coffee? Thanks! Keep on rockin’ the macheesmo!

  15. I'm a barista who has yet to find a good ratio for cold brew.
    This article was perfectly articulate as well as helpful.
    Thanks so much.

  16. I will try your cold-brewed method! I was in New Orleans last month and I had the best cup of iced-coffee in my life at Rue de la Course, an amazing coffee shop with an unforgettable name. They cold-brewed theirs and it was the first-time I had ever heard of the process. My preference is always iced coffee. In D.C. try Bourbon Coffee on L St., NW. Their iced coffee was azazing the one time I had it.

  17. Well I tried it with my nothing special coffee I had at home. The taste difference between the cold-brewed and hot-brewed is like night and day. Oh my god it's so intense but smooth and almost fruity-sweet goodness. And YES, it was as close as I could get to my favorite iced coffee in New Orleans!

  18. Cold press is SO GOOD. I make it in my french press. No messy straining and takes much less time! Pour about an inch and a half of ground coffee at the bottom, fill it up with water, stir it, wait a few minutes and give it another stir (otherwise the grounds seem to float), and leave it overnight (or up to a whole day). Then just push down the lever. To avoid coffee particles in the liquid, just be sure to press the lever slowly, don’t squish it all the way down onto the grounds, pour slowly and don’t use the last tablespoon of liquid during your final pour.
    You can use the liquid to make hot coffee too – fill up your cup halfway, add a bit of water and/or milk and pop it in the microwave. SO much better than brewed or regular boiled french press! One batch in a 12-cup press lasts me about a work week.

  19. I recommend you read “God in a Cup” by Michaele Weissman. It was given to me for xmas with a bag of Esmeralda Especial (one of the most highly acclaimed coffees in the world). I’m no coffee guru either, but I started reading it and it’s this really awesome back story of coffee and the people of the specialty coffee world and the different coffee producing regions. It really kind of makes you appreciate what’s in your cup. It also makes you feel better about ponying up for specialty coffee as a lot of the higher price actually does go to the poor farmers who grow it.

    Anyway, if you were still interested in learning a bit more about coffee, it’s a good place to start. It doesn’t tell you how to make good coffee or what to buy or anything, but it gives you an appreciation for what coffee is and where it comes from. It’ll make you want to learn how to really appreciate a pretty special little bean (actually it is the pit of a cherry – who’d a thunk?).

    Cheers.

  20. Just found this, and made a starter. I had seen the afore-mentioned “Toddy” maker, and remembered reading it would keep for a long time.

    So, I mixed up a big batch of starter in a 2 liter bottle. At the 1 part coffee 4 part water ratio, it worked out to 2 cups grounds and filling up the bottle. You’ll need to fill it most of the way to wet the grounds and get any air out, and then you can top it off and it’ll work out very close to this ratio.

    I plan to let it sit out a couple hours until I go to bed, then stick it in the fridge.

    Also, as mentioned, one can mix this with boiling water to make a smooth cup of hot coffee.

    1. Oh, I will also probably pour the mixture through a strainer and funnel into another 2 liter to make filtering easier.

      Sometimes to make the final filtering go easily, I put the paper filter in the coffee maker like normal, and pour the starter into it and let it drain in to the coffee pot, without turning it on. If your drip coffee pot doesn’t have a swing-out filter, this would be a good option.

  21. Nick I have to tell you this stuff is AWESOME. I know this post has been up for years, but I just started making this for my summer commute and it is amazing. I use the coffee ice cubes and it makes such a difference. All around awesome. Thanks for all you do!!

  22. I found this recipe when you first posted it. I live in Las Vegas where it will be in the 100+ until at least September and I am addicted to this stuff. It is one of the easiest, most useful and money saving recipes I have found. Oh yeah, it tastes great too. Thanks Nick!

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