How to Make the Best Cold Brew Iced Coffee

It’s no secret that we’re huge coffee aficionados over here at NoshOnIt and are constantly trying out every brewing method under the sun to get that perfect cup of morning (or afternoon) joe. During the hot summer days though, I often set aside the hot water kettle for a tall glass of iced coffee. By now, you’ve probably heard of using a technique called “cold brewing” to make iced coffee, but if you haven’t, here’s a step-by-step guide to show you how to do it using my tried, true, and tested method!

Why Cold Brew?

What’s so great about cold brew anyways? Why would someone wait overnight for a cup of coffee? Well, let’s see if these facts convince you:

  • Compared to brewing with hot water, cold brewed coffee is much less acidic, making it smoother to drink over ice. Also, the long soaking time brings out some of the rounder, fruity notes of the coffee which you may not always taste in hot coffee.
  • It doesn’t require any fancy equipment! Seriously, all you need is a jar, spoon, coffee filter, and strainer. Don’t be fooled by all of the new cold brew contraptions out there. You don’t need them.
  • You can make as large of a batch as you want at one time. Are you a one-cup-a-day’er? Use a large jar. Pretty much need an IV of coffee hooked up all day? Use a bucket. (Kind of joking, but not really, it works great with any amount!)
  • You can store it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks without losing freshness. That’s right, make it once, use it all week. Hot coffee goes stale quickly after it cools down so if you’ve been putting your leftover pot in the fridge, you’re doing it all wrong!
  • It’s better and cheaper than most iced coffee you’ll buy at a coffee shop.

If that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will! Well, ok, here’s a little more nudging…

Why is This “The Best?”

After learning about cold brew about 6 years ago from a New York Times article, it’s fair to say that I’ve made my fair share of batches using different techniques and ratios. At the end of the day, I still come back to this method, which produces what some consider to be a “concentrate” that needs diluting with coffee or milk. You can do that if you want, but let’s just put it this way – in the mornings for me, no dilution is needed (but more on that below).

Even a few weeks ago, I came across a recipe from the famed Barismo Coffee here in Boston that used double the amount of water than most recipes I’d seen. Barismo is really well known for being super serious about their coffee so I decided to give it a shot and compare it against my reliable method. The result? Too watery. It tasted diluted and I felt like I was missing some of the unique flavors of the coffee that this method should bring out. So even after that test, here we are with my method for perfect cold brew iced coffee.

What You’ll Need

Here’s what you’ll need to make cold brew iced coffee.

Yield: 1 cup of concentrate (enough for 1-2 drinks). Just multiply the ratio for as much as you want.

  • 1/3 cup coffee, coarsely ground
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • Large jar, pitcher, or French Press
  • Coffee filter
  • Colander or Mesh Strainer

Now, let’s see how to make it.

Step 1: Grind and Measure Coffee

Step 2

For cold brewing, you want a coarse grind on your coffee so it looks like a fine gravel. This is the same type of grind that you’d use for a French Press. If you can, I always recommend grinding fresh but you can also buy beans at your local coffee shop and have them grind it on the French Press setting. Since the volume of beans and grinds can be different, grind the beans first then measure if possible. But in all honesty, this is a pretty unfussy method so do whatever is easiest for you. For this experiment, we used one of our favorite coffees: this Gelana Abaya from Ethiopia made by OQ Coffee in New Jersey. These guys are a small shop but are making amazing coffee at a totally fair price. Seriously, we can’t get enough!

How to Make the Best Cold Brew Iced Coffee - Grounds

Step 2: Pour the Water

Step 3

Add the coffee grounds to a large jar and add cold water, making sure to soak all of the grounds. For every 1/3 cup of grounds, add 1 1/2 cups of water. This was a 1 quart jar so I doubled that ratio and used 2/3 cup of grounds and 3 cups of water, which came right to the top. This will make about 2 cups of final coffee. You can also use a French Press canister for this step but a jar works just as well.

How to Make the Best Cold Brew Iced Coffee - Pouring Water

Step 3: Stir the Coffee

Step 4

To make sure that all of the grounds are wet, use a long spoon (or in our case, a chopstick) to stir everything up, making sure to get into every nook and cranny of the jar so nothing sticks. (An important note: when stirring, you want to try to use something that is non-metal like a plastic or wooden spoon or a chopstick. Turn a wooden spoon upside down and use the handle to stir since it’ll fit better into the jar. I’ve read from some true experts that when the metal hits the coffee, it can give it a slightly off taste so I prefer to be safe than sorry!)

How to Make the Best Cold Brew Iced Coffee - Stirring Grounds

Step 4: Cover and Let Brew

Step 5

Cover the jar and let it sit at room temperature on the counter for at least 12 and up to 18 hours. I’ll either start it before dinner so it’s ready the next morning or start it in the morning and strain it that night for use the next day. There’s no need to stir it, just let it be. If you’re using a French Press, cover it tightly with plastic wrap.

How to Make the Best Cold Brew Iced Coffee - Brewing

Step 5: Strain It

Step 6

This is probably the most challenging step of the entire process…and it’s really quite easy. To strain the cold brew, line a mesh strainer (or any strainer really) with a coffee filter (it doesn’t matter what kind, just make sure you can pour the coffee into it – the strainer is just to hold the coffee filter). Set the straining apparatus over a bowl and pour in the coffee. Even if you’re using a French Press, you’ll still need to pour it through a coffee filter after plunging to get all of the tiny grounds out.

How to Make the Best Cold Brew Iced Coffee - Pouring into Filter

Depending on how fine your coffee filter is (mine was very fine), it might take a while to drip through but just have a bit of patience and it’ll all drip out.

How to Make the Best Cold Brew Iced Coffee - Straining

Transfer the strained coffee to another jar (or just wash out the same jar while it’s straining) and store it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks (I prefer to use it within 1 week but 2 will be fine).

Step 6: Serve and Enjoy

Comment or Ask Questions

This method actually makes what many consider to be a “concentrate.” Most guides out there will tell you to mix the concentrate 50/50 with water but I find that to be too watery for my taste. I like it straight up over ice (the ice helps dilute it slightly) or by adding 50% of the volume of the coffee in water, such as 1/2 cup of concentrate and 1/4 cup of water, for something a little lighter. Depending on what type of coffee you’re using, a half spoon of sugar can help bring out the natural sweetness of the coffee.

If you like to add milk, there’s no need to dilute it with water! Just pour the concentrate over ice and add as much milk as you like. It’ll make a rich, creamy, and delicious cup of iced coffee that’s definitely not watery. Before you do, though, give this a shot without milk – I think you’ll be surprised with how smooth it is! Also, you might notice that this coffee is a lot lighter in color than what you’re used to. That certainly doesn’t mean it isn’t strong! Remember, it’s been brewing for a long time but the color is more a factor of the roast of the coffee (and for mine, this was a slightly lighter roast).

That’s it! Remember, all coffees are not created equal so don’t use the cheapest coffee on the shelf for this method. You’ll be surprised how different (and sometimes better) the coffee tastes when cold brewing it versus the traditional hot brew. Filled up in a glass with plenty of ice, this is the perfect refreshing drink to start your morning or boost up your afternoon. And the best part is that you can double, triple, or quadruple the ratio depending on how much you want to have around. Since it lasts so long in the fridge, don’t hesitate to make more!

How to Make the Best Cold Brew Iced Coffee