Cold brew makes any summer day perfect, and it’s no wonder why. If you haven’t tried this treat, then you’re missing out on something special. Cold brew is beloved for its bold, smooth, sweet character. Best of all, it’s a snap to make. You don't need fancy equipment. All you need is time and lots of it. Cold brew recipes are easy to come by, but this post isn't simply a recipe; it's a complete cold brew guide. We'll give the low-down on the beans to use, how to get the ratio right, how to do the extraction, how to serve the drink, and we’ll even give you some tips for storing cold brew.
What is cold brew and why all the fuss?
Let’s start here. Cold brew is not a way of serving coffee. It is a brewing method. While the drink is often served over ice, the term “cold” doesn’t refer to the serving temperature. Unlike traditional brewing, the coffee extraction is performed using room temperature or Coldwater and takes hours instead of minutes. The longer extraction time, and cooler temperatures, create a cup of coffee with far less acidity and bitterness than traditional brewed coffee.
Iced coffee is not cold brew. Your favorite coffee shop will have plenty of iced coffee drinks on the menu. Iced coffee is hot-brewed coffee (Americano/drip or other) drink served cold or over ice. Cold brew, on the other hand, has never been in contact with hot water and is a different beast altogether.
The secret of cold brew lies in the long extraction time. Typically, cold brew is extracted over twelve to twenty-four hours depending on the roast type and desired strength. As far as brewing methods go, this one is forgiving and doesn’t demand precision measuring and constant monitoring. The resulting brew is a coffee concentrate you dilute with water before serving. In the cup, you can expect heightened sweetness and muted complexity, and a balanced smoothness perfect for an afternoon on the patio.
Selecting the right beans for cold brew?
If you want a great cup of coffee, you’ve got to start with whole beans and then grind them appropriately. Cold brew is no different. Remember, cold brew is made by exposing coffee grounds to room temperature or cold water over several hours. In the process, some of the coffee’s nuances are diminished because the lower temperatures are not as efficient in breaking down flavor compounds. And the natural oils in the coffee. When you select beans for cold brew, the roast level is the key consideration. Since the extraction is slow, medium-dark and dark roast work best. When beans are medium-roasted, they are brought to an internal temperature between 437°F and 446°F. The roasting is terminated after what is called the “second crack.” At this point, the outer shell of the bean has become porous and the oils are beginning to be released. This is the ideal stage for a long, flavorful extraction. If you’re new to cold brew, a medium-dark roast is your best bet. That being said, you should experiment with several different roast levels to determine which one is your personal favorite. Dark roasts also make great cold brew, but you can expect less balance and sweetness. For more information on roast levels, check out our post: What are the different roast levels?
We can take all the guesswork out of finding the right specialty beans for cold brew. Our Firehouse Blend is terrific. We’ve designed this roast to highlight rich and full flavors, and it makes a stunning cold brew at an affordable price.
The age of the beans is important when it comes to great coffee, but with cold brew, there is a little more forgiveness. Not all flavor compounds are broken down during cold brewing, so you can get away with beans that were roasted a several weeks ago. As long as the beans don't look too oily, they'll likely make a pretty good cold brew.
What is the right grind size for cold brew?
To make a great cold brew, you’ve got to get the grind size right. The size of the grounds should resemble chunky coarse salt when you pass them over your fingers. Coffee ground for drip is often too fine for the job. Youʻll want to start with a coarse-grind similar to or even courser than French press. If you have a grinder, then I recommend starting with the coarsest setting on your machine. If you donʻt have a grinder then we can help with that here.
What is the right coffee ratio for cold brew?
Coffee ratio? Relax. That's just a fancy way of referring to the ideal amount of coffee grounds to use for the brew. We express this in a ratio of coffee to water and it's critical to coffee extraction. A ratio of 1:1 refers to 1 gram of coffee to 1 milliliter of water.
For coffee brewing, there is something called the “golden coffee ratio” as defined by the Specialty Coffee Association. The golden ratio is 1 gram of coffee grounds for 18 grams (milliliters) of water. The brewing method, extraction time, flavor profile, and personal taste work together when you find the right ratio to meet your own expectations. But, as a rule, a ratio somewhere between 1:15 and 1:18 is the standard for hot brewing. Now, that’s all well and good, but cold brew needs a different approach.
When making cold brew for the first time, we recommend a coffee ratio of 1:5 or 1 gram of ground coffee for 5 milliliters of water. It might seem like a lot of ground coffee, but cold brew can be used as a coffee concentrate. At serving time, you will dilute one part coffee with one part water, so expect the brew to be dark and strong. If you donʻt want to dilute before drinking, stick with 1:10 ratio and youʻll be ready to go.
There is no need to rush out and buy a scale. Get your hands on our TCR Handmade Coffee Scoop. It is designed to give you a precision dose. Grind the beans until the grounds feel like coarse salt. A single scoop full of grounds is about five grams, so you will need one scoop per fifty milliliters of water. (1:10) It doesn’t get much easier than that.
Use the right water for cold brew
An important part of the final taste of cold brew is the water made to use it. Unlike with hot brewing, any impurities in the water are not being boiled off, so start with good quality water. A rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t drink the water, or don’t enjoy drinking it, don’t use it for your cold brew. We make our cold brew with pure spring water. It is the most common bottled water. Spring water comes directly from a protected underground source, and is naturally filtered with no processing. You can even brew the coffee right in the bottle of water as long as you run the brew through a fine filter at the end of the extraction time.
How to Store cold brew
You can make a batch of cold brew on the weekend and use it throughout the week. In the refrigerator, it will last for up to seven days. Store it in a sealable glass container to keep out unwanted odors from other food, and don’t dilute the brew until you’re ready to serve.
Cold brew should not be stored in the freezer. The high-water content of the brew causes the formation of ice crystals that erode both flavor and aroma.
Summer is better with cold brew!
So, now it’s time to take out your favorite beans and grind them up for cold brew. All you need is a French Press, mason jar, quality water and a whole lot of time. There are also kits to purchase if you prefer. After the extraction, filter the brew and put it in the fridge. When you’re ready for a glass of the good stuff, simply pour and serve. Be sure to serve it in a transparent mug to show off your hard work.
For a little jazz, try serving your cold brew with unsweetened almond milk and a drip of pure maple syrup. You can also make ice cubes out of the brew so that you don’t dilute your next batch.
How ever you make it, and however you serve it, cold brew is a summer treat for all coffee lovers. Best of all, once you get the recipe down, it’s a snap to brew. Keeping a bottle or jar of cold brew in the fridge is a sure way to keep the patio full of smiles all summer long.