The concept of cold brew coffee has been around for centuries since its initial start in Japan, in what was known as Kyoto-style coffee. But it has experienced exponential growth in the last decade or so as it offers you a pleasurable and refreshing iced coffee on a hot summer day without the bitter flavor or harshness.
What is Cold Brew Coffee?
In the 17th century, Dutch traders took coffee to Japan, and the locals in Kyoto city came up with the idea of cold brewing without the use of hot water, similar to the already prevalent cold-brewed tea there. They gave it the name Kyoto-style coffee.
Cold Brew Concentrate
The process involved steeping the coarse coffee grounds in room-temperature water for several hours and then straining and serving it with cold water or ice. The water-soluble compounds are slowly extracted in a process lasting from 8 to 24 hours. The strained liquid is also known as a coffee concentrate, to which you can add milk, cold water, ice, sweeteners, etc, to make your own cold brew versions.
Cold brew method also goes by other names like cold water extraction or cold pressing. You can use chilled water for the process, though the water at room temperature serves the purpose. The two main methods used for preparing a cold brew coffee are the cold immersion brew and the slow cold drip coffee brew methods (used in Kyoto style).
In the immersion brews, you just allow the ground coffee beans to sit in water for 12, 18, or 24 hours without using any heat source. The process is simple and consistent and gives a smooth, mellow, and balanced flavor with a perception of low acidity.
If you like brightness, acidity, or the complex flavor of hot coffee, you may not be as satisfied with the result. In spite of the simple process, using a proper suspension system to keep the grounds afloat and not sink to the bottom and proper filtration is essential. Else you may end up with a muddled brew with a sooty or grainy mouthfeel like in a French Press.
Phenomenal Growth Of The Cold Brew in Recent Years
Cold brew has grown faster than any other in the category of iced beverages, with more than 50% of coffee drinkers willing to try it out. Reports suggest that it is currently the third most used method of making coffee, with 9% of the total daily consumption, even during the winter months. Hence it has a strong demand year around.
It has seen a growth of 245% in the last four years, according to a Datassential report in 2020, led by the 904% increase in the consumption of Nitro brews, in spite of all the operational challenges associated with them.
The trends have followed this pattern since 2011 with no signs of slowing down, dispelling any claims that it is just a fad and transforming the coffee industry. It finds more favor among the millennials, with 50% or more already tried it. Its appeal is quickly spreading to consumers of other ages, with 19% of consumers over 35 years showing interest in it.
The current trend is believed to have begun in the independent third-wave coffee houses. All coffee lovers are willing to pay extra for the smooth taste of cold brews.
Its artisanal reputation, fresh aroma, smooth flavor, and lack of bitterness even command a 50% higher price point in many cases. The grocery stores in the US and other coffee-loving parts of the world have countless brands of cold brew, ranging from ready-to-drink bottles to DIY cold brew kits.
While preparing the cold brew at home is possible, as we will see in later sections, the best results are obtained using equipment specially crafted for the dripping, steeping, or filtering processes. It requires more time, skill, and labor than conventional hot-brewed coffee and presents inventory management and consistency challenges for any local coffee shop.
But the concentrate can delight you in beverages and other culinary recipes.
Differences with the Iced Coffee
The differences between iced regular coffee and cold brew coffee have been dealt with in detail in our separate article on the topic. We will summarize the main differences in brief here.
How to Make Cold Brew Coffee Using Coffee Makers
There are many affordable options in the market, and the internet to select your preferred coffee maker for making cold brew coffee. You have the option of using the following cold-brew coffee makers:
- Oxo Good Grips Coffee Maker.
- French Press.
- Coffee Sock.
While two separate brands use the immersion brewing principles, they are, by and large, similar devices with minor variations.
Oxo Good Grips Coffee Maker
The Oxo Good Grips have a top plastic container where you fill freshly ground coffee beans and water and let the coffee steep for hours. A latch mechanism allows the brewed coffee to drip to the glass carafe through the coffee filters. The brewer has a rainmaker coffee lid over the top container to pour the water over the grounds to saturate them evenly. You don’t need to stir the grounds after pouring water if you are using the rainmaker.
- Brings out more flavors than most other brewers.
- Produces consistent results.
- It has balanced acidity, a strong aroma, and a clean finish.
- Easier to use and clean.
- The mesh filter can be rinsed and cleaned.
- Some coffee lovers may not like strong flavors in cold brews and prefer a mellower taste.
- It is 15″ in height when fully set up and may occupy space if you have a lot of appliances in your kitchen.
Filtron Water Coffee Concentrate Brewer
The Filtron brewer is larger than the Oxo brewer. It uses a felt filter and a rubber stopper at the bottom of the plastic bucket. It comes with optional paper filters to hold the grounds. After the brewing is complete, you can pull the stopper after placing the carafe below the bucket. It will take about 30 minutes to drain out the coffee completely.
While Filtron recommends the addition of 6 parts cold water or ice to 1 part concentrate, it results in a weak brew for many. Depending on your taste, you can go in for 4 or 3 parts to 1.
- Consistency in results, with a smooth and mellower coffee than Oxo.
- Great balance between sweetness and acidity with caramel flavors.
- Simple as compared to many other models to use. Easier to set up and empty out.
- Black plastic is not susceptible to straining with use.
- Not very easy to set up and drain.
- Doesn’t look as stylish as others and does not pack away neatly.
- You need to place the felt filter in its included container filled with water after brewing and store it in the refrigerator to prevent mold.
- While the large paper filters result in a smooth finished brew, they are not easily available and very hard to find.
- It is 19″ in height, which is even higher than the Oxo.
Toddy Cold Brew System.
The Toddy cold brew system is comparable to Filtron in terms of appearance, operation, and the final brew and is very popular. But, while it is more suitable for larger batches and has a little more consistency and control over the end concentrations, many find the instructions more complicated, and the final brew less flavorful and full-bodied compared to the Filtron in addition to the permanent bucket strains.
French Press System
If you have the French press at home and do not want to purchase any dedicated cold brew maker, you can use its built-in coffee filter to strain the grounds and pour them into the coffee cup.
French press is a piece of equipment for general use and is inexpensive but provides a muddy and sooty feel due to the inability of the metal mesh filter to remove the fine particles. With a French press, you can brew a limited amount of concentrate and have to repeat the process more frequently.
Coffee sock is comparatively a new entrant to the cold brew maker field. It gets its name due to the organic cotton sock filter filled with coffee and allowed to steep in a mason jar. On the positive side, the arrangement is smaller and inexpensive, with a nice-looking container and 100% reusable organic filter after a simple wash.
On the flip side, the cleanup requires some effort, and the cold brew tastes range from average to above-average results.
Other systems include the Hario cold brew bottle, Takeya’s Cold Brew Coffee Maker, Primula’s Cold Brew Glass Carafe Brewing System, Espro Cold Brew Maker, KitchenAid Cold Brew Coffee Maker, and Cold Bruer Drip Coffee Maker B1. But these are either harder to use or expensive without the corresponding improvement in brew quality and taste.
Best Coffee Beans for the Cold Brews
You get balanced and relatively mellower coffees from immersion-based methods. A perfect cold brew will have an even and smooth taste comprising fewer bright, citrusy notes with fewer bitter flavors. Any coffee with this flavor profile naturally works best with cold brew.
In a survey, 60% of respondents indicated a preference for dark or medium roasts, while only 20% used lighter roasts with bright flavor. The balance was happy with any type of beans. Many people love cold brews with coffees with notes of nuts, chocolate, caramel, and sweet fruits with lower acidity and a balanced body.
It is always better to freshly grind your coffee to 930 microns average particle size as the time of contact between the coffee and water usually dictates the grind size, with longer times requiring coarser grinds. If you do not have a coffee grinder, you have no option but to get your beans ground from the roaster or store or purchase pre-ground beans.
You can always go in for a decaf cold brew if you prefer low-caffeine drinks to suit your health issues.
Cold Brew Coffee Recipe for Homemade Concentrate
Last but not least, let us look at how to prepare cold brews at home without using any custom-made coffee maker.
You need a bowl or a vessel to hold the amount of coffee grounds and water you will use to prepare the cold brew. If you intend to prepare a big batch, you will need your vessel to hold more coffee and water. You can use a large mason jar for the purpose if you have one.
Filter: Once the brewing is completed, you need a filter to remove the grounds. You can use a filter to pour the coffee through it after steeping and collect the strained coffee in a separate vessel or use a paper filter bag to store the grounds and steep them in it. Then you just need to remove the filter bag to get the final brew.
The choice of common DIY filters includes.
- Regular filters for coffee.
- A cheesecloth.
- A fine mesh strainer (you may experience a sooty mouthfeel like in a French press if you use these types of filters).
- Digital measure.
What Is The Perfect Ratio Of Beans To Water?
If you are preparing a concentrate with a mellower taste which is what I love cold brew for, go in for a 1:2 with water being twice in weight than the coffee grounds. If you like a stronger version, 2:3 or 1:1 will be required depending on your taste. If you want a ready-to-drink brew, you may go in for 1:5 for a mellower taste and 1:4 for a slightly strong coffee.
If you are using a French press, go in for 1:12 and 1:7 ratios for higher and lower-strength brews.
- Medium Coarse Grind/Coarse Grind Coffee: 6 Oz.
- Filtered Water: 12 Oz.
- We are using a ratio of 1:2 for a mellower concentrate.
Preparation of the Cold Brewed Coffee
Fill your 32 Oz mason jar or any other container of similar volume with the coffee grounds. Gently pour the filtered room-temperature water over the grounds up to the level of grounds and stir the mixture well. Allow it to remain like that for a minute, and pour the balance of water. Place the lid or plastic wrap over the container and let the mixture steep for 16 to 20 hours.
Place the cheesecloth over the other large container or set the strainer with a filter, pour the brew over the filter, and place the container in your refrigerator for storage once all the liquid coffee has drained.
Different Varieties or Recipes of the Cold-Brewed Coffee
Having prepared your cold brew concentrate, you can create a number of coffee drinks and foods to suit your taste and liking. Some of the suggestions are:
- Simple Iced Coffee.
- Iced Latte.
- Cardamom Cold Brew Concentrate.
- Cardamon Iced Coffee with simple Vanilla Syrup or maple syrup.
- Cardamom and Vanilla Cocktail with vodka.
- Cinnamon mocha cold brew.
- Iced coffee lemonade.
- Cinnamon vanilla coconut cream cold brew.
- Cold Brew Popsicles.
- Cold Brew Coffee Ice Cream.
- Cold Brew Coffee Ice Cubes.
- Cinnamon Orange Iced Coffee Crush
- Coconut Kahlua Latte.
- Chocolate Almond Milk Coffee
Cold Coffee and Sustainability.
As seen above, the preparation of a cold brew coffee at home consumes a minimum amount of energy compared to traditional coffee. You can make it using reusable and washable filters like metal mesh filters or cloth filters.
The cold coffee grounds are compostable and hence can be disposed of in an eco-friendly way. They contain nitrogen and carbon, which are valuable nutrients to enrich the soil.
Did you try out cold brew coffee at home or any of the coffee recipes related to it? You can share your experience in the comments section below.