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When summer temperatures hit their peak, my go-to morning pick-me-up is a cold, tall glass of cold brew. I own a couple of dedicated cold-brew coffee makers (and three hot coffee machines—please don’t judge me; I cover everything coffee at CR), but you don’t need a machine to make your own cold brew. All you need are two lidded jars or pitchers and a coffee filter.
Actually, there is one other thing you need: time. Cold brew takes hours to make. Automatic machines can speed up the process, but coffee made using the no-frills method below must steep for at least 12 hours, says Patrick Main, beverage innovator at Peet’s Coffee. He’s created all the company’s signature beverages over the past 20 years, and he makes a heck of a lot of cold brew at home, so we hit him up for some tips. Here's our tried-and-true no-frills method:
Step 1: Get a Pitcher or Large Mason Jar
As long as it can hold more than 3 cups of water, it’ll do.
Step 2: Add Ground Coffee and Cold Water
You can use any blend of coffee you prefer. Coarse, preground coffee is fine, but if you can, grind your coffee fresh (preground coffee loses flavor over time due to oxidation). Main says to add ¼ pound of coarsely ground coffee (roughly 1½ cups) for every 3 cups of cold water. Yes, that’s a lot more ground coffee than you would use when brewing with hot water, but you need extra because coffee doesn’t extract as efficiently in cold water.
Step 3: Stir
Mix the coffee and water using a spoon until all the coffee is saturated.
Step 4: Let It Steep for at Least 12 Hours
Main brews cold brew at room temperature and lets it steep for at least 12 hours. The warm ambient air temperature helps extract a “broader spectrum of flavors” from the ground coffee than if you put your cold brew in the refrigerator, he says. “It’s fine to brew in the refrigerator, but the coffee will extract more slowly, so I would recommend letting it steep for around 18 hours,” Main adds.
Step 5: Filter the Grounds out of the Coffee
Place a paper coffee filter over an empty jar or pitcher and slowly pour in the coffee to remove the grounds. If you have a funnel, put the filter in that to make it easier.
Step 6: Dilute the Concentrated Cold Brew and Serve!
Your cold brew is highly concentrated. If you like very strong coffee, you could just add ice and any milk or sweetener. If you prefer a milder brew, dilute it using a 1:1 or 1:1.5 ratio of cold brew to water.
Finally, don’t forget to store any leftover cold-brew concentrate in a sealed container in the fridge. Main says it will be good for up to two weeks.
Great Grinders and Brewers for Cold Brew
If you’d like to up your cold-brew game with a burr coffee grinder and dedicated cold-brew coffee maker, we know just the gear to get. Here are two grinders and two brewers that had exceptional performance in our tests.
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