black coffee with ice cubes in mason jar

Cold Brew Coffee 101: The Ultimate Guide For Beginners

While you may have only just discovered cold brew coffee, it’s actually been around since the 1600s in Japan. Also known as Kyoto-style coffee, cold brew first got its taste of international fame when the Dutch traders brought it to the west. Nowadays, you can easily cold brew at home using coffee grounds, water, and a refrigerator.

Cold brew is a type of coffee made through a process of soaking grounds in cold water for 11 to 18 hours, depending on how flavorful you like it. The result is a less acidic, highly caffeinated cup of coffee that is served cold or even over ice.

a cup of cold brew coffee and small milk pitcher

Do you know the difference between iced coffee and cold brew? What’s the best coffee for cold brew? Can you make a cold brew at home? We’ll explore how to make your own cold brew coffee and other questions about this incredible type of coffee in this guide.

Advantages of Cold Brew Coffee

Normal hot coffee can be highly acidic, bitter, and slightly lower in caffeine in comparison to a cold brew coffee. However, it’s the taste and super-smooth consistency that has created such a phenomenon over cold brew in the coffee world.

Here is a quick breakdown of why people are starting to make cold brew coffee at home:

  • Slow immersion method creates an amazing coffee flavor that tastes less bitter.
  • Less watery than a quickly brewed cup of coffee.
  • More concentrated coffee leads to higher caffeination, depending on the coffee beans and time spent steeping the coffee.
  • If you love having ice with your coffee, this approach creates a sweeter, smoother taste.

Here are a few other facts and things to consider for cold brewing coffee.

Adjustable Strength

While we recommend steeping cold brews for a minimum of 11 to 12 hours, some cold coffee makers say it’s necessary to steep for over 14 hours to get a truly smooth, sweeter taste from cold brew. In fact, it’s much stronger when you steep it over that many hours.

If you like to combine your cold brews with ice, then steeping it for longer makes sense. You want it to have a higher concentrated coffee content so that it doesn’t become watery.

Saves Time in the Morning

You don’t have to spend time changing out the filters, cleaning your carafe, and turning on the coffeemaker. All you need to do is combine coffee grounds with water and stick it in the fridge overnight. You could even use milk jugs to create large batches of cold brew coffee, so you only have to do it once or twice per week.

Why is Cold Brew Less Acidic?

Fact: Cold brew coffee is much gentler on your stomach than regular hot coffee.

Studies have proven that cold brew coffee is up to 65% less acidic than a regular cup of joe.

Many people actually avoid a daily cup of coffee because of the acidity and digestion problems. Perhaps they have stomach issues, like an ulcer. While there are less acidic coffee products on the market, they don’t really taste as good as a real organic, fair-traded cup of joe. If you are wondering whether drinking coffee is healthy, check out our post.

Cold brewing coffee actually works to reduce the acidity without taking away from the flavor. In fact, brewing coffee in cold water enhances the flavor. Since hot water isn’t used to brew cold coffee, the natural oils in the beans that create more acidity can’t permeate into the mixture.

More Flavorful than Hot Coffee

Fact: Cold brew coffee is sweeter yet doesn’t require as much sugar as hot coffee.

If you take your coffee with lots of creamer and sugar, then you already know how the bitter taste of coffee is a huge turn-off. That goes away when brewing your coffee cold. You can even cold brew your coffee and pour a cup without ever adding sugar.

The consistency is also a bit more like chocolate milk than a hot cup of coffee. This is mainly because the coffee thickens as it soaks in cold water, resulting in a very smooth cup of caffeinated yumminess.

More Caffeine

Fact: Cold brew has a higher concentration of caffeine, especially with cold brew espresso.

Cold brew coffees are typically created with higher ratios of coffee. This means that a cold brew cup of coffee has 2 to 3 times more caffeine than a conventional cup of coffee. However, we do have to put a disclaimer here that not all coffee is brewed the same, and some hot coffees can contain 260 to 360 mg of caffeine.

You can find our more on how much caffeine is in your coffee here.

Lower-Cost at Home

Fact: You can easily cold brew your coffee at home.

If you’ve only ever seen bottles and cans of cold brew espresso and coffee, then you probably don’t know how easy it is to make your own cold brew at home. We can’t guarantee that it will taste just as good as the top brands on the market. But you can make cold brew with your favorite coffee grounds right in your own refrigerator.

Best Coffee for Cold Brew

It’s a hot morning, or afternoon, or even a late night, what do you choose for your cold brew? The jolt of any cold brew coffee is guaranteed to wake you up, but there are some tips that make the taste even better. Here’s some tips followed by a step-by-step approach to brewing coffee cold at home.

Style of Brew: Immersion Cold Brew vs Drip Cold Brew

There are two main ways to create cold brew at home: 1) Immersion (easiest), and 2) slow drip (requires carafe).

The immersion method is the favourite way to cold brew because it’s simple and only requires you have access to:

  • Cold water
  • A glass
  • Coffee grounds

However, it does require that you steep the coffee overnight in the refrigerator for about 11 to 12 hours minimum.

So the major advantage to slow drip is that you can brew a cold one in just 3 to 5 hours, depending on the equipment. Here’s what you’ll need for slow drip cold brew:

  • Water
  • Coffee grounds
  • Slow drip carafe or cold brew maker

That specialised equipment requires some investment of up to $150, or if you want to go commercial, there are $17,000 espresso machines, too.

cold drip coffee brewer held up by a wooden cage

We suggest using the immersion method also because of its full-bodied flavor for any coffee type. The taste is actually much more diluted with a slow drip coffee brewer, and you also have to choose the right coffee bean depending on the method.

What’s the Grind Size?

If you purchase pre-ground, you’ll actually get a slightly less flavorful result than if you ground them on your own for a coarse grind. Fine grounds may have a slightly more bitter taste, which comes from over-extraction.

coarse ground coffee in a white cup on a weighing scale

For grind size with slow drip, coarse grind is actually the only choice as it causes quicker dripping. Finer grinds result in a lack of any drip at all, becoming too dense and restrictive to water flow.

Do you need a coffee grinder for cold brew?

Not necessarily! Some say the flavor is considerably better with beans that you pick and grind yourself. However, pre-ground coffee using the immersion method is typically just as good, especially if you are just switching from hot coffee to cold brew. It’s something to try if you exclusively drink cold brew and want to take the flavor up a notch.

Dark Roast vs Light Roast Cold Brew

This comes down to your own preferences. There are all kinds of beans out there, and if you are a true coffee aficionado, you probably have your own favourite roast already. The truth is that you can pick whatever roast and get a nice cold brew because it depends only on what you like. You can even try to roast your own coffee beans at home.

Our favourite thing to do is experiment with different flavors! Why not keep to only one roast when you could have a light, medium, or dark roast coffee at your fancy?

However, some experts say that dark roast does have a better flavor profile as a cold brew. This is because it can taste a little bit richer like chocolate milk.

Do You Add Milk and Creamer to Cold Brew?

This goes back to personal preferences again. The flavors are already there when you finish cold brewing a coffee, so you don’t necessarily need to add anything. However, if you love a sweeter, milkier coffee, then it’s fine to add as much milk or cream as you like.

However, you should consider trying cold brew without milk or creamer first to see if it’s necessary to add in those flavors. There are also a variety of cold brew recipes out there that can enhance flavors, such as pumpkin latte cold brews or cinnamon swirl.

How to Make Cold Brew Coffee at Home

Quick way to cold brew with immersion: Cold brew coffee is created by soaking grounded coffee beans in room-temperature to refrigerator cold water for a minimum of 11 hours. All you need to do this at home is a glass, coffee grounds, and cold water. You can use pre-ground or grind your own beans, depending on your preference.

For an expert cup of coffee, follow our step-by-step immersion brew approach that uses cold brew coffee beans. It’s the best way to create a cup of less bitter, rich coffee.

So here’s the perfect way to cold brew coffee at home:

What You’ll Need to Cold Brew at Home

  • Coffee grinder
  • Choice of coffee beans
  • Water
  • Mason jar or glass with top

Step 1: Grind Your Coffee Beans Coarsely

Once you’ve picked out the best coffee beans of your choice for cold brew, you’ll use the coffee grinder to create coarse grounds. If you don’t have a grinder at home, then pre-ground coffee will do just fine.

Step 2: Combine Coarse Coffee Grounds with Water

You want to pour grounds first into a glass bottle or mason jar that can be closed while the coffee steeps. You can stir or shake the grounds to combine more.

Step 3: Let Steep in Fridge for 12 Hours

It’s best to let your cold brew steep overnight for a minimum of 11 to 12 hours. We think that extra hour adds a little more flavor for a truly strong, concentrated cold brew.

Step 4: Strain and Pour

You don’t want to drink the grounds so pass the coffee through a strainer to get the perfect cold brew. If you purchased a larger bottle or mason jar, you only have to strain once and then you’ll have cold brew every morning for the next 2 to 3 days.

How Long Does Cold Brew Last

If you keep a cold brew in your fridge, you can still drink it up to a week later with no loss in flavor. While it’s still safe after two weeks, the flavor will likely have diminished by this point as the concentrate becomes more diluted.

How to Serve the Best Cold Brewed Coffee

Cold brewed coffee takes some time to prepare. However, once it’s fully steeped and ready to pour, there are a number of ways to get the perfect taste.

Pour Over Ice

Most cold brew drinkers like to combine their cold brew with ice for a refreshing shot of cold caffeine on a hot summer morning.

Add Milk, Syrup, or Creamer

There are all kinds of creamers, syrups, and almond milk add-ins for coffee. These work with cold brew just as well. The one thing you probably won’t need is a spoonful of sugar. Cold brewed coffee is typically sweet on its own.

iced cold brew with milk in a clear glass in the living room

Try Filtered Water

If your taste is too bitter or has a funny smell coming through, you may need to go for filtered water for steeping. This adds to the flavor, creating a more pure, sweet flavor.

Use Coffee Ice Cubes Instead

If you don’t want to water down your cup of coffee at all, then try coffee ice cubes. You can actually freeze your cold brew with an ice cube tray to enhance the flavor of your cold brew even more.

Final Notes

Brewing a cup of cold brew coffee has the advantage of versatility. You can choose to match your preferences any way you like it. And nothing beats the taste of a cold brewed coffee under the scorching sun. Especially if you stay in a place as hot as the sunny island of Singapore, like me 🙂

You can also read more about other coffee brewing methods here.