September 30, 2023


Qualified food specialists

How to Make Cold Brew Coffee: No Special Equipment

5 min read
  • Making cold brew at home is simple and all you really need is a glass pitcher.
  • Steep your ground coffee for 12 to 24 hours until it’s as strong and smooth as you like it.
  • Dilute the final product with water or milk or experiment with mix-ins like horchata or booze.
  • Visit Insider’s Home & Kitchen Reference library for more stories.

Cold brew coffee has become one of the most ubiquitous and prominent coffee products on the market today, and with good reason. It provides a crisp, ice-cold alternative to hot coffee during the dog days of summer.

It can be prepared in large batches perfect for sharing at parties or kept in the fridge, ready to enjoy on a hot afternoon

There are many complex brewing devices and expensive pre-packaged cold brew products available on the market, but none of that is really necessary to enjoy refreshing coffee at home. Making your own cold brew concentrate is simple.

It’s one of the easiest and most forgiving brewing methods for coffee and requires very little special equipment.

Cold brew coffee basics

A person pouring cold brew out of a glass pitcher into a clear glass mug

Cold brew lasts up to two weeks in the fridge.

georgeclerk/Getty Images

Brewing cold brew works on the same basic principles as brewing hot coffee. The process is a bit different, but the variables of grind size, temperature, time and filtration operate the same way.

The most important difference is that cold brew is brewed with cold or room-temperature water instead of hot water. When brewing at lower temperatures, the brew time has to be extended in order to fully extract the coffee. This produces a highly concentrated coffee that packs a punch of both caffeine and flavor. Here’s what you need to know before you get started:

Choosing the beans: Cold brew can be made from any type of coffee. Use your favorite beans and make sure they’re fresh for the best flavor.

Grind size: Coarse grind size tends to work best. A coarse grind reduces sediment in the final product and shortens the time it takes to fully filter the grounds from the coffee.

Water temperature: Because of the long brew time, water temperature is not as important as with hot coffee. Cold brew can be made both at room temperature and in the fridge.

Timing: 12–24 hours is recommended for full extraction. Brewing simply takes longer at cooler temperatures.

Ratio: A ratio of one part coffee to eight parts water (1:8) will produce a balanced cold brew. For example, to make 20 ounces of cold brew, you’d use about 2.5 ounces (71g) of coffee to 20 ounces (567g) of water. 

Filtration: Any filtration method will work. Using a cloth, felt, or paper filter will leave behind less sediment than metal filters. If you don’t have coffee filters, a kitchen strainer and cheesecloth will work in a pinch.

Tips for troubleshooting cold brew coffee

Making cold brew is one of the most forgiving brewing methods out there. You don’t have to be precise in order to brew some great cold brew, but there are still some problems you can run into.

Too bitter? Cold brew usually produces a smooth, sweet cup of coffee due to the long brew time. If your cold brew is too bitter, it was likely brewed for too long and is over-extracted.

Too weak? Try brewing your coffee for longer. When brewing at cooler temperatures, it takes significantly longer to extract all of the organic compounds, sugars, and oils that give coffee its rich flavor.

Too strong? If your cold brew is too strong, try diluting it with water, milk, or ice. Reducing the brew time will also produce a brighter and less heavy cup of coffee.

Tastes stale? Cold brew should be stored in the fridge in an air-tight container. If properly stored, it should last for about one to two weeks. Also, using freshly roasted and properly stored coffee grounds will ensure the best flavor.

How to customize your cold brew

A pair of hands pouring two small glasses of cold brew into two larger glasses full of ice

Experiment by mixing in different milks, sweeteners, or even liquers.

evrim ertik/Getty Images

Once your cold brew concentrate is finished, there are many ways you can enjoy it.

  • Try diluting it with different types of milk, like oat milk, coconut milk, or even horchata.
  • Try a variety of different sweeteners like simple syrup, honey, or maple syrup.
  • Add lemon juice and sweetener to make a version of the popular Algerian drink, mazagran.
  • Cold brew concentrate is also great for adding a potent blast of coffee flavor when making cocktails. Pair it with bourbon, vodka, or liqueurs like triple sec and amaretto.
  • Chocolate desserts get a real boost from adding a touch of coffee to the recipe.
  • Add it to smoothies for a morning caffeine boost.
  • Add a scoop of ice cream to make a float or blend it to make a milkshake.

Insider’s takeaway

With a little foresight, cold brew can easily be made at home for a fraction of the price of cold brew purchased at cafes or grocery stores. Best of all, making it yourself gives you control over all of the brewing variables, which means you can make it exactly to your taste. Make a large batch at a time and store it in the fridge for up to two weeks.

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