Cold brew is for everyone.
Read on for our expert tips on how to make the most amazing cold brew, iced coffee, and more. Just…don’t tell your barista we told you.
While we have been well acquainted and may be in love with our morning ritual of brewing coffee, there are definitely days when a nice iced coffee or cold brew sound so refreshing. As one of the most popular drink orders out there, it turns out cold brew is actually one of the easiest methods to make at home. We will dig into everything you need to know including the difference between iced coffee and cold brew, different methods to make cold brew, the best coffee to use, our favorite recipe and how to store and enjoy this beloved beverage.
The difference between iced coffee and cold brew
The main difference between iced coffee and cold brew is both time and temperature. Iced coffee is brewed via the traditional method of pouring hot water over the coffee grounds and having it drip directly over ice which rapidly cools the coffee. Alternatively, cold brew uses cool water to soak the ground over a period of many hours, extracting a more complex flavor profile.. Iced coffee typically has a light and refreshing quality to it retaining some acidity like just a squeeze of lemon, while cold brew has this dark amber richness with almost a syrupy sweet nutty quality to it.
What is cold brew?
Cold brew is made by combining fresh, coarsely ground coffee (similar to french press) and cool filtered water and set aside for 12-18 hours to extract all the incredible flavors and make a concentrate. Once filtered, the concentrate can be cut with water to your desired taste and strength and served over ice.
What is iced coffee?
Iced coffee is made similar to brewing hot coffee, we just cut the water in half and use ice to both cool it down and replace the remaining water needed for a refreshing cup.
How do they differ?
While time is a factor when deciding to make a carafe of iced coffee or go for a batch of cold brew, there is also slightly different equipment needed as well. Iced coffee can be made using the Ratio and ice for example, but cold brew you will need slightly different equipment which we will dig into. Flavor is another deciding factor - if you are into single-origin lighter roasts that highlight more acidity, making iced coffee is a great way to go. Cold brew has been sought after for being more concentrated, sweeter notes and having slightly more caffeine.
Making Cold Brew with a French Press, Mason Jar, and other methods
You heard correctly, you can make cold brew using a Mason Jar (and filter). You can also use a french press, or a sealable container and nut milk bag. Here are a few options to try depending on what you have on hand.
The French Press Method
Add 140g (about ¼ full on your french press) of freshly ground coffee (coarsely ground like you would for a French press) and 28 oz. of cool filtered water to your french press. Stir, cover and store for 12-18 hours.
The Mason Jar Method
You’ll need a wide mouth mason jar (32 or 64 oz. ) fitted with a stainless steel filter. Add fresh coarsely ground coffee into the filter, add cool filtered water and lid, then shake and set aside for 12-18 hours. This method you can strain through a paper filter or Kone as well.
The Nut Milk Bag Method
This method is similar to making tea. You’ll need a nut milk bag and a sealable container. Add fresh coarsely ground coffee to the nut milk bag, tie up the top of the bag and add to cool filtered water and simply let it soak for 12-18 hours. Once finished you will carefully and slowly remove the nut milk bag with coffee until fully strained.
Iced Coffee with the Ratio
You can make a crisp and delicious iced coffee using the Ratio.
Choosing the Best Coffee for Cold Brew
The best coffee to use for cold brew is somewhat dependent on taste preference - but being able to grind it right before will be key to giving it the best flavor. We recommend a fresh bag of beans within 7-10 days of roast date, ground coarsely (similar to raw sugar) and select a medium to medium dark roast.
Pre-ground vs whole bean
Using pre-ground coffee is not recommended because oxidation occurs immediately after it has been ground and sitting on a shelf means it has lost a ton of its flavor. Equally important, pre-ground is ground too fine - typically intended for a standard coffee brewer. Whole bean is best because you can grind it to the right level of coarseness.
Both African and Latin American origins are great for cold brew as well as blends. African origins are great if you enjoy more of a fruit profile, while Latin American can be more subtle with notes of chocolate. A blend will have a mix and bring a balanced flavor profile.
While you can choose any roast level you’d like, the medium roasts work best and can really highlight the nutty-chocolaty notes.
Cold Brew Recipes
The french press cold brew recipe is a favorite because it is extremely easy and straight-forward.
What you’ll need:
- A 34 oz. French press
- Grinder (we recommend Baratza)
- Chemex filter or Ratio Kone Filter
- 140g coarsely fresh ground coffee
- 28 oz. of filtered water
Grind, measure and add your fresh grounds to the French press, fill with filtered water and stir a few times. Cover your French press with foil or plastic wrap to really seal it up and set aside on the counter. We recommend setting a timer on your phone so you don’t forget and let your brew go more than 18 hours. Once it is finished, use the french press to plunge the grounds to the bottom, and then strain your cold brew through a Chemex or Ratio Kone filter. You are essentially creating a concentrate that you will want to dilute with water. The ratio we recommend is 1:1 meaning for one cup of concentrate, you’ll add one cup of water (or milk).
Storing Cold Brew
You will absolutely want to store your cold brew in the refrigerator and is best enjoyed for 2-3 days for maximum flavor and freshness.
Serving Cold Brew
Pour your cold brew into a chilled glass jar or glass cup over ice to really have the full experience. Cold brew can be delicious on its own, with a touch of cream, a bit of cinnamon or pumpkin spice cream.