Like most other millennials, I am a big fan of cold brew coffee. Sadly, it's not exactly commonplace where I live in Berlin. Every now and then, I come across a cafe with iced coffee on the menu, but because Germans love espresso (like, a lot), it's usually just that poured over ice. To my taste buds, this so-called "iced coffee" is harsh, acidic, and bitter—a far cry from the subtly sweet, smooth deliciousness of a good cold brew. If I want to truly get my fill, I have to make it myself.
Thankfully, you don't need any fancy equipment to make your own cold brew right at home. According to coffee experts, all you do need are some good beans, water, and a little patience. I used their tips and tricks to make a batch of the icy stuff to help me survive this summer, and it turned out pretty great. Here's everything I learned during the process, plus all the info you need to try it out yourself.
You can use any beans you like.
One of the biggest misconceptions about coffee is that different beans have different purposes. An espresso is an espresso not because of the beans, but because of the process and machinery you use to make it. "When it comes down to it, you can use any coffee for any brew method," Michael Phillips, director of cafe experience at Blue Bottle Coffee, tells SELF. So the type of coffee bean you use for your cold brew is entirely dependent on your personal taste.
Grind them coarsely for best results.
"Filtering out the coffee grinds from your brew can sometimes be difficult, so it's a good idea to grind the coffee on the really coarse end of the spectrum," Todd Carmichael, CEO and Co-Founder of La Colombe, tells SELF.
If you don't have a coffee grinder, you can usually have your beans ground at the cafe or store where you bought them—Whole Foods and Trader Joe's both provide grinders with plenty of different settings, just be sure to set it to the coarsest one available. Since I don't have a coffee grinder, I went to Five Elephant, a coffee roastery and cafe in my neighborhood, where the baristas were more than happy to grind my beans for me.
Despite it's icy name, you should actually brew it at room temperature.
Great news: There's no need to take up tons of fridge space with a giant pitcher of coffee. "It's a common misconception that you brew [cold brew] by using cold water and storing it in the fridge," Carmichael explains. He says that it'll turn out better if you combine coffee grinds with room-temperature water, and then enjoy it over ice when it's finished.
The coffee-to-water ratio you use depends on how strong you like your coffee, but a good starting recipe is 1 part coffee to 8 parts water.
"One of the great things about cold brewing is how forgiving the process is," says Phillips. If you end up making it too strong, you can totally dilute it with water without compromising its quality. In fact, a lot of people prefer to make a cold brew concentrate so that they have a smaller amount of coffee to store.
However, if you'd prefer to be able to drink your cold brew without having to dilute it, Carmichael says that you should rely on a ratio of 1 part coffee to 8 parts water, measured by weight. If you don't have a kitchen scale, Phillips says you can use 3 tablespoons of coffee per 6 ounces of water and expect the same results.
Combine the grounds and the water in a pitcher or jar and let it stand anywhere from 8 to 24 hours.
How long to brew cold brew is a topic that's hotly debated in the coffee community. Phillips recommends letting it sit for 12 to 24 hours, while Carmichael says that 8 to 12 hours should be more than enough to get the job done. Personally, I let it sit for 24 hours and the results were fantastic, but it certainly wasn't easy to wait that long (hours of Westworld got me through it). If you don't think you'll be able to wait as long as I did, you definitely don't have to—the final product just might not be as strong. Feel free to experiment with different brew times and see which one produces the flavor you like the most.
Filtering out the coffee is where things get a little tricky.
Phillips says the easiest way to filter the coffee is to use a method that allows you to simply lift the grinds out of the liquid. Blue Bottle sells a device designed just for this purpose and you can buy it here.
If you're not super committed to regularly brewing cold brew and would rather not make such an investment, you can filter the coffee out by pouring it through a cheese cloth or a coffee filter into a separate pitcher. You may need to use more than one coffee filter, depending on how large your batch is. Know in advance that it moves really slowly—one drip at a time—so it'll take a little while. Another option is a French press: Just brew in the carafe and then press when it's done steeping.
And that's it!
Bottle up your cold brew to give as a gift, turn it into cold brew ice cubes, or add ice cream for the perfect summertime treat with a kick. Now that you know how to make your own excellent iced coffee, the possibilities are endless.