If you’re like us, you can drink iced coffee 365 days a year. Whether it’s with oat milk and cinnamon, a splash of flavored creamer, or just black over ice, cold coffee hits the spot most mornings — even if you’re sitting by the space heater while drinking it.
And we can bet you’re also hoping to cut back on those $7 lattes (seriously, coffee shops, what gives) and do some home brewing to save money. While you could go for pre-bottled coffee concentrate from the grocery store, making your own cold brew is shockingly easy. In fact, you probably already have all the supplies you need for a DIY batch of cold brew.
Here’s how to make cold brew coffee overnight with just 5 minutes of prep time.
Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee
We’re going to focus exclusively on how to make cold brew coffee in this article, mainly because making iced coffee results in a slightly less coffee-shop-worthy bev.
Cold brew uses cold water instead of hot for the brewing method. It’s more of a steeping process, really, and it results in a less bitter, less acidic, smoother cup of coffee. It’s an overnight process with a total time of 12-24 hours, but the prep takes just a few minutes (and is arguably easier than hot coffee brewing).
Iced coffee, on the other hand, uses hot water in the brewing process. It’s regular coffee that is either cooled down or poured over ice. This relatively quick method can result in the retention of acidity — a plus for those who like those nuanced flavors — but it can also skew on the watery side.
Though iced coffee could work if you want your drink immediately (we get it), prepping a batch of cold brew the night before you need it can result in up to a week’s worth of coffee. You’ll end up with a stronger beverage that holds up well to milk, creamer, flavored syrups, and ice joining the party.
How to Make Cold Brew Coffee
Making cold brew coffee is shockingly simple. You put ground coffee in a container, cover it with water, and leave it overnight before straining out the grounds. While you can use a cold brew coffee maker, you likely have everything you need in your kitchen already. We’re a fan of using what you have instead of clogging up your kitchen with another tool.
Here’s what you need.
- Large Mason jar, pitcher, or 4-cup container
- Cheesecloth, fine mesh strainer, paper coffee filters, or paper towel
- Fine mesh strainer
- Grinder (optional if you get them ground when you buy them)
- Measuring cup
You’ve got options for this cold brew recipe! A large Mason jar with a lid tends to work well as a vessel to let your coffee steep. A pitcher or tall, narrow container works well too. If you have a French press, you’ll eliminate the need for a strainer since you can do this whole process right in the French press.
Our recipe will yield 4 cups of liquid, but you can easily adjust the ratios of this recipe to work for a smaller container.
For the filter, you’ve also got options. A cheesecloth or nut milk bag both fit the bill, but most coffee lovers already have paper filters. And if you have none of this, we can bet you’ve got some paper towels, so use a couple of those instead if needed.
Now for the grinding process — we love freshly grinding our coffee beans right before using them for the best flavor. When you grind coffee beans, you release their oils, which is where a cup of coffee gets its depth and burst of flavor. After grinding, the oils begin to dry out and the flavor can go stale.
But if you aren’t ready to invest in a coffee grinder, just buy whole beans and ask to have them ground at the coarsest setting. Just explain that you’re making cold brew, and they’ll know what to do.
- 1 cup whole coffee beans (82 grams)
- 4 cups of filtered water (946 milliliters)
Selecting the type of coffee beans isn’t too hard for cold brew. Medium and dark roasts work really well for this method. Light roasts might taste a bit weak, so we’d avoid them. Make sure your beans are still fresh — opened bags of whole beans last for about 2-4 weeks.
When you grind your beans, choose a coarse grind — the one you’d use for French press coffee.
In this very laid-back DIY process, there is one major don’t: Do not buy pre-ground coffee beans from the grocery store. They are ground much finer to work for drip coffee, not cold brew. If all you have on hand is pre-ground beans, make sure you have a strong straining method. You’ll likely want to double-strain your brew too or you’ll be drinking gritty coffee.
Finally, use cold water — this is cold brew after all! Filtered water works best to eliminate any funky tastes tap water can bring to the table.
We use a 1:4 ratio for our cold brew. One part coffee, 4 parts water. This recipe will yield four 8-ounce cups of coffee.
You can double it easily for a big batch: 2 cups of coffee beans, 8 cups of water. Most large Mason jars only hold about 3 1/2 cups of water, so you can try about 3/4 cup beans to 3 cups water too.
The recipe comes out almost like a cold brew concentrate — it’s pretty strong and can easily be diluted with ice, milk, and water to reach your desired taste. If in doubt, scale your amount of water down and keep the beans the same. You can always dilute too-strong iced coffee, but you can’t fix a watery batch.
Okay, it’s go time! This is the best cold brew coffee method and arguably the simplest:
- Grind 1 cup of beans on the coarsest setting.
- Pour your cup of ground coffee in a Mason jar.
- Pour about half of the water in the jar, enough to saturate the coffee grounds. Give it a stir if needed so there are no dry spots.
- Pour the rest of your 4 cups of water in the jar and cover it with a lid, plastic wrap, or foil.
- Leave it overnight at room temperature or in the fridge. It could be ready in as little as 12 hours, and you can leave it for up to 24 hours. Give it a taste after 12 and take it out when you deem it ready. The longer it steeps, the stronger it’ll taste.
- Place a fine mesh sieve over a bowl lined with cheesecloth, a coffee filter, or paper towels. Pour the cold brew into the bowl to strain it.
- Serve it in a glass over ice and enjoy! Keep the rest in the fridge for up to a week.
French Press Method
We mentioned that you can do all of this in French press instead of the supplies we list. If you’re going down that route, simply push the plunger to the bottom after 12-24 hours to strain your coffee, and you’re done!
What to Add to Cold Brew Coffee
This batch of cold brew is extremely versatile! It holds up well to adding milk, flavor syrups, ice, and even water if it’s too strong.
Here are some things to add your cup of cold brew:
- Cold foam: Make a version of Starbucks cold foam by frothing heavy cream, milk, and sweetener with a hand frother or blender. We like to add vanilla extract and a squeeze of maple syrup to the mix and then top with some flaky salt for an explosion of flavors.
- Vanilla bean cold brew: Get exact measurements for adding vanilla flavoring to this same cold brew recipe.
- Caramel: A drizzle of caramel on the sides of the cup combined with some full-fat dairy milk makes for a caramel macchiato vibe.
- Nut milk: Cold brew pairs nicely with the versatile nutty flavors of almond milk, hazelnut milk, cashew milk, and macadamia nut milk. Choose your fave!
- Oat milk: It’s the most popular type of milk right now for a reason! Add a generous splash of oat milk to your cold brew for a slightly sweeter cow’s milk dupe.
- Vietnamese cold brew: This recipe for a Vietnamese twist on cold brew uses condensed milk and a special filter called a phin.
- Coffee ice cubes: Use some leftover hot coffee or a bit of your cold brew to make coffee ice cubes. No dilution over here!
- Simple syrup: For a bit of sugar without the grainy texture, make some simple syrup (all you need is sugar, water, and five minutes)! You can add vanilla, lavender, rose, or cinnamon for a coffee shop taste. Adventurous coffee drinkers can even try mint, rosemary, or orange blossom simple syrup.
Bring the Coffee Shop Home
Whether you’re cooling off on a sweltering day or sitting by the fire to stay warm while sipping your iced drink, knowing how to make cold brew is a vital skill for coffee lovers. Not only do you save money and a trip to the coffee shop, but you get to customize the drink to your exact preferences.
If you liked this simple cold brew recipe and want to do something harder, try our nitro cold brew recipe next.