Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee

By Matthew Yglesias


I like coffee, but I love iced coffee, especially since I learned how to cold-brew it at home. This requires a bit more advance planning than turning your coffee machine on in the morning, but it’s much more flavorful than a hot-brewed coffee and since normal people’s coffee consumption follows a predictable pattern (it’s morning, I want coffee) it’s not hard to plan ahead.

What you need to do is fill a pitcher with a mixture of water and coffee (if you’re grinding your own, aim for a coarse grind) in a ratio of about 1 cup of coffee to about 4.5 cups of water. Stir it up to mix, and stick it in the fridge for, ideally, a 12 hour overnight brew. In the morning, strain the mixture. If your strainer isn’t fine-meshed enough (mine isn’t) you can supplement it with a paper coffee filter. Now you’ve got a delicious pitcher of coffee concentrate. Pour some over an ice cube and enjoy! Most authorities I’ve consulted actually suggest that you dilute the concentrate with some water or milk. I don’t, personally, find that to be necessary since the cold-brewing process leaves you with a coffee that’s all singing flavors and no acid and bitterness, but who am I to contradict the authorities if that’s how you prefer to drink it.


116 responses to “Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee

  1. Be careful: that coffee concentrate has a much higher caffeine content by volume. (As I found out, the hard way.)

  2. Its also a lot easier to drink a lot of than regular coffee. As I found out, the hard way.

  3. Quit throwing your clothes all over the place.

  4. I don’t even put it in the fridge. I just leave it on the counter top. It works just as well. If you want to dilute it, just rely on the ice cubes you put in to make it truly iced, and that should be enough. It’s good stuff. We started doing it after the NY Times had the “recipe” a couple summers ago.

  5. pomme de terre

    My old roommate used to make cold-brew coffee on our kitchen table. It was divine and it made the whole house smell good.

    I agree that it’s “coffee that’s all singing flavors and no acid and bitterness.” I don’t care for cold coffee so I’d add a bit of hot water to bring it up to a warm temperature and a splash of milk just because that’s how I like coffee.

    I am not much for kitchen gadgets and don’t really have the space for another one, but if I was in the market, I’d go for a cold coffee thingamig like my dear departed roommate* used to have.

    *He departed for grad school, not for the great beyond. Although an MFA is its own sort of spiritual and financial death, isn’t it?

  6. I don’t care for cold coffee so I’d add a bit of hot water to bring it up to a warm temperature and a splash of milk just because that’s how I like coffee.

    I’d never thought of that but, yeah, in principle instead of putting the cold brew over ice you could mix it with something hot and get hot, delicious coffee. I’ve never tried that but perhaps I should.

  7. So when you say 1 cup of coffee… is that the whole beans or the ground beans?

    mmmmmmm… Coffee

  8. I have found cold-brewed coffee makes excellent hot coffee. After you get the concentrated mix, you just dilute it to a strength you prefer (for me about 1:1) with very hot water. It is so smooth.

  9. Pingback: » Blog Archive » Make Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee [Drinks]

  10. Pingback: » Make Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee [Drinks]

  11. I think it’s easier just to make ice cubes out of leftover coffee and use that to make “ice coffee” that doesn’t get watered down when the cubes melt. Still pretty good. Maybe even easier than what you are outlining. :) I’ll have to do a side by side comparison sometime, though! :)

  12. What’s the fridge life after you cold brew?

  13. Stupid question – what temperature should the water be, ideally, when you do this?

  14. Pingback: Make Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee [Drinks] · TechBlogger

  15. If you have a french press, you could brew the coffee in it and just press the grounds down and pour when you are ready to drink it.

  16. mmmm so after this popped up on my google reader yesterday, i knew i had to try it. i’m moving soon and will be losing the free coffeemaker my roommate had.

    last night, i whipped up a half batch and this morning, i made an iced ‘latte’. this was seriously delicious! thank you IFA. not only is it delicious, you’ve pretty much saved me from cluttering up my counter with another gadget. (along with the money saved!)

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  18. Michael Smith

    Why not make a french press, put it in the fridge, and strain it in the morning. Seems even simpler…

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  20. Michael: Yes, using a French press works well to avoid messing around with strainers.

    For a really decadent twist, brew it with whole milk or single cream instead of water. The milk fat brings out the delicate flavours even more – it’s so so good. It’s also even easier to drink lots of, like db warns…

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  22. I made it last night and am truly enjoying it right now. I had no idea this could be done. Does anyone know if this method has any impact on the polyphenol/anti-oxidant content of the coffee?

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  24. This is how my parents made coffee when I was growing up– the filter filters out oils that your process does not– also can be left on the counter top as others have noted. Makes coffee concentrate that lasts 2 weeks.

  25. Im sorry to ask this again, but can someone tell me what temperature the water should be when you pour it over the grounds? I know its a dumb question, but i don’t know the answer. Thanks so much!

  26. Temp? Cold – Room Temp… realy doesn’t matter. Basically whatever temp your water is. Just don’t heat it up. Also, there’s debate about whether to brew in the fridge or at room temp. Either way works. I do room temp simply because, with two kids, there’s not a whole lot of room in the fridge.

  27. Awesome. Thanks a bunch.

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  30. Add a bit of real vanilla extract to your cold-brewed coffee when you’re finished brewing it. It doesn’t really taste of vanilla, but it gives the coffee another dimension. I put it over ice with a bit of cream. Yum.

  31. pomme de terre

    Using cold-brew coffee to make hot coffee works perfectly. You might need to experiment a bit to figure out the proportions you like, but it’s delicious. And just boiling a kettle of water is SO much easier in the morning than messing with coffee grounds and all that nonsense.

  32. Chase Saunders

    This method produces lower acid and higher antioxidants, but there is a major drawback… it uses significantly more coffee… I think I’ve heard it uses on the order of 1/3 more coffee.

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  36. Really nice. Half and half with sweetened soya. Will be using this to make iced coffee at work where we don’t have ice. Thanks so much.

  37. Wow, that’s the 1st time I can really enjoy cold coffee (well, the only exception is thai iced coffee).
    Now that I think about it … I’m sure it’ll be perfect with condensed milk :)

    Thank you a lot for that easy recipe.

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  39. I started making my coffee this way when the heat started up here in California. Since I usually don’t have the brain cells in the AM to pour liquid into a filter and wait, I make it in advance, letting it brew all day and then straining it before going to bed.

    I’ve played with the recipe and found that 2 cups of coffee grounds will makes a full gallon of iced coffee. A full pitcher lasts me 3 – 4 days and makes my mornings soooo much easier.

    In regards to “wasting” coffee or using more than when we make it hot – I think they’re wrong. I mean, do the math!

    When I make hot coffee, I follow the alton brown method: 2 tablespoons of grounds for every 6 oz cup of coffee I’m making.
    If I make a 8 “cups” (48 oz) pot = 16 tablespoons of grounds
    16 tablespoons = 1 cup

    So, when I make a full pitcher (1 gallon or 128 ounces), I’m using 32 tablespoons of coffee grounds to make 128 oz of coffee.

    Hot coffee = 16 tablespoons of grounds = 48 oz of hot coffee
    Cold Coffee = 32 tablespoons of grounds = 128 oz of cold coffee

    Now yes, I understand that you lose some water from the grounds soaking in the cold water for so long….but that “soakage” wouldn’t take up THAT much.

    I think the thing is that we forget the correlation between tablespoons and cups. It doesn’t seem that much when you’re using that little “2 tablespoon scoop” that comes with coffee makers. Put in 8 scoops and hit on. Never mind that you just put a CUP of grounds in that coffee maker.

    OK, now that I’ve successfully labelled myself a coffee geek, I’ll get off my soapbox.

  40. I was so excited to see a post about coffee concentrate! I’m totally addicted to this stuff called Cool Brew.. it’s coffee concentrate with chicory that you just mix with milk and/or water. It’s so much cheaper than going to starbucks every morning, and they even have decaf!

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  49. I’m guessing that Allie is either a New Orleanian or a Cool Brew shill. ;) Cool Brew started appearing in NOLA groceries five or so years ago, but I wasn’t that impressed. As a Louisianian, my family had been making cold-brew coffee since I was a little girl, first using various straining methods (cheese cloths, muslin) and then later with a Toddy. The Toddy’s filter is great. If you soak it in brandy between strainings, the taste is even more sublime. ;)

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  51. Soaking the toddy filter in brandy? Wow…

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  59. You guys are all very funny… :P

    In Greece we have three kind of INSTANT cold coffee. Frappé (which means “shaken” in french), Freddo Cappuccino and Freddo Espresso. All of them consumed for many years (especially Frappé)! Actually my main problem when traveling abroad is finding cold coffee.. That… “thing” you describe is not ice coffee, it’s just a joke and a poor substitute for real ice coffee… Whenever in Greece, ask for any of the coffees I mentioned and you’ll see what cold coffee is…

    Excuse my “arrogance”. I don’t usually like to brag about my country, quite contrary actually, but in the particular subject, Greeks are actually one step ahead many years ago… Sorry :)

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  61. Chris: I have to disagree! I haven’t had the Greek brands, so I don’t know for sure, but I’ve had shaken instant coffee in a couple of other countries (Italy, Australia) and it was a totally different drink from this kind of iced coffee.

    Calling our kind of iced coffee a “poor substitute” for yours is like calling Brie a poor substitute for Philadelphia cheese – they’re both good cheeses, and neither is a substitute for the other.

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  69. Brewing some as we speak. I think my batch is going to be way to strong though. I used 5 cups of water and about 1.25 cups of coffee. Will be interesting to see how this turns out tomorrow morning.

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  75. I have my own iced coffee recipe, please go check it out, comment and follow me on my DIY journey.

  76. I have my own iced coffee recipe, please go check it out, comment and follow me on my DIY journey.

  77. Why go through the trouble. I’ve been using CoolBrew forever. It totally Rocks!

  78. This is a great alternative to using the Toddy system. Lots of people use dark roasted coffee in a drip-brew since it’s smoother and has less acidity, but if you’re cold brewing, you might want to try a medium or light roast since cold brewing makes a smoother brew anyway.

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  82. I wonder how this would taste carbonated? Add some dry ice just before imbibing, and it might be tasty.

  83. My mom clipped me an article about this when I was in highschool because regular coffee started irritating my stomach (i.e., I would have a cup of coffee, then spend half the day moaning in bed). My reaction to coffee was so severe that I went from drinking 3-5 cups a day to no coffee for the past 12 years. I’ve yet to get around to trying this method, although I find it very intriguing. The prospect of making frou-frou iced coffee drinks efficiently is tempting, but I’m still apprehensive.

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  85. I have used cold brewed coffee for 40 years and it makes both great hot and cold coffee. I drink iced coffee almost exclusively now.

    The best quick iced coffee is made by mixing 2-3 heaping teaspoons of instant coffee, caf and/or decaf to your taste, and one pink sweetener in a 12 oz. glass. Add a little water to melt the coffee, some ice cubes and fill the rest with lo-fat milk.

    An alternative is to make ice cubes from cold drip coffee and add milk.

  86. I just found out the hard way that concentrated decaf coffee still has a lot of caffeine in it.

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  89. Any recommendations about the brand or type of coffee to use? I’m very fond of Starbuck’s iced coffee, but they use a blend called Terazza that they don’t sell to the public. I would love to find a substitute, but I’ll consider any suggestion on coffe types or blend. It does seem that a mild blend would work better than bold one.

  90. I’ve been doing this kind of thing for years. I recommend a finer ground of coffee, btw. I use 1/4 pound whole bean Peet’s Ethiopian (or Guatemalan). Grind it up and dump into a one gallon container with lid. Fill with good cold tap or filtered water. Leave on counter for 24 hours or so. I then pour in batches into French press and finally pour that through a conical gold-mesh filter placed in the “mouth” of a glass pitcher. Optional paper filter inside, depending on personal pref. It’s much faster than it sounds.

    The finer ground can be used cause you filter it. That means less coffee. The coffee types I mentioned are “fruitier” and a bit more acid. They bring a really lovely citrus tasted to the ice coffee.

    To serve, I generally shake in a martini shaker with ice, a bit of heavy cream for texture and Splenda. Served up.

  91. Is there a recommended way to cold brew and heat for hot coffee? (I like the lack of acidity of cold)

    Our block loves coffee – I’d like to share this with neighbors.


  92. And in the process they’ll likely render several legit, paid for installations useless. This is why DRM is bad.

  93. Pingback: Matthew Yglesias » Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee

  94. I have done this for several years. The coffee doesn’t matter too much…some like Vietnamese blends best. I just use plain old Community. The one to 4 or 4.5 ratio works great. Filtered tap water. Jar. The simpler and less involved, the better. Just let it sit.

    One word of warning – a cup of coffee soaked turns into a LOT of grounds. It isn’t like making a pot of coffee. You will not succeed pouring a quart through a paper or fine mesh filter in one pass. I suggest pouring it through a regular strainer once, then mesh filter and then paper. Toss the grounds in your yard.


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  97. Comrade Rutherford

    “no acid and bitterness”

    I have never had that problem in the years I’ve been drinking coffee.

    First, don’t drink crappy coffee. If it comes is a can, is pre-ground, and has a brand name you’ve seen on TV, then it’s crappy.

    Second, don’t drip (or especially don’t percolate!)

    Third, use a stove-top espresso maker, the ones that have water in the bottom section, coffee in the middle and a catch basin in the top section. I have a stainless steel one of those.

    Buy whole beans, grind only enough for that one maker, use the stove-top espresso maker and you’ll never, ever have an acidic or bitter cup again.

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  99. I’ll have to write about that, I have a pretty good recipe. Coffee slush puppie is pretty good in combo with a mudslide.

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  103. 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream and fill with cold brew coffee…sit back and watch the fish jump in the lake.

  104. I’ve been cold-brewing for a couple of years now and am happier than ever with the resulting drinks.

    I’d like to know the caffeine content of my drink and have no idea where to begin in the calculations.

    I put 1 part coffee to 4 parts water into my French Press. I then leave it for 12hrs at room temperature. After plunging the press, I filter it through paper and store it in the fridge. Every morning I make an iced coffee with 150ml of coffee, 300ml milk, and 7-10 ice cubes. How can I go about measuring the caffeine content of that 150ml of coffee concentrate?

  105. Thank you! The French press has been sitting idle for a while now… I have bladder issues due to a couple rocking bad infections a couple of years ago and as a result, anything acidic makes my bladder hurt. I’m hoping that this will bring me back to the land of the coffee! We’re brewing a pot now… will give it a try in the morning.

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  113. Wow, you drink it straight? I’m not man enough for that. I like to take it with some ice, chocolate syrup, condensed milk or caramel, milk and blend it. Starbucks lost a customer the day I learned to make cold press.

    That said, the caffeine does sneak up on you. I accidentally drank too much when nursing my second and boy was he cranky!

  114. Awesome post it is without doubt. My girlfriend has been searching for this tips.

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