Ahhh … cold-brew concentrate. The perfect iced coffee. Deep, rich, cool, and creamy. Even a little … chocolaty? There’s just nothing like it. Here’s how to make cold brew coffee.
And, guess what? It’s so easy (and inexpensive!) to make cold brew concentrate at home.
I’ve been making my cold brew iced coffee at home for years now, and through lots of trial and error, I think I’ve pretty much got it down.
After trying it several different ways, I settled upon this cold brew concentrate method. It’s basically a magical way to brew coffee into pure deep-roast goodness without any of that shiver-inducing, bitter acidity. Pure mild-tasting – but potent – goodness.
Cold Brew Concentrate Ratio
The cold brew ratio for concentrate is so simple. It’s simply 1 part ground coffee beans to 4 cups water. Done! The cold brew ratio for straight-up cold brew (not concentrate) is 1 part ground coffee beans to 8 cups water.
Okay, here’s a little more info.
“Cold brew” really means room temperature, by the way. The first time I tried it, I put my jar of grounds and water into the fridge. (I do silly things, and then I share them here so that you don’t have to.)
Cold brewed iced coffee results in a delicious, potent elixir which, if you’re not careful, could give you a seriously surprising caffeine jolt. Start slowly! I’m serious – the extreme jitters are no fun, and trust me – I’ve been there. This concentrate is meant to be mixed with an equal amount of water and poured over a glass packed with ice.
Ready? Let’s do this!
How to Make Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate
Step 1: Pick Great Coffee Beans
You want good beans for your cold brew! No weak blondes here. Go for a robust, medium to dark roast. My very favorite beans for iced coffee come from a local chain, Cafe Ladro (which you can actually find on Amazon! [affiliate link]) Their Ladro Blend is big and bold, but still uber-smooth and chocolaty. It makes the perfect cold-brewed iced coffee.
Step 2: Grind Your Beans Just Right
Take one cup of beans and grind them. Go for a medium-to-large grind – not too fine. Preferably, you can grind your beans at home for the freshest, most flavorful result – but if you need to have them ground at the store or coffee shop, you’ll still be in good shape.
Step 3: Just Add Water and Stir
Place the grounds in a 40-ounce or larger jar or pitcher with airtight lid, and add 4 cups cool water. I like to use one of my big 2-quart mason jars (affiliate link). Preferably filtered, but if you don’t have it, no biggie. And then stir! The grounds and water need to be good and stirred together to get the everything flowing.
Step 4: Let it Steep at Room Temperature
Put the lid on the jar or pitcher and sit it somewhere on your kitchen counter, out of direct sunlight. And let it sit overnight (at least 6 hours), or up to 12 hours.
Step 5: Strain Your Cold Brew Concentrate
I’ve strained my iced coffee a gazillion ways, and I suppose every single one qualifies as a hack. Here are a few ideas for how to strain cold brew coffee:
- Pour it into a French press and gently push down the plunger. Pour out the iced coffee concentrate.
- Place a coffee filter into a funnel and set the funnel over a bottle. Pour the concentrate into the funnel to strain out the grounds.
- Line a fine-mesh sieve with cheesecloth or, in a pinch, paper towels. Set it in a bowl and pour the concentrate over the sieve.
- Or, my current favorite method: use a nut milk bag (affiliate link). I’ve been using the same fine-mesh bag I use for making almond milk, and it’s the easiest method I’ve found, by a mile. Note: a reader mentioned that pantyhose works as a great stand-in for nut-milk bags. I can see how they would work perfectly, but … well, hey, it’s an option, right?!
Step 6: Drink!
The best part! Pour 1/2 cup iced coffee concentrate and 1/2 cup water over a glass of ice or coffee ice cubes. Add cream and a little sweetener, if desired. Stir, plop in a straw, and enjoy the good (caffeinated) life.
I also really enjoy this concentrate straight-up, without water – it tastes incredible and has quite the jolt of caffeine, so I do have to take it easy.
Your cold-brew should keep in an airtight container or jar in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Cold Brew Concentrate Ideas & Enhancements
Once you’ve enjoyed a few iced coffees, you might be in the mood to shake it up. Here are a few ideas for your cold-brewed iced coffee concentrate including DIY coffee syrups to spice it up and more:
- Cinnamon Dolce Iced Coffee
- Orange Spiced Iced Coffee
- Vanilla Iced Coffee
- Maple Vanilla Iced Coffee
- Pumpkin Spice Iced Coffee
- Drizzle a little of this Homemade Chocolate Syrup into a glass. So good!
- Try coffee ice cubes – no more watered-down coffee!
- And try my favorite non-dairy creamer alternatives: 3-ingredient coconut coffee creamer, DIY almond milk coffee creamer or DIY cashew milk coffee creamer.
- Or just head on over to this post about 10 different ways to upgrade your iced coffee for just about every level-up cold brew concentrate idea you can think of!
And here’s the actual recipe and handy-dandy print option if you’d like.
How to Make Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee Concentrate
- 1 cup coffee beans (coarsely ground)
- 4 cups room temperature water
- Add the grounds and the water to a 40-ounce or larger jar or pitcher with airtight lid. Stir. Put the lid on and put the jar/pitcher somewhere out of the way on your kitchen counter, out of direct sunlight.
- Let it sit for at least 6 hours, up to 12.
- Line a fine-mesh sieve with a couple of layers of cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Pour the water and grounds over the strainer and discard grounds.
- Pour the iced coffee concentrate into an airtight jar or pitcher and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. It will keep for up to one week.
- To make iced coffee, fill a glass with ice and add 1/2 cup coffee concentrate and 1/2 cup water. Add cream/sweetener as desired and serve.
this sounds like super starter to iced coffee…by starter I mean of course I’d have to add all the extras (sugar, cream, flavors)
Absolutely! Make it your own. 🙂
I love Cafe Ladro. There’s one I used to pass when I walked to the market. I miss all the good coffee now that I’ve moved away.
Another that you might try that is big and bold but so smooth is called Tough as Nails. I forget who the roaster is but I used to get the beans at Whole Foods or Metropolitan Market. It makes such a nice cup!
Thanks for sharing this! I’ll have to give it a go!
Thanks, Lauren! I’ll have to keep my eye out for Tough as Nails. Great name, too!
I may need to try this method. I’ve been doing Pioneer Woman’s method forever. My husband is the iced coffee addict in the family. I just put maybe 2 cups of ground coffee in the bottom of a 2-gallon pitcher of water and let it sit in the fridge for at least a day. Then strain using a fine strainer and paper towels. It’s a mess, though. Maybe if I can get it concentrated, it won’t be such a hassle.
Side note: You know what’s really fun? Mix up your iced tea and iced coffee pitchers! Makes for great iced tea with milk shenanigans.
If your coffee is already ground, what measurement would you use? I want to try this method, but I always grind all my beans when I buy a bag.
I’ve measured both ways and for me, it pretty much comes out to a cup whether the beans are whole or ground. If they’re ground more finely, the measurement might be off … but I’d suggest just starting with a coarse grind and trying a cup of it – then just adjust next time depending on your tastes. 🙂
Can I get the name or link of the pitcher you are using to store the strained concentrate?
Hi Ryan, that is a Takeya carafe. We picked up a two-pack at Costco a couple of years ago and the things have gotten tons of use! Here’s a link to Takeya’s web site: http://www.takeyausa.com/p-76-airtight-pitcher-2-qt.aspx
How long can you keep the coffee one you strain it? 8 cups of much more than I’ll need in a day.
Hi Mary, I keep it in the fridge for up to a week. I definitely wouldn’t recommend drinking it all in one day – good call. 🙂
I would love to try this! Question though, can I tame the concentrate and add the water all at once to the pitcher (as opposed to mixing it glass by glass)? Or will it effect the flavor/shelf life of the coffee? Thanks!
Oops! That was supposed to say make, not “tame”
How would you go about adding a bit of sweetness to it.? I’m assuming just sugar or possibly brown sugar. How much would be needed and how would you incorporate it? Would it just be poured in and steeped with it or would it need to be dissolved before hand in some hot water?
Hi Ginny, I just add it to each glass as I make it. I use a little bit of sugar, brown sugar, a flavored coffee syrup, or (my favorite) pure maple syrup if I’m craving something a little sweeter. The sugar dissolves easily with a bit of stirring. I’ve also heard of people using sweetened condensed milk which adds creamy+sweet in one swoop.
Hey Karen, rather than mixing the concentrate 1:1 with water could you mix it straight with milk in a 1:1 ratio? Also, i’m thinking of adding cinnamon, do you have any idea of how much I should use per cup? Thanks!
Hi Rich, yes, absolutely – that would be delicious. Or you can skip diluting it altogether – just beware the caffeine kick! You could either steep the mix with a cinnamon stick (Love the cinnamon idea and I am trying this soon! 🙂 or personally I’d go easy with maybe 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon per glass then add more from there if I wanted.
I followed the recipe exactly using extra dark French Roast high quality beans and it came out pretty bad
… very watery. I even tried drinking the coffee without diluting it and it still wasn’t good
Sorry to hear that! If you want to try it again, maybe try a finer grind and be sure to stir well after adding the grounds.
Hi! Just had my first cup of condensed cold brewed coffee following this recipe, and WOW. Thank you so much for posting it, you just saved me a ton of money otherwise spent at Starbucks. (I added half and half and agave to mine, and it blows their caramel machiatto away.)
I cannot thank you enough for this recipe.
Over the past 4 days, I have used this concentrate in lattes, a choc-coffee-banana milkshake and the iced coffee(OBVIOUSLY)
This is so helpful in getting my coffee done quickly.
And it’s going to save me tons of money this summer too 😀
Thank you !
My pleasure! There’s nothing like cold-brew!!!
Thank you for sharing! I have 2 questions for you…
1. I’ve read that rather than mixing the ground coffee into the water you can put the grinds into the nut milk bag, place that in your container and then cover with water….let it steep and then “squeeze” it out the next day. Have you ever tried this method?
2. How fine or coarse should you grind the coffee?
Thanks so much!
Hi Jennifer! I’ve not steeped my coffee grounds in the nut milk bag, but I have tried filtering with the nut milk bag. It works well but is a bit messy to clean up. My worry with steeping the grounds in the nut milk bag is that the grounds might not be able to flow as freely and the outcome might be a bit more watery. But! I’ve not tried it myself, so I could be wrong. I grind the coffee medium to large, about breadcrumb consistency.
Great recipe! Quick question, is it 1 cup of coffee beans before you grind them, or 1 cup of the ground coffee?
One cup before grinding. Although I have measured both ways and it comes out roughly the same! Enjoy. 🙂
What is the carafe you filter your coffee concentrate into?! Looks so cute and perfect size to keep in fridge . . . and easier to pour from than a mason.
The easiest way to make coffee concentrate,,& I have tried them all.
I have been making my coffee concentrate by using a 1/2 gallon container wit a lid… steeping 2 C. coffee that has been put in a strainer bag in 1 1/2 quarts of cool water..leaving from 12- 18 hours on the counter. After the time has elapsed, I pull the bag out of the water, let it drip for a few seconds and It is finished. Fill the container with …..I prefer sugarless flavored coffee creamer (French Vanilla or Italian Sweet Cream) Or half & half and sugar to taste. Make sure to cover tight & refrigerate (keeps up to 10 days refrigerated) also make sure to pour this over a glass of ice…this concentrate is very smooth & very strong & VERY DELICIOUS. I always have it ready in the refrigerator and serve to friends . Its better than any I have bought from any coffee house…friends & family agree (100% of those that have tasted it). Feel free to experiment with the flavors, I sometimes add chocolate syrup to it and that is is big hit as well. Enjoy !
P.S…my strainer bag is simply a nylon wine bottle gift bag and I use Costco’s Kirkland brand of coffee
You say to let the mixture sit for 6 to 12 hours. Can I let it sit longer? If I make it at noon say and then strain the next morning (18+ hours)
Thanks for sharing this recipe!!
I haven’t tried letting it sit that long so I can’t say for sure. As far as I know (but I’m not a scientist) once you hit the 12 hour mark at normal room temperatures you may run into an issue of bacteria growing. Perhaps if you try refrigerating it while it sits? Let me know how it turns out!
We always put our cold brew in the fridge and let it steep for 12-24 hours. It started as just a way to remember to do it – when it’s gone in the morning, we just start the next one and let it brew until the next morning. There is a taste difference between brewing for 12 and 24 hours, it’s definitely more rich and tastes better when it’s brewed longer.
One more submit for the filtering – large commercial size paper filters. If you have a Toddy, they work really well and you don’t have to worry about keeping and cleaning the small filters that come with the set. We’ve used paper for smaller batches too.
Happy Cold Brewing! This is a great guide.
Hi Karen: I use 8o’clock coffee. 8oz.’s coffee to 14cups of filtered water. Stir really well, put the lid on and let it sit somewhere out of direct sunlight. I use a 1 gallon glass jar by the way. Now, I don’t know about bacteria but, I let my coffee rest for 48 hours. I put cheese cloth over the jar, place a rubber band on it and simply pour the coffee into a Sun Tea jar b/c it has a spout. I don’t drink Ice Tea but, drink this with Cold Stone Sweet Cream creamer (Hot) and you will think that you went to heaven. ENJOY EVERYBODY!!!! P.S. Just rinse the cheese cloth and reuse.
Hey Karen: I never thought about Bacteria before. Perhaps if anyone wants to try my method they should put the coffee on a counter for 12 hours then, put in the fridge for another day. What do you think? Just to be safe. Dale.
My question is…. why was it bad to do the cold brew in the fridge? You mentioned you had done it in the beginning, but learned you don’t have to, but I’m wondering if there was a taste difference for you.
I have seen up to a 72 hour brew in the fridge with other methods. I got hooked on a veitnamese cold brew at Whole Foods. Anyway i plan on washing my coffee pot well and pouring the cold brew through the permanent filter. Then, I will pour back into the mason jar and put in fridge. My first try is tonight. Doing it like a boss.
Jeanne and Frank, refrigerating the cold brew for the “brewing process” slows down the process, also you do not get as much of the robust flavor from the beans with the fridge technique. I agree with several others who brew on the counter for 18-24 hrs. I go for 24 hours and the flavor is fantastic, bold and smooth. I tend towards 2 cups of coarse ground coffee to 1.5 quarts of water.
My only recommendation is to let it steep closer to16 hours. I think 6-12 is a little on the low end.
Made this twice: first time I steeped it in the fridge overnight for about 12 hours and the concentrate was a bit weak and watered down. Second time, I let it sit on my kitchen counter in a cool shaded spot for 24 hours and the concentrate is now deep, rich, smooth and lovely tasting! Added agave and a splash of heavy cream.
When mixing water was grounds, what water temp. do U use? Cold, room temp.?
Cold water – doesn’t have to be ice cold.
Made this 2 days ago. I cup of pre-ground Kirkland Costco coffee. Let sit from 4pm (when I read the recipe) until the next day about noon. Just made an iced coffee with sugar and half and half. I am in heaven. This tastes to good.
I am thinking of putting some into an ice cube tray and then blending it into a slushy with the sugar and half and half. I would say that would be wonderful. Almost 80 degrees here in Arizona so good day for a cold drink. Thanks
love the idea of using a press to strain the coffee! i just threw some in a bucket that i will want to take care of before work in the morning, i think that will save TONS of time! thanks!
(even though this article is going on 4 years old, still. thanks! haha)
Thanks Thomas! 🙂
you made the comment that you messed up by putting mix in the fridge instead of on the counter … does that make a difference??
While I wouldn’t go so far that refrigerating it is *wrong,* I do find that when it steeps at room temp it’s stronger, darker, and more full-bodied.
Can I use 1.5 cups of coffee with 6 cups water and make in my coffee press (8 cup), or does it need the air space to do its brew thing?
That should work! Just be sure to give it a stir to get all the grounds wet. 🙂
I always sweeten my coffee with honey, usually raw spun honey, how would you go about doing it if the coffee isn’t ever hot? Maybe mix it with hot water and then cool the water?
I have one of the iced coffee brewers with the cylinder in the middle where you add your grounds.
Do you find it better to have the grounds actually in the water as one would the French press?
Thank you for the input.
I haven’t tried an iced coffee brewer so I haven’t compared – sorry!
I like this process of making the cold-brewed iced coffee concentrate. I am a coffee lover and like iced coffee. This recipe sounds me. This is perfect summer drink. It looks so delicious and I will be making your recipe. Thanks for sharing.
That container looks like the one Solvent gives you? I do the same!
How long can it safely stay in the fridge? I don’t want to look forward to it and have it be rancid!
I usually drink mine up within a couple of days because I can’t help myself, but I’d say 4-5 days is a safe bet. Though with the acid in the coffee, it might well be longer. (I did some quick research that point more to a week or even two).
Thanks for the great tips. One more thing though, could I also heat this up if I want a hot coffee?
Hmm, good question! I suppose so, though personally I would just start off with hot coffee. If you give it a try please report back!
I put 1/2c coffe consentrate and 1/2 cup cold milk with a bit of crushed ice in my GNC and give it a whirl , oh yes I also add some sugar or sugar syrup , it so yummy for an afternoon drink on a hot day
Can you freeze the concentrate? I have a recipe for coffee ice cream that only uses 1/4 cup at a time. How much concentrate does 1 cup of beans make? How much to use if I wanted to make less concentrate? I have trouble drinking cold drinks.
A friend of mine made my wife and I some cold brew concentrate. He told me it’s almost = amounts for water and coffee. I think that about sums up the potency of a good cold brew. Thanks for sharing!
I provide hot coffee for a monthly meeting of about 100 people and really dislike instant coffee. Would this recipe cover this? If it was made stronger would it be able o cope with proportionately more wate to cold coffee?
Hmm, I’ve not tried to make a more concentrated version. Interesting idea to make a big batch to serve a big group! That might be fun to have pitchers of it, ice, cream, maybe coffee syrups even for serving. If you try the more concentrated version please report back on how it worked out for you!
This recipe sounds me. I love the idea of using a press to strain the coffee, i will want to take care of before work in the morning. This is perfect summer drink. It looks so delicious and I will be making your recipe. Thanks for sharing.
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Nice easy guide.
What I find strange is that your ratios are so different from all the others.
I use the metric system since it is so much easier. 32oz/945ml (1ml=1 gram) water and 1 cup/56 grams of fresh ground coffee gives a 16.9/1 ratio which is close to perfect for regular brewed black coffee according t the Coffee Council or whatever they are called in the US. All the other guides say 4/1 for cold brewed concentrate.
That being said your recipe makes a good brew using Costco Ruanda, Costco French roast (Mexico/Guatamala, not Sumatra) and a private blend French Roast. Theory says it should be a weak brew but I’ve found it delightful here the past 3 weeks in 90 degree temps. It also costs a lot less to make since your recipe uses a lot les coffee and it does not taste over extracted.
Thank you for this recipe!! Made it yesterday and enjoying it today!! Super easy, I had to change up the straining method to a hand strainer over a filter in my coffee pot. It worked great! I will b enjoying this all summer long!!
It says 4 cups of water. Is this cold, warm, hot or boiling? Thank you
Room temp. Hope you love it!
Going to give this a shot. Thanks! Curious though, when you say “no week blonde roasts”…are we talking about flavor? I’m going to assume blonde is the same as light in this statement, and light roast indeed has more caffeine than dark roasts.
What about the PH of the water? I use 9.5 for my lattes , purified water. Are you using tap water? I hope not. Alkaline water takes out the bitterness too.
Do you use cold brew for the ice or drip or dose it matter