Cold Brew Coffee

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Cold Brew Coffee -- easy to make and so smooth

As far as I’m concerned, coffee should be piping hot or iced cold. There’s no middle ground for my dad either. Throughout the hot days of summer, he never thinks to reheat a cup of Joe once it has lost its steamy edge. He simply reaches for the ice cubes. Instant iced coffee!

Of course, not everyone perks up at the thought of cold coffee. As it cools, coffee brewed the traditional way can become quite bitter. An easy cold brew process remedies this, however, and the result is a robust yet smooth drink that can be adjusted to the preferred strength with milk, cream, or water.

It turns out that coffee slowly brewed in cold water is less acidic than its hot-brewed counterpart. Instead of bitterness there’s a subtle sweetness, yet the fresh aroma is still complex and inviting.

Conveniently, the following method creates a concentrate that can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week and poured directly over ice when a craving arises. Simply add water, milk, creamer, flavored syrups, or other add-ins you enjoy. With a little experimenting, you can develop your own custom brew that rivals any coffeehouse offering—with cost savings to boot.

I always sweetened iced coffee until I discovered this easy, non-bitter process. That said, I do enjoy an occasional sweet treat–a speedy homemade iced mocha. I like to add chocolate almond milk to the cold coffee base, although regular chocolate milk could be used, too. Whipped cream is optional.

I’m pretty sure my dad will stick with his easy version, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But this energetic 80-year-old, who seldom cooked when I was growing up, has surprised me on more than one occasion. He has clipped several of my recipes—from grilled chicken to chuck roast in foil–and made them with great success.

I’m proud of you, Dad…Happy Father’s Day!

Stir the grounds into the cold water and set aside...

Stir the grounds into the cold water and set aside…

12 to 24 hours later, strain using cheesecloth, a coffee filter, or with one of the other in-a-pinch tricks!

12 to 24 hours later, strain using cheesecloth, a coffee filter, or with one of the other in-a-pinch tricks!

Additional tips:

  • The recipe may easily be doubled. Strain the coffee into a large pot if you don’t have a large enough bowl.
  • A Mason jar makes a fun serving option for iced coffee.
  • For “instant” hot coffee, heat half a mugful of the base and then fill with boiling water, adjusting to preferred strength.
  • Coffee grounds are often cited as creating clogs in sinks, even when there is a garbage disposal. For this reason they are best tossed in the trash or a compost pile.
  • Granular sugar doesn’t readily dissolve in cold beverages.  If you prefer to sweeten your iced coffee with sugar, simple syrup is a good option.  Simply heat equal parts sugar and water in a small saucepan until the sugar dissolves.  Cool and store in a jar in the fridge.


Cold Brew Coffee -- easy to make and so smooth

If you enjoy flavored creamers, I highly recommend the following 3-ingredient Homemade French Vanilla Coffee Creamer

Homemade French Vanilla Coffee Creamer

…and Vanilla Simple Syrup provides an easy way to replicate store-bought syrups at home.

Cold Brew Coffee
This easy process creates a base that can be diluted with water or milk for your favorite cold coffee drinks.  Filtered or bottled water may be used, but if your tap water tastes good, go ahead and use it. That's what I do.

Yields slightly under 1 quart of coffee base.
  • 1 cup ground coffee beans (medium to coarse grind)
  • 4 cups cold water
  1. Add the ground coffee and cold water to a large bowl or pitcher.  Stir to combine.  Cover, and allow the mixture to sit at room temperature for at least 12 hours but no more than 24 hours.  You may refrigerate, if preferred.
  2. Set a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl, and place a coffee filter or several layers of cheesecloth in the strainer (see notes).  Slowly, pour the coffee mixture into the lined strainer.  The coffee will take some time to drip through.  If using a coffee filter, you will have to pour in batches so as not to overflow the filter.
  3. Once all of the coffee has filtered through the strainer, discard the grounds (or add to a compost pile). Store the coffee base, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.  To serve, pour the cold coffee base over ice and dilute with water or milk as desired.  A one-to-one ratio is a good starting point; feel free to adjust and/or add sweetener of choice.
  • Cheesecloth may allow a little bit of coffee sediment to slip through, but the end result will still be good.  One friend told me that she has used an old–clean!–knee high nylon as a strainer.  A very thin old tea towel or even sturdy paper towels could be used in a pinch.  If you have a drip coffee machine, you may place a filter in the basket and strain the coffee directly into the coffee pot below.
The Fountain Avenue Kitchen

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  1. Erin

    I made this and steeped for just short of 24 hours. It turned out so well — less bitter and not as acidic for sure. Thank you!

  2. Pingback: The Fountain Avenue Kitchen – Nutella Iced Latte

  3. Joanne

    I forgot how much I liked this last summer! Just made a batch overnight. So easy and a nice afternoon treat, mixed with a little Hershey syrup and skim milk!

    1. Ann Post author

      Mmmmm…I love the chocolate syrup and milk addition and could drink a glass right now! So glad you remembered this from last summer, Joanne!

  4. Janette

    I’ve been making this all summer long! I use flavored coffee though. I keep a bottle of caramel coffee and a bottle of decaf hazelnut in the fridge all the time. I made a vanilla syrup to sweeten it.