Cold Brew Coffee for the Lazy?
September 3, 2017 6:00 PM   Subscribe

I spend too much buying cold brew coffee at cafes, but I've not had good luck learning to make it myself with one of the Toddy kits. What's the current state of the art in cold-brew coffee? Bonus points there's an easy way to make a week or two in one go (to be kept refrigerated)!

I love cold brew coffee in the morning. My bank balance, however, is not so fond of the whole affair. A few years ago I got a Toddy kit, but I was never able to get satisfied with the coffee I made with it. I'd like to save some money and start making my own -- any recommendations for coldbrew makers? Ideally I'd like to get something where I can make a week or two worth of cold brew in one go, and minimal prep/cleanup. Potential challenge: by "cup of cold brew" I mean 32+ ounces.

There's a few different options on Amazon -- I kinda like the look of the Kitchenaid, but I realize that's maybe overkill (then again I'd also look at the Toddy commercial kit and make a literal 5-gal bucket, if I knew I could get it consistently tasting good)!
posted by Alterscape to Food & Drink (25 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Put ground coffee into a cheesecloth and tie it up. Drop into a big jar of water. Stick in fridge overnight. Remove grounds in the morning. Enjoy.
posted by bunderful at 6:04 PM on September 3, 2017 [14 favorites]

Best answer: Uh, maker? Put ground coffee and water in a container in the fridge the night before and then pour it through some kind of a filter to strain out the grains in the morning. That's all it takes, you probably don't need to buy anything.
On preview, what bunderful said.
posted by rodlymight at 6:08 PM on September 3, 2017 [11 favorites]

Best answer: My current routine: Add a half-cup of coffee grounds and a pinch of baking soda to a half-gallon mason jar and fill with cold water. Refrigerate (12-24 hours). I set a metal coffee filter in a funnel, and then pour the coffee into a second half-gallon mason jar. Grounds go in the composting bin, and everything else goes into the dishwasher.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:17 PM on September 3, 2017

I pour a cup of the hot coffee I make in the morning (after I run) into a water bottle that I put in the fridge and then I drink it cold the next morning before I run, I honestly can't taste a difference between that and a cold brew method when drunk with milk and sweetener I probably should make this anonymous huh
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:24 PM on September 3, 2017 [16 favorites]

Best answer: If you're not happy with your home brewed cold brew, it probably has more to do with the coffee you're using, or the measurements. Making cold brew can be as simple as adding coffee and water into a jar, and straining it the next day.
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:28 PM on September 3, 2017 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Brew overnight in a jar. Get a fine mesh strainer, strain the coffee grinds out with that. Pour cold brew back into the jar and store in the fridge.
posted by jbenben at 6:30 PM on September 3, 2017

Best answer: I make mine in a French press. At night I add .25-.5 cups fine ground coffee to the container with water. Stick in fridge overnight. Press in the am, and drink coffee for two days. It takes me less than a minute to make every other day.

Spending money on a "cold brew" machine is absurd.
posted by KMoney at 6:32 PM on September 3, 2017 [14 favorites]

Best answer: I too use a half-gallon mason jar, with about 1 - 1 1/2 cups of medium-coarse grounds. I add enough water to wet the coffee grounds, swirl it around for a moment to let the CO2 out, then fill the jar, close it, and leave it on the counter for 24 hours.

The next day, I usually put it through a fairly fine strainer into another jar, back and forth once or twice, then pour the last pass through a coffee filter. The filter gets enough fine grounds that I'm reluctant to skip it.

I usually use this with 1/2 - 1/3 water. You could probably scale it up to a gallon or more without much trouble, though only you can say how long that will last you.

Also, you might want to stir the jar before the first straining pass -- I had a plug of coffee grounds at the top of the jar all come out at once, followed by coffee splashing everywhere. (Once.)
posted by silentbicycle at 6:33 PM on September 3, 2017

Best answer: Instead of making cold brew or buying it for $$$ at a cafe, how about buying it for $ at the grocery store? Trader Joe's sells this one for about $8 - it's a concentrate which makes 96oz when diluted - so $1 per 12oz - which is about the same cost as making your own with good quality beans.

I actually prefer this one from Stok because it's milder and I can drink it black, but it's a little more expensive, though still way cheaper than buying from a coffee shop.
posted by insectosaurus at 6:50 PM on September 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: What is your current protocol for brewing cold brew with your toddy maker? Most cafes use a similar setup to brew theirs, so it could come down to technique.

If you already have the toddy maker, I would suggest using it. Most home cold brewers are just variations on that system.

Today makers work best with a 1:4.5 ratio of coffee to water. This yields concentrate thar needs to be thinned out with water (or milk) to taste. If you drink the concentrate straight, it's pretty awful.
posted by furnace.heart at 6:52 PM on September 3, 2017

Best answer: Here's how I do it.

Picture of my cold brew equipment

The container with the blue lid is called a "batter bowl" and is basically a 2-quart measuring cup. (It's brown and opaque right now because I am, in fact, brewing cold brew in it right now!) Just behind the batter bowl (to the right of the blender) is my Cuisinart burr grinder. To the left of the batter bowl is a 2-quart Takeya pitcher. To the right is a mesh strainer. Then a regular measuring cup and coffee filters.

When I do this, I grind two cups of beans coarsely, put them in the batter bowl, and fill it to the spout with water. Cover and let sit for 24 hours. Then I line my mesh strainer with coffee filters and strain it into a mixing bowl, clean out the coffee grounds, and then repeat the filtering process back into the batter bowl. I use the measuring cup to dip the brew into the strainer to minimize spillage.

I like this setup because everything is multiple-use and cleans up easily. The Takeya pitchers are awesome--they fit in the fridge door, they're dishwasher-safe, and they're spillproof. Love 'em. I got a pair of them at Costco for about $20, the burr grinder also at Costco for about $25, and the rest of the stuff at Homegoods/Marshalls for probably about $20 total. A pitcher will last me about a week, and I prefer to soak it for a few hours with a vinegar/water solution to get rid of the coffee taint before washing. (Just in case I want to use the pitcher for anything else.)
posted by Autumnheart at 7:13 PM on September 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

You definitely don't need a maker to make cold brew, but I got this cold brew coffee maker on recommendation from the Sweethome website, and it simplifies the straining step a little bit. Before I got my coffee maker thingie, I used this method, which worked fine.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:21 PM on September 3, 2017

I use a Takeya pitcher (I usually use one of their taller ones, though), pack the filter full of grounds, run a little water through the loaded filter to wash out some of the excess grit, then fill the pitcher and attach the filter/lid, leave it on the counter overnight, pull the filter/grounds out in the morning, then put the pitcher in the fridge. I dilute it with water to whatever strength I'm hankering for, or just pour it over ice if I want it strong.

I think cold brew coffee is coffee for the lazy already. Maybe you could explain to us what was unsatisfying about your Toddy setup?

Different techniques can alter the strength/quantity or simplify cleanup, but I'm wondering if you should just try some different grounds to change the flavor. Or alter your brew times -- let it sit longer or shorter before filtering.

If you're looking to make each batch last, I'd pursue whatever yields the most concentrated coffee (perhaps a technique similar to the Pioneer Woman link that ArbitraryAndCapricious posted above, but like...more of it), then dilute to normal-coffee strength. I'd do this "the hard way" (i.e., without buying more gear) until you get a flavor that you like, then see what gear might shave some hassle from that process.
posted by katieinshoes at 7:46 PM on September 3, 2017

My wife loves cold brew and I was making it for her in big Mason jars, but straining it was messy and annoying. We bought the Oxo cold brew coffee maker, and it is (mostly) great. The big advantages of it are the optional paper filter (which is 100% necessary for us; see below) and the fact it has a valve that allows you to start and stop the filtering process. The semi-permanent wool filter of the Filtron grosses me out, and the Toddy seems a bit fiddly in use, but the Oxo is pretty clever and you can easily clean every part of it.

Can you make enough for a week in it? Not the way we make it, and not at the rate my wife drinks it. We found that we got better results if we used a higher ratio of water to coffee, over a shorter period of time, and we dilute the concentrate less. In our case we use 110 grams coarsely ground coffee and 940 ml water and filter it after twelve hours. That makes 700-750* ml coffee concentrate that we dilute with only an additional 250 ml of filtered water, for a liter of cold brew coffee. Most people use almost double the ratio of coffee to water, let it sit for 24 hours, and dilute it more, but that didn't taste great to us when we tried it. Also we tried about a half dozen different beans before settling on (of all things) Starbucks Breakfast Blend. Roasts that are too dark just come out acrid, and the sorts of lighter roast I like for hot coffee were too fruity and didn't have enough body when brewed cold.

The big reason we need the paper filter is that after making the cold brew we pour it into a siphon, which we then charge with a cream charger for homemade nitro cold brew. If you don't run it through a paper filter before giving it the NO2 charge it makes a really awful mess of the siphon and any glass you serve it in. So anyway: Oxo cold brew coffee maker: yes. Paper filters for it: probably, but definitely if you want nitro. You could use the same timing and ratio in a Toddy (or even jars) but the Oxo, while probably too small to brew a week's worth at once, is really easy to use.

* This is the one thing I don't love about the Oxo. When I was making cold brew in Mason jars and filtering it through a strainer, I ended up with a very consistent yield. Something about the way the Oxo drains means it doesn't always produce the same yield.
posted by fedward at 7:51 PM on September 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

*high five* I am also super lazy! And also I am cheap! Here's my recipe:

1. Put coffee grounds + water into French press pot, and then leave it on the kitchen counter overnight.

2. Push down the plunger handle, and pour the coffee into a glass container to store in the fridge for the couple of days it takes me to drink it. Viola!

< Jeff Goldblum voice > There is no "Step 3"
posted by wenestvedt at 7:56 PM on September 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I use a half-gallon Ball jar (pick up a 6-pack at your local hardware store, use the other 5 for storing pantry dry goods), this sleeve, and a Ball wide-mouth plastic lid (again, hardware store, next to the jars).

Two cups coffee, kind of medium grind, 20-30ishish hours in the fridge and then we pull the sleeve out and put the jar back in the fridge. I have some glass bottles* I decant into on the second day so we can get the jar into the dishwasher rotation, and if my husband remembers he takes one bottle to keep at work.

(*These bottles have turned out to be brilliant. I've used them to keep extra water on my bedside table when I had a cold, we've taken some filled with wine to drive-in movies and picnicky situations, you could easily sweeten and milk up your coffee in here and then dilute on the fly.)
posted by Lyn Never at 8:11 PM on September 3, 2017 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I use a similar method to those who put grounds in a jar overnight, but instead of a strainer or French Press to filter the next day I put the grounds in a mesh bag like a nut milk bag. I just let the bag dry out with the grounds and then empty the grounds into the compost and then wash the bag. I find it easier fo clean up, so I'm more likely to make it.
posted by kendrak at 9:52 PM on September 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

I know you don't need a maker, but I like mine because then I don't have to go hunting for the strainer, or worry about accidentally pouring sludge all over my counter, or have multiple things to wash!

If you don't like the results, try different amounts of coffee, or different beans. I find a dark roast works best. My personal favorite is the Trader Joe's Shade Grown - it's robust but not bitter. If you have a coffee shop whose cold brew you love, you could ask what coffee beans they use for it (though these days they might just be buying it already-brewed).
posted by lunasol at 10:45 PM on September 3, 2017

800g coffee, coarse grind
1 L water

Add both to a French press carafe and mix well. Let sit for 24 hrs. Pour through a coffee filter into a vessel. Dilute, cut with milk, sweeten, or consume as-is.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 11:03 PM on September 3, 2017

Best answer: The answer to our absurd cold brew habit has been a Takeya 1 quart maker; on sale, it was roughly the cost of maybe a couple of jars of fancy mocha cold brew from Sprouts aka maybe a week's worth of coffee.* It's nowhere near as good as that stuff, which I'm assuming is literally brewed by angels, but it's pretty good! It's just easy: easy to use, easy to clean, easy to not pour coffee all over everything but the cup...the DIY approach was ultimately not sustainable for various reasons rendered moot by the Takeya.

(And FYI, Ralph's had Stumptown cold brew on a crazy sale this week and the TJ's concentrate is good and reasonable all the time.)

*sure, you're supposed to dilute it, but why do that to angel tears?
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:08 PM on September 3, 2017 [4 favorites]

For what it's worth, I make about 900ml at a time and keep it in a glass bottle in the fridge, and it lasts a couple of weeks easily.
I also have the Oxo maker linked above which I like because it's good value, the carafe is nice (the lid has a built-in measure for the cold brew), it has a reusable filter, and it packs away fairly compactly.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:48 AM on September 4, 2017

I buy these. Just put in the fridge with water overnight (I use a mason jar) and when you wake up, you have cold brew coffee.
posted by AppleTurnover at 2:17 AM on September 4, 2017

Depending on the quality of your water, that also might make a difference in the flavor. I like to use spring water because it's cheap and because my tap water can be pretty metallic. A gallon of spring water lasts through a couple batches.
posted by Autumnheart at 5:49 AM on September 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

For reasons, a few summers ago, I had no utilities except water. Hey then! I made coffee in a press pot, by putting the pot with cold water and grounds, out in the morning sun, with a sheet of tin foil behind it, shiny side to the sun. In a while I had the best, smoothest coffee, ever. Solar coffee! I canned jam in my bbq. I ate it all and lived to tell about it. The coffee was first class, excellent, with a rare smoothness I have never again experienced.
posted by Oyéah at 10:53 AM on September 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Cold brew is one of my obsessions. Everyone else has already covered how easy it is to make without any special equipment, so I'll cover a few other things.

First, know that there are two styles of cold-brew preparation: Immersion and drip.The most common (and my favorite) is immersion, where the ground coffee sits in the water for an extended period of time. This is what you were doing with the toddy, and what most folks here are suggesting. It produces a richer, more full-bodied result. Drip cold brew is usually made by letting the water or ice water slowly drip through the ground coffee, usually using specialized equipment. This produces a lighter, "cleaner" result.

So if you've been getting drip cold brew from cafes and then trying to make immersion cold-brew at home, you may be disappointed. If drip is what you want, you will need a maker like the Cold Breuer or this pourover-like setup. If immersion is what you want, the no special equipment is needed, though if you wanted something special, you could stick with the Toddy, or get a Filtron (what many cafes use--it's ugly but functional) or the Oxo cold brew coffee maker (I commonly gift these to friends who love cold brew and want something pretty on their counter to make it).

No matter the method, make sure the beans you're using are relatively fresh. If you're using mass-produced beans that have been sitting on the shelf for awhile, you're not going to produce great cold brew no matter what else you do. Part of why cafes have great cold brew is that they're using great beans. So if you're not doing this already, buy beans from a local cafe, and use them no later than 3-4 weeks of the roasting date.

Because I prefer immersion I've never spent time learning about the drip method, so my suggestions from here on out are immersion-related:

Be sure to grind your beans coarsely--finely ground coffee steeped in water for hours is a recipe for bitterness and yuck. Aim for a grind slightly coarser than what you'd use for French press. Don't use pre-ground! If you don't have a grinder and don't want to invest in one, the cafe where you buy your beans will be happy to grind them for you, just tell them what you're using it for so they'll know what setting to use.

Everyone has their own ideas about what ratio of coffee:water to use, and cold brew is a pretty forgiving method so you can fudge the ratios a bit when necessary (or when you just can't be arsed to measure precisely). But once you find your ideal ratio, you'll get fairly consistent results by sticking to it consistently.

Cold brew is also pretty forgiving of steeping time, but you want to stick to somewhere between 18-36 hours. I find 18-24 hours is the sweet spot for me. More than 36 hours is a recipe for bitterness, stale flavors, and general yuck.

Don't over-agitate the grounds after you've poured the water over them. A few gentle stirs, just enough to make sure the grounds are saturated, is fine. Don't stress over this step, though, it's probably the least-crucial.

Strain your cold brew thoroughly, and store the resulting concentrate in the fridge for no more than 2-3 weeks.

Clean your brewing equipment and storage vessel thoroughly between uses. Coffee residue is clingy and can go rancid. Ever had a really nasty-tasting cup of cold brew from a cafe? That nasty taste is rancid coffee.

And finally, here's my recipe, which uses an entire bag of coffee beans and makes ~8 cups of cold brew concentrate (which I use at a 50/50 concentrate/milk or water ratio so lasts me awhile):

Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate

1 pound medium-roast coffee, coarsely ground
10 cups water (scale to 7.5 cups if your coffee comes in 12 oz. bags)

Put ground coffee into a large plastic pitcher. Add the water a couple cups at a time, stirring gently to saturate the grounds after the last couple additions.

Cover and let steep on the counter at room temperature for 18-24 hours.

Strain through a mesh strainer reserved for this use (to ensure my coffee doesn't taste like soup and my soup doesn't taste like coffee) and pour into an airtight vessel like a swing-top bottle or a mason jar.
posted by rhiannonstone at 11:59 AM on September 4, 2017 [4 favorites]

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