Cold Brewed Coffee: What You Need to Know

Most coffee drinkers know that making iced coffee entails more than simply adding an ice cube to this morning’s leftovers.

Cold Brewed Coffee - What You Need to Know |

It’s much more complex (and tasty!) than that. Because the coffee grounds have not come into contact with the heated water, the concentrate that has been prepared using a cold method has a different chemical profile, making it smooth-tasting and less acidic.

Cold brewing is becoming more popular around the United States as well as in Japan and South Korea, where it is sometimes referred to as “Dutch coffee.”

Japansese Cold Brew Coffee |
Japanese-style brewing towers at a café in Taiwan. Photo Credit: SASIMOTO /

Learning to create incredible iced coffee is not extremely difficult, as long as you understand some of the nuances of how coffee works, and the uses for this method.

First of all, cold brewing is slower, which means the acidity is lower than it might be for hot coffee. Also, you can make cold coffee creations in a very large container to keep on hand.

Best ways to make cold brew coffee |

While a hot brew needs to be consumed very quickly after making it, cold brew coffee can be stored in the refrigerator and kept fresh for at least two weeks.

There are several effective ways to create a cold-brewed cup, and they vary on the amount of time they take and the cost involved.

Cold Brew vs. Iced

Yes, there is a difference.

Iced coffee is made from a hot extraction that is simply poured over ice – at most of the chain joints, this is normally the old stale stuff that has been sitting in a pot for multiple hours.

Or, it may even be the remains from the night before, poured into a jug and left in a refrigerator overnight. Yuck!

How to Make Cold Brewed Ice Coffee |

The normal iced variant has none of the benefits of the typical cold brew, which is extracted over multiple hours. The low acidity and extremely smooth taste that one would find from a long extraction process is NOT the hallmark of the typical big brand shop.

I’d suggest either finding a real café that knows (or cares) what they are doing, or better yet, making your own at home.

Basic Cold Brew

One of the simplest methods of cold brewing is simply to mix coarse ground coffee with filtered water in a French press, and then leave it in the refrigerator overnight.

The longer you leave it there, the stronger it will be.

Espro 32-Ounce Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Press, available on Amazon

We suggest the Espro Press for this purpose, as it leaves minimal residue in your cup compared to other coffee presses. Plus, with the Espro, you get a two-for-one deal – you can use it for its traditional hot press duties or for cold brewing. Check out our full review of this amazing product.

If you want to serve it over ice, you may prefer to make it a bit stronger so that the water from the ice does not dilute your iced coffee. Many people also like to drink their iced coffees with milk, – like this recipe for our version of a Vietnamese iced coffee, made with homemade sweetened condensed milk – so a stronger concentrate helps to balance this out.

Iced Coffee Brewing Devices

The purchase of an iced coffee maker depends very much on how much money you want to spend, how quickly you want to drink your coffee, and how you want it to taste.

Hamilton Beach

Hamilton Beach makes a cold brew coffee appliance that will provide a glass of your favorite summer coffee drink within just a few minutes, without the use of a paper filter. It also works for making hot coffee in regular or bold extractions.

Hamilton Beach Convenient Craft Rapid Cold Brew and Hot Coffee Maker, available from Amazon

You should be aware that this device sends hot water through the grinds followed by cooler water to prevent an overly acidic resulting brew with undesired flavors. Use very cold water to operate it with the cold brew setting, and serve your drink over ice if you want it to be truly chilled.

Hario Mizudashi

Hario Mizudashi offers a carafe that will make iced coffee with only two simple parts.

Hario Mizudashi MCPN-7B Cold Brew Coffee Pot

Fill the pitcher with water, put grounds in the filter basket, and leave the carafe to sit overnight in the refrigerator. The filter is permanent, so there is no need for a paper one.

Toddy T2N

Toddy T2N functions well for its price. This maker uses the cold process to extract the flavor of the coffee without the bitter oils and acids. Can be used for hot or cold coffee.

Toddy Cold Brew Coffee Maker With 2 Extra Filters

The Toddy features a plastic container, reusable filter, glass decanter, and a lid. The process is finished in around 10-14 hours if using the cold method, but it is well worth the wait due to the tasty, low acid beverage that it produces.


Similar to the style of Toddy, Filtron is a brand name that has been around for quite some time. A paper filter allows for easier cleanup (but also means you need to purchase them!) and results in a product that is so acid free, it brings out all of the fruity flavor of the beans.

Filtron Cold Water Coffee Concentrate Brewer

The decanter is plastic instead of glass, which some folks do not prefer, and there are quite a few parts to it.

Yama Towers

For those with deep pockets and the desire to impress your friends, Yama makes several cold brew towers in various configurations.

Yama Glass 6-8 Cup Cold Drip Maker With a Curved Brown Wood Frame

These contraptions looks more like they belong in a chemistry lab than in a kitchen. Filtered water is poured into the tower and runs through the grounds drop by drop, creating a very slow but thorough process for your beverage needs.

Though on the higher end in terms of price, this one may also double as a lovely piece of sculpted artwork.


Although not a true cold brewed process, the Chemex Coffeemaker is ideal for iced beverages. Since its very thick filter papers remove almost all of the oils, there is little left to spoil or produce any off flavors.

Chemex Classic Series Glass Coffee Makers in various sizes

This makes it ideal for cooling and storing (for much longer than any other method allows) in the refrigerator, and serving the extract cold or over ice. You can see our complete review or check out comments left by other customers on Amazon.

Creating your own versions of a cup o’ joe is simple and easy, and significantly less expensive than what you will pay if you buy it at a coffee shop.

All it takes is a little space in your refrigerator, and you can have a week’s worth of summertime iced coffee for the price of one stop at your local restaurant or drive through.

Ready to master cold brews, hot cuppas and everything in between? Then definitely don’t skip this glossary of important coffee terms to truly know the world of coffee.

About Mike Quinn

Mike Quinn spent 20 years in the US Army and traveled extensively all over the world. As part of his military service, Mike sampled coffee and tea from all virtually every geographic region, from the beans from the plantation of an El Salvadorian Army Colonel to "Chi" in Iraq to Turkish Coffee in the Turkish Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. He spent nearly a decade in the Republic of Korea where he was exposed to all forms of traditional teas. Mike formerly owned and operated Cup And Brew, an online espresso and coffee equipment retail operation.

19 thoughts on “Cold Brewed Coffee: What You Need to Know”

  1. I never knew there were so many different ways. Years ago a friend of mine would always drink iced coffee in the summer time. I think she had something like that last gadget. I always thought she just brewed it and threw ice in it.

    I like that Yama tower. It looks serious. It does seem much better to do this the right way. I don’t really drink hot beverages that often.

    This seems like something that I would enjoy more but the caffeine doesn’t always agree with me. A friend of mine was explaining the difference between certain cultivars and blend types from various regions and how they affect people.

    How they are made and what is in them. I think he was suggesting an Armenian or Turkish blend since most American ones seem to bother me if I drink too much. I did try it and it even tasted better to me.

  2. I used to make my own ice brew in a Tupperware container. However, after so long of not making it and just using leftover coffee over ice, I find that the strength of cold brew makes me jittery. I like the smooth flavor, but tend to use flavored creamer anyways, so I can’t tell as much of a difference. If you’ve never had it before, watch out! It can definitely pack a caffeine punch.

  3. Oh man, when summer rolls by I almost instantly say goodbye to my usual hot coffee and milk combo. But when you ask for a cold drink in cafes around where I live, you’re going to get a lukewarm fluid at best. That’s not what I asked for! So I’ve just accepted and moved on, but now I want to start making my own brews the way I want it.
    My mother likes to say she drinks ice coffee, but she just uses those mixes in a bag where you pour it into a glass with milk and water, and I’m not quite fond of the taste of that. Now to start looking at the more affordable products. something opposite of the Yama Towers haha.

  4. I think this is something I might invest in, since cold beverages are suitable about 8 months out of the year. I have found reduced acid products work better with my system, so this seems like something I will be buying. The Espro would be my top choice, but it’s out of my budget right now. The Hario Mizudashi seems like a reasonable replacement, and not having to purchase paper filters is a bonus.

    • I knew about cold brewing tea, but not coffee. I did the same as you mentioned. I’ve also saved the last bit of liquid in my pot and poured it into ice cube trays. That way, my iced drink wouldn’t get watered down.

      This sounds so much better though. The picture looks very refreshing, especially since it’s so hot right now. I’d really love a nice cup of that.

      This is a very nice review of the various types of equipment, too. I need one of these.

  5. Last summer I taught myself to cold brew tea, but I never realized I could do the same for coffee! I’m currently waiting for my grinder to arrive from Amazon, but after that I’ll definitely try and make a cup overnight. It would be nice to know how different roast levels and grounds affect the taste. I guess I’ll just have to play around a bit with them! Also I think these would work pretty nicely with ice cubes made from coffee, to prevent watering down. It would be great to add to the thermos to take to work!

    I have to add, that Yawa tower is absolutely stunning for my chemist soul. If I had some extra cash lying around, I’d get it just for decoration to mach my beaker flower vase.

  6. I don’t think I’ve ever had a proper cold brew. It sounds really appealing, since I’ve never been the biggest fan of hot coffee but I’ll drink the conventional iced ones. Especially when it’s so hot out, I’m sweating buckets even at night. Fascinating, useful article; thanks for sharing!

  7. Yeah, I wish I could say I wasn’t one of the ones who felt iced coffee (at least home brewed) wasn’t just a combo of coffee and ice. Never had a clue about the various ways to make this stuff. I’d consider investing in one of these devices because I prefer iced coffee over regular coffee any day. I’m not sure why that is because I actually hate coffee. My husband on the other hand is in love with the stuff.

  8. Yama Towers looks amazing…I can stare at it for hours!…but as mentioned, I bet it costs an arm and a leg!…I had no idea that cold or iced coffee exists, glad to have stumbled across this informative article in that regard 🙂

  9. Seems like you could just use a filter (paper or otherwise), a funnel, and a glass or jug without having to buy anything fancy.

  10. I think I have finally found my answer to my at home iced coffee dilemma. Whenever I make the traditional hot over iced at home it turns out stale tasting, watered down, and generally unappealing. But, this cold brew method seems great for making batches in large quantities and having it taste great. I saw that Starbucks had started doing this and had no idea what “cold brew” meant. Thankfully I already have a French press. So, I can try this method today and enjoy cold brew all week. If I was to invest in a device specifically for this type of extraction I would get the Yama towers. They are very impressive. My coffee loving friends would adore it.

  11. I love ice coffee in the summertime and probably spend way too much money buying it. I knew people who made their own but I really wasn’t sure how to go about it. I am glad that I came across this article. It was very informative and just wanted I needed. I seriously think I might invest in one of these devices. For the amount that I buy it would quickly pay for itself.

  12. My brother is a caffeine addict, but he only ever drinks ice coffee so that’s what I got used to. I’m ashamed to say that I just make it like most of the chain stores do, but just brewing it normally and then putting ice in it. I really wanna try the cold method now.

  13. I’ve been looking for an article just like this one, so thank you so much! I didn’t know that it would keep in the fridge for so long, or I wouldn’t have been buying it from the cafe so often. I’m interested in the french press, and I’ve been meaning to purchase one anyway…I think you just gave me my last reason to pick one up.

  14. I worked at a place a few years ago that bought the “Yama Glass 6-8 Cup Cold Drip Maker”, or at least something really similar to it. As a coffee enthusiast, I LOVED it. I actually think it inspired me to make a better cold brew at home because it was so smooth and didn’t make my stomach hurt. The owner bought it with the intention of selling it for a dollar an ounce with the hope that the science-experiment look it had to it would attract attention. People were definitely interested in the looks of it. I liked giving people a taste, and they were always surprised by how smooth and less acidic it was.

    Unfortunately, people didn’t really want to pay the price so the owner sold it soon after. But I would definitely recommend this system! The only problem is that you would have to plan ahead for your coffee. You couldn’t just brew and go. If I recall correctly it took about 8-12 hours to complete.

  15. I wonder how it would taste to spoon the grounds directly on ice and then pour in warm or hot water before an overnight stay in the fridge. Also, ground size would be an interesting variable.

  16. Now that I have a French press, I’ll have to give this a try. It’s starting to get hot out again, so some cold caffeine (besides tea) would be welcome.

    I’m curious anyway. I want to see what the differences are taste and aroma wise. I’ve learned a lot more about my favorite beverage since I started visiting this site, so I want to put some of it to use.

  17. I idea that coffee poured over ice could, even possibly, be old coffee that had been sitting out that they just needed to get rid of is enough to turn me away from that. Yuck! Cold brewing coffee being less acidic is what really appeals to me as is the fact that I can make large amounts of it and not have to worry about keeping it warm. I love my coffee and instead of going to Starbucks all the time I’m going to start experimenting at home now!


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