Easy Cold-Brewed Coffee




About: Stay at home, medicated, bankrupt, homeschooling mother of 3 humans 2 beagles and 1 chihuahua, married 18 years to a maker extraordinaire, I embroider, sew, paint, read, paper mache, camp, collect tattoos an...

If you haven't heard of cold-brewed coffee, it is exactly what it sounds like...coffee that you brew using cold water instead of hot.  Why, you may well ask, would anyone want to do that?  You can Google it and find out far more than I could tell you about it.  For me it was because I needed to reduce the acid content of my coffee (I love my coffee but do not like the heartburn afterward), and this seemed to be a means to that end.  Less acid, and a great tasting cup of coffee!

I did a lot of research as to how to do that.  Of course there are things you can buy to facilitate doing this, and I have tried a couple of them.  They work great, but like anything else over time they need maintenance.  I got to the point where I needed to buy replacement parts for one of my units, and I decided there had to be an easy way to do this using stuff I basically already had around the house or could easily get locally...after all you are just soaking coffee in water, right?

The main thing is I wanted it to be easy, fast, and be able to do large batches since my wife and I drink plenty of coffee.  Also, since cold brewing is a little less efficient, you can make it more cost effective by brewing the same grounds twice (the first batch gives you an espresso strength syrup, and the second batch is regular strength coffee), so I wanted to be able to do that as well.  To follow my process you will need:

A 2-quart Mason jar
A small strainer
A restaurant style pitcher...needs to have a lip around the pour spout
Something to put the final product in...I use a juice carafe
Paper towels
And of course coffee!

A note about coffee choice...we have found that the end product is so much smoother and more delicious that we can buy a less expensive coffee and get the same results as when we were brewing premium coffee the traditional way.  Another thing to consider to help keep your cold-brewing costs down.

Step 1: Modify Your Strainer

First step is to prepare your strainer.  What you want is something that you can put on the jar to filter your coffee.  You can cut the metal strainer with any pair of scissors.  Just stab in and cut around the top of the strainer.  You will end up with a piece of metal screen that you can flatten out and work with.

You can then use the insert from the lid of the jar as a template and cut the screen to the same size.  You will be using the screen as a replacement insert to pour out your coffee.  After you cut it out, make sure it fits on top of the jar and that you can screw the ring on over it.

Step 2: Mix

I buy the typical 11-12 oz bag of coffee which is the perfect amount for one batch, so if you buy larger containers of coffee you will need to measure the correct amount and just dump it in to the jar.  Add water on top of the coffee to bring the jar to about 3/4 full...I use the sink sprayer becasue it helps mix things up a little better, then put the lid on and give it a shake to blend it really well.  Basically you want to make sure you soak the grounds really well.  The grounds will float to the top, so when you take the lid back off, scrape it across the top of the jar to keep the coffee where you want it...in the jar.  Break up the grounds and stir them in with a spoon.  As you stir you will produce a foam on the top as all the air bubbles rise to the top...you can skim off that foam and toss it as it will just take up space.  Then you can top the jar off with water...fill it all the way up and put the lid back on, give it a good shake, and set it aside to brew.

At this point it is a waiting game...I brew mine for about 24 hours for the first batch (48 for the second), shaking as often as I think to do so just to keep it all blended.

Step 3: Drain

Now you take the top off, scraping it across the mouth of the jar as you did before.  Replace the lid with the screen that you made in the first step, and tighten down the ring good and tight.  Get your pitcher ready, and gently start to pour the brew from the jar in to the pitcher.  I specified restaurant style pitcher because they have the lip around the pour spout...that allows you to put the lid of the jar under the lip and it will stay upright so you can walk away and let it drain.  It will take 20 minutes or so to drain fully.

At this point you can take the jar full of wet grounds and jump back a step and refill the jar.  This time it won't foam up as much so you won't really need to do as much stirring and skimming...just fill it up and put the lid on and shake it a few times.  This time let it sit for about 48 hrs to get a batch of regular strength coffee.

Step 4: Filter

Now you need to filter out all the fine stuff that the screen let through.  I use a paper towel mainly because it is fast, and it gives me a product I am happy with.  If you like your coffee a little more clear and less "robust", then you can use regular coffee filters, it will just take a lot longer and you will need to let it sit a while between fill-ups to allow it to drain through the filter.  I just shove a paper towel in to the neck of my juice carafe, hold it around the edge, and pour the brew from the pitcher to the carafe.  Refrigerate the brew and it will last for a good while.  Remember that the first batch is a espresso strength coffee extract, so you will want to dilute it with water or milk to get a "normal" cup of coffee.  We mix ours with 4 oz extract to make a strong 8 oz cup...our friends like theirs a little weaker so we give them about 3 oz per 8 oz cup.  Also remember that the second batch, even though it takes twice as long to brew, will be half the strength.  You will want a second carafe to store it seperately so you don't mix the two up...you will either be surprised by a very strong or very weak cup of coffee if you do!

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    16 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Love my cold brew!
    Instead of cutting the strainer up, I found a large-ish one that fits exactly in the top of my storage pitcher and perfectly holds a standard coffee filter. I "brew" in a 2quart Rubbermaid fridge bottle then strain the contents through the lined strainer directly into my storage vessel.
    The only drawback is sometimes having to wait for the level in the strainer to go down, but it's well worth not rushing the process for 1.5+ quarts of low-acid caffeine heaven!!

    2 replies

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    What a difference almost a year makes!

    I've gone from straining my coffee through any kind of filter to putting 1.5 cups grounds in cotton muslin bags (5x7" or 6x8" - yea, amazon!), securing the top with a rubber band and plunking it into a 2 quart pitcher with about 6.5 cups water. Only the very finest silt comes through (<1 tsp/pitcher) and I never have to use another vessel...or change out tops...or wait for it to filter...or wash out strainers...or a french press...ever!

    Once done with the brew, I squeeze what I can out of the grounds, then flatten the bag out for a day or so on a wire rack. The grounds are then dry enough to take out and dump in the garden or sprinkle on the lawn (trying to be eco-friendly here!) and the bags are washable, reusable, and handy.

    My next idea is to do a gallon via a "nut-milk bag" suspended inside a sun tea jar. I've discovered via internet research that nut-milk bags and paint strainer bags are essentially the same thing...only the paint strainer bags are about 1/10th the cost and have a handy elastic top edge. There are several accounts in on-line paint strainer bag reviews about how people use them as nut-milk bags with no ill effects. I found a 2-pack of paint strainer bags at Home Depot for $2.48...now to go fix the leaky spigot on my sun tea jar!


    Reply 2 years ago

    Your muslin bag coffee, is that regular strength or does it make a concentrate?


    3 years ago

    I have a coffee brewing sock that works well and is so simple to use. Looks like a fish net except it has a cotton sock looking funnel attached and I can filter all the coffee easily in one step.


    3 years ago on Introduction

    On the 2nd brew, is that 48 additional hours or 24 additional hours to make 48 total?


    4 years ago on Introduction

    If you want something you can set up and leave, I have found a nice alternative to this http://www.labfriend.com.au/cold-drip-coffee-kit

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Yeh that thing is beautiful (especially to a geek like me, all that lab glass, sigh) but it costs nearly 400 bukaroos!


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I love cold brew. I had quit making it because it was so messy to strain. I never thought of your method. Thanks!

    Just so you know, you used to cold buy a sprouting jar strainer that looks like your modified strainer mesh, but it is rigid and would not bend and maybe rupture through the jar ring.

    So guess what I'll be using?


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Your jar appears to be a one quart, not a two quart. One quart also agrees with your comment of making 32 ounces. quart jars are readily available as are the lids and rings. Half gallon jars are more difficult to find since they are not recommended for canning anything but apple and grape juice except in commercial canneries.

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Nope...definitely a 2-quart jar...and yes they are certainly not easy to find. There are plenty of places to order them, but I got mine at Michael's craft supply store...they sell them for craft/storage purposes. I am not canning anything, so they work great for my purposes. Also, the lids and rings are the same size as a wide-mouth quart jar (perhaps that is why you thought it was a quart jar), so replacing those parts is not a problem.

    The comment below you are referring to has nothing to do with the process I outlined in the Instructable, I was explaining an alternate way which was how I actually experimented with the process to see if it was even worth pursuing. I used coffee bags and water in a 1-quart measuring cup.

    I have done both...right now with this process I am doing it on the counter since I have an airtight container. Doesn't make any difference so far as I can tell...

    Also, a quick way to give it a try without investing too much time or trouble is to use the single cup coffee bags...the ones that look like tea bags...that's actually how I got started since that is what we had on hand when I decided I wanted to try it. I can't remember the proportion I used, but I think it was like 8 or 10 bags in 32 oz of water. Come to think of it, I wonder if you could brew a regular cup of coffee with just one bag if you let it sit overnight...

    Oh man, I'm drinking my first cup of coffee in months . . . I missed this almost as much as I miss smoking. Fingers crossed, I'm hoping my heartburn doesn't start acting up later on.

    Thanks for this, it just felt so un-American, drinking tea all the time!

    Well, did it haunt you later?!?

    My husband went on a two-day business trip and couldn't wait to get back to his cold-brew...he said every cup of coffee gave him terrible heartburn...

    It did come back, unfortunately. Today however, I watered it down a bit more and only had one cup, and I'm just fine! I think I just have to learn to drink it in moderation, which is hard 'cause it's really delicious coffee.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Nice! I stopped drinking coffee about six months ago, my heartburn was just killing me. I've been drinking tea ever since, but it's just not the same . . . I'll definitely give this a try, thanks for sharing!