Cold-brewed coffee has become a coffeehouse hit, but those prices aren't. See how easy it is to save money by making cold brew coffee at home.

By Kimberly Holland
Updated October 19, 2020
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Cold-brewed coffee sales at trendy coffeehouses have shot up in the last few years, and they show no signs of cooling off. Yet making cold brew coffee is as basic as its name implies: coffee brewed without heat.

But that cold-brewing factor creates something special and unique: No boiling makes coffee less acidic, mellower, and slightly sweet, which means you're less likely to spoon in sugar, and people who aren't a fan of brewed coffee's astringency find a lot to like in the cold-brew version. That sweetness also makes it ideal for smoothies, milk shakes, cake and muffin batters, and even cocktails.

A little goes a long way, too: Cold-brewing concentrates the flavor, so it's typically diluted 50/50 with water, milk, ice cubes, or other liquids. And unlike hot-brewed coffee, which tastes drastically different after it cools, cold-brewed's flavor doesn't change, which means you can keep a stash in the fridge for up to two weeks. You don't need any special equipment, either — just ground coffee and cool water.

So why do coffeehouses charge about $4 for a cup of cold-brewed coffee when it has the same ingredients as hot? The same reason theaters charge $8 for a tub of popcorn that costs 90 cents to make — they can. So brewing your own, which costs less than $1 a cup, is like getting a $3-off coupon every day.

Here's we'll break down how to brew cold brew coffee so you can DIY this favorite beverage, save money, and always have a refreshing cup of java right at hand.

How to Make Cold Brew Coffee At Home

It's so easy to make your own cold-brewed coffee. If you make brewed coffee regularly, you have everything you need. Just keep a few glass jars or bottles on hand for storing the cold-brewed coffee, and you can have a cup any time you want.

  1. Put freshly coarse-ground beans into any kind of container (glass is usually best). Use your favorite roast, but make sure it's ground very coarsely so it won't cloud the water.
  2. Gently pour in cold, filtered water at a ratio of 4-to-1 (for example, 4 cups water for 1 cup grounds).
  3. Stir gently to make sure all grounds are wet and cover container with plastic wrap.
  4. Let it sit at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. Taste it occasionally and discard the grounds when the coffee hits your sweet spot.

How to make cold brew coffee in a French press

If using a French press, once your coffee is done, gently press the mesh down on the grounds to filter them out. Pour the coffee into a jar or bottle for holding. French press cold brew makes less mess, so if you plan to brew cold regularly, it's worth investing in the coffee maker.

With other kinds of containers, put a filter or cheesecloth in a sieve on the mouth of another container. Gradually pour coffee through the filter.

Or, before you brew, use a rubber band to bundle grounds in a coffee filter (you can fit about 1⁄4 cup into a standard filter) or a piece of cheesecloth. Put in the packets and cover the container with plastic wrap. Just pitch the packets when you're done.

10 Drinks to Make with Cold-Brewed Coffee

1. Mix it with chai tea for a spicy but smooth beverage.

2. Add a shot to hot chocolate, milkshakes, or anything involving chocolate or vanilla. Instant mocha!

3. Blend it into your morning smoothie.

4. Cold-brewed coffee + sparkling water + a few drops of vanilla extract = a great coffee soda. For a mocha soda, stir in a splash of chocolate extract.

5. Make mocktails. Cold-brewed coffee is more flavorful than Kahlúa. Add it to vanilla, chocolate extract, and cream, then shake it with ice cubes to make the ultimate Mudslide.

6. Add boiling water to get a steaming cup that's less acidic than if you started with heat.

7. Swap in cold-brewed coffee for water or milk when making batters for cakes, muffins, pancakes, or crêpes.

8. Soak ladyfingers in it to make tiramisu. Layer with shaved chocolate, drizzles of maple syrup, and a 50/50 blend of ricotta and mascarpone cheese, then dust with espresso powder.

9. When making custard or ice cream, substitute half the milk with cold-brewed coffee.

10. Use it for poaching, deglazing, or making marinades.