Making cold brew coffee concentrate at home is so much easier than you think. As a retired barista, these are all of my tips and tricks for making the best cold brew with just a few simple kitchen tools (or even a French press!). This concentrate is my go-to way to make batched iced coffee for brunch parties, holidays, or casual weekday sipping!

A hand pouring a a white cup of half-and-half into a cup of cold brew coffee concentrate on a beige counter next to a carafe of cold brew and glasses of cold brew.

Back when I was trying to be a 6 a.m. gym girlie, I would sit on the rowing machine having an existential crisis and daydreaming about my first sip of coffee. In a very real way, I have no idea how I used to wake up before dawn to pour latte after latte for the pre-caffeinated public.

So needless to say, I now go to the gym after work and enjoy my coffee merely minutes after rolling out of bed. From drip coffee and Chemex brews to coffee hot toddies and coffee hot buttered rum, I like it morning, noon, and night. But cold brew is my afternoon drink of choice!

This particular recipe is one I’ve been making since my barista days. We used to make gallons of the stuff. But now, it’s my little treat when I need a pick-me-up after a long photoshoot or client meeting. Let’s make it together!

A case for homemade coffee

Back in college, I worked as a barista for a specialty coffee shop. And after graduation, I went on to become the marketing manager for a company that built coffee roasters. At the time, I honestly wasn’t a huge fan of cold brew because I thought it tasted a bit sour and flavorless. But thanks to some coffee friends I made along the way, I learned all the tricks for making the best cold brew at home! A few highlights:

  • This cold brew is ridiculously easy to make. All you do is mix & strain.
  • You don’t need any special equipment. Just a few basic kitchen tools or a French press!
  • The brew comes out smooth and sweet every single time.
  • Homemade cold brew is way more affordable than store-bought.
  • Since this brew is batched, it’s my favorite way to serve iced coffee to a crowd!

What is cold brew concentrate?

Cold brew is made with cold water and coarsely ground coffee beans and brewed for 12-18 hours in the fridge. The coffee comes out smooth and sweet with low-acid.

The concentrate, on the other hand, is simply an undiluted version that is used as a base for drinks. The main benefit of concentrate is that you can easily brew a big batch without taking up a ton of space in the fridge. Then, all you have to do is mix the concentrate with water or milk and voilà! You have a specialty coffee drink at home.

The ingredients

A bag of coffee beans on a beige counter next to a Chemex, pitcher of water, white bowl of coffee beans, and wood stirrer.

You literally need just 2 ingredients to make this recipe. Truly couldn’t be easier!

  • Coffee beans – when it comes to the coffee, you need a specific grind size. (More on this later.) That means you will want to buy whole beans and grind them yourself. If you buy coffee from the grocery store, they usually have a coffee grinder for you to use. But for the best flavor, I would recommend buying beans from a local shop. Just ask the barista to grind the beans for cold brewing. They’re happy to help!
  • Filtered water – for the smoothest cup of coffee, you will want to use filtered water. I just use the water from the dispenser that’s built into my fridge. But you can also buy jugs of filtered water at the grocery store.

What are the best coffee beans for cold brew?

To be honest, this is totally going to depend on your personal tastes! For me, I like light-to-medium roasts with fruity, floral, and/or citrusy flavors. But if you like dark roast, feel free to test that out as well. Start with your go-to coffee and experiment with others to find your favorite.

Pro tip

If you’re not sure where to start, I would stop by a local coffee shop and ask the barista for recommendations! They can usually help you find a great coffee and can sometimes even give you samples to try out.

Tools needed

A Chemex, pitcher, grinder, scale, sieve, and wood spoon on a beige counter.
  • Coffee grinder – I freshly-grind coffee beans every day and my burr coffee grinder is my best friend. But if you only grind beans once in a while, try a more affordable manual coffee grinder instead!
  • Scale – the ratio is important here so you will want a kitchen scale or coffee scale to measure out the beans and water.
  • Brewing container – you will need something to brew the actual coffee in. I use my Chemex coffeemaker but a big jar or pitcher would work great.
  • Spoon – to stir everything together, make sure you have a wood spoon or bar spoon on hand.
  • Cover – to keep the concentrate from picking up flavors in the fridge, you’ll want to cover the top of the brewing container. If you’re using a jar, just top it with the lid! If you’re using a pitcher or Chemex, try a bowl cover or plastic wrap.
  • Sieve – to filter the coffee, you will want a large fine mesh sieve. The small holes will keep any coffee grounds from filtering through.
  • Filter – we will also use a filter of some sort to separate the concentrate from the grounds. Try a regular coffee filter or cheese cloth.
  • Carafe – make sure you have something to put the concentrate in. Use a pitcher or a carafe with a lid.

Quick tip

Make sure you wash your tools very well before brewing! Bacteria loves sugary food (like coffee) and you don’t want to ruin a perfectly good brew. Give everything a good wash and let the tools air dry before you get started.

Coffee-to-water ratio

When it comes to the cold brew concentrate ratio, things can get…opinionated. What can I say? Coffee people have feelings. But ultimately, the ratios below are merely a good starting point. Feel free to play around with this to make cold brew to your tastes!

  • 1:8 ratio – meaning 1 gram of coffee for every 8 grams of filtered water, which will later be diluted. This is my personal favorite for concentrate. It’s strong but not too wild!
  • 1:4 ratio – if you like really strong coffee, feel free to do a 1:4 ratio. 1 gram of coffee for every 4 grams of water.
  • 1:12 ratio – if you want to skip the concentrate altogether, use 1 gram of coffee for every 12 grams of water. Taste and add more water as needed!

Grind size

Two steps to grinding coffee. In photo 1, a white bowl of coffee beans is on a white scale with a tan background. In photo 2, coffee grinds are on a tan counter.

The first step to making cold brew is to weigh and grind the beans. Many recipes call for coarsely-ground coffee but honestly, I think it’s too coarse for cold brew.

Instead, I like a medium-coarse grind which extracts more sugars for a sweeter, smoother cold brew. The grind size should look similar to Kosher salt. On my coffee grinder, I use the 32 grind setting. But the grind setting you use will depend on your grinder.

When in doubt, drop a few beans in the grinder, run them through, and spread the grounds in your hand. If they look similar to Kosher salt, you’re ready to go!

Pro tip

Pre-ground coffee will not work for this recipe. The grind size is too fine for cold brewing and you will end up with bitter coffee. It’s super important that you buy whole coffee beans and grind them until the beans are medium-coarse.

How to make this recipe

Brew the concentrate

Two steps to making cold brew concentrate. In photo 1, coffee grounds are being poured in a Chemex on a beige counter next to gold spoons and a white bowl of coffee beans. In photo 2, a hand pours a carafe of water into the Chemex.
  1. To make 1 liter of concentrate, start by weighing out 125 grams of coffee beans. Then, grind them until they’re medium-coarse, like Kosher salt. (See tips above!)
  2. Then, pour the coffee grounds into a Chemex, large jar, or whatever you’re brewing the coffee in. Gently shake to evenly distribute the grounds.
  3. Place your brewing container on a scale and add 1 liter (1,000 grams) of cold filtered water, stirring constantly to break up any dry spots.

Quick tip

For a consistent grind, I like to calibrate my grinder. Before I grind all of the coffee, I will run a few pinches of coffee beans (about 2 teaspoons) through the grinder. This helps the burr adjust.

Two steps to making homemade cold brew. In photo 1, a hand stirs coffee together in a Chemex on a beige counter next to gold spoons and a white bowl of coffee beans. In photo 2, hands cover the Chemex with a bowl cover.
  1. Using a spoon, stir the coffee and water together very well to ensure that there are no dry pockets.
  2. Cover the top of your brewing vessel with a lid, bowl cover, or plastic wrap.
  3. Then, place the cold brew in the fridge and let it brew for 14-20 hours.
Two steps to preparing a coffee filter. In photo 1, a sieve has a coffee filter in it on a beige counter. In photo 2, the filter is wet.

Filter the concentrate

  1. Once the concentrate is fully brewed, place a coffee filter into a large sieve.
  2. Next, rinse the filter with water for about 30 seconds to get rid of any paper taste.
Two steps to filtering cold brew. In photo 1, a hand pours a Chemex of cold brew into a sieve over a container on a beige counter. In photo 2, the coffee is filtering through the sieve.
  1. Place the sieve over a large container like a liquid measuring cup. Pour the cold brew into the sieve.
  2. Let the cold brew filter through. This can take up to 1 hour so be patient! If the cold brew stops dripping through, use a spoon to remove any big clumps of coffee grounds.
  3. After the cold brew has mostly filtered through, you might notice a small amount of sludgy leftover liquid at the bottom of the sieve. Go ahead and toss that out.

Pro tip

If you like a super smooth brew, use a coffee filter to strain the concentrate. But, if you prefer a brew with texture and body, use cheesecloth which lets more of the solids through.

How to make cold brew in a French press

Three steps to making cold brew in a French press. In photo 1, a cup pours water into a French press with ground coffee on a tan counter next to gold spoons and a white bowl of coffee beans. In photo 2, a hand stirs the French press with a wood spoon. In photo 3, a hand presses the French press.

You can also make concentrate in a French press coffeemaker! Depending on the size of your French press, you may need to adjust the amount of coffee and water you use. Just keep the 1:8 ratio. For example, my French press holds 240 grams of water, so I used 30 grams of coffee.

  1. Start by pouring the medium coarse coffee into a French press. Add the filtered water while stirring constantly to make sure there are no dry spots.
  2. Cover the French press and brew the coffee in the fridge for 14-20 hours.
  3. Then, push the plunger to filter the concentrate from the grounds. Pour the concentrate into a jar and store it in the fridge for later.

Pro tip

The French press will leave some of the solids behind making concentrate that has a bit more texture and body. For a smoother cold brew, feel free to double strain it through a coffee filter (like the recipe above).

Brew time

The total brew time for this concentrate will depend on your tastes. I recommend starting with 16 hours and going from there. Just don’t go over 24 hours or the coffee will taste over-extracted and bitter! Here’s how you know whether you should brew the coffee for a longer or shorter amount of time:

  • Longer Brew Time- if the brew isn’t as smooth and sweet as you’d like, brew it for longer. Start with 1-2 more hours and adjust to taste.
  • Shorter Brew Time – if the concentrate is too strong or tastes bitter, brew it for 1-2 hours less next time.

How to dilute the concentrate

A carafe with cold brew on a beige background next to a white bowl of coffee beans, glass of cold brew, and glass of cold brew coffee concentrate.

With a 1:8 ratio, you will end up with a strong coffee concentrate. That means, you’ll want to dilute the concentrate unless you like coffee that tastes like rocket fuel and, incidentally, also makes you feel like you’re being launched into the air like a rocket.

To dilute the concentrate, you can use water, milk, or alt-milk. I use filtered water because I like black cold brew, sometimes with a splash of half-and-half. But, you can also use milk or alt-milk if you want a creamier coffee! Also, the below ratios are purely guides, so feel free to adjust the ratio to your tastes.

  • 1:1 ratio – this is my go-to. A 1:1 ratio of concentrate to filtered water will give you a cold brew that is strong, smooth, and sweet.
  • 1:2 ratio – if you prefer coffee that is less strong, use a 1:2 ratio of concentrate to filtered water.
  • 2:1 ratio – for a super strong cup of brew, use a 2:1 ratio of concentrate to water.

Can I make this recipe without a scale?

Because coffee beans can vary in size and shape, 1 Tablespoon of coffee beans can range anywhere from 4-7 grams. For the most accurate results, I would highly recommend using a scale. But, if you don’t have one, you can use the below estimates. Just keep in mind that you may need to adjust the measurements if the coffee is too strong, too weak, etc.

Here is a (very) general guideline to make 1 liter of concentrate!

  • 1 1/2 cups of coffee beans
  • 4 1/4 cups of filtered water
A hand pouring a carafe of cold brew into a cup on a beige background next to cups of cold brew, a white bowl of coffee beans, and a beige linen.
Three glasses and a carafe of cold brew next to a glass of cold brew coffee concentrate on a beige counter next to a beige linen and white bowl of coffee beans.

Serving ideas

Obviously, cold brew makes a lovely iced coffee situation. But you can use it in other ways too! Here are just a few ideas on how to use this concentrate:

  • Syrups – for a coffee shop-at-home experience, add milk (or alt-milk) and either homemade or store-bought flavored syrups.
  • Cocktails or mocktails – this concentrate makes a lovely alternative for espresso in coffee cocktails and mocktails.
  • Coffee tonic – try this concentrate with equal parts tonic. So refreshing for a hot day!
  • Dirty chai – add a splash of the concentrate to pre-made chai – hot or iced.
  • Ice cubes – use the concentrate to make ice cubes for iced coffee, smoothies, & more.

Storing & make-ahead

To store the concentrate, pour it in a pitcher or carafe. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week. It technically can last longer than 1 week but the cold brew starts to taste a bit ‘off’. I would definitely make it weekly if you can!

This concentrate is also the best make-ahead coffee situation! You can either store the diluted concentrate so it’s ready to go, or you can store the concentrate it and dilute it one serving at a time.

A glass of cold brew with cream on a tan counter next to gold spoons, a bottle of cold brew coffee concentrate, and a white bowl of coffee beans.

Tips & tricks

  • If you have old coffee laying around, this is a good time to use it. Cold brew actually does a great job at masking the flavor of stale beans! As long as the beans aren’t moldy, they’re good to go.
  • It’s important to use filtered water for a smooth cup of coffee. Impurities in water can negatively affect the taste of the coffee.
  • For extra smooth coffee, filter the concentrate twice. I find that once is usually enough but if it’s still a bit heavy for your tastes, filter it once more.
  • Steep the concentrate in the fridge. Some recipes call for brewing it at room temperature on the counter. But to keep bacteria from growing, I play it safe and brew it for a longer time in the fridge.

Recipe FAQs

Is this concentrate as strong as espresso?

Coffee concentrate and cold brew are completely different brewing methods. With espresso, pressurized steam pushes hot water through tightly-ground, ultra-fine coffee grounds over a short period of time. But coffee concentrate uses medium-coarse beans and a very slow brew time (up to 20 hours). Because coffee concentrate usually has higher caffeine content, it can be up to 4x stronger than espresso.

How much caffeine is in cold brew?

Cold brew is often said to have more caffeine than a regular cup of coffee but that’s not always the case. The caffeine content totally depends on the type of coffee used, the roast, and the ratio of coffee to water. Depending on the ingredients you use, it will vary. But on average, one 12-ounce (355 milliliter) serving of cold brew has around 109-285 milligrams of caffeine.

Can I make decaf cold brew concentrate?

Definitely! Just replace the regular coffee beans with your favorite decaf coffee. Make sure you’re using whole bean coffee and grinding it until it’s medium-coarse.

What should I pair with cold brew?

I love cold brew as a refreshing afternoon drink but it’s also great for breakfast. Especially if you’re serving a big group of friends! Try this coffee with brioche French toast casserole, roasted veggie breakfast casserole with pesto, or savory croque madame galettes. Or, for something snacky, try brown butter banana coffee cake, orange poppy seed muffins, or ginger cranberry orange scones.

Cups of cold brew on a tan marble counter next to a carafe of cold brew coffee concentrate, gold spoons, and white bowl of coffee beans.

If you love coffee, try these coffee desserts!

Coffee Cupcakes with Vanilla Coffee Buttercream
The Best Coffee Crème Brûlée
Cardamom Cake with Coffee Buttercream
Fudgy Irish Coffee Brownies
Chewy Coffee Cookies
Caramel Coffee Ice Cream Sandwiches
Coffee Almond Ice Cream

If you make this recipe, I would love it if you left a star rating and review! I read every single comment and love hearing what you think about my recipes. Thank you for supporting Sunday Table!


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How to Make Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate

Yield: 1 liter of concentrate
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Brew Time: 16 hours
Total Time: 16 hours 10 minutes
Making cold brew coffee concentrate at home is so much easier than you think. As a retired barista, these are all of my tips and tricks for making the best cold brew with just a few simple kitchen tools (or even a French press!). This concentrate is my go-to way to make batched iced coffee for brunch parties, holidays, or casual weekday sipping!

Ingredients

  • 125 grams coffee beans
  • 1 liter filtered water

Equipment

Instructions 

Brew the cold brew concentrate

  • Using a burr coffee grinder or manual coffee grinder, grind the coffee beans until they are medium-coarse. The coffee grounds should be about the size of Kosher salt.
  • Pour the ground coffee into a Chemex, large jar, pitcher, or carafe. Gently shake the container to evenly distribute the grounds.
  • Place the container on a scale and zero it out. While stirring constantly, pour 1 liter of filtered water over the ground coffee. Stir the mixture very well until there are no more dry spots.
  • Cover the container and refrigerate for 14-20 hours. I recommend starting at 16 hours and adjusting as needed.

Filter the coffee concentrate

  • Once the concentrate is fully brewed, place a coffee filter into a large sieve. Rinse it with water for about 30 seconds to get rid of any paper taste.
  • Place the sieve over a large container like a liquid measuring cup. Strain the concentrate through the filter-lined sieve. Work in batches, if needed. Let the cold brew strain completely – this can take up to 1 hour so be patient! If the cold brew stops dripping through, stir the mixture or use a spoon to remove any big clumps of coffee grounds.
  • After the cold brew has mostly filtered through, there might be a small amount of sludgy liquid at the bottom of the filter. Discard the filter and coffee grounds. (Or compost them!)

Dilute the cold brew

  • Pour the cold brew coffee concentrate into a pitcher or carafe. (There should be about 1 liter). Add an equal amount of filtered water. Taste and add more water, if desired. If you like a very strong cold brew, you can reduce the water to 500 grams (1/2 liter).

French press instructions

  • Add the ground coffee to a French press. Then, add the filtered water while stirring constantly. Stir well until there are no more dry spots. Depending on the size of your French press, you will need to adjust the amount of coffee and water you use. Just keep the 1:8 ratio of 1 gram of coffee for every 8 grams of water. For example, my French press holds 240 grams of water, so I used 30 grams of coffee.
  • Cover the French press and brew the coffee in the fridge for 14-20 hours. I recommend starting at 16 hours and adjusting as needed.
  • After the coffee has brewed, push the plunger to filter the coffee concentrate from the grounds. The French press will leave some of the solids behind making a concentrate that has a bit more texture and body. For a smoother cold brew, strain the concentrate through a fine-mesh sieve lined with a rinsed coffee filter.
  • Pour the coffee concentrate into a carafe and dilute it with an equal amount of filtered water. Taste and add more water, if desired.

Notes

If you don’t have a coffee grinder, check your local grocery store or coffee shop. Grocery stores usually have a coffee grinder for you to use. Or, for the best flavor, visit a local coffee shop! Just ask the barista to grind the beans for cold brewing.
For a consistent grind, I like to calibrate my grinder. Before I grind all of the coffee, I will run a few pinches of coffee beans (about 2 teaspoons) through the grinder. This helps the burr adjust.
Pre-ground coffee will not work for this recipe. The grind size is too fine for cold brewing and you will end up with bitter coffee. It’s super important that you buy whole coffee beans and grind them until the beans are medium-coarse.
Make sure you wash your tools very well before brewing! Bacteria loves sugary food (like coffee) and you don’t want to ruin a perfectly good brew. Give everything a good wash and let the tools air dry before you get started.
It’s important to use filtered water for a smooth cup of coffee. Impurities in water can negatively affect the taste of the coffee.
If you like a super smooth brew, use a coffee filter to strain the concentrate. But, if you prefer a brew with texture and body, use cheesecloth which lets more of the solids through.
For extra smooth coffee, filter the concentrate twice. I find that once is usually enough but if it’s still a bit heavy for your tastes, filter it once more.
Steep the concentrate in the fridge. Some recipes call for brewing it at room temperature on the counter. But to keep bacteria from growing, I play it safe and brew it for a longer time in the fridge.
If you have old coffee laying around, this is a good time to use it. Cold brew actually does a great job at masking the flavor of stale beans! As long as the beans aren’t moldy, they’re good to go.
Cuisine: American
Course: Drinks
Serving: 1cup, Sodium: 1mg, Potassium: 8mg, Calcium: 1mg
Did you make this recipe?Tag @sundaytable.co on Instagram!

xo Sara Lynn

Song of the day – Stone Killer by 26fix