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Jun 27, 2007 02:10 PM

Cold-Brewed Coffee?

In today's NYTimes food section there was a recipe for cold-brewed coffee which brought back memories of my childhood.

My mother had several friends from Holland who always made coffee in this manner, i.e., steeping coffee grounds in water on the counter overnight. Does anybody use this method these days? I'm going to try it myself tonight. We'll see how it turns out tomorrow. The article mentioned both iced coffee and hot coffee made from this base.

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  1. There's a good recipe in the Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook. I can't remember the exact proportions right now, but it is delicious! If you need the recipe, I can post it later.

    1. I make cold brewed coffee concentrate in the summer. It makes great ice coffee.

      I take a lb of coffee (about medium grind) and I add 9 cups of water to it. I do a quick stir and then keep it in the fridge for about 12 hours. I try and do this around dinner, this way I can strain and drink the coffee for breakfast.

      I then strain the coffee through one of those single serving coffee things (the one that goes on top of a cup). I go through about 6 filters by the time I finish straining it. Be patient and have something else to do. It takes a while for the water to drain from the grounds. Sometimes, I help it along by pressing down on the grounds.

      This coffee is nice and strong. I add a bit of water to dilute it. I also use this to make the Zuni coffee granita.

      16 Replies
      1. re: beetlebug

        BB, are you using the same coffee grinds you prefer for hot coffee or do you need to go with a stronger (or milder) bean for cold/iced coffee.

        I am so keen to try your technique, thanks for posting it. Lately I have been using MMR's technique of just refridgerating two cups, but it's doesn't taste quite the way I want it to.

        1. re: orangewasabi

          FWIW - the technique per the NYT is to use coarsely ground coffee beans, and then to dilute 1:1 - I imagine that the overnight steeping increases the strength of the product.

            1. re: MMRuth

              Thanks for the link to the article, MMRuth. I missed it the first time around.

              The author nailed differences right on the head. The cold coffee concentrate is incredibly smooth and lacks the bitter aftertaste that a machine can cause.

              Thanks to this thread, it reminded me, last night, to throw a batch in the fridge. I use a medium to coarsely ground coffee. Probably more medium than coarse and it's been fine. Now, I am patiently waiting for it to drip through the filter, adding more of the original batch, changing the filter. It does take a bit of time but it is worth it. A lb of coffee brews over a (wine) carafe of concentrate.

              1. re: beetlebug

                I tried it last night and didn't get the greatest results--Instead of concentrated coffee, I got a coffee-tea. I had to stop for coffee on the way to work for the necessary caffiene. The flavour was all right, as it did lack the bitterness of hot brewed coffee. But so weak!

                Anyone thoughts on what I did wrong? Perhaps my grind was too coarse or eight hours was too little? I would very much like to cold-brew this summer!

                1. re: Mandymac

                  I suspect that you didn't let it steep enough. I let my brew sit in the fridge for a minimum of 12 hours. I think the extra four hours can make a difference. Also, my batches are always quite strong - I tend to buy dark roast coffee beans for all my coffee. This tastes more like straight espresso than coffee.

                  As for the grind, I honestly don't know how much of a difference it would make. Also, after you strained it, did you add too much water to the concentrate? That may have also been why it tasted weak.

                  Good luck.

              2. re: MMRuth


                Thanks, MM.

                I realized I didn't include the link when I started this thread but was too lazy to go back and do anything about it....maybe I need a cup of coffee to perk me up, eh?

                1. re: oakjoan

                  No problem. I've actually not gotten around to doing this yet - so will have to browse through the posts and then give it a try tonight.

              3. re: orangewasabi

                I buy strong coffee for my hot coffee too. I buy equally strong coffee for the cold coffee concentrate. I think the cold coffee concentrate is more intense after the cold brewing process, probably cold it steeps in the fridge for about 12 hours. Usually, I drink my hot coffee black. With the cold coffee concentrate, I add a smidge of water and a smidge of soy bean milk.

              4. re: beetlebug

                I've done this with coffee and chicory, as per the Commander's Palace cookbook. Really good, and forestalls the bitterness/motor oil problem I usually have w/ chicory coffee.

                1. re: beetlebug

                  How long can you safely keep the concentrate in the fridge, beetlebug? I see that you refrigerate the steeping grounds, while NYT recipe steeps them at room temp. Do you think that makes a difference? I like yours -- sounds nice and strong. Lol, I thought NYT picture was iced tea!

                  1. re: bakergal

                    I wouldn't steep the grounds for more than 24 hours. I suspect if you do, the coffee will become bitter due to oversteeping but I've never tested that theory out.

                    I don't know if there would be a difference between counter or fridge. I keep it in the fridge to keep the water cold. This way, when I am straining it, it's already chilled so I can drink it instantly.

                    I also don't think there is any real difference between the NY Times recipe and mine. The Times just yields a lot less. I would rather have a batch on hand v. having to wait 12 hours every day.

                    1. re: beetlebug

                      I'm super-lazy, so I buy cold coffee concentrate from CoolBrew, made here in Louisiana. It makes the AM iced coffee easy-peasy...just pour, add milk or soy, and you're done. Buy online at

                      1. re: beetlebug

                        I've let mine steep for more than 24 hours, unrefrigerated, and it's fine (but I live in the SF bay area, where it's not very hot in the summer).

                        Personally, bakergal, I find that it's not an exact science: use more coffee if you want it stronger, or vice versa. The biggest difference is in the choice of coffee beans - the better you like the beans, the better you'll like the coffee, just like for any other brewing method.

                      2. re: bakergal

                        After it's strained, it will keep several weeks. "Off" or "stale" taste in coffee -- the classic "sat in the office caraffe half the day" flavor -- results from the natural oils going rancid. They do this quickly at temperature (a matter of hours), and eventually when chilled (within a day or so). These oils don't extract at cold temperatures (or at least extract so slowly as to be negligible in your final product), so your chill will last (unless you're like me and drink it all up in a matter of days!)

                      3. re: beetlebug

                        A quick clarification - I steep the coffee grounds with *cold* filtered water and then I throw it in the fridge.

                      4. I'm going to do this tonight. My usual practice in this heat (amplified by the 1.5 hour power outage in NYC this afternoon) is to make about three cups of coffee early in the am, and to refrigerate two cups and drink them later in the morning as "iced coffee". I don't have coffee filters though, so may have to make do with my fine strainer or some cheese cloth.

                        1. The process we used to use was a pound of decent ground french roast coffee. Put that in the bottom of a clean big glass pickle jar (the big restaurant kind). Fill it with water and put it in the fridge overnight. We would then strain it through a sieve with a coffee filter in it. It has a richer flavor and can really pack a caffeine punch.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: blackpointyboots

                            Interesting that you feel a stronger caffeine kick. The cold-brew method has long been used by people who want low-acid coffee. People whose stomachs can't handle regular coffee can do well with cold-brewed. Less acid, though apparently more caffeine.

                            1. re: david kaplan

                              My understanding is, the acids and oils that upset people's stomachs don't extract at cold temperatures (or at least extract much more slowly); apparently this is also the reason that cold-brewed coffee, once brewed, will keep for weeks, wheras even refrigerated, hot coffee goes off; that "off" flavor supposedly comes from the hot-extracted oils going rancid.

                            2. re: blackpointyboots

                              Actually, lower acidity and lower caffeine.

                            3. Would a French press work for this?

                              15 Replies
                              1. re: katecm

                                I don't see why not! Cool too because you're not wasting a coffee filter. The NYTimes recipe only calls for 1/3 C. coffee grounds and 1 1/2 C. water for the cold-brewing stage, and that amount would certainly fit into a coffee press. Brew on, Kate!

                                1. re: operagirl

                                  Good call on the french press, I'm gonna try tonight as well! Do you think it will still need a double strain?

                                  1. re: geminigirl

                                    I use a French Press, the Bodum 8-cup one. I use three-four heaping tablespoons of ground coffee (my favorite is La Semeuse, but anything will work) and let it steep until it cools. Then I pour it into a glass juice pitcher (the kind that fits into the fridge door) and let it chill overnight. When I make iced coffee, I put ice in first, then the coffee, then about a quarter-inch of milk, sometimes more milk if I feel like it. I don't add cold water because the ice melts and dillutes it enough for me.

                                    Some people insist on sugar syrup with iced coffee, because granulated sugar does not dissolve well in cold coffee. I use either Splenda or just skip sweetener all together.

                                    I'm amazed that cold-brewed iced coffee isn't more widely available. I have never had a problem finding it on the east coast or in the south, but here in the Midwest, eight out of 10 times, they can't make it for me. I know the places in Ann Arbor that can and that's who gets my business.

                                    By the way, DON'T throw out your coffee grounds. Use them on your roses. If you put some water with the used coffee grounds, you can take them right out to the garden and pour them around the base of the rose bush.

                                    1. re: brendastarlet

                                      Thanks, I made a batch a couple of hours ago so it should be ready for breakfast!! I made according to the times article 1/3 cup to 1 1/2 water, but doubled the recipie...

                                      Also, can I throw the grounds on most plants in general since I don't have roses?

                                      1. re: geminigirl

                                        Yes, pretty much anywhere in the garden is fine.

                                  2. re: operagirl

                                    I use a Toddy, which has an inexpensive, multiple use filter pad.

                                  3. re: katecm

                                    I think this is a brillant idea especially if you only want a few cups. Saves all the straining time too. I don't think you would need to double strain - isn't that the purpose of the plunger? But what do I know, a French Press has always been too much maintenance for me in the am.

                                    1. re: beetlebug

                                      I use my french press also for coffee as well as for tea. I think it is much easier than having to buy coffee filters or whatnot to strain out the ground.

                                      1. re: itstangy

                                        I use a french press every day for hot coffee. I find it easier than dealing with a regular coffee maker - but to each their own. I would like to try it with the cold-brewed method, but I have a feeling some of the fine sediment would remain, since it does for my regular coffee. Anyone have any idea if that's the case?

                                        1. re: Keramel

                                          I did this with the cold this morning and there was still a bit of sediment, I didn't really notice it thought till the end of the cup. In the future I might try and put it through a coffee filter and see if that makes any difference.

                                    2. re: katecm

                                      Wait, so how do you cold-brew it with the french press? Refrigerate the entire thing, and then press it in the morning? Or brew it in the jar and then transfer to the press for filtering?

                                      1. re: Raedia

                                        Keep in mind, I don't own a FP, but, I think this concept is worth exploring for cold coffee concentrate. My thoughts are:

                                        Using the NYT proportions (unless you have a giant FP that can hold a lb of coffee)

                                        Cold water with the coffee (grinds should be thicker, using the medium/coarse grind) in the FP
                                        Fridge for 12 hours
                                        Press in the am.

                                        This way, it saves the step of straining through a filter and if the grind is coarser, there won't be any sediment at the bottom of the cup.

                                        1. re: Raedia

                                          yep, this is what I did, doubled the Times recipie, put it all in the FP and stuck it in the fridge overnight. had some hot for breakfast and then later in the day for iced cofee. I have to experiment with the ratio of concentrate to water, but I did notice the smoothness right away, esp. with the iced more than the hot.

                                          1. re: geminigirl

                                            Well, I started mine a couple of hours ago in the FP - used the recipe on the NYT site. So, I guess I'll put it in the fridge before we go to bed, and check it out in the am! BTW - when I told my husband about this, he said that this method is often used in Guatemala - that the "extract" is served along with boiling water, and you mix it to your desired strength.

                                            1. re: MMRuth

                                              Putting it in the fridge is not necessary. We leave it on the counter overnight. I don't know if the concentration of flavor/caffeine/acidity would be much affected either way.