One of cold brew coffee’s main advantages is its simplicity — and homemade cold brew is easier than ever with our Cold Brew Bags. We’ve pared it down to a compostable bag that you can use with any container (mason jars work great). And because cold brew coffee uses room temperature or cold water, some of the acid and bitterness in hot coffee is left behind. So, if you prefer your iced coffee with a smooth, mild taste, cold brew coffee is the brew method for you.
Put the sealed bag in your container and fill it with room temperature or cold filtered water. No fancy pouring technique required, just make sure all the coffee is submerged. To stop the coffee from oxidizing (thus, picking up stale flavors) during the brewing process, tightly cover your container and keep it out of direct sunlight. This is especially important, because hotter temperatures speed up oxidation and the brewing process, potentially leaving you with bitter flavors.
Cold brew coffee requires a certain amount of patience (or at least forethought). Wait 12 to 18 hours; longer brew times will yield a richer concentrate, but steeping it more than 18 hours could cause bitter flavors. Because cold water extracts slower than hot water, you’ll need that time to get flavor into your brew.
Our cold brew bags make cleanup no more difficult than your tea brewing process. Just remove the bag — no need to strain — and discard or commercially compost it (along with your coffee grounds).
Your cold brew is ready! With our recipe, the coffee you brewed will be strong enough that ice, milk, or dairy substitute won’t dilute the taste too much. If the concentrate feels like it’s too strong, add water to taste. Because our cold brew is brewed as a concentrate, it stands up to other ingredients, like those in a cocktail or mocktail recipe, too.
If you’re not planning to drink it right away, keep any leftover concentrate you brewed in your refrigerator for up to a week.
While you can use any coffee beans you’d like in cold brew coffee — because the cold brewing process uses cold water rather than hot water, it isn’t really able to extract many of the acids you find in hot coffee — we recommend coffee beans for which acidity isn’t a major selling point. You’ll likely be better off cold brewing coffees with lots of body and sweetness. That certainly describes darker roasts, but don’t shy away from lighter roasted natural coffees, which often carry tons of fruit flavors that are much sweeter than they are acidic. If you want to let us do the work of choosing coffees for you, we’d love to help you build a personalized subscription and match you with coffees that’ll taste delicious.
Because cold brew is an immersion brew method (meaning the coffee is completely submerged in water and stays in contact until the brewing is done), you want a very chunky, coarse grind size. The larger the surface area, the longer it takes for the water to extract the delicious stuff out of the coffee beans. If you’re using a burr grinder, which has a vastly more even grind size for better flavor extraction, you’ll want to use the higher number settings. If you use a blade grinder, just don’t grind for nearly as long as you would for, say, a drip machine. If you’re buying your coffee beans pre-ground, you should be able to ask for it to be ground for cold brew, but if all else fails remember the word “coarse”.
Our cold brew recipe calls for about an eight to one ratio of cold or room temperature water to coffee grinds in the brewing process. We came to that ratio because it tastes delicious over ice; taking into account that the ice cubes will melt, diluting the cold brew. However, it couldn’t be easier to adjust the recipe and brew a stronger coffee concentrate. You could use the same amount of water with two Trade Cold Brew Bags worth of coffee, for a concentrate that’s roughly twice as strong. The main advantage of making a concentrate is that it takes up less space, making it easier to transport. On the flip side, if our cold brew recipe is too intense, feel free to use less coffee for a more diluted brew. Just measure how much less coffee you’re using so you can repeat or accurately adjust it from batch to batch, As long as you have a vessel that’s big enough to hold the Cold Brew Bag and narrow enough to submerge it all the way under the water, you’re golden. For your makeshift cold brew coffee maker, you can use a large french press, tupperware container, or even a mixing bowl — coffee shops even steep big batches of cold brew coffee in a food safe bucket. Whatever vessel you choose, just make sure to cover your container in some way (any lid will do, but in a pinch you could use cling wrap, tin foil, or a large plate) to avoid contact with oxygen, which can interact with coffee and cause some slightly off flavors or bitterness.
As with many coffee brewing terms, there isn’t always strict agreement in the coffee world, but generally “iced coffee” refers to any way to serve non-espresso-based cold coffee over ice. This has in the past meant taking regular coffee brewed on a drip machine (not any special equipment like a cold brew maker, hario mizudashi, or toddy cold brew maker) and putting it in the fridge. It can also refer to flash-chill brewed coffee. Cold brew, then, refers simply to any brew method that doesn’t use hot water.
As far as caffeine, cold brew could be stronger depending on how you look at it. Technically, you can make cold brew coffee with any ratio of coffee to water that you want, so if you brew it using the amount of coffee and water in, say, our French press recipe, it’ll have roughly the same amount of caffeine. If you make it using the stronger coffee to water ratio most recipes (like this one) call for, the finished brew will have more caffeine by volume, but since we expect you’ll be filling around half your glass with ice cubes, the beverage should have around the same total caffeine as the similarly sized hot beverage.