homemade cold brew coffee in a mason jar

Cold brew coffee is the latest caffeinated trend sweeping the nation. Everyone has it – Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Sheetz, and pretty much every coffee shop. Not only that, the coffee shops and trendy restaurants often have a cold brew coffee on a nitro tap.

But cold brew has been around for years. And it’s extremely easy to make your own cold brew coffee at home. I’ll show you how!

Why is everyone making cold brew coffee?

Because cold brew coffee is amazing!

Don’t get confused between cold brew coffee and simply drinking coffee cold. I started on cold coffee many years ago, by brewing hot drip coffee and then putting it in the fridge to cool down. I wish I knew you could cold brew back then!

Cold brew is different. Because the coffee beans aren’t subjected to hot water, the resulting brew is not acidic nor bitter. You simply get a delicious coffee flavor and a smooth beverage.

It takes longer to make, which means it’s more expensive. And it’s so delicious, of course it’s going to be trendy. So yeah, it’s expensive and trendy, but for good reason!

Past methods of cold brew

Before there was such widespread appeal, a lot of people were using a cold brew coffee system for making cold brew coffee. It was either the Toddy, or their own combination of mason jars and filters rigged up like a science experiment.

The Toddy cold brew system was the only dedicated cold brew coffee maker back then. I have friends who love it, but honestly, the Toddy looks like a waste of money to me. All you get is a cheap plastic pitcher (no lid), a glass carafe, and a few proprietary filters (so you will need to keep purchasing these). You want me to spend $35 for that?!

I feel like the other methods of making cold brew at home are not just cheaper, but better!

This is how easy and inexpensive cold brew can be. Get yourself two Mason jars with lids, a strainer, and some regular coffee filters; that’s going to cost about $12. Then you just need coffee beans and water. Mix coffee and cold water in one jar, let it sit overnight, and then strain it into the next jar.

Ta-da! You just made your own cold brew coffee using a few dollars worth of common kitchen items!

There are more cold brew coffee makers nowadays.

Naturally, with the rise in popularity of cold brew, you’re going to see dedicated cold brew coffee makers hitting the market.

oxo cold brew coffee maker

OXO developed a cold brew coffee machine ($50 on Amazon), and since I’m usually a big fan of OXO Good Grips products, I’m willing to bet it’s better than the Toddy.

[The OXO cold brew coffee machine is pictured to the right.]

There are also quite a few that look like big jugs with a built-in infuser. They’re significantly cheaper, but they don’t seem much different than if you used a tea infuser bottle like this.

Take this Hario Mizudashi cold brew coffee pot for example. It’s much cheaper than the Toddy system, but it doesn’t ‘wow’ me.

A French press is way cooler and classy.

What’s the best way to make homemade cold brew?

To recap, you’ve got the cheap but messy ‘system’ using mason jars, mixing spoons, and filters. Then there’s the Toddy, that’s just overpriced. The OXO machine looks promising, but it’s even more expensive.

Then you’ve got my way of doing things: a French press. To me, the French press is the best cold brew coffee maker. It’s inexpensive, versatile, and reliable.

You can use a French press to make hot coffee or cold brew concentrate, so you’ve covered all your bases. And it’s reliable – it’s not going to let you down.

How much does a good one cost? Mine was $12. No joke. It was cheaper than my $20 Mr. Coffee drip coffee maker!

Cold Brew Coffee from a French Press

I’m going to explain step-by-step how to make cold brew in a French press!

Shopping for a French press

You could buy a $10 French press from IKEA, try your luck at a store like Home Goods, or get a nice Bodum online for $15-20. Either way, that’s a good price, and then you’re not going through so many paper filters.

Here are a few of the top-rated choices:

Bodum French Press (34 oz)

A simple design featuring a glass carafe and colorful plastic. It comes in a wide variety of colors, so it should match your personal style. (I have a red one and it was only $12.41 on Amazon.com.)

Find it for under $20 on Amazon.com.

KONA French Press (34 oz)

This one has a more modern, aggressive style that some are sure to like. Currently the #1 best seller in “Espresso Machine & Coffeemaker Combos” at Amazon. Available in black or red.

Grab one for $20 on Amazon.com.

classy sterlingpro 1 liter french press

SterlingPro French Press (34 oz)

If you prefer a traditional style French press made of glass and metal, this is the one for you. You’re likely to see this type used in a coffee shop. It’s the #1 best seller in “Coffee Servers” on Amazon.

Get yours for $25 on Amazon.com.

Your choice! They will all work.

While you’re at it, you will probably want a reusable cone-style coffee filter in order to get the smoothest cold brew possible.

(Rather than using mason jars and cheesecloth, I just rest a reusable filter over my coffee jug and pour directly from the French press.)

I use a Bodum filter, but if you want one, you have to buy the full Bodum pour over coffee maker for $19.99.*

Alternatively, grab one of these for $5.99.

*It doesn’t hurt to have both a French press and a pour over coffee maker on your counter. Then you have a way to make hot coffee while the French press is busy cold brewing. And you’ll look like a true coffee connoisseur!

Making your cold brew

I’m going to share exactly how to make your own cold brew at home (that tastes better than Starbucks cold brew!).

cold brew coffee recipe ingredients on table

You will need:

  • French press
  • Stirring spoon (wooden or plastic)
  • Cling wrap
  • Reusable coffee filter
  • Mason jar (or other container)
  • 4 cups cold filtered water
  • 1 cup course ground coffee

Now that you have the tools and ingredients, let’s get started.

Step 1: Stir coffee and water together

The recipe is simple: coffee + water. But it’s important to use the correct ratio of coffee to water.

one cup coffee grounds

For each batch, I use 1 Cup coffee and 4 Cups water. With a 34 oz French press, simply put the coffee grounds in, then fill with as much water as can fit comfortably. (Don’t go the very top or you’ll spill it later!)

You can count grams if you want to get that precise. But I find that it’s such a personal preference, and that preference changes depending on the particular coffee bean, so there’s no need to spend so much time analyzing. Start with the simple 1:4 ratio and adjust in future batches, if necessary.

proper ratio of coffee grounds in carafe

I start by putting 1 cup coarse-ground coffee into the carafe, then adding 2 cups water.

stirring coffee grounds in a French press

Then stir it with a wooden spoon (use wood or plastic, not metal). Make sure all the grounds are touching water.

Add the remaining 2 cups of water. (Use this water to rinse any coffee grounds off of the spoon as you remove it. No mess!)

Step 2: Cover and let soak

Take a square of cling wrap and place it over the carafe.

covered carafe of cold brew

Place the carafe on the counter or in the fridge.

Let it soak for 12-24 hours (or at least overnight). On the counter (at room temp), 12 hours is usually perfect. In the fridge, you could do up to 24 hours.

I have tried brewing 48 hours – and that has not worked well – so I limit it to a maximum of 24 hours.

(The longer you soak the grounds, the more caffeine will be released into your coffee. And that’s going to make it bitter.)

Step 3: Plunge

Once the coffee has brewed, it’s time to plunge the French press.

plunging the French press

Remove the cling wrap and position the plunger at the top of the carafe. Press it down slowly until it hits the bottom. (It doesn’t really hit the bottom, but it feels like it does, because you have compressed the coffee grounds.)

Step 4: Filter

Pour your cold brew concentrate out of the carafe, through a coffee filter, and into a storage container.

filtering the cold brewed coffee into a container

This step is optional, but the goal is to have the smoothest cold brew possible. Since a French press won’t filter out the tiny particles, you might want to filter with a fine mesh filter.

Step 5: Dilute with water

Now you have a container full of cold brew coffee concentrate.

This should be diluted 50/50 with cold water before drinking. Most of the time, I pour another 4 cups of cold filtered water into my cold brew container so that I have ready-to-drink coffee. Then it’s ready to pour any morning I want it.

I drink my coffee black, and I don’t need much ice since I drink from an insulated mug, so this is what works for me.

mason jar full of ice

If you add milk and/or flavored syrup to your coffee, consider keeping the coffee concentrate at full strength until it’s time to make yourself a drink.

If you drink from a glass rather than an insulated travel mug, and thus use lots of ice (see photo above), don’t water the cold brew concentrate down right away. Your final drink will be too watered down.

Step 6: Store in the fridge

Keep your cold brew in the refrigerator to maintain freshness.

A batch lasts me maybe a week, at the most. It tastes fresh every day, so you could likely get away with leaving it in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Step 7: Enjoy

Pour yourself a brew!

cold brew coffee ready to drink

Enjoy it. You’ve earned it!

Cold Brew Tips and FAQ

You’re probably going to run into some questions as you begin to cold brew your own coffee at home.

Here are some of the questions I pondered during my journey:

What are the best coffee beans for cold brew?

Choosing a coffee bean can be a complex decision. But when it comes to cold brew, certain coffee beans are better than others.

Darker roasts are perfect for cold brew. Dark roasts seem to become more mild, yet still provide that robust, earthy flavor. It suits my tastes perfectly, and it’s also a great match for milk, cream, and/or flavorings.

Peets coffee Major Dickasons blend is excellent for cold brew

I’ve done many different ones, but my favorites are dark roasts that are not French roast. For example, Sumatra (which is my favorite). A good one that’s easy to find and relatively inexpensive is Peet’s Coffee Major Dickason’s Blend. Highly recommended!

Here’s the thing though – light and medium roasts work just fine! I’ve done a few light and medium roasts – some with vanilla and caramel flavors – and those always tasted great!

You don’t want to get one that’s too delicate – fancy light roasts aren’t necessarily at their best in a cold brew – but you don’t have to limit yourself.

You need to use a coarse grind for the French press.

Regardless of which coffee bean you go with, you need to use a coarse grind. That will allow your French press to function optimally.

coarse ground coffee for a French press

That means you have to start with a whole bean coffee and grind it yourself. (When you buy ground coffee, it usually uses a fine grind that’s meant for use in a drip coffee maker, not a French press.)

You can either buy a burr grinder… or buy whole bean coffee in a grocery store that has a grinder right there in the coffee aisle. (Or, even better, buy directly from your local coffee shop and have them grind it! It will be just as fresh, and they’re more likely to have a properly-maintained grinder.)

What grinder should I buy?

For the freshest coffee every day, grinding it yourself is by far the best option. I wouldn’t say it’s critical to making a good cold brew, but it’s important!

breville smart coffee bean grinder

So if you want to take the plunge, get ready to spend some money! A good, electric burr grinder is over $100 (like the Breville Dose Control Pro). Maybe $200 if you get one with extra features (see the Breville Smart Grinder Pro)!

There are a few less expensive grinders, though. In the $40 range, you have the Bellemain electric burr grinder and the Cuisinart automatic burr mill.

If you really want to save money, get a manual burr grinder. (If all you need to do is get a coarse grind for a French press, this is all you need!) You’ll only have to spend about $20, and you’ll get fresh-ground coffee with the satisfaction of grinding it by hand. Take a look at the JavaPresse, the Hario Skerton, and the Kuissential.

Should I steep the cold brew in the fridge or on the counter?

Great question! After extensive testing and research, I realized that there is no consensus. Some people swear by the fridge, saying that the cold temperature during brewing prevents oxidation and flavor degradation. Yet, most coffee shops I visit seem to do theirs at room temperature.

But for me personally, I taste a remarkable difference if I brew it in the fridge for 24 hours compared to leaving it at room temperature for 12 hours. I don’t know how or why, but when my cold brew is literally ‘cold’ every step of the way, the result is soooo smooth!

Try both, see which you prefer!

How much caffeine is in a cup of cold brew?

Earlier I mentioned that you don’t want to soak your coffee grounds too long, or the end result will be bitter. That’s due to the extra caffeine that gets pulled from the beans.

The actual amount of caffeine varies, but the general rule of thumb is that a cup of cold brew coffee will contain more caffeine than a cup of traditional hot coffee.

How much does a cup of homemade cold brew cost?

Almost as nice as how rewarding it is to make your own cold brew, is how much money you save versus going to the coffee shop!

Ignoring the fixed costs (French press and coffee filter) and minimal cost of tap water, the only expense is the bag of coffee.

whole coffee beans and cold brew supplies

A 12 oz bag of Peet’s coffee costs $7.99. Each bag contains 5 cups of coffee grounds, which means I can make 5 batches of cold brew with each bag.

Each batch of cold brew yields ~ 8 cups of coffee (4 cups coffee concentrate + 4 cups water).

I fill up my 20 oz travel mug with ~ 2 cups of coffee + ice, and I’d say that’s about the same size as most people get at Starbucks (and spend $3.25 or more).

Doing the math…

I only spend $0.40 per day on my cold brew, about 12% the price of the Starbucks equivalent. That means I can make 8 of my own cold brews for the price of one from Starbucks! Wow!

If you drink a cold brew each day, you’ll save $1,040.25 over the course of a year by making your own cold brew vs going to Starbucks!

Even if you round up to 50 cents per day (to account for your time, tap water, etc.), that’s still a whopping amount of savings!

Buying a nice grinder doesn’t seem so expensive now, does it?


time to clean out the French press

As you can see, not only does making cold brew coffee yourself save money, it’s tons of fun! (The only part that seems like ‘work’ is cleaning out the French press between uses.)

I highly recommend that you try it yourself.


Do you already make your own cold brew? Please share with me (in the comments section below) your favorite coffee beans and your favorite brewing method!

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  1. Q: If you cut the coffee 50/50 with water right away, why not just cut the initial recipe in half, to use 1/2 cup coffee grounds to 4 cups water? A 1:8 ratio?

    P.S. Wonderful tutorial!

    • @Brad

      Thank you 🙂

      I have an answer for that. It’s because sometimes I do *not* cut it with water right away. Sometimes I like to have the concentrate on hand.

      Maybe I’m brewing from 7pm to 7am, in which case I’m going to put lots and lots of ice with it! (Essentially I’d cut it 50/50 with ice.) Or maybe I’ll have house guests that like to put milk, cream, and/or flavored syrup in their cold brew.

      Sticking with the traditional brewing method for cold brew concentrate gives me more freedom and leeway.

  2. It takes too long

    • @Nancy

      It’s actually a very low time commitment. You don’t really spend any more time preparing the coffee; in fact, you might save time since you’re brewing in bulk!

      But, if you want your coffee now, you have a point. Cold brew takes a long time to brew. You have to be diligent and think ahead. The only suggestion I could make for you is to try out this new device called the Dripo. It’s a little single-serve mug that cold brews in about 2 hours on-the-go. (Sounds too good to be true, if you ask me. That’s why I didn’t mention it in my article.)

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