Cold brew is the new trendy drink to buy at your local cafe, but it’s actually quite simple (and much cheaper) to make at home.
Brewing coffee in cold water for a long period of time gives it a full-bodied, mellow taste that is pleasant and more than worth trying—though there is a bit of an art to it. Despite the fact that both cold brew and iced coffee can be defined as “cold” or “good for a warm summer day,” they’re definitely not the same thing.
Let’s take a closer look at what cold brew is (and isn’t), along with some tips and tricks for making your own at home with some great cold brew coffee makers.
Iced coffee is made by pouring hot or room temperature coffee over ice. This works just fine for many people, especially in the summertime when hot coffee loses some of its appeal.
The problem with preparing coffee this way is all of that ice and, subsequently, water, has the nasty side effect of watering down and weakening the ever-prized coffee taste. Cold brew is the solution to this problem.
Cold brew is produced from coffee grounds that are exposed to cold or room-temperature water for 8-24 hours. This is an entirely separate brewing method that gives cold brew a unique flavor profile.
Though cold water doesn’t extract aroma and flavor from coffee beans as quickly as hot water, it doesn’t mean it can’t do the very same job (if not better) if given the appropriate circumstances. Cold brew calls for a larger ratio of coffee grounds coupled with longer steeping time to achieve a full, balanced taste.
Specific techniques and recipes for this process vary; there are a wide variety of brewing methods available for cold brew that you can see below.
Cold brew can be extremely simple to make.
How much time and effort you’ll expend depends on the gear you buy, but the basic concept of cold brew can be done without much fuss: prepare the brew, let it sit overnight, and then enjoy cold brew.
The only must-do is make sure you have a sure-fire way to strain out all of the coffee. Whether you use a fine mesh to sieve the entire concoction or use something akin to a tea steeper, make sure you have an endgame.
Most methods, regarding the level of ease, produce a concentrate that might give you up to eight cups of coffee. There’s really no way to definitively say because cold brew can come out extremely strong. It’s not uncommon to purposefully dilute it to get a more pleasant coffee flavor — which is actually where it out-achieves standard iced coffee.
Go ahead and add ice—there’s a good chance you’ll need it.
Another bonus to cold brew is its longevity. Once it’s ready, cold brew coffee will stay fresh for up to two weeks when stored properly. Being able to open your refrigerator on busy mornings and have quality coffee sitting ready for you beats spending 10-15 minutes brewing every day.
One interesting benefit of cold brew for some people is the slightly higher pH, meaning cold brew may be less acidic.
Cold water extracts less of the natural acids found in coffee beans, making it a good choice for anyone worried about the side effects of coffee’s acidic nature.
There is some debate about the caffeine levels in cold brew. While it is true that the colder water extracts fewer caffeine solubles into the coffee, caffeine content results from the ratio of water and grounds, temperature of the water, brewing time, and type of beans used.
At the end of the day, the caffeine content likely ends up being around the same as a regular cup of hot-brewed coffee, regardless of what the strong taste is telling you.
Find the right cold brew maker for you and your lifestyle by reflecting on your motivations for making cold brew in the first place.
If you are curious about the unique flavor that brewing coffee in cold water yields and are willing to spend money to find the best taste, then opt for a method with more control over the details of the brewing process.
If, however, you want to try cold brew for its time efficiency and high yield of coffee that will stay fresh for days, find something that is no-fuss and simply designed.
Some cold brew makers will require more effort than others, so think about what you are looking for in terms of time investment. Keep in mind that one of the benefits of cold brew is the ease of use, so rest assured that most options we list will be relatively simple to operate.
Most cold brew makers are designed to brew enough coffee for more than a few servings but they will vary in capacity. Keep in mind that many systems produce cold brew concentrate, so they may actually yield more cups of coffee than what they appear to hold.
There are plenty of cold brew options that use reusable filters, and that is one of the benefits of this method. However, beware of those that don’t and consider whether this is important to you or not.
Like all coffee makers, cold brew systems that are higher quality are made of higher quality materials like glass and ceramic. This factor mostly depends on your budget, but these materials are always better at containing water than plastics or metals.
Making cold brew doesn’t have to be particularly fancy; in fact, a mason jar and reusable filter of some sort are enough to do the job well enough to reap the benefits of cold brew.
High-end makers involve highly engineered systems of cooling and dripping. The more mid-range products that are still specific to cold brewing are usually pitcher-style coffee makers that differ in quality of material, size, and capacity.
As you search, keep in mind that there is more variation between cold brew coffee makers than with other types of brewing systems simply because they all use a slightly different method.
We’ve done our best to help you understand how each cold brew maker works before giving you our evaluation.
Here are our top picks for the best cold brew coffee makers on the market and a brief explanation of how they operate.
Developed by a chemical engineering graduate from Cornal, the Toddy Cold Brew System is a popular method of cold brewing coffee that uses wool filters and a plastic bin with a rubber stopper to filter coffee into a glass carafe.
The creator, Todd Simpson, had a lot of strong opinions about coffee. During the heating process of the standard cuppa joe, elements such as ketones, esters and amides are released, leading to the bitter taste of hot coffee.
Alternatively, cold brewing doesn’t release any of these undesirable oils or fatty acids. In fact, Toddy says that their brewing system cuts acidity by as much as 67%, which is great news for anyone with a fussy stomach.
One of the largest downsides to the Toddy is actually the materials it’s made of. While the theory of how it works is solid (cold brew, simply put, works), the handle is flimsy and can easily snap off. It doesn’t release an excess of sediment into the coffee itself while draining, but it can be difficult to uncork and even more difficult to clean it all out.
It also, oddly, doesn’t come with a lid despite the fact that you’re to leave it sitting between 12 to 24 hours. Users report using plastic wrap, napkins, and paper plates to protect their precious java. I tend to lean towards a small ceramic plate, but to each their own.
When it comes down to it, though, the Toddy brews a lot of concentrated joe and will keep coffee fresh for two-plus weeks. It’s a popular cold brew tool and it certainly does produce a smooth cuppa.
The OXO Good Grips Cold Brew Coffee Maker is an option that’s been highly lauded by a number of testers and users, including us here at Coffee or Bust. While OXO has only recently become a more household name, they’ve busted onto the scene with some serious power.
Similar to the Toddy in theory but with a few extra features for that extra something-something, this is a simple, user-friendly coffee maker that a wide variety of users can love.
The individuality all starts at the top, where you load in the grounds and water. Featuring a rainmaker designer, OXO has taken into consideration that having a good bloom on your grounds is crucial to good coffee.
When it comes time 12 to 24 hours later to enjoy the fruits of your labor, flick the Brew Release Switch and the strong coffee concentrate will be sieved through a reusable, fine mesh filter built directly into the cold brewer.
The borosilicate glass carafe holds up to 32 ounces (4 cups) and comes with a stopper for easy storage in the fridge. Then, once all that’s taken care of, clean up is a breeze since the OXO Cold Brew Maker comes apart so you can reach all of the nooks and crannies.
The Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Iced Coffee Pot/Maker is really a testament to the Japanese way of minimalism. This tall, slim cold brew pitcher has a small footprint and also maintains a low price point putting cold brew easily in reach for anyone who wants it.
Hario, a well-respected brand in the coffee world, knows a thing or two about heat. When the company was founded in 1921, they started off making laboratory equipment since their specialty was (and is) the design, production, and sale of heatproof glass. By 1964, they had branched out to kitchen items and even car headlight lenses.
I bring up the heat for one, totally justified reason: quality. This cold brew maker is sturdy so, despite the fact that it’s glass, you don’t have to be on high alert in case you accidentally knock it against something or it slips out of your soapy hands in the sink.
Harios’ are tough cookies.
This cold brew coffee maker is no different. Dishwasher safe and not requiring any sort of reusable filters, the Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Maker is a no-nonsense kitchen item that’s as easy to use as they come. Even when it comes to pouring the steeped coffee out — the slender spout provides a smooth pouring experience and the carafe, despite its slender appearance, holds roughly 4.5 cups of coffee.
If you’re looking for a statement cold brew machine, do I have the perfect option for you. The Yama Glass 6-8 cup Cold Drip Maker in Straight Black Wood looks more like something that belongs in a museum on the industrial era than in a kitchen.
Indicative of the amount of detail and precision are built into extracting the perfect cold brew, the Yama Glass not only has the aesthetics, but has some extra wham-bam-thank-you, ma’am, and accomplishes the entire cold brew process, normally 12 to 24 hours, in a mere 3 or 4.
Made from 100% real wood and hand-blow borosilicate glass, the Yama Glass’ quality materials say something about the quality of the brew, too. Allowing for greater control over the creation of this cold brew, users can adjust the drip rate from 1 second to 1.5 to get the right concentration.
Using ice, the process is different than many others. The curves and shapes in the machine are entirely designed to result in the perfect cup, such as the spiral bit at the bottom creates an even flow for easy dripping into the carafe.
If you’re having a hard time visualizing this all in your mind, here’s a great video guide showing how it works.
Considering I just showed off the absolutely stunning design of the Yama Glass, it’s hard to say this, but the simplest methods often hit the sweet spot of consistent, quality product without giving your wallet a hard hit.
Literally, the County Line Kitchen Brew Coffee Maker is based around the idea of the mason jar, the simplest, most no-nonsense way to go about making cold brew. Using a tube of super fine mesh to contain the coarse grinds, it’s easy to lift out once the steeping time is over.
Made of soda lime glass, a stainless steel lid, and a silicone seal, there’s no plastic involved in this getup, and it’s all dishwasher safe. No reusable filters, no complex getup, nothing like that. Available in two options, 1 quart and 2 quart, for very reasonable prices, this Country Line Kitchen Cold Brew Maker is a great intro and long term option for making cold brew at home.
Another subscriber to the simple method of cold brewing, or the if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it route, is the Takeye Patented Deluxe Cold Brew Ice Maker that’s a more streamlined version for those not turned on by the mason jar aesthetic.
Takeya has been providing their Japanese design heritage through BPA-free insulated water bottles and sustainable tea and coffee devices for 35 years. The company began in Japan, but is now proudly located and made in California.
Compact, user-friendly, and featuring a leak-proof lid, the Takeya Cold Brew Coffee Maker is definitely a good, affordable option for those wanting to give cold brew at home a try. Made of BPA-free “Tritan,” this type of plastic is resistant to stain, odor, and clouding—always a concern with clear carafes.
Top it off with the silicone handle for easy gripping, the fact that it’s dishwasher safe as well as shatterproof, and the Takeya Cold Brew Coffee Maker is a great option for making (and serving) delicious cold coffee at home.
A different take on the mason jar cold brew coffee maker, the Simple Life version is pared down a bit from its County Line cousin. Still BPA-free, Simple Life swaps out the stainless steel lid for one made of bamboo.
The one quart mason jar comes with a stainless steel fine mesh filter to contain the coarse grounds. The jar and filter are dishwasher safe, but the bamboo lid must be washed by hand — not doing so can lead to a warped lid that won’t seal properly over the container.
Very affordable, this option is good for those interested in not investing too much into the cold brew life until they’ve decided they like it. The good news with this is that, if you decide you want to make more than a quart, the filter also works with a two quart mason jar you can pick up from most local grocery stores.
If you’re looking for a simple model with an attractive flair, the Ovalware Airtight Cold Brew Iced Coffee Maker and Tea Infuser with Spout hits the sweet spot. Meant to both steep your grounds and dispense them, you’ll certainly get compliments when pulling out this beaut at a house party.
This system uses a cone-shaped carafe made of extra-thick, lab tested borosilicate featuring a BPA-free silicone airtight seal and non-slip rubber base, all of which is dishwasher safe. The permanent mesh filter is made of 18/8 rust-free medical grade stainless steel. A laser cutter was used to create the superfine holes to prevent the coarse grounds from leaking out.
Ovalware is a baby compared to its competitors. Established in 2015 by the Mai brothers, they’re very focused on pleasing their fellow coffee lovers. That’s one of the big bonuses—coffee is all Ovalware does.
The carafe features measurement labels, an easy-pour spout, and is designed to fit in the fridge, making it an all around handy device for all who love coffee.
When it comes to making large batches of cold brew coffee that will satisfy even the largest appetites for caffeine, the Coffee Gator Cold Brew Coffee and Tea Maker is that bad mamma jamma you’re looking for.
Coffee Gator founder Phil Williams only came to the good side (i.e. of amazing coffee through quality products and beans) after many years of consuming instant coffee. He wants to share his come-to-Jesus moment with everyone else. In other words — coffee is all he does.
Coffee Gator prides itself on selling products that maximize both quality and simplicity, resulting in the sturdy, consistent Coffee Gator Cold Brew Maker. Made of borosilicate glass, it features a fine mesh filter and leak-proof lid so you don’t have to worry about drippage while it’s hanging out in the fridge.
They even tack on helpful items to make the coffee making process as enjoyable as possible — a measuring cup, collapsible funnel, and reusable filter.
Another simple pitcher system, the Coffee Panda is a durable cold brew maker that will last for a long time with proper care.
Even when the method is simple, there are always going to be questions. Don’t ever be afraid to ask and try new things—making the perfect pot of coffee is a fun experiment filled with trial and error until the sweet, sweet moment of success.
Not necessarily — it’s actually likely best to start off by using a bean that’s already your favorite. There’s a higher chance you’ll be a fan of it in the cold brew version. If you’d like some suggestions for all-around good coffee, you can check out our favorite organic roast and top ten 2020 coffee picks.
If light roast is already your jam, you’re going to take to cold brewing very well. It’s typically the recommended roast for cold brewing since it’s typically very acidic. Light roast brews will be nicely mellowed out by the cold brew process, so definitely take a peek at our primo recommendations for light roast.
One of the most amazing benefits of cold brew is it’s longevity. After being steeped, cold brew coffee can hang out in the fridge for two weeks before it starts to break down and lose the prized flavor.
The price we pay for wanting our coffee quickly and jolting it with hot water is having to put up with the bite of acidity and bitterness. For a bit of patience, cold brew reveals a smooth and almost sweet way to enjoy coffee.
Since cold brew doesn’t “jolt” the beans, it oxidizes and degrades much slower, giving us the luxury of storing for much longer without sacrificing flavor.
Regular coffee is sort of an ambiguous term, but if you mean whatever you make “regularly,” sure! The only caveat here is that you definitely want a coarsely ground bean, so if you’re buying pre-ground bags, they likely aren’t optimized for cold brew.
Grinding your own beans is really the best way to get the appropriate grind size for a good pot of cold brew, and you can find some great and affordable options out there. If your regular bag of coffee comes whole bean and you already grind them yourself, definitely use those bad boys. Just use a coarser grind and, wah-lah, you’re good to go.
The best beans for cold brew are the ones you like the most! Honestly. You can take a look at our cold brew coffee bean recommendations, but nothing’s going to beat out your favorite bag of joe.
Granted, what you like warm may not be your favorite made into a cold brew. Experimentation is key — just because you don’t like your first attempt at cold brew, doesn’t mean you won’t like your second or third. Vary the amount of coffee grind you put in, water, and definitely bean type.
The best answer is 12 to 24 hours. Give your coffee a test at 12 hours, if it has a sour bite to it, it needs to steep longer, as long as the full 24 hours. If it’s tasting like a delicious java at 12, remove your grounds and enjoy a nice glass!
While the Yama Cold Drip Maker is by far the most elite brewing system on our list, we acknowledge that price makes it a bit of a stretch.
While we also admire the Country Line Glass Cold Brew Maker for its simplicity and hardiness, it feels like it’s lacking a bit when it comes to handy features that would make cold brewing easier, like an easy pour spout.
Because of that, the Coffee Gator Cold Brew Coffee and Tea Maker takes the championship in our competition today. Between its durable construction, ability to steep as well as serve, and the special attention given to the users needs while cold brewing, it’s a top-notch affordable cold brew device for beginners and frequent fliers alike.