The world is changing. The internet. Smartphones. Iced coffee.
For hundreds of years coffee’s been a hot-only drink, but no more. We’ve liberated coffee from its steamy shackles and given it a new, refreshing life on the rocks.
If this Earth-shattering change in the direction of humankind has left you feeling a bit confused, don’t worry because this is the last guide you’ll ever need to cold brew and iced coffee.
- The major differences between ‘iced coffee’ and ‘cold brew coffee’
- Why the old ways of making iced coffee are going extinct
- The easy way to make tasty cold brew and iced coffee at home
- What coffee ratios you need to keep in mind for a balanced brew
- How to be a productive citizen in this new world
Your summer’s about to get a lot more refreshing.
Iced Coffee vs Cold Brew: 4 Big Differences
Don’t oversimplify iced coffee by thinking it’s all the same (you’ll regret it). Here are the big differences you need to know about the two main types of cold coffee.
- The brewing process is way different. Regular iced coffee is pretty self-explanatory—you either add coffee to ice, or add ice to coffee. Cold brewing, on the other hand, can take steeping for up to 12 hours!
- A 130° difference in temperature. Iced coffee is made with hot water around 200°, but cold brewing uses water that’s at room temp (~70°).
- Up to 66% less acidity and bitterness. Cold water fundamentally changes which molecules are extracted from the coffee grounds, which is why cold brew is so smooth compared to tangier iced coffee.
- One makes a versatile concentrate. Iced coffee is… you know… iced coffee. But cold brew coffee is made in the form of a concentrate—and there are lots of fun ways you can use it to make creative drinks.
Iced coffee tastes crisp, full-flavored, and aromatic. Cold brew coffee is smooth, deeply flavored, and heavy-bodied. Both types of cold coffee are amazing—of course—but not the same by a long shot.
The Fundamentals Of Cold Brew Coffee
We don’t know who first thought, “What if I use cold water to make coffee?”… but they were a visionarys. Please take a moment of reverent silence.
Using cold water fundamentally changes how the coffee is brewed. Instead of acids, oils, sugars, and other flavorful molecules dissolving rapidly in the hot water, it’s a sloooow process. Like, 12+ hours.
Not all the same acids are extracted—the same goes for bitter tannins. That’s why cold brew coffee can have up to 66% less acidity and bitterness.
You’ll never find the flavor profile of cold brew coffee anywhere else. Without much bitterness or acidity, the coffee’s other tasting notes are able to shine in unique ways.
What Cold Brew Coffee Ratio Should I Use?
This part can be tricky. It’s why many people give up on making cold brew at home (it’s really sad). Let’s make this easy.
Firstly, it’s important to know that balanced coffee is usually made around a 1:17 ratio. That’s 1 gram of coffee for every 17 grams of water (or 1 tablespoon per 3 ounces).
Cold-brew coffee still tastes great at a 1:17 ratio… but this is where things get tricky. Making cold brew actually produces a concentrate. It’s not 1:17… it’s more like 1:5.
Three times too strong.
That’s why you dilute cold brew concentrate with water to bring it to a drinkable strength. Or you can use other fun add-ins—like soda water, lemon juice, or vodka—more on that later.
- Cold brew coffee brewing ratio: 1:5
- Cold brew coffee drinking ratio: 1:15
Once you add some ice to your cold brew, it melts down to about 1:17 (give or take).
Let’s see how this plays out in an actual recipe.
Cold Brew Coffee Recipe: Easy, Simple, Reliable
Let’s start with the basics of the recipe.
- Device: big pitcher, mason jar, or french press
- Filter: any coffee filter
- Coffee: 100g (20 tablespoons) — coarsely ground
- Water: 500ml (17oz) — cold
- Time: 12 hours
Step 1: Mix it all together — Measure your cold water and coffee beans. Grind the beans to a coarse setting. Mix it together in your device of choice so that every ground is saturated with water.
Step 2: Stir after 5 minutes — Take a spoon or spatula and gently submerge any grounds that have formed a ‘crust’ at the surface of the cold brew. Now cover with a lid or plate.
Step 3: Be patient for 12 hours — Chill. It’s doing its thing.
Step 4: Filter your concentrate — Slowly pour the coffee through a coffee filter of some sort, separating the thick brew from the spent grounds.
Step 5: Dilute and drink — Combine 1 part concentrate with 2 parts water, add some ice, insert a straw (reusable, of course), and get to sipping.
Your cold brew concentrate can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Pour a glass anytime you want!
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3 Reasons Your Cold Brew Doesn’t Taste Good
Don’t like your cold brew coffee? No worries—there’s probably an easy fix you can try next time.
“The coffee’s too strong”
Strength is easy to adjust. Simply add or subtract water when you dilute. If you want stronger coffee, add less water. Too strong? Add some extra water.
“It tastes too bitter”
Bitterness is a sign of too much extraction (over-brewing). Either the grounds were too fine and brewed too fast, or you simply let it brew for too long. Use a coarser grind setting or—more easily—reduce the steep time (try one fix at a time or you may overdo it).
“It tastes too sour”
Sourness means you didn’t extract enough. The grounds were either too coarse (very unlikely), or you just didn’t give the brew long enough (probably that one). Try adding 1-2 hours to your steep next time and see how that works.
5 Creative Ways You Can Use Cold Brew Concentrate
Coffee cocktails… coffee soda… coffee everything. Have some fun with your cold brew concentrate (there’s a whole new world open to you).
- Cold Brew Sour — Combine cold brew concentrate with fresh lemon juice, a hint of simple syrup, and ice. Top with a lemon wedge garnish. It’s tangy, it’s refreshing, it’s energizing.
- Cold Brew Martini — A fresh take on the classic espresso martini, this drink combines cold brew coffee, simple syrup, vodka, and a hint of coffee liqueur to form a beverage you won’t soon forget. Garnish with whole coffee beans or else.
- Cold Brew Soda — Top some cold brew with bubbly water of your choice and simple syrup. Drop in a chocolate square, muddle fresh mint leaves, or add a touch of cream to make it your own.
- Hot Cold Brew Coffee — Skip the cold water and ice. Dilute your concentrate with boiling water to make a hot coffee experience unlike anything you’ve ever tried (hint: it’s super smooth and complex).
- Cold Brew Lemonade — Mix cold brew with your favorite lemonade to create an upsized version of the cold brew sour. It’s less intense and arguably more refreshing.
And this is only the beginning. How will you customize your cold brew?
The Fundamentals Of Iced Coffee
Iced coffee isn’t new, but there is a newer way of making it that tastes so much better.
Good iced coffee is made with hot water, so it still has the full range of flavors you’d associate with coffee: crisp acids, balancing bitters, rich flavors, and stunning aromas.
It’s made like pour-over coffee (where you use a cone filled with grounds and pour water directly over them). But instead of draining the coffee over a mug, you drain it directly over ice in a glass.
Also known as “flash chilled” and “Japanese-style” iced coffee.
Chilling the coffee immediately after it’s brewed preserves those rich aromas inside the glass to be enjoyed, rather than allowing them to fly off into space.
And once you’ve tasted the difference, you’ll never go back to the old way again.
Firstly, How NOT To Make Iced Coffee
Classic iced coffee was created by making a pot of regular black coffee, chilling it in the fridge, and then serving it over ice. Gah!
Here’s why that’s so wrong…
- You lose 80% of the flavor in a few hours. 80% of taste from anything actually comes from aroma compounds—and coffee has 800 of them (more than wine)! When you brew hot coffee, those compounds fly off into the air. When you let those aromas fly off for hours and hours in the fridge, you lose them.
- The acids become really bitter. The compounds that make up liquid coffee change over time. Even excellent coffee becomes “muddy” after a few hours as the flavors start to break down and the acids become extra bitter tasting.
- It’s almost always watered down. The coffee’s made at normal strength, but when it’s mixed with ice, you end up with a watery brew that’s just meh.
Please, please, please… don’t refrigerate hot coffee.
The recipe we’re about to show you produces dramatically better-iced coffee. You’ll be glad you put in the slightly extra effort to make it.
What Iced Coffee Ratio Should I Use?
Finding the right ratio can be a bit challenging—once again, it’s why some people give up on good iced coffee and revert back to the old ways. Let’s break it down in an easy way.
Like always, balanced coffee is usually made around a 1:17 ratio. That’s 1 gram of coffee for every 17 grams of water (or 1 tablespoon per 3 ounces). That’s still true for iced coffee.
The challenge? Accounting for ice. You want the coffee to be watered down just enough, but not so watery that it’s weak.
Here’s the trick: exchange ⅓ of your water for ice.
- Normal hot coffee: 20g of coffee, 340g of water
- Iced coffee: 20g of coffee, 226g of water, and 113g of ice
You’re still making coffee at a 1:17 ratio. The difference is you’re using less water to make your brew extra-strong, then allowing the ice to dilute the brew to a reasonable strength and chill it at the same time.
Let’s see how it plays out in a real recipe.
Iced Pour Over Coffee Recipe
Let’s get the basics together:
- Device: pour over cone
- Filter: pour over coffee filter
- Coffee: 16g (3 tablespoons) — medium-fine grind
- Water: 180ml (6oz) — hot
- Ice: 90g (3oz) — frozen
- Time: 3-5 minutes
Step 1: Prep your ingredients — Boil a kettle. Place the paper filter in your pour-over cone, then rinse with a bit of hot water. Grind the coffee at a medium-fine setting and pour into the cone. Drop your ice in a glass, then top with the pour-over cone.
Step 2: Pour 30ml of water — Gently pour 30ml of hot water of the grounds in a slow circle. Make sure you saturate all of the grounds evenly. Let it sit for ~45 seconds.
Step 3: Pour the rest really slowly — In smooth, slow circles, pour the remaining 150ml of water on the grounds. Move your circles to the center, then to the edge, then back to the middle again to get all the grounds evenly wet.
Step 4: Make it drain — Sit tight. Watch as the coffee drains over the ice and chills instantly.
Step 5: Sip your brew — When most of the coffee has drained, remove the cone. Top with an extra cube or two of ice if needed, drop in a straw, and enjoy.
Oh, so good.
3 Reasons Your Iced Coffee Doesn’t Taste Good
Run into any issues? This should help.
“The coffee’s too strong”
Give it a minute and see if the melting ice calms it down. If not, add some extra ice and give it a good stir—it’ll eventually dilute to a more manageable strength.
“It tastes too watery”
You either used too much ice or too much water. Try pulling back on one of those next time around and your iced coffee should taste better.
“Why is my coffee sour”
The sourness comes from under-brewing the grounds. Since we use less water than normal to make the iced coffee (because we traded some for ice), we’re limiting the ground-water contact time, which means we’re limiting overall extraction. To fix this, grind your beans in a finer setting next time to slow down the draining and lead to more extraction.
The #1 Thing You Can’t Forget For Great Iced/Cold Brew Coffee
Skip this rule and you’ll be disappointed.
Your coffee will taste blah (bitter, dull, lifeless).
You don’t have to go full-on coffee snob, but there’s a massive difference between stale beans from the grocery store and freshly roasted beans.
(Grocery store coffee is usually 3-10 weeks old. Our beans are roasted to order.)
Your coffee can taste vibrant, aromatic, and naturally sweet. We’ll help you get there,