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What is Cold Brew – Types & How To Make It

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Cold brew coffee is made by steeping coarsely ground coffee beans in cold water for an extended period, typically 12–24 hours. This process extracts flavors without heat. Keep reading to learn more about this drink and how to make it.

I’m a huge fan of cold brew coffee and want to share everything about it with you.

Once you’re done reading, you’ll know whether this drink’s worth making.

Here’s what I’ll cover:

Let’s get to it.

Key Takeaways

  • Cold brew is coffee steeped in cold water for 12–24 hours.
  • Cold brew concentrate is much stronger than regular cold brew.
  • Originated in Japan in the 1600s.
  • Variations include nitro cold brew, cold brew cocktails, & flavored cold brew.

What Is Cold Brew Coffee?

image 4
What is Cold Brew - Types & How To Make It 2
TasteSmooth & mellow
AromaCaramel, nuts, or vanilla
Mouth feelSmooth & slightly syrupy
Caffeine205 mg
ColorDark brown
Other NamesCold pressing, concentrate, or cold water extraction

Cold brew coffee is the result of steeping coffee beans in cold water for 12–24 hours.

This slow brewing process extracts the coffee’s flavors without heat. Heat can cause coffee to become bitter. Thus, cold brew coffee is typically smoother and less acidic than hot-brewed coffee.

Since it’s concentrated, you’ll also want to dilute cold brew with water or milk. Hence, the term “cold brew concentrate.”

You could enjoy cold brew coffee black, or with milk, sugar, cream, or flavored syrups. Or use it to make iced coffee drinks, such as cold brew lattes and cold brew frappuccinos.

Still confused on how cold brew works?

Imagine you’re making a cup of tea. You can steep the tea bag in cold water for a long time, or steep it in hot water for a short time.

If you steep the tea bag in cold water, it will take longer for the tea’s flavors to extract. However, the tea will have less bitterness and more flavor than if you steeped it in hot water.

The same principle applies to cold brew coffee. The cold water slowly extracts the coffee’s flavors, producing a smooth and flavorful cup of coffee.

What’s the difference between cold brew concentrate and regular cold brew, though?

Cold Brew vs. Cold Brew Concentrate

CharacteristicCold brew coffeeCold brew concentrate
Coffee to water ratio1:10 to 1:161:4 to 1:8
Dilution requiredNoYes

Cold brew concentrate is made using the same process as regular cold brew, but with a higher coffee to water ratio. This results in a much stronger coffee flavor that you must dilute before drinking.

If you like a strong coffee flavor, then cold brew concentrate is a good option. You can dilute it to your desired strength, or use it to make iced coffee drinks. If you prefer a more moderate coffee flavor, then cold brew coffee is a better choice.

History of Cold Brew Coffee

Japanese Kyoto-style cold brew emerged in the 1600s. This method involved steeping coarsely ground coffee in cold water for an extended period. At the time, the Japanese were cold brewing tea.

However, folks in Dutch trading ships introduced cold brew coffee as a means to brew without using fire.

Fast-forward to the 20th century, when the Toddy Coffee Maker, invented in 1963, popularized cold brew in the United States [1]. This invention came to mind after Todd Simpson took a trip to Peru and tasted the beverage.

Cold brew continued to evolve, gaining a dedicated following among coffee enthusiasts. In the 90s, it experienced a resurgence with cafés. In the 2000s, companies offered bottled cold brew for convenience.

In 2017, after chains like Starbucks and Dunkin’ introduced the drink, its popularity skyrocketed. Nowadays, you’ll likely see cold brew in most grocery stores and coffee shops.

What variations of this drink are there?

Variations of Cold Brew Coffee

I’ll cover the following variations of cold brew coffee throughout the following sections:

  • Nitro cold brew
  • Flavored cold brew
  • Blended cold brew
  • Cold brew cocktails

I’ll talk about how each drink is made, their typical ingredients, and other information that makes them stand out from regular cold brews.

1. Nitro Cold Brew

Nitro cold brew is cold brew coffee infused with nitrogen gas. This gives the coffee a smooth, creamy texture and a slightly sweet flavor. Nitro cold brew is also less acidic than traditional cold brew coffee, making it easier on the stomach.

You’ll usually see it served on tap. And because of this, it has a foamy head that resembles a beer. The infused nitrogen gas also extends the shelf life of your cold brew for up to 2 to 8 months.

How do you make it?

Add cold brew concentrate to a canister, keg, or whipped cream dispenser to bring nitro cold brew to life. From there, add an N2 (nitrogen) or N2O (nitrous oxide) canister, agitate the container, and wait up to an hour for it to infuse.

Don’t think that has enough flavor? Here’s a drink that’ll blow your mind.

2. Flavored Cold Brew

Flavored cold brew is cold brew coffee that has been flavored with syrup, extract, or spice. 

Examples of extracts, spices, and syrups folks can add to make their drinks more flavorful include:

Vanilla extractLavender syrupCinnamonChocolate syrup
Coconut syrupMint syrupGingerPeppermint extract
Rose syrupMaple syrupSalted caramel syrupNutmeg

For instance, you could make a salted caramel cold brew when adding caramel syrup to your cold brew. Or you could make a pumpkin spice cold brew by adding milk and pumpkin spice syrup.

Here’s a drink that may work better on a hot day.

3. Blended Cold Brew

Blended cold brew is a type of iced coffee drink that’s made by blending cold brew coffee with ice and milk. It’s typically smooth and creamy, with a rich coffee flavor.

To make blended cold brew, add cold brew coffee, ice, and milk to a blender and blend until smooth. Adjust the ratio of coffee to milk to ice to taste. You can also add flavored syrups, whipped cream, and other toppings to your liking.

Perhaps, you’re considering a drink with more of a kick. Here’s what you’ll want.

4. Cold Brew Cocktails

Blended cold brew cocktails are drinks that are made by blending cold brew coffee with other ingredients, such as milk, ice cream, flavored syrups, and alcohol. They are a refreshing and flavorful way to enjoy coffee and alcohol on a hot day.

Some popular blended cold brew cocktails include:

  • Cold brew Frappuccino: Made by blending cold brew coffee with ice cream, milk, & flavored syrup. 
  • Cold brew White Russian: Made by blending cold brew coffee with vodka, coffee liqueur, & cream.
  • Cold brew Espresso Martini: Made by blending cold brew coffee with vodka, coffee liqueur, & simple syrup.

Learn how to make the base (cold brew) for all these drinks by reading more.

How to Make Cold Brew Coffee

The following sections will explore the best types of beans to use for cold brew, the various preparation methods, and the general steps you’ll need to take when making this beverage.

You’ll want to know the best bean type to mold the way your drink will taste. Then you’ll need to know the preparation method to utilize an existing coffee maker or buy a new one. Varying cold brew makers will affect extraction and taste in different ways.

1. Best Coffee Beans for Cold Brew

The best coffee beans for cold brew are dark roasts. This is because the longer brewing time extracts more of the coffee’s oils and flavors, which can lead to a bitter cup of coffee if you use a light roast.

Dark roasts are also more forgiving of uneven extraction, which can be a problem with cold brew.

Now that you have beans, you’ll need a way to make your brew.

2. Cold Brew Coffee Preparation Methods

Here are a bunch of different methods to consider when preparing cold brew:

Method NameSteps
Basic Cold BrewCoarsely grind coffee beans.Combine coffee & cold water in a jar or pitcher.Stir & refrigerate for 12–24 hours.Strain & dilute with water to taste.
Mason Jar MethodGrind coffee beans coarsely.Add coffee & water to a mason jar.Mix.Refrigerate, then strain & dilute.
French Press Cold BrewCoarsely grind coffee beans.Add coffee & water to a French press.Stir, cover, & refrigerate.Plunge the press, then dilute as desired.
Hario MizudashiPlace coarsely ground coffee in the filter.Submerge the filter in cold water in the Mizudashi pot.Steep for 8–12 hours in the fridge.
Toddy Cold Brew SystemCombine coffee & cold water in the Toddy system.Steep for 12–24 hours.Use the filter system to strain the concentrate.
Cold Brew Drip TowerThis setup involves a slow drip of cold water over coffee grounds in a tower, resulting in a concentrated cold brew.

Experiment with these methods to find the one that suits your taste preferences and equipment availability. Each method provides a unique cold brew experience.

Let’s assume you’re using a regular cold brew maker.

3. Steps to Make Cold Brew

Time to make: 12–24 hours

What is cold brew made of:

  • 4 cups cold, filtered water
  • 1 cup extra coarse grind coffee
    • ¼ cup coffee per 1 cup of concentrate
  • Cold brew device
  • Filter: If required for device
  • Sweetener (optional)
  • Creamer (optional)

Steps to make cold brew coffee concentrate:

  1. Grind the coffee beans to a coarse grind.
  2. Add coffee beans to your brewing container.
  3. Pour water over top.
    1. Cold brew ratio: 1:4 coffee-to-water
  4. Let coffee sit on the counter for 12–24 hours.
  5. Dilute & serve.
  6. Store in the refrigerator.

When serving cold brew concentrate, you may want to consider diluting it with 1 part concentrate to 2–3 parts water or milk.

How does cold brew compare to other drinks?

Cold Brew vs. Other Beverages

Cold BrewNitro Cold BrewIced CoffeeLatte
Caffeine (16 oz cup) *205 mg280 mg165 mg63–175 mg
TasteSmooth & mellowSmooth, mellow, & creamyVaries depending on the brewing method & coffee beans usedSmooth & creamy
TextureSmooth & slightly syrupyCreamy & foamyVaries depending on the brewing method & coffee beans usedVelvety
Time to Make12–24 hoursCold brew part: 12–24 hoursNitrogen infusion: 30 seconds5 minutes5 min

The following sections will cover all the differences between cold brew and other coffee- and espresso-based beverages.

1. Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee

Cold brew has up to 67% less acid than hot-brewed coffee served with ice [4]. Otherwise, differences will vary by brewing method in areas such as taste. For instance, iced drip coffee won’t have as syrupy taste as cold brew.

Iced coffee is also typically cheaper to make at home and buy at coffee shops or cafés. This is because you don’t need to store batches of coffee for long periods.

Hot-brewed coffee with ice also takes much less time to make. It usually required up to 10 minutes—when accounting for the heat uptime of some machines.

Cold brew has many differences with iced coffee, but is it that much different than nitro cold brew?

2. Cold Brew vs. Nitro Cold Brew

Cold brew and nitro cold brew are the same in all areas except store availability, price to make, taste, and texture.

Infusing cold brew with nitrogen gas gives it a creamier and more foamy texture. Also leading to a creamier taste. However, the nitrogen gas canisters you’ll need will add more costs to your coffee making.

In addition to those, you’ll need a nitrogen coffee maker in addition to your regular cold brew device.

And because of the additional devices and steps required to make these drinks, fewer places will sell them. Dunkin’ and Starbucks are the only chains I’ve found that sell nitro coffee.

Let’s move away from regular coffee and see how it differs from espresso.

3. Cold Brew vs. Latte

Latte is made with espresso and steamed milk. Lattes typically have 1 part espresso and 2 parts steamed milk.

Espresso is a strong coffee that’s made by forcing around 9 bars of hot water through finely ground coffee beans. Steamed milk is milk that has been heated and aerated until it is frothy.

The amount of caffeine in a latte will vary based on the amount of shots used. As a typical espresso shot will have 63 mg of caffeine. A doppio (double shot) will have double that amount.

Lattes take minutes to prepare as opposed to cold brew. However, preparing the former drink isn’t as beginner-friendly. Depending on the espresso machine used. If you use something like a Nespresso, then you won’t have difficulty making a latte.

Using a semi-automatic espresso machine will require timing your shots, tamping your beans, and more. Mistakes in any of these steps could result in a drink that tastes too bitter or sour.

A latte will also have more calories due to the included milk.

Now that you’ve decided on whether you want to commit yourself to cold brews, where do you get them?

What Chains Sell Cold Brew Coffee?

The following are a bunch of coffee chains that sell cold brew coffee:

StarbucksDunkin’Blue Bottle Coffee
Bluestone LanePeet’s CoffeePJ’s Coffee
La ColombreStumptonTim Hortons
Dutch BrosCaribou Coffee7-Eleven

Availability of cold brew at all these shops will vary. For instance, a Starbucks in a populated area may sell it due to having a larger market. While a Starbucks in a more suburban area may not.

Prices, caffeine content, coffee beans used, calories, etc will also vary by each location. If you plan on spending a buttload of money on drinking cold brew at coffee shops, try different places. Then figure out which place you’d want to buy from frequently.

You may want to save a bit of money on cold brew. Buying from a store may help.

Cold Brew Coffee Store Bought Brands

Here are common store-bought cold brew coffee brands you may see in your local super- or hypermarket:

RookLa ColombeCalifia FarmsChobani
Lucky JackStarbucksStumptownChameleon
High BrewWandering BearSTōKBulletproof
Odyssey Mushroom ElixirTrader Joe’sFerrisRise
CaribouBlue Bottle Coffee

I’ve frequently seen Starbucks and STōK at grocery stores, but not much of the other brands. You’ll have better luck searching for other brands online or at specific stores. For instance, you could only get Trader Joe’s brand cold brew at Trader Joe’s.

Prices and taste will vary by drink. Experiment to find a favorite. And if you still feel like you’re spending too much on cold brew, make your own. Cold brew coffee makers don’t cost much.

Is drinking all this cold brew good for you? Let’s see.

Health Benefits of Cold Brew Coffee

Cold brew coffee has many of the same health benefits as regular coffee, including:

  • Increased alertness & energy levels: Contains caffeine, which is a stimulant that can improve alertness & energy levels.
  • Improved mood: Caffeine can also improve mood & cognitive function.
  • Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes: Studies that antioxidants in coffee lead to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes [2].
  • Reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease & Alzheimer’s disease: Some studies suggest drinking coffee leads to reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease & Alzheimer’s disease [3].

Cold brew coffee also has some specific benefits of its own. Some studies have shown that cold brew coffee is less acidic than regular coffee. Such a perk makes it easier on the stomach for people with acid reflux or other digestive problems.

Nothing’s perfect. Here’s where the downsides of this beverage come in.

Health Risks of Cold Brew Coffee

Cold brew coffee can contain more caffeine than regular coffee, depending on how it is brewed. Too much caffeine can cause anxiety, insomnia, and other health issues. Limit yourself to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day, or less if you are sensitive.

It’s also brewed at room temperature, which can create a favorable environment for bacteria to grow. Such bacteria could lead to foodborne illnesses. Practice good hygiene when brewing and storing cold brew coffee to minimize the risk of foodborne illness.

That’s all for information regarding cold brew. Keep reading to find questions other folks may ask about this drink.

FAQs for Cold Brew Coffee

Keep reading to find frequently asked questions about cold brew coffee.

Is Cold Brew Stronger Than Regular Coffee?

Cold brew concentrate is stronger in taste and in caffeine content than hot-brewed coffee. This is because the long extraction pulls more flavor and caffeine from your beans.

How Long Is Cold Brew Coffee Good For?

Cold brew coffee is good for 2 weeks when stored in a refrigerator. So long as you don’t add ingredients such as sugar. Such additives could reduce your cold brew’s lifespan to only a few days.

Can I Make Cold Brew With a French Press?

Yes, you can make cold brew with a French Press. Brew your coffee normally with a French Press and refrigerate it for 12–24 hours.


Cold-brewed coffee sits in a brewer for 12–24 hours. Resulting in a beverage that’s less acidic and smoother-tasting than hot-brewed coffee. Most folks shouldn’t have trouble making this coffee. As it requires placing beans in a jar and letting it sit in water.

Learn more about other coffee beverages. Check out our enormous list of different coffee drinks for inspiration.

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Tim Lee is, as you might have guessed the founder of He is a former barista and a professional web publisher. He has now combined his knowledge and expertise in both subjects to create
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