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How to Make Cold Brew Coffee in a French Press

Lush, smooth, and catered to your specific tastes.

Published June 4, 2018.

The allure of cold brew coffee goes far beyond its trendiness. It’s less bitter than hot coffee, which means the subtle flavors in the coffee beans can shine. And if you make your own cold-brew concentrate at home, you can use your favorite coffee beans and make it to your likes and specifications.

In this video, part of our “Kitchen Smarts” series on our Youtube channel, Cook’s Illustrated editor in chief Dan Souza demonstrates our technique for making cold brew coffee at home. We tried a number of out-there techniques, including near-continuous agitation and five-day-long extractions in the refrigerator. But in the end, we found that a simple steep in a French press was the best method. Here are some other things we learned along the way:

  • Use freshly-ground, medium-roast beans: For the best cup of coffee you’ve got to start with whole beans. (Pre-ground coffee loses its flavor very quickly.) And we’ve found the medium-roast beans taste more like coffee and less like the roasting process.

  • Form raft, then stir: About 10 minutes after the freshly ground coffee and water are combined, a solid raft of coffee grinds will form on the surface. Stir this raft into the water to maximize contact with the ground coffee.

  • Let grounds sit in water for 24 hours: Dan has done room-temperature brews as short as 12 hours and as long as 72 hours. Twenty-four hours is consistently the sweet spot.

  • Filter after steeping: To get rid of silt and grit, pour the concentrate into a coffee filter-lined fine-mesh strainer set over a large measuring cup or pitcher. Most of the concentrate will filter through unaided, but it’s helpful to gently clear the sediment with a rubber spatula to let the last few drops through.

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Featured Equipment

The Best French Press

Bodum Chambord French Press, 8-Cup

Tasters praised the coffee from our Best Buy (it’s $20 cheaper than our overall winner): “good flavor, lots of sediment,” with a “pleasant” taste and a “slightly richer,” “not-too-thin texture.” It’s easy and straightforward to set up and clean. But the thin glass walls of this traditional press lost heat faster than insulated pots did.  
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The Best Liquid Measuring Cups

Pyrex 2-Cup Measuring Cup

The unbeatable traditional version of the Pyrex Liquid Measuring Cup is back on the market and topped our testing of liquid measuring cups.  
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Have you ever made your own cold brew coffee at home? Let us know in the comments!

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