Everyone loves cold brew for its velvety smooth texture and sweet, chocolate flavor, but did you know that it is also one of the easiest ways to make coffee at home? All you need is coffee and a filter of some kind. That’s it. You can even make cold brew with as little as a standard fine-mesh kitchen strainer! But the easiest way to make cold brew at home – without special systems designed for cold brew – is with a French press.
In this guide, we’ll show you how to whip up a batch of cold brew in no time using only a French press and your favorite coffee. If you buy whole bean coffee, you’ll have an advantage because cold brew requires a very coarse grind size. There are a few adjustments you can make if you only have access to pre-ground coffee (we’ll cover the changes at the end). Ok, let’s get started!
Cold Brew Concentrate: What Are We Making?
All of our favorite cold brew recipes are technically cold brew concentrates, which just means that the coffee produced is stronger than your typical cup. We like concentrates because they produce extremely flavorful coffee without any bitterness. If you love strong coffee, you can drink a concentrate straight, but you can always add water, ice, or milk to a concentrate to make the strength lower if you prefer. This versatility is great if you want to share your cold brew with someone who has a different taste than you.
Making a concentrate is also perfect for making large batches of cold brew. You only need half as much storage space if you make a concentrate that is meant to be drunk in a one-to-one mixture with water. This saves space in your refrigerator and allows you to make one batch of coffee that can last a week or two since cold brew concentrate can stay good in your fridge for about two weeks.
Ok, enough about concentrates, here’s the recipe.
How to Make French Press Cold Brew:
1. Weigh & grind your coffee.
Use your scale to weigh 100 g (approx. 3.5 ounces) of coffee. Grind the coffee very coarse, even coarser than you would for standard French press coffee.
2. Add coffee and cold water to your French press.
Weigh 700 g (approx. 24 ounces) of water. Add the coffee to your French press. Then add the water to the coffee in the French press.
3. Stir and let the coffee steep.
Stir until all of the grounds are wet. Leave on your counter at room temperature for at least 16 hours.
4. Press the plunger and pour the coffee into another container.
Press the plunger on the French press until you meet resistance from the grounds at the bottom. Don’t squeeze the grounds against the bottom. Then decant the coffee into a large container for serving and storage.
Temperature and steeping time
The first thing you might notice about this recipe is we let the coffee sit at room temperature rather than in the refrigerator. Perhaps a better name for cold brew would be “not hot brew coffee.” When you make coffee with near-boiling water, it only takes a few minutes for flavor to get extracted from the beans. If you let the coffee sit in the water for ten minutes, you’ll wind up with coffee that is harsh and bitter. When this happens, we say that the coffee is over-extracted.
With cold brew, using room temperature water drastically slows down the extraction process, and you need to let the coffee sit in the water and steep for at minimum 16 hours if you don’t want your coffee to taste weak and flavorless. You can even leave it steep for 24 hours, and it will still produce a delicious concentrate. It can be fun to experiment with different steeping times to see how the flavors change as you let the coffee extract longer.
Adding a paper filter
This recipe is our go-to method for making French press cold brew, but we can add another step to make it even better. A paper filtering step will make your cold brew much cleaner by removing the fine particles that get left behind by the French press’ plunger. This is especially important if you make a large batch that you plan to drink for several days since any fine coffee grounds left will continue to extract and make your coffee more bitter over time.
The easiest way to get the benefits of a paper filter is to use a Chemex. The Chemex filters do a great job of getting basically all of the fine particles out of the coffee and leave you with an extremely clear cup that won’t change flavor as it sits. The glass carafe also has a large capacity, which makes it perfect for filtering a large batch of cold brew.
You simply pour the cold brew concentrate through a Chemex filter after pressing it in the French press. It’s a simple extra step to take that will greatly improve your coffee and make it last longer without getting bitter.
What coffee should I use?
You can use any coffee you like with good results, but we are partial to dark roast cold brew. What flavors get extracted during the brewing process depends on the brewing temperature. Very broadly speaking, the lower temperatures found in cold brew methods extract mostly sweet, chocolatey, and earthy notes. Dark roasts (like Lifeboost’s excellent low-acid dark beans) are usually packed with these flavors, so we like to use them in cold brew to really bring out and accentuate the sweetness.
Some people take the opposite approach and use a medium or light roast in their cold brew recipes. The idea is to balance a light roast’s acidity with the naturally low acidity that comes with brewing at a lower temperature while still getting some of the fruity notes people love about light roasts.
There is no right or wrong answer, and we encourage you to experiment with many different types of coffee to find what you like best.
What if I don’t have a grinder?
We mentioned in the introduction that making French press cold brew requires very a very coarse grind size. If you don’t have a grinder, you’ll have to make some adjustments to avoid over-extraction. If you use pre-ground coffee meant for automatic drip machines, you will wind up with a muddy, bitter mess if you follow the recipe as it is. With a few changes, however, you can still make some tasty cold brew.
1. Weigh the pre-ground coffee and add it to your French press.
Use your scale to weigh 100 g of coffee. Then add it to your French press.
2. Weigh the water and pour it in.
Weigh 1,000 g of water. Add the water to the coffee in the French press.
3. Stir and let steep.
Stir until all of the grounds are wet. Leave on your counter at room temperature for at least 12 hours, but no more than 16 hours.
4. Plunge and decant.
Press the plunger on the French press until you meet resistance from the grounds at the bottom. Don’t squeeze the grounds against the bottom. Decant into a large container.
This recipe uses more water and less steeping time to reduce the strength and extraction level of the coffee. It isn’t perfect, and using coarse ground coffee is preferred, but this recipe will make a better batch of cold brew if you can only use pre-ground coffee.
We also strongly encourage you to use a paper filter if you use pre-ground coffee since it usually has more fine particles than coffee you grind yourself.
French press cold brew is the easiest way to make cold brew at home and only requires minimal equipment. It’s easy to prepare, easy to clean up, and – best of all – makes delicious coffee! If you love the luxurious sweetness of cold brew, try our recipe and brew some of your own. You can save money, and the cold brew you make might even be – dare we say – even better than the coffee you can get out.
So, what are you waiting for? Grab your French press and some coffee and get brewing. You’ll have a tasty batch of cold brew ready in no time…well, 16 hours, but who’s counting?
Featured Image: FotoHelin, Shutterstock
Table of Contents
- Cold Brew Concentrate: What Are We Making?
- How to Make French Press Cold Brew:
- Temperature and steeping time
- Adding a paper filter
- What coffee should I use?
- What if I don’t have a grinder?