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How Long Should You Steep Cold Brew Coffee?

Tempted to make a refreshing batch of coffee, but wondering how long to cold brew coffee for? In this guide, we’ll show you the ideal cold brew coffee times.

Cold brew coffee flips the whole idea of coffee on its head and the result is just awesome. Instead of a hot drink, you have a cold drink. Instead of brewing in just a few minutes, it takes hours!

So if you’re looking to whip up a batch of cold brew coffee, here’s how long you should steep it for:

Steep cold brew for 18 hours for best results

Since cold brew coffee works through a very slow and steady extraction of the coffee flavor and compounds, the more time you give it, the more flavor you’ll get.

Cold water does not cause enough of a reaction to release the bitter compounds of coffee, so an extended brewing time is not detrimental here.

18 hours is the sweet spot for almost all cold brewing methods, whether you use a french press, a mason jar, or even a cold brewing system like the Toddy Cold Brew.

You can also use almost any kind of coffee beans as the flavor will be very balanced. Light roasts will taste very fruity, medium roasts will taste smooth, and darker roasts will taste bittersweet.

To enjoy an 18-hour brew, one of the best times to set it is right before you sleep. This way, you’ll have a refreshing mid-morning drink ready to go.

If you’re a little short on time: 12 hours

Not everyone has the patience to wait 18 hours, so if you’re a little strapped for time and need your coffee sooner, you can also get away with brewing it for just 12 hours instead.

In order to extract the best flavor in a shorter time, you’ll have to make some modifications to the brewing method.

Brew the coffee on the counter instead of in the fridge

The first thing you can do to slightly speed up the brewing process is to brew the coffee on your countertop.

My french press cold brewing method(and other immersion brews) call for putting the coffee in the fridge until it’s ready to be enjoyed.

The fridge will maintain a very low temperature, slowing down the brewing process. To speed it up, leave the coffee outside the fridge.

Your countertop will (hopefully) be not hot enough to turn your coffee into a hot brew, and the room temperature brew will result in a really neat batch of cold brew.

Use room temperature water instead of cold water

Some cold brewers like the Toddy are too big to fit in your fridge, so you have to leave them on your countertop.

In this situation, what you can do is use room temperature water instead of cold water.

As we mentioned above, cold water causes a much slower reaction, but increasing the temperature by even a tiny bit will make a big difference in the brewing speed.

Again, it will not be high enough to result in a hot brew, but just enough to speed up the reaction to have your coffee ready in 12 hours.

Use a cold brew dripper

Finally, you can opt to use a cold brew dripper instead of an immersion cold brew to finish your brewing in 12 hours or less.

Cold brew drippers are large contraptions that slowly release water onto a bed of coffee grounds. The water filters through the coffee grounds into a carafe or beaker at the bottom.

The main differences between a cold brew dripper and a regular dripper are the speed at which the water drips and the water’s temperature.

Most cold brew drippers let you control the flow rate of the water, so you can adjust your brew accordingly.

Play with the ratio

The cold brew coffee ratio we recommend for straight cold brew coffee is 1 part coffee to 8 parts water.

To finish your brew quickly and still retain flavor, you can decrease the ratio a little bit by adding a little more coffee to pack more of a punch.

Try brewing with a 1:7 ratio to compensate for the lost brewing time!

Use a cold brew machine and brew in 20 to 40 minutes

Thanks to the booming popularity of cold brew coffee, many manufacturers are jumping on the bandwagon and coming out with cold brew machines.

These machines speed up the brewing process by spinning cold water through a coffee filter.

Spinning the water increases the rate at which the water interacts with coffee, letting you make a “cold” brew in much less time.

Personally, I prefer the traditional cold brew, but these machines make pretty decent coffee too.

See the best cold brew coffee makers here.

If you’re in a real hurry: 2 minutes or less

Finally, if there’s no way you can wait for 20 minutes(let alone 12 hours) for your cold brew fix, the quickest way to make cold brew is with an Aeropress.

Here’s how to make an Aeropress cold brew:

  1. Grind 15 grams of coffee to a fine-medium consistency
  2. Place a piece of filter paper in the basket and attach it to the brewing chamber
  3. Add coffee grounds to the brewing chamber
  4. Add room temperature water up to the “1” mark for one cup of cold brew
  5. Stir gently for 1 minute
  6. Attach the plunger and plunge all the way down
  7. Dilute with a little bit of water and enjoy over ice

What’s the best way to strain cold brew coffee?

The best way to strain cold brew coffee is to brew it in a french press so you just need to plunge to separate the coffee grounds from the water.

You can also use an immersion jug like the Hario cold brewer which holds the coffee grounds in a mesh pouch that you can just empty once you’re done.

In case you went the traditional route and used a mason jar, pour the coffee over a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer into a jug or large bowl.

Conclusion

All things said and done, the ideal time to steep cold brew coffee is 18 hours. The other methods are shortcuts!

You should also be careful not to over-brew coffee beyond 18 hours, as there are diminishing returns after that and you’ll end up with a musty brown drink.

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