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You’ve Been Making Iced Coffee All Wrong

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Making your own iced coffee is easier (and cheaper!) than you think. Here’s how to get it right.

When temperatures soar and summer is in full swing, inside every coffee shop across the country, people are changing their hot drink orders to iced. But let’s be clear from the start, there’s a significant difference between iced coffee and cold brew coffee. 

Iced coffee is made very quickly by pouring hot coffee over ice. The result is a bitter, watered-down cup of joe that leaves a lot to be desired. Will it do in a pinch? Sure. But there’s a better way, and it’s even easier than you think.

Cold brewed coffee produces a deliciously smooth cup that’s naturally sweeter thanks to lower acid levels achieved by using cold versus hot water in the extraction process. The cold water element requires more time (a minimum of 12 hours) but ensures that all the flavor of the beans is extracted while the bitter compounds are left behind. The end result is a richly flavored concentrate that will keep in your refrigerator for up to two weeks.

There are a number of ways to make your own cold brew at home, but the easiest we’ve found is using a French press. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Coarsely grind your beans. We’re fans of a four-to-one ratio of water and coffee. So for a 4-cup cold press, you’re looking at 3 cups coffee and 3/4 cup ground beans.
  2. Add the grounds to the French press.
  3. Slowly add cold water, making sure the grounds are fully saturated. Some people will tell you to only use filtered water, while others say it doesn’t matter. We say, experiment and see what you like best.
  4. Cover the top of your French press and pop it in the fridge for 12-14 hours. If you have room in your fridge, leave the plunger top on, but don’t press down. Otherwise, use plastic wrap to cover the pitcher. Either way, it’s a good idea to cover the press so your coffee doesn’t absorb any funky flavors.
  5. When it’s ready, plunge and pour.

One final note: when you make cold brew, you are using more coffee grounds per cup of water than with traditional hot methods, and that means more caffeine (like, a lot more). That’s why we use cold brew as a concentrate and dilute with water and/or half and half to enjoy. But if super-caffeinated cold brew is your thing, don’t let us stop you from drinking it straight. For that part at least, there is no wrong way to enjoy.

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