Cheap, Homemade Cold-Brew Coffee (How-To)

For the past few weeks, I’ve been on a Starbucks kick. I know their coffee is the most expensive of all the kinds of quickie, drive-through coffees I can get–but they just do an iced coffee with cream and sugar better than Dunkin Donuts or McDonald’s. They just do.

Starbucks Iced Coffee Addiction

Om nom nom

However, a tiny $2.07 cup of coffee 3 times a week isn’t financially sustainable on any level (for me), so I looked in to coffee brewing systems online. The Keurig was out since they’re all really expensive (says the girl buying $2 coffees). I like the giant whole-pot brewers, but I also like my coffee cold. After searching “cold coffee brewers,” I came across a system where you “steep” coarsely ground coffee overnight and then filter out the grounds 12 to 24 hours later.

I immediately ordered the system, and then read the reviews. Wrong order, Carolyn. A lot of the people said the system was cheaply made and the process could be replicated at home for practically free. I canceled my order (and saved $40!), and set myself to YouTube to watch videos on how to cold brew coffee at home with minimal equipment.

How to cold-brew coffee

So many viiiiids!

I tried it myself one evening with the filtering process the next morning–about 12 to 14 hours later. It was tedious and a little annoying since Sean had already gone to work, and I was hopping around the kitchen (yes, sweating), trying to finagle a way to make myself a cold cup of coffee without the hefty price tag. I didn’t like the coffee at first, but I think it was because I was portioning the water/concentrate incorrectly. That, and I got a tasty creamer which could probably make plain old water taste magical.

Firstly, let’s talk about why cold-brewing coffee is the bomb dot com. (What? That isn’t the phrase anymore?)

1. It’s–voila!–iced coffee that’s already cold. How many times have you gone to a place for coffee, and they don’t actually have iced coffee, so they just pour hot coffee over ice? Not the same. It makes lukewarm coffee that is… not good.

2. The process is supposed to produce a less acidic coffee–which is good for those of us (me) who don’t usually take well to coffee. My stomach gets all sicky, I feel nasty for about 4 or 5 hours after just 1 cup. I should just stop drinking it, but I love it.

3. Because there’s no hot water and lower acidity, it’s supposed to just taste better. I’ll agree, that is, once you’ve gotten the coffee concentrate/water proportions correct.

Inexpensive Homemade Iced Coffee

What You’ll Need:

  • A big jug/pitcher/container to let your coffe grounds & water steep
  • 1 pound of coarsely ground coffee of your choosing (apparently, finer grounds make the cold brew much more bitter)
  • Regular coffee filters
  • 9 cups of water
  • Rubber bands or some sort of something to secure the filters

Steps to Cold-Brewed Coffee

1. Cover the bottom of your pitcher just with about a cup of water. Slowly powder on less than a quarter of your grounds.

2. Add a few more cups of water and another layer of your coffee grounds. Continue layering coffee/water/coffee/water until you’ve used your whole 9 cups and 1lb of grounds. [If you’re making less, cut accordingly. 1/2 lb grounds ~ 5 cups of water]

3. They say not to stir the grounds, but I just dunked the unsoaked grounds under the water line with a big spoon.

4. Put ground/water mixture in the fridge & let it sit for 12-14 hours.

5. Okay, this is where it gets tricksy. I used a few different containers with more narrow openings and rubber banded a coffee filter over the tops.

6. Pour the ground/coffee mixture into the filter bit by bit until you have groundless coffee concentrate. This part is tedious. I used multiple jugs with filters because it was taking so long. I also ripped a few filters and had to refilter entire jugs of the concentrate.

Will last in the fridge for 2 weeks.

*Note* This process produces a coffee concentrate that can be weakened with milk, creamers, and/or water. I fill a tumbler halfway with ice and then pour the concentrate to cover the ice, add water to taste, and then a little splash of vanilla cream. It’s cold coffee heaven.


Instead of putting the grounds directly into the water, you could try putting little tied up filter baggies of grounds in there to prevent the tedious part. I haven’t tried it yet, so I don’t know if this turns out better or worse than the other method. I’ll make sure to give it a go, though, for you, my loyal blog readers. 😉

Guess what? If you like hot coffee, you just pour hot water or milk into your concentrate to make it hot. Boom.

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