Can You Make Cold Brew Coffee With a French Press?

Cold brew coffee is all the rage these days. Its popularity has soared, and now cold brew is featured on menus of quality coffee shops. Even large chains like Starbucks serve cold brew coffee, but you’ll have to dig deep into your pocket. Everyone knows iced coffee; it has been around for a long time, but cold brew coffee is not the same as iced coffee. It is a coffee brewing method where hot water is substituted for cold, and the extraction process takes place over days, not minutes.

A cup of cold brew coffee is smooth and sweet without the bitterness and acidity of other brewing methods. Cold brew, as the name implies, uses cold water for the extraction and the low temperature doesn’t break down as many solids as hot water. These solids raise the bitterness and acidity in a cup of coffee. Studies show cold brew coffee has fifty percent less acidity than other brewing methods, but there is a price to pay for lower acidity. The tannins and acids extracted during hot brewing pull out the fruity tones from some specialty beans. Cold brew coffee's subdued acidity and bitterness give it the popular smooth and sweet taste.

It’s easy to make cold brew coffee at home, and you may already have everything you need. This post will go through cold brew coffee french press techniques and provide you with everything you’ll want to know for making cold brew coffee with a French press. Lots of recipes tell you to grind the coffee, put it in a French press, cover it with water and wait a few hours. Sure, you’ll end up with cold brew coffee, but it won’t be spectacular. If you’re going to make cold brew coffee with a French press, why not do it right?

It all starts with the bean

Let’s put it right out there. Use whole beans for cold brew coffee and not pre-ground coffee. When beans are ground, they lose sixty percent of their aroma within fifteen minutes. If the grounds are exposed to moisture, the oils begin to dissolve, and lots of flavors are lost. Also, for cold brew coffee, the coarseness of the grind is important; pre-ground coffee doesn’t allow you to change the grind size. Even though we’re using a French press, the size of the grounds will be different from normal.

It may go without saying, but make cold brew coffee with the beans you like. At the end of the day, the flavor of coffee in the cup comes from the beans. Make sure the beans you buy are as fresh as possible. Roasted coffee beans release carbon dioxide and absorb oxygen, which results in oxidation and loss of flavor. Many specialty coffee retailers roast the beans the day they are ordered, but within one or two weeks is fine. Blends work best for cold brew coffee since the nuances of single-origin beans will be lost during the extended brewing time.

There is some debate regarding the ideal roast level for cold brew coffee. However, most people agree that a medium-dark or dark roast works best. Cold brew coffee is a concentrate that will be diluted with water at serving time, so a rich, earthy and nutty flavor profile holds up well. Lighter roasts require more extraction time to bring out the flavors. We make our cold brew coffee with our Chamberlain Coffee Night Owl Blend or our single serve bags. The cold brew has flavors of dark chocolate, honey sweetness, and toasted walnuts. In short, it’s perfect.

Water for cold brew coffee

Remember, the whole idea of cold brew coffee is the grounds never come in contact with hot water. Nextt to the beans, the quality of the water is critical. If you wouldn’t drink the water, or don’t enjoy drinking it, why would you use it for cold brew coffee?

We make our cold brew coffee with spring water. It is the most common kind obottled water. Spring water comes directly from a protected underground source, and is naturally filtered with no processing. It's the cleanest drinking water you can get. Of course, you can use any water you want, but with cold brew coffee, the quality of the water contributes to the quality of final the brew.

Grinding the beans and getting the ratio right

Grind the coffee beans immediately before brewing to ensure maximum flavor and aroma. For cold brew coffee, use a coarse grind rather than the medium grind typical with a French press. A medium grind may shorten the extraction time, but the brew will have a muddied flavor. Also, with a medium grind, some grounds may end up in the brew. Grind the beans until the grounds feel like rough sand.

Next comes the coffee ratio. This is the number of coffee grounds you will use to make cold brew coffee. Remember, cold brew coffee is a concentrate, so the water to coffee ratio will be much higher than for hot brewing, and not the same as for French press. The perfect ratio to use is 1:7 or 1 gram of coffee per 700 milliliters of water. Later, when serving the coffee, we’ll dilute with one part of coffee for every part of water, lowering the serving ratio to 1:14 similar to a hot brewed cup. Does it matter? It sure does. Get the ratio wrong, and you’ve ruined your cold brew coffee.

So, for a 1:7 ratio, weigh out 1 gram of coarsely ground coffee. You can weigh the whole beans, but most grinders retain some of the grounds. Depending on the size of your French press, you may need to double the number of grounds.

It’s time for the French press

Put the coffee grounds into your French press and slowly pour in 700 milliliters of cold water. Wait for five minutes, and then use a spoon to push down any grounds that have formed a crust on top. Leave the French press on the countertop for twelve to fifteen hours, and make sure the press is out of direct sunlight or warm temperature.

After the desired extraction time, slowly push down the plunger. The cold brew coffee is a concentrate, so expect it to look dark and smell strong. Using a paper filter, pour the coffee into a sealable container. We use the Chamberlain Cold Brew Mason Jar because it seals tightly and is made from thick glass keeping the brew cold for up to two weeks. When you’re ready for a refreshing glass, mix the concentrate with an equal part of cold spring water, add ice, and that’s it.

A cold brew coffee future

Once you’ve tasted cold brew coffee, you’ll fall in love with it. Even if it’s not your thing, it sure is fun to make. A French press full of water and floating grounds on your counter for twelve hours is a conversation-starter. Play around with the beans and recipe until you get the perfect brew. One of the best things about cold brew coffee is you can serve coffee to meet individual tastes. If you want the coffee strong, use less water to dilute the concentrate. If one of your guests prefers weaker coffee, just add more water. A cup of cold brew coffee is sweet, smooth, and takes the bitterness and acidity away from other brewing methods. Cold brew deserves to be included in your coffee brewing repertoire.

Grab your French press, get chilled, and enjoy cold brew coffee!