There are few things more satisfying than the cool, caffeinated sip of a cup of iced coffee. Somehow it tastes even better when it is conveniently prepared by someone else — a luxury I’ll be missing as the weather warms up and we all continue to stick close to home.
But cold brew is easy to DIY, and we’re sharing all the secrets to enjoying it at home. The first is to make a big batch in advance — a gift to your future self that’s even faster than hopping in the car and whipping through a Starbucks drive-thru. The second secret? Using the same technique that Starbucks — and other big coffee shops — use to make cold brew in bulk. You’ll just need some coffee beans (support your local roaster by ordering them online), a jar and a cold overnight soak. Here’s how to make Starbucks-style cold brew coffee at home.
What is big-batch cold brew?
There are a few ways to make iced coffee at home, but the most well-loved is the cold brew method. Cold brew is really as simple as mixing ground coffee with cool water and steeping the mixture in the fridge overnight. The next day you strain the mixture, leaving you with a concentrate (it’s strong, so you’ll want to dilute it) that can be served right away or stored for up to two weeks.
Beyond the fact that this method makes for a longer-lasting brew that can be prepared in big batches, cold brew coffee also tastes downright incredible. The cold steeping process makes a smooth, mellow cup of coffee that has very little acidity or bitterness.
Why Starbucks-style cold brew?
Say what you will about Starbucks coffee, but big-batch cold brew might just be the thing they do best. Even their darkly roasted coffee tastes sweet and smooth when brewed this way. Starbucks reportedly uses a large-scale Toddy Brewing system to make their large batches, and they soak their cold brew for 20 hours before straining.
We’re going to take some of Starbucks’ cold-brewing principals and use them to make a big batch of coffee that delivers the same sweet, smooth sip in a cup.
3 key steps to better cold brew at home
Get the grind right. Cold brew requires a specific grind. A larger grind — something closer to the coarseness of raw sugar — keeps the brew from getting bitter overnight. If you’ve got a small home grinder, it’s best to grind the beans in batches.
Use a higher ratio of coffee to water. This recipe uses a ratio of 8 ounces of ground coffee to 8 cups of water — which is 1 ounce of coffee per cup — making it easier to scale this recipe up or down. Drip coffee uses about 1/2 ounce of coffee per cup.
Strain slowly. The Toddy System that Starbucks uses to brew and strain their coffee relies on gravity to gently remove the cold brew from the grounds. To replicate that at home, you’ll need to strain the cold brew gently through cheesecloth and a strainer. Avoid pressing or squeezing the coffee grounds, as that extracts bitter flavors. Work in batches to strain as gently as possible. You might be asking yourself, “Can’t I just strain the coffee with a coffee filter?” You could, but it slows the straining process and occasionally the paper filters tear, creating more of a mess than anyone should have to deal with before coffee. My favorite tool for straining my cold brew is actually a nut milk bag.
Serving big-batch cold brew
Here’s how to make this cold brew into iced coffee just like Starbucks does. Pour about 1/2 cup of the cold brew over 1 cup of ice in a tall glass and top with 1/2 cup of cold filtered water. You can drink the cold brew straight-up too, but it makes a much stronger brew!
This cold brew concentrate keeps in the fridge for up to two weeks, so you can pour a cup anytime you want that sweet, smooth flavor.
Starbucks-Style Cold Brew Coffee
Makes 2 quarts
- 8 ounces whole coffee beans
- 8 cups (2 quarts) water, preferably filtered
- Coffee grinder
- 2 (3-quart) jars or pitchers with lids
- Rubber band
- Fine-mesh strainer
1. Grind the coffee beans in a coffee grinder until they are coarsely ground. Depending on the capacity of the coffee grinder, you may need to grind the coffee in batches. The goal is a coarse grind about the size of demerara or raw sugar.
2. Pour the ground coffee in to a 3-quart jar or pitcher. Add the water.
3. Gently stir the coffee with the water until well-blended. The coffee will float to the top as it sits, but don’t stress about that — just make sure all of the coffee gets wet.
4. Steep the coffee overnight in the fridge. Cover and refrigerate the cold brew for at least 18 hours or up to 24 hours.
5. Strain the coffee concentrate. Line a fine-mesh strainer with cheesecloth and set it over a large measuring cup. Slowly pour the coffee concentrate through the strainer. Depending on the size of your strainer, you may need to strain the coffee in batches. Fight the temptation to squeeze or press the coffee grounds in the cheesecloth.
6. Transfer to the cold brew to a clean jar for longer-term storage. Once strained, transfer the coffee to clean, airtight jars for long-term storage. Cover and refrigerate for up to two weeks.
7. Make your iced coffee. To serve, fill a glass with 1 cup ice cubes. Pour 1/2 cup the cold brew over the ice, add 1/2 cup cold water, and stir to combine. Add sweet cream or half-and-half if desired and enjoy.
Recipe notes: Undiluted cold brew will last for up to two weeks refrigerated; diluted cold brew will last two to three days refrigerated.
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