How to Make Cold Brew Coffee with a French Press

How to Make Cold Brew Coffee with a French Press

Cold brew coffee has never been hotter. Most of the major brands have ready-to-drink cold brew sold by the bottle or carton. Many cafes are now offering cold brew on tap or even on nitro.

As we’ve written before, Japanese iced coffee is our favorite way to drink coffee in the warmer months, but there are many reasons why cold brew is a great summer treat. For one, cold brew tastes a lot better with cream and sugar than other iced coffee methods. Sure, you might be a coffee snob, but you probably have a friend who likes a little dairy in their coffee. Cold brew is also a great way to use older coffee which would taste stale brewed hot. But, most importantly, cold brew is ridiculously easy to make. In fact, it’s quite possibly the the easiest way to make coffee ever. As an added bonus, cold brew is perfect for larger batches of coffee and it keeps for several days (which solves the age old dilemma, “How can you make coffee before you’ve had coffee?”).

Cold brew is quite possibly the the easiest way to make coffee ever.

The most delicious cold brew we’ve ever had was brewed with a Yama Kyoto dripper. But unless you have $250 burning a hole in your pocket and a overabundance of counter space, you’re probably looking for a simpler option. The good news is that you probably already have everything you need to make delicious cold brew. So, without further ado, here is the official Compass guide on How to Make Cold Brew Coffee with a French Press. 

What You Need

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  • Coffee – Cold brew works best with coffees with deep sweetness. Think chocolate and caramel notes. We’re using some of this delicious Rwanda Dukunde Kawa from our friends and partners at Greenway Coffee.
  • French Press – a French press is pretty much perfect for making cold brew coffee. Most are big enough to make up to a liter of cold brew, and they have a built-in filtration system. If you don’t already have a French press, Bodum makes our favorite.
  • Scale -  Here we are using the Acaia Coffee Scale, but any kitchen scale will do the job. We have reviewed several.
  • Burr Grinder - We can’t say it enough: your grinder is the most important piece of coffee brewing equipment you own. Good coffee is the result of even extraction, which is only possible with even particle size. To have an even particle size, you need a good burr grinder. Baratza makes the best home grinder we’ve used.

Step 1: Weigh and Grind the Coffee

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Most cold brew coffee recipes use a 7/1 water to coffee ratio. In other words, to make 1 liter of cold brew you’re going to use about 140 grams of coffee. Here we’re making a half batch, so we are only grinding 70 grams. (If you don’t have a scale this is slightly less than a cup of ground coffee. Read Five Reasons to Own a Coffee Scale while you find your measuring cup).

How to Make Cold Brew Coffee with a French Press

You’re going to use the same grind size as a French Press. That’s 35 on a Baratza Virtuoso.

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Step 2: Add Water

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Next, add 500ml of room temperature water.  As always, filtered water aids with better extraction, but if there’s any brew method you can get away with using tap water, it’s cold brew.

Step 3: Stir

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Make sure all of the grounds are fully immersed by giving the slurry a thorough stir. If you’re using a glass French press, use a wooden spoon so you don’t crack the glass.

Step 4: Wait

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This the hardest part of making cold brew: waiting. With this corse of a grind, the coffee should be allowed to steep for 12 hours at room temperature. If you want to slow down the process, (i.e. not wake up at 4 am to decant cold brew) you can steep it in the refrigerator to add a few hours.  Put the lid back on the French press, but be careful not to plunge it.

Step 5: Decant

How to Make Cold Brew Coffee With a French Press

Here’s the only tricky bit: push the plunger an inch or two down for stability, but avoid agitating the slurry. After steeping for 12 hours the coffee grounds are more volatile and any agitation will release the more unpleasant bits of the dissolvable solids that are better left behind. With the screen firmly in place, carefully decant the cold brew into another vessel. Since we live in Kentucky, we like using mason jars.

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For a cleaner, sweeter cup, you can run the mixture through a rinsed coffee filter. This will remove the fine coffee particles that passed through the French press filter.

Step 6: Drink and Enjoy

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You’ve been waiting for at least 12 hours at this point. It’s time to enjoy some delicious iced coffee. This recipe makes a concentrated brew, so you’ll probably want to cut it to taste. Plan for some dilution from the ice as well. We like to drink our cold brew in a crystal old fashioned glass with a large ice cube, preferably sitting on our porch.

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About Michael

Michael Butterworth is a barista at Quills Coffee, in Louisville, KY. Before pursuing a career in coffee he taught English in Istanbul, Turkey for two years. Michael is a dedicated bicycle commuter, an avid reader, and a committed but often disappointed fan of Arizona sport teams. In 2014, he became the first barista to represent Kentucky at the United States Barista Championship. Michael lives with his wife Julie in the shadow of the megatron at Churchill Downs.

Comments

  1. What grind setting on a Hario Skerton would you recommend for a French Press? You recommend 8 for v60, right?

  2. Awesome post michael! I’ve been told multiple times about using a French Press to make cold brew but never looked at the process closely. As far as cutting it with water do you have any recommendations on ratio?

    • Thanks Todd! High praise coming from a cold brew fiend such as yourself. As far as cutting goes, I would try anywhere from 1/4-1/3 water. Obviously it’s easier to add more water, so start small. To try it “New Orleans style” cut it with milk instead. Let me know how it turns out for you!

  3. Craig Helmen says:

    I tried this with 70 g of griunds and 500mls of water. The next day, the grounds had soaked up the water and there was nothing to decant. I used a french press. Any thoughts? Thanks

    • Wow. I’ve never heard of that happening. It’s possible that your coffee was too finely ground. Try using the same coarseness as a French press. If you’re using coffee ground for autodrip try only steeping it for 8 hours.

Trackbacks

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