How to Make Cold Brew Coffee with a French Press

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, for every liter of water 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 a medium-coarse grind, about the same grind size as a French Press.

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 12-20 hours at room temperature. If you want to slow down the process, 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 over 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 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.

53 thoughts on “How to Make Cold Brew Coffee with a French Press

  1. 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?

    1. 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!

  2. 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

    1. 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.

  3. What amount of the resulting cold brew concentrate would you recommend per cup, with water and/or milk added? I tried 6 ounces after brewing it in the fridge for 12 hours, which I then realized wasn’t long enough in the fridge. The second time I made it, I brewed it at room temperature for 36 hours and it tastes stronger, so I cut 3 ounces of cold brew with 5 ounces of coconut milk and water.

  4. Hello Michael, beautiful instructions. I want to make hot (not warm) coffee from the concentrate. do I need to make it even stronger?

      1. That is good to know. My quest is to find or create a low acid coffee. As a long time coffee drinker (grinding the beans and using the pour over method) I now find I cannot handle the acid any longer. I live in the Pacific NW and am not a fan of iced coffee. Appreciate your reply, greatly.

        1. I’ve heard of a “dutch americano” which is cold brew in hot water…I tried making it with a cup of hot water and a few ounces of cold brew concentrate and it was still pretty dang smooth.

  5. When you say “plunge an inch or two,” do you mean an inch or two below the spicket on top, or an inch or into into the slurry?

  6. Oh WOW! I made this yesterday with locally roasted Peru coffee then decanted through my Pourover filter and tried it for the first time this morning and it is AMAZING! I cut it with milk (and okay, a small scoop of locally made vanilla ice cream – just to help keep it cold of course) and it tasted just as good as a fancy coffee shop drink – better actually since it didn’t come with a $5+ price tag. I think I may have to track down some decaf beans so I can drink this heavenly stuff in the evenings too. Thanks so much for posting this!

  7. Michael, if you haven’t already….make ice cubes with your brew…then your iced coffee won’t get watered down with the ice cube you put in your glass!

  8. I’m looking for an easy way to make coffee while cycle touring. Could the coffee/water mix be done in a separate container then poured into the press for straining?

  9. One math quibble, 7/1 is a fraction not a ratio. A ratio of 7:1 would equate to 125g of coffee grounds per liter there being 8 parts 7 water and 1 coffee. While a 140g is 1/7 of a water liter’s mass, that is actually a 6:1 ratio of water to coffee. Even 125g is much more coffee than I typically use a hot brew in my French press, so I’m trying that out (actually 130g, since I didn’t stop grinding in time). I’ll brew it overnight and see how it tastes. Sorry to be critical but I did go to the North Carolina School of Science and Math, and even though Science was my strong suit not Math, I do get bugged by obvious math errors.

    1. Thanks for the critique, I edited the post to reflect it. I should have been more clear in the article, the ratio refers to the ingredients and not the finished beverage. The total mass of the slurry in this recipe would be the water plus the coffee. The finished beverage will end up being less than a liter, as the grounds will absorb a considerable amount of the water.

      1. Great! It does absorb a lot of water. I diluted with milk and added some hot water suspended cocoa powder/sugar mix with a pinch of sea salt, that I also made the night before and chilled, and the mix was terrific for iced mocha coffee for a hot summer morning.

  10. So you don’t plunge the plunger all the way down? Just the 1-2 inches and then pour it into a different container?

    1. I’m confused on this point, as well. It says to not disturb the grounds, but as I read the instructions, I assume it means to push the plunger down 1-2 inches, and then tip the whole thing so it pours into a glass. Wouldn’t this agitate the grounds any way because you’re moving the whole thing to pour out the liquid contents? Couldn’t you just push the plunger all the way down to stamp the grounds to the bottom, and THEN pour out the liquid? It seems to me like the agitation would be similar either way.

  11. Does this make a concentrate, or does this make ready-to-drink cold brew? Because 140 grams of ground coffee fills my 1 litre French press halfway… That seems like an insane amount. Yes, I have a good scale.

  12. So for clarification: we only press the plunger down an inch or two, and then pour the whole thing? We’re NOT pressing the plunger all the way down?

  13. The only thing I always find annoying is that the yield is a lot less and when you filter the cold brew through a regular Kalita or V60 filter they always get clogged.
    I made some last night with the French Press, 750ml -> 115g of coffee. I used the Nano Chala from CafféCouture in Vienna. It’s super smooth.

  14. So ok, I consulted the trusted barista at my local Starbucks (as I know their cold brew is insanely good) and she recommended their Komodo Dragon blend. Thanks for the good instructions and recipe.. I am now at Step 4 (waiting) and hoping for / looking forward to a great mid-Morning pick-me-up tomorrow!

  15. Great read! Just came across your site. When you weigh the beans are you including the glass into the 140grams weigh in? Planning to make my first batch. Thanks

  16. 140g is a LOT of beans, about 2 cups/ of grounds. That means ~3 liters of coffee from a 12 oz bag. Also, i grind by hand with a ceramic burr mill for accuracy, 140g took 20 minutes. It’s sitting in the fridge right now, hoping for the best outcome.

    1. Cold brew is one of the least efficient brew methods when it comes to coffee use. If you’re looking for a more efficient iced coffee recipe try Japanese iced coffee (there’s a link in the post).

  17. I’ve been a French Press coffee drinker for years (at the moment I have three) and then I became addicted to Starbucks ice coffee (it’s the filtered ice, I swear). Then they introduced me to Cold Brew and I drank the Kool-aid 😉 spending $5 a day forever. Then I got the BRIGHT IDEA to use my French Press (didn’t know you had been there, done that). I’m excited to have come across your site and I’m trying it YOUR way–think I didn’t stir it long enough before letting it sit–I too was confused about that 1 1/2 inch thing–enlighten me–I plan to plunge very slowly in 18 hours.

  18. If you don’t mind some particulates in your coffee – and I don’t (most of them settle anyway) – a blade grinder will work fine. I do like a French press for hot coffee as well, for the same reason we like cold brew. There is a depth to the flavor due to the steeping time, and those coffee oils, and who knows what else, have a mellowing effect.

  19. I stumbled across cold brewed coffee via a French press on my own. I use an antique hand grinder which is set for a coarse grind. One trick I’ve not seen mentioned is using a paper filter. I place a paper filter over the screen filter in my Bodun, which then provides very clear coffee. The extra resistance of the paper filter means it has to be pressed slowly.

    Since the coffee hasn’t been heated, it can keep all day without getting stale or bitter. I just pour what I want and nuke it!

    1. Hi Juan,

      To be honest, this recipe is due for an update. In the six years since I wrote it my technique has changed a bit. But I’m not sure I understand your comment. The recipe recommends a 7:1 water-to-coffee ratio, or roughly 500 ml water to 70 grams of coffee.

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