How to Make Cold Brew Coffee in Your French Press

Coffee Education / May 24, 2018

Learning how to make French press cold brew will not only result in creating a delicious and refreshing cup, but it will also help you cut back on excessive trips to your favorite coffee shop. No matter your reasons, learning to how to make cold brew coffee from the comfort of your home just makes sense.

We’ll teach you a simple way to make French press cold brew. You only need a few tools. You do not have to be an experienced coffee barista to make this successfully. So give it a try. It’s easy, we promise!

Cold Brew, Iced Coffee, What’s the Difference?

First, we want to clear up some of the confusion around how cold brew is different from iced coffee. Are they both cold? Yes. Are they prepared similarly? No. They are two completely different drinks. If you’re not familiar with the difference between cold brew and iced coffee, it can be easy to mistake one for the other.

brew cold brew coffee in a french press

French Press Cold Brew

Cold brew is not exposed to heat like iced coffee. Cold brew coffee is made by steeping which simply means that you put ground coffee (medium) into a container and let it sit in cold water for 6-12 hours. Then, using a French press, the cold coffee is pushed down with a plunger. This leaves the sediment all the way at the bottom of the French Press. Both drinks look similar because once they are poured into a drinking glass, ice can be added as well as cream, sugar, and flavors.

Iced Coffee

On the other hand, iced coffee is made using brewed coffee. The coffee is typically heated at temperatures from 160 degrees F (71.1 degrees C) and 185 degrees F (85 degrees C). The coffee is then cooled and served over ice with cream, sugar and flavors like the cold brew. Two similar looking drinks. Two different methods.

How did Cold Brew Coffee Come About?

Coffee shops around the U.S. have been around for quite some time. But it has only been about a decade ago since French press cold brew coffee has become a popular drink of choice although it’s been around since the 1600s. Originating out of Kyoto, Japan, it was first made using Kyoto-style coffee and was steeped using cold water.

As for the French press, it was first patented by an Italian designer by the name is Attilio Calimani. The physical makeup of the French press has evolved over the years compared to the original version. The original version included a metal or cheesecloth screen which was attached to a hand pump used for plunging. It also was created to brew hot coffee, and thus was designed to hold boiling water.

The modern French press is either a glass or plastic beaker that comes with a lid and a built-in metal filtration system. The French press operates best with coarser bean grinds (here’s a guide to grinding your own coffee), but will still function with fine grinds. Four minutes is the most favorable peak time for brewing hot coffee in the French press. After that, it takes only minutes before it becomes “old” and a bitter taste begins to set in. Sometimes even as soon as 20 minutes.

cold brew in my french press long pour

What You Will Need to Make Cold Brew Coffee:

  • You will need a French Press (also known as a cafeteria, coffee press, press pot, or coffee plunger).
  • You will need your coffee beans (1 cup). Lighter roasts are not as strong, but they generally have more caffeine, while darker roasts tend to be stronger and richer in taste. There is no right or wrong, it comes down to your personal preference.
  • A grinder (if you’re not using pre-ground coffee beans). Investing in a quality grinder makes a huge difference in how your coffee turns out. We recommend a manual burr grinder.
  • 4 cups of filtered water.
  • A container to pour your finished cold brew into.
  • A filter (optional) to help catch the grounds that come through your French press. (a fine sieve or cheesecloth will do).
  • A long wooden spoon for stirring.

Once you’ve gathered all of your tools and ingredients, roll up your sleeves and let’s dive in.

Step 1: Grind Your Coffee Beans

First, it’s time to get your beans ready to grind. One thing to keep in mind is that measurement is behind every flavorful cup of coffee. You want to also get the best grind possible. The ratio is one part coffee to four parts water (in cups), although this is subject to change depending on your personal taste. If you prefer your coffee stronger, you can adjust by adding less water.

Grind your beans to a course texture (NOT finely ground). Using grounds that are too fine for cold brew typically causes over-extraction which results in a bitter taste.

Bonus Tip: Coffee beans are always best to use when they’re fresh. When buying your beans, pay attention to the “roast date”. We recommend trying to make your coffee as close to that date as possible for a higher quality level of freshness. Make sure to look at that date printed on the package before buying. Coffee beans do go somewhat stale over time. The best way to store your coffee beans is to place them in a container that you can seal tightly. Then store them in a cool, dark place.  

Step 2: Add Water

After grinding your beans, add them to the bottom of the empty French press. Then slowly add the water, pouring around in a circular motion. Use filtered water because it supports better extraction during the steeping phase. If you don’t have filtered water on hand, go ahead and use what you have.

Slowly stir the mixture using a wooden spoon to collect the grounds from along the sides and get them completely submerged in the water. If your French press is glass, do not use a metal spoon, as it can crack the glass. Make sure that all grounds are completely immersed in the water and that there are no grounds floating toward the top of the water or around the sides of the French press.

There are a lot of coffee drinkers out there. Some say it’s best to use cold water for this step. And there are others who say room temperature water is the best. We believe it’s really up to you as long as you don’t pour in hot water. Since it will be steeping at room temperature for several hours, it does not make much difference whether the water is cold or room temperature.

Step 3: Begin Steeping

This is a simple, but critical step to getting the right flavor of coffee you want. You’ll need to let the mixture sit for at least 12 hours at room temperature in a cool, dark place. This will give it time to extract properly.

Although the wait can be frustrating, you do need to let your coffee sit for a full 12-hour period before attempting to complete the process. Not doing so will spoil your efforts thus far. The beans need 12 hours in order to release the flavors and oils that make coffee taste great!

Bonus Tip: If you’re strapped for time in the mornings, complete steps 1 to 3 before going to bed (time it, of coarse) so that all you have to do in the mornings is pour and go!

Step 4: Plunge and Pour

After you’ve waited 12 hours, it’s time to plunge. Slowly push the plunger down, but NOT all the way to the bottom. Applying a forceful pressure or pressing the plunger to the bottom can result in over-extraction and will release a bitter taste. The coffee grounds should be settled at the bottom of your French press, allowing you to pour your coffee directly into your cup free of grounds.

If you would like extra filter coverage, you can also pour your coffee through a cheesecloth, sieve or coffee filter into a container. This should help eliminate any additional grounds that were not segmented by your French press filter.

Step 5: Dilute With Ice

Since your coffee is concentrated, the last and final step (before drinking of course!) is to add the ice or water. At this point, you can also add milk, cream, sugar, vanilla, a squirt of caramel or anything else for a final touch of flavor. If you want to keep your drink cold but don’t want ice to water it down, you can use an ice cube tray to make ice cubes out of a batch of your cold brew. Your drink will stay cold and it won’t affect the taste at all!

Step 6: Enjoy Your Coffee

Now that you’ve made and poured your coffee, what else is there to do but drink your new creation? Enjoy!

If the coffee turns out too weak, you can extend the steeping process as opposed to increasing the coffee ratio. In the same way, if you find that your coffee was too strong, simply increase the water ratio for the next batch or steeping for a bit less time might do the trick.

Bonus Tip: Using a personal rating system can be an excellent way to track how well you think you’ve done and how you’re improving. This is as simple as giving your final cup of coffee a “score” on a scale from 1 to 10. Additionally, recording notes as you go along will help you to remember what you wanted to do differently for the next batch or what worked well that wasn’t part of the original process.

Best French Presses

Since we’re talking about how to make cold brew coffee, are you looking for a French press? If so, we have a few recommendations:

Bodum Chambord French Press

This classic French press coffee maker was designed in the fifties. The frame and are made of steel. The black handle comes in a matte finish that not only gives a comfortable grip while serving but adds to the classic quality of the design.

Bodum Brazil French Press

This French Press was designed in the early 80’s. Its attractive, functional and has a heat resistant, glass beaker and a polypropylene handle and base, which makes the Brazil easy to use and easy to clean.

Bodum Columbia French Press

The Bodum French Press has a double wall stainless steel construction which provides greater heat retention. This French Press contains a mesh plunger that prevents scratching, offers better filtration and reduces sediment.

How Do I Store Cold Brew Coffee?

Unlike hot coffee, you’re able to store your cold brew in your refrigerator for up to 2 weeks if all of what you’re storing is undiluted and 100% concentrated. Bear in mind that each day you let it sit in the refrigerator (starting after 1 week), it will lose a bit more of its freshness and begin to taste bitter.

If your coffee has been diluted, it will retain its taste and stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 3 days after you’ve made it.

After you get the hang of the measurements and how much you have left over, you can either cut back or increase your measurements.

Wrapping Things Up

As you can see, French press cold brew coffee is extremely easy to make and inexpensive too. And good coffee making, like anything, requires practice. So if your first or second batch does not turn out to be as delicious as you’d hoped, don’t be quick to give up. The best coffee pros possess two important qualities: a can-do attitude and a lot of patience. So refuse to believe it’s just not your thing.  

If you enjoyed this article, why keep it to yourself? Go ahead and share it with your friends and family. They may love it just as much!

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