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Cold Brew Espresso: What Is It And How To Make It?

Cold brew espresso is a variation on standard cold brew that you can use instead to make iced lattes and other summery coffee drinks.

It’s a great way to step up your iced coffee game. And as an added bonus it’s super easy to make.

I’ll give you a rundown of cold brew espresso, how to make it, and some drink ideas for your next summer brunch.

Let’s jump in!

What is a Cold Brew Espresso?

a woman pouring cold brew espresso in a glass

In the simplest terms, cold brew espresso is a very concentrated cold brew.

Basically, cold brew espresso is an espresso-like cold drink that you can use to make anything from iced lattes to iced Americanos instead of using a hot coffee.

Think of it as juice.

Sometimes you want just a glass of grape juice. That’s your standard grape juice or your standard cold brew.

But sometimes you use grape juice concentrate to make things like cocktails or fruit punch. That’s your cold brew espresso.

Like drinking grape juice concentrate isn’t advisable, drinking cold brew espresso isn’t that tasty.

You’ll need to add other ingredients to your cold brew espresso for it to shine.

Brewing Basics

You might be thinking, “Why should I make cold brew espresso instead of regular cold brew?”

The answer is that cold brew espresso gives you two things. First, you get more coffee per batch than you would with regular cold brew. 

The second is that you can create more balanced iced drinks with cold brew espresso instead of regular cold brew.

Picture a hot latte as an example. In a hot latte, you get a balanced taste by adding frothed milk to espresso in a ratio of about 3:1.

You wouldn’t use brewed coffee to make a latte because it would be watered down and taste mostly like the milk you use.

So, with iced lattes, using cold brew espresso serves the same purpose.

The best part is that cold brew espresso is actually super easy to make.

There are many ways to make it, but really all you need is a grinder and a container of some kind. You don’t need an espresso machine as you would for pulling an espresso shot. 

If you have a French press handy, that’s an ideal brewer for making cold brew espresso. Otherwise, using a mason jar and a cheesecloth works really well too.

You’re aiming for a ratio of 5-7:1 water to coffee ratio for cold brew espresso.

The Flavor

a woman pouring cold brew espresso in a glass

The flavor of cold brew espresso isn’t quite like hot espresso. That’s because you don’t make cold brew espresso with a ton of pressure.

Instead, it steeps for a long time to create the taste.

It’s like letting a tea bag steep for half an hour instead of five minutes. You’ll get a super concentrated tea.

What this means for cold brew espresso is that you need to dilute it to make it taste balanced and delicious. Drinking it on its own will be really bitter.

Grinding your coffee bean to a good size is really important when making cold brew espresso.

If you grind too coarse, you won’t get as concentrated a batch. Grind too fine and you’ll end up with a tarry and super bitter batch.

It can take some time to dial in exactly how fine you should grind, but it’s all about personal taste.

Personally, I like to grind my cold brew espresso just a touch coarser than I would for a French press brew.

The Simplest Recipe for Cold Brew Espresso

There are many ways to make cold brew espresso, but that doesn’t mean it has to be complicated. The opposite, actually.

The hardest part about cold brew espresso is the patience needed to wait for it to finish steeping.

Ingredients

a woman pouring cold brew espresso in a glass

There are only two ingredients needed to make cold brew espresso: espresso beans and water.

The coffee makes a pretty big difference. 

If you want a batch of cold brew espresso that tastes like a cold version of regular espresso, use your standard espresso blend.

For a little more punch, try using a coffee that has high acidity.

I prefer coffees with high acidity because they add a nice summery punch to my iced lattes.

Equipment

I mentioned earlier that you really only need a grinder and a container.

That’s true, but there are a few other things to consider before brewing.

While a French press is a great way to make cold brew concentrate, you need to keep the plunger up while it brews. If you have a crowded refrigerator, that can be cumbersome.

A mason jar is another great way to make cold brew espresso, but they don’t have filters built-in. You’ll either need to pour your cold brew espresso through a regular coffee filter or use a cheesecloth to get all the grind out.

The benefit of using a mason jar is that they are easy to tuck away in the back of your fridge without worrying about any spills.

There is even a dedicated cold brew coffee maker out there. It’s great for easy serving as most of them have a carafe and tap built into the design. But unless you really want the carafe and tap, there isn’t much reason to buy one.

Instructions

As I said earlier, you’re aiming for a ratio of 5-7:1 water to coffee. If you’ve made regular cold brew before, you’ll recognize that that ratio is about half of what you’re used to.

That’s because it needs to be more concentrated than regular cold brew. I’ll explain what to do with your cold brew espresso in the next section, but for now, let’s start cold brewing!

  • Start by weighing out and grinding your coffee
  • Add your ground coffee to your container
  • Add cold water until your reach a 5-7:1 water to coffee ratio
  • Cover your container and place it in the fridge
  • Wait anywhere between 12-18 hours
  • Filter your coffee
  • Enjoy your cold brewed espresso!

A quick note about the time. Waiting longer will mean your cold brew espresso will taste stronger and a touch more bitter. Straining your coffee earlier will give you more acidity and sweetness.

Try making a couple of batches filtered at different times to find what works for you.

Serving

Serving cold brew espresso is where this variation on cold brew shines.

I mentioned the golden ratio of coffee brewing. It’s around 16:1, give or take.

But you’ve just made a cold brew espresso at 5:1. What do you do now?

Dilute your cold brew espresso with other ingredients to create phenomenal summer coffees.

I like to add half-and-half to my cold brew espresso to create a nice iced latte with a smooth taste. Add 2-3 parts half-and-half to your cold brew espresso for the best results.

I have also used sparkling water and peach bitters to make a nice cold brew espresso seltzer.

Mint is another great choice for making summer coffee cocktails.

For the adults, try adding coffee liqueur and vodka to your espresso cold brew and you will get an espresso martini coffee cocktail.

Regardless of what you add to your cold brew espresso, it works best over ice on warm days when coffee with hot water doesn’t sound appealing and you are craving cold coffee.

FAQ

cold brew coffee

You might still have some burning questions about the specifics of cold brew espresso.

I’ll answer the most common questions I get about this cold brew variation.

How long does cold brew espresso last?

Because it’s brewed cold and can sit in your fridge, cold brew espresso will last about two weeks before it starts to degrade.

Is cold brew coffee as strong as espresso?

Going by caffeine content, cold brew is stronger than espresso. Cold brew uses a lot more coffee to make, so it will have more caffeine than espresso.

Why is my cold brew bitter?

One of two things happened if your cold brew is too bitter.

Either it steeped for too long (over 18 hours is usually too long), or your coffee was ground too fine.

Try shortening your brew time or using a little coarser ground coffee beans to fix the problem.

Final Thoughts

So, there it is.

Cold brew espresso is a more concentrated variation on regular cold brew.

It uses a much lower ratio of about 5:1 water to coffee. And because it’s so concentrated, you need to dilute it with water, cream, or something else to create a balanced drink.

It’s perfect for summer days when hot brewed coffee doesn’t sound good. And you can make it with just a mason jar!

As the summer gets going, give cold brew espresso a go!

Want to make foam for your iced coffee drinks? Check out our article on How to Make Cold Foam at Home!

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Craig Carey
Craig spent a year as a barista in Denver's specialty coffee world. He spends his days rock climbing, cycling, drinking espresso, and hanging around the Rocky Mountains. He still lives in Colorado.