How Long To Steep Cold Brew: A Guide For A Perfect Brew

Cold brew wowed the coffee world when it became popular a few decades ago.

Today, however, it’s a commonplace drink in most self-respecting coffee shops.

If you are a homebrewer who has fallen in love with the drink and wants to make it at home, you need to know how long to steep cold brew to get a great drink!

I’ve done the research and put together a comprehensive guide on how long to steep cold brew for the perfect cup of coffee. 

Let’s jump in!

What is a Cold Brew?

cold brew coffee

Cold brew is exactly what it sounds like: a coffee drink that’s brewed using cold water. 

To make a cold brew, you have to coarsely grind coffee and steep it in cold water. 

Because you use cold water, it takes a lot longer to extract the flavor from the beans compared to the hot coffee.

As a result, you’ll need to leave the brew to steep for several hours at a time. 

The result of this type of steeping method is a highly caffeinated coffee that’s far less acidic and bitter than your standard hot coffee. 

That’s because, when you brew coffee using cold water, you don’t extract as many of the oils deep within the bean. 

In fact, cold brew is said to be about 60% less acidic than regular coffee because of that!

If you’re looking for an iced coffee alternative that doesn’t have high acidity, the cold brew is for you.

How Long to Steep Cold Brew? 

Okay, you get the idea. 

Cold brew is coffee that’s brewed using room temperature water and steeped over time. 

The question is, how long should you steep cold brew?

Most baristas and coffee professionals recommend steeping your cold brew from somewhere between 12 and 24 hours. 

However, this time can vary according to the roast, size of the grind, the type of coffee ground, and even the amount of water.

Still confused? Let’s take a look in a bit more detail about how long to steep cold brew and some methods for doing so.

A Quicker Method

If you’re desperate for a cold brew and aren’t willing to wait a full 24 hours for your coffee to brew, don’t panic. 

There’s a quick method out there that you can use! 

To make a fast batch of coffee, you can try making cold brew using an Aeropress. The compression chamber in the Aeropress helps pull a lot of flavor out of ground coffee without you having to wait as long.

With an Aeropress, you can also significantly speed up the preparation of a cold brew. In fact, this method only takes 2 minutes!

However, you should note that because it’s such a fast method, it isn’t as flavorful as a true cold brew that’s been steeped for 8 hours. 

Another tip to help speed up your cold brew-making method is to add less water when making your brew. This helps increase the intensity of your coffee, making for a stronger cold brew concentrate in less time. 

A Longer Method

On the flip side, if you prefer to pull as much flavor as possible out of your cold brew, that’s an option too. 

The longest method of cold brew extraction is to steep it for 24 hours. You can do this using any method, although many people like the Kyoto drip system. 

With this system, you add cold brew to a stacked brewing system. This system slowly adds water to the coffee grounds, one drop at a time over a period of 24 hours. 

The slow drip combined with lengthy extraction time leads to a very rich cold brew. 

Of course, if you don’t have a Kyoto system, you can use a classic brewing method and simply steep your cold brew for longer. 

If you want to go this route, you should put the cold brew in the refrigerator.

The cold temperatures of the fridge slow the extraction process. That lets you steep your cold brew for longer without it becoming overly bitter. 

The Optimal Steep Time

Now that you know the shortcut (and the long-cut), let’s talk about what the best steep time is.

Most experts agree that 16 to 18 hours is the ideal length of time for steeping your cold brew.

Steeping for less than 16 hours can sometimes mean you don’t fully extract the flavor of the coffee beans. As a result, you may find that your cold brew is a bit weak. 

On the other hand, leaving cold brew to steep for the full 24 hours can cause your drink to become bitter and somewhat unpleasant.

To make sure you don’t go too far on either end of the spectrum, sticking to a happy medium of 16 to 18 hours puts you right in that cold brew sweet spot. 

It’s the perfect amount of time for getting a strong, flavorful concentrate without producing an overly bitter brew.

How to Make a Cold Brew?

cold brew coffee items

Making cold brew is actually surprisingly easy. 

You’ll only need a few ingredients and a couple of pieces of equipment to do so!

While there are a few different methods for making your cold brew, the ingredients and steps are essentially the same. 

Let’s take a closer look at the cold brew recipe.

Equipment

To make cold brew, you’ll need to gather:

  • A coffee grinder
  • A jug, mason jar, French Press, or a cold brew coffee maker
  • A cheesecloth, coffee filter bag, or fine mesh strainer

Ingredients

In terms of ingredients, all you need are: 

  • 1 cup of coffee beans
  • 5 cups of room temperature water

Preparation

With your equipment in hand and your ingredients gathered, you’re ready to get to work. Here’s how to make cold brew using a French press. 

  1. Use the grinder to grind the coffee beans. You want to make a coarse ground coffee for cold brew.
  2. Next, remove the ground coffee beans from the grinder.
  3. If you’re using a French press to make cold brew, add the grounds directly to the French press. 
  4. Next, pour the water into the jug or French Press. 
  5. Set the jug aside and allow it to steep for 16 to 18 hours. 
  6. When the time is up, filter out the coffee by pressing down the French press.
  7. Finish by pouring the drink into a glass and serving with ice, milk, and sugar to your liking!

Remember, alternatively, you can always just place coffee grounds in a coffee filter bag or tied cheesecloth. Then, soak it in a jar of cold water. 

Also, you can use a cold brew maker, if you want to invest in the cold brewing coffee.

However, my personal favorite way of cold brewing is the French press method.

Storing

Once you’ve finished making your cold brew, you can store it in the refrigerator. Cold brew keeps for 7 to 10 days, so you can keep coming back to it throughout the week!

You don’t need to move it to an airtight container, either. 

Just leave the coffee in the jug or French Press that you used to brew it!

FAQ

cold brew coffee with ice and mild

Do you still have a question or two about steeping your cold brew?

Don’t worry.

I’ve put together a quick FAQ. Check out these questions and answers so that you can perfect the art of making cold brew.

Can You Steep Cold Brew Coffee Too Long?

Yes. If you let your cold brewed coffee steep for longer than 24 hours, the concentrate starts to become bitter and woody. This can make it pretty unpleasant to drink, even after you water it down or add cream and sugar. 

Do You Steep Cold Brew in the Fridge?

While you don’t have to steep cold brew in the refrigerator, most people do. Just be aware that the cold temperatures of the fridge slow down the extraction process. So, if you do steep your cold brew in the fridge, you’ll need to let it steep for a bit longer than usual (20-24 hours should suffice).

Should You Stir Cold Brew While Steeping?

You shouldn’t interrupt the cold brew extraction process by stirring the mixture. The reason for this is that moving the coffee beans can interrupt the extraction, and prevent the flavors from fully extracting. 

Final Thoughts

Cold brew is a cold coffee preparation that requires a lot of patience since you have to steep it for 16 to 18 hours to extract the flavors. 

But, waiting those 16 hours pays off in the end!

And of course, if you decide you don’t want to wait that long for your coffee, you can always use one of the quicker methods.

I won’t judge!

Now that you know how long to steep cold brew, you just need to know which grinder to use! Check out this guide on the best cold brew grinders so that you can really step up your coffee game.

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Jessica Ruth Lee Fleming
Jessica is a seasoned caffeine-addict who spent 3 years behind the bar. Her early coffee days took her from the commercial Starbucks scene in urban DC all the way to helping launch a craft coffee shop in California. Today she prefers sharing her years of coffee capers through media, although you’ll find she does it with a trusty cup of coffee by her side.