It feels like no one knew what cold-brewed coffee was one day, and then everyone was drinking it the next. With its smooth, chocolatey flavor, it’s become not just a summertime drink but a year-round choice. Yet, in spite of how it may seem, cold-brewed coffee didn’t just appear overnight.
In the 1600s, Dutch traders were trying to sell their coffee grown in the Dutch West Indies (Indonesia today) to the rest of eastern Asia. The traders were prohibited from having an open fire on their wooden ships, however, and thus couldn’t boil water. So, the sailors began experimenting with cold-brewing. The idea was that their lukewarm coffee would later be heated then drunk, but in Japan, the sweeter, richer flavor of this innovation stuck. For centuries, “Kyoto-style” coffee as it became known was consumed throughout Japan and beyond. In the Western world, however, cold-brewed coffee remained relatively unknown until the late 2000s, when Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks began popularizing the drink.
So what’s the difference between cold-brewed and iced coffee? Cold-brew is made with room temperature (or colder) water while iced coffee is traditionally-brewed coffee that is iced afterwards. This distinction is important for two main reasons: first, cold-brewed coffee has a much higher caffeine level and second, it tends to taste sweeter and more chocolatey than the same batch brewed with boiling water.
Over the last decade, the popularity of cold-brewed coffee has exploded and with it has come the introduction of nitro cold-brew and the proliferation of home-brewing tools. If you’re looking to get into cold-brewing coffee at home, here are some tips.
Brewing coffee beans with lukewarm or even cold water to slow down the extraction process. Expect to let your cold-brewer sit for 12-24 hours (sometimes longer) to get the flavor you want.
You should be grinding your beans much coarser—about the size of beach sand as anything finer will give you a very bitter result.
The cold-brew you’ve made is concentrated, so add some water or coconut water if you’re feeling tropical, and enjoy.
With this in mind, here are 12 cold-brewers we recommend:
We’re recommending these products because we actually use, and like, them. Things you buy through our links may earn us a commission.
The Basic One
Few brands are as reliable as OXO, and their cold-brewer is no different. Their sturdy, if unassuming, cold-brewer requires little work and produces consistently good coffee. Simply load the brewer with your grounds, add the steel filter, and top with water. Then let it sit overnight, and you’re good to go!
The Commuter's Choice
This is a reusable, individual brewer makes both hot and cold coffee and features a resealable lid. It’ll fit in your car’s cupholder or be secure enough to toss into a tote bag so you can use it for daily commutes to the office—assuming you’re not working remote forever. But, even if you are, this very attractive bottle fits easily in the fridge or kitchen counter.
The Incognito Option
This sleek looking cold brewer lets you to brew up to 5 cups of coffee. Designed to resemble a wine bottle, it’s made for easy pouring while the mesh filter is designed to make the most of your beans. Just let your grounds steep for 8 hours beforehand and you’re set for the rest of the day.
The Coffeehouse Standard
The Toddy cold-brewer is standard for most coffee shops, and this smaller version is perfect for home. Add water and leave in the fridge for 24-hours. You’ll have about 7 cups worth of coffee brewed. One key feature is their filter: it removes much of the coffee’s oils and acidity making it especially smooth tasting. If you want to replicate that coffeehouse flavor, this is the choice for you.
The Sleek Option
It’s summer and you’re having a picnic. What do you leave out on the table? This beautiful cold brew pot. If you’re design-conscious, or just want an aesthetic brewer-carafe that you can store in the corner of the kitchen, Hario’s brewer is a great choice.
The Next-Level Brewer
Nitro cold-brewing takes standard cold-brewing one step farther. Once the coffee is made, you inject it with nitro in the same way you’d tap a beer keg. It smooths out the flavor even more and gives it a foaminess too. UKEG’s device is small enough to fit in your fridge, and the brewer is all-in-one, meaning you add in your coffee grounds and water, and it does the rest. The only thing it doesn’t include are the nitrous cartridges, which need to be purchased separately. You can find them here.
The All-In-One Choice
Maybe you don’t want cold-brew every morning. Or maybe you do, but your partner/roommate wants hot coffee. Well, this specialty brewer allows you to do both. One reviewer praises its flavor and says it’s similar to using a Chemex, except that it’s automatic and makes mornings much easier.
If You Don’t Want To Wait For Your Cold Brew
So you forgot to prep coffee the night before, or maybe you just don’t have time to do so. Does that mean you can’t enjoy cold-brewed coffee? No. Dash has created this cold-brewer to make a batch in as little as 5 minutes. Set the timer between 5-15 minutes based on the brew strength you want, and voila: cold-brewed coffee in no time.
For Larger Batch Brewing
Espro’s cold-brew coffee maker makes about 64oz (about 8 cups) of coffee in one batch and keeps for about 2 weeks. So, you can either make your cold-brew for the week in one fell swoop, or brew enough for some breakfast guests.
The Portable Brewer
Asobu’s cold-brewer steeps for about 12 hours at room temperature, which means you can take this lightweight, stainless steel brewer camping with you and wake up to some smooth, delicious coffee. What’s more, the carafe is vacuum-sealed, meaning it’ll keep the flavor fresh for several hours.
If cold-brewed coffee first took hold in Japan, then this Japanese drip tower is taking things full circle. Whether you’re serious about your coffee, or just enjoy the architectural design of this brewer, the results are the same: a delicious batch of coffee. Yes, this tower won’t fit in the fridge, but storing it away kind of defeats the point.
The Extravagant Splurge
But maybe the Yama drip tower is too simple, and too...inexpensive. Well, we’ve got you covered there too. We cannot speak to how well or not Dutch Lab’s device works because, frankly, we didn’t spend the $22,000 on getting one. It does look pretty wild, though. And that’s sort of the point: this is more of an art object than an everyday coffee maker.