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What is Cold-Brew Coffee?

Posted by Terra on Fri, Aug 12, '16

Hot summer mornings don’t pair very well with hot beverages. This time of year especially, a carefully crafted cold brew is the best thing for our morning coffee fix. Cold brew, not to be confused with traditional iced coffee, seems like it came out of nowhere onto the coffee scene. We are seeing cold brews on the menus of coffee shops large and small. What makes it different?

We reached out to one of our partners, Blanchard’s Coffee Roasting Co. from Richmond, Virginia to get the low down on all things cold brew. Blanchard's strives to thoughtfully source and roast the very best coffees for customers throughout the US. We love that the Blanchard’s team shares our passion for building community, inspiring conversations, and of course, for great coffee. We sat down with Stephen Robertson from Blanchard’s for some advice on creating the ultimate Cold Brew at home.

TK: What is cold brew?

Stephen: Cold brew, as the name suggests, is brewed with cold water instead of hot. Cold water does not extract naturally occurring amino acids from the coffee. These acids often give hot coffee some fruity or floral notes, but tend to become acrid and metallic as the coffee cools. Since those acids are not extracted in cold brew, it often has the deeper chocolate or nutty notes that come from caramelized sugars and oils in the coffee bean. Cold brew is always smooth and never has sharp acidity, so it is easy to drink and pairs well with milk or other mixers.

TK: What equipment is needed for a great cold brew at home?

Stephen: Simple is key when selecting a brewing method for your home. A traditional French Press and the right ratio is all you need to make coffeehouse quality coffee at home. We suggest a 1:8 ratio of coffee to water for Cold Brew.

The standard French Press holds about 800ml of water, but there are other sizes - so it is best to check first. Use a kitchen scale (that measures in grams), place your French press (without the plunger) on the scale and zero it out. Fill to about an inch from the top and check the weight. For water, grams = ml, so take your number and then divide by eight (8). So, if your French Press holds 800ml, divide 800/8 and you get 100, so you want to use 100g of ground coffee.

TK: Are there any characteristics to look for when selecting beans for a cold brew?

Stephen: Most coffees make excellent cold brew. The cold brew process highlights chocolatey and nutty characteristics, so it is best to pick coffees that already exhibit those characteristics if possible. We suggest coffees like our Colombia El Obraje, Fair Trade Organic Honduras, or even Dark as Dark (if you're looking for a bolder, smoky brew).


TK: What are the steps once all of the ingredients and equipment are in place?


  1. Place 100g of ground coffee (fresh and coarsely ground) in your clean 800ml French Press.
  2. Fill the French Press about halfway with cold filtered water, and stir until all the grounds are wet.
  3. Then fill the remainder of the French Press with water, leaving about an inch of space at the top.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap and set in your refrigerator overnight (minimum 12-24 hours).
  5. After 12-24 hours, remove the plastic wrap, insert the plunger and plunge the grounds to the bottom.
  6. Pour liquid into another container - this is a cold brew concentrate. It is about double the strength of a regular cup of coffee. There will be some sediment, so if you'd like to filter this, pour it through a paper towel - the sediment won't hurt you though, so it is ok to leave it.
  7. You can dilute this cold brew concentrate with water if you like, or milk, or even tonic water - or you can drink it straight - just remember - it is STRONG!
  8. Keep your cold brew in the refrigerator and it will stay fresh and delicious for weeks. The most common mistake is leaving your cold brew out of the fridge. Coffee gets all organisms pumped, not just humans, so mold grows quickly if your cold brew isn't chilled. Keep it sealed in a jar or bottle though because coffee will absorb nearby aromas from food in your fridge.

TK: Are there any special tricks or ingredients to make a cold brew really amazing?

Stephen: Infusions are awesome - there are no wrong answers. Play around with adding ingredients you like with your hot coffee to the cold brewing process. Some fun suggestions include: cinnamon, vanilla bean, oak chips, cocoa nibs, nutmeg, roasted nuts. You can also get creative with recipes that use the final product. We love cold brew poured over tonic with a twist of orange and rosemary, or foamed chocolate milk over cold brew.


Ready to try cold brew at home? Grab a bag of Blanchard's Coffee from their online store or visit your favorite local coffee shop to see what they're brewing up.

Keep in mind, cold brew by itself isn’t breakfast! Let us take care of your morning meal so you can grab and go. Here are some of our favorite TK breakfast items you can add to your next vessel order:

  • Mango + Blueberries - $3.99

Mango and blueberries

  • Applewood Bacon - $2.99

applewood bacon

  • Fruit Burst - $5.99


Check out our full menu for even more ideas to compliment your cold brew!

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Topics: What's In Season