Mastered your Aeropress, dripped your way through litres of pour-over and searching for a new manual method to up your hipster rating? Welcome to the world of cold-brew coffee.
Not to be confused with iced coffee, cold-brew is a super-slow method in which ground beans (coarse is best) are steeped in room-temperature water for anything between 12 and 24 hours, drawing out different flavours to a hot brew.
The setup varies between brands but the method is usually either an infusion (more coffee-water contact time) or a slow drip-through: water in a top compartment, grinds in the middle with a valve leading to the bottom where your cold-brew drips through.
Once you’ve got the method down you can experiment with your preferred strength, although we recommend you start with a 1:4 coffee to water ratio (measured with scales or with a scoop and measuring jug, depending on how precise you want to be).
For many cold-brew drinkers the appeal is the less bitter taste (plus reduced acidity is easier on the stomach), but if you miss the acidity that a hot brew provides, you can start off with a splash of hot water, known as a “hot bloom”, before adding cold. Once the coffee is done, you can store it in the fridge for up to a week, diluting, reheating or serving chilled as you prefer.
1. Hario Cold Brew Coffee Pot, 1000ml: £17, Hario
From the makers of the well-known V60 pour-over, this cold-brew pot is similar to a tea infuser. This was our favourite for ease to results ratio. Simply fill the mesh compartment with ground beans until it reaches the top of the filter and pour cold water over the top so it drips down and fills the compartment below. We got best results leaving it for a full 24 hours; when you’re ready to serve, simply lift the central section out and pour.
2. Oxo Good Grips Cold Brew Coffee Maker: £35.99, Lakeland
Oxo’s entry into the cold-brew market features a clever “rainmaker” in the top so that the water falls evenly across the ground coffee in the compartment below, where it is strained through a metal mesh into the removable carafe. It has an auto-stop feature so when you remove the carafe the drip-through stops and you don’t get puddles on the worktop. The coffee produced is as smooth and sweet in flavour as many of the more expensive setups available.
3. Kilner Preserving Jar, 500ml: £2, Sainsbury’s
Kitsch and cheap, for a low-tech cold-brew, place your ground beans and cold water in a Kilner jar, leave in the fridge for 12-24 hours and strain. We found a disposable coffee filter or cheesecloth inside a funnel, tea infuser or even a small sieve worked just fine.
4. Bruer Cold Coffee Brewer: £75, Ocado
The Bruer gadget – a result of a Kickstarter project – is a more expensive option, but you can really feel the difference in quality. It takes a little more stage-management than the steeping method but the results are worth it. We placed a filter paper over the wire mesh at the bottom of the middle segment, added our coffee, slightly wet it with about 40-50ml of water, then added another filter paper followed by the valve, and poured the rest of the water into the top compartment. Adjust the valve to average about a drip per second and then leave it to process.
5. House by John Lewis Eight Cup Cafetiere: £16, John Lewis
A cost- and storage-effective option, you can make cold-brew in a traditional French press. Simply add your ground beans, fill with cold water, leave in the fridge for 12-24 hours and plunge as usual. The same method works for Aeropress, if you have one. You may want to filter it manually after plunging (see the Kilner method) to get a properly smooth brew.
6. Toddy Home Cold Brew System: £39.90, Coffee Hit
This isn't the best-looking of pieces, so perhaps not for you if you want to line up your cold-brew kit between your Chemex and your Fellow kettle. It is, however, a tried and very trusty setup that was created in the 60s. Insert the stopper into the bottom, add a damp filter, then add your coffee. Pour over half the amount of water and let it sink in for five minutes or so before following with the second half. Use a spoon to flatten out the grind and it’s all wet (but don’t stir as it may clog the filter, as we found out the hard way), then leave for 12-24 hours. When you’re ready to drink, place over the carafe and undo the stopper, letting the coffee pour through the filter, and serve.
7. Filtron Cold Water Coffee Concentrate Brewer: £100.66, Amazon
Filtron’s offering is a sort of halfway between the steeping and drip-through methods. You place the stopper in the bottom of the coffee compartment, followed by the reusable filter, dampened, add your ground coffee, then place the coffee guard on top. Blocking the hole at the bottom of the water compartment with your finger (a little low-tech but not too difficult), fill it with water, then place over the top of the coffee compartment. Leave to drip through and steep for about 16 hours, then place over the carafe, remove the stopper and allow to filter through. Try it with 340g of coffee to 1600ml water to make a strong coffee syrup that you can dilute about 1:2 when you want to drink it. You may find you want to use a paper filter over the top of the pad included to make disposing of grinds a little easier.
The Verdict: Cold-brew coffee makers
For a smooth, sweet brew with minimal effort, Hario’s offering easily comes out on top and is a cheap way to dabble. If you are into your coffee in a big way, the Bruer, while fiddly, satisfies on both flavour and geekery levels.
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