Want an easy way to make the perfect cup of cold brew coffee? While most people think of a French press as a good way to steep an immersion brew, it’s possible to make a great cup of joe with the same device.
It only takes a few simple steps to make cold brew coffee with a French press. Since cold brew is 67% less acidic and lets you taste all the flavors from the coffee grounds, making a cold brew in a French press not only gives you more control over the process, but it also brings out the rich, smooth, roasted, and chocolatey notes that are muted during a hot brew.
With these 5 simple steps, you can have a hassle-free way to brew a perfect cup of cold brew coffee.
What Does Cold Brew Mean?
Cold brew refers to a coffee drink that is made by steeping the coffee bean grounds in cold water.
Instead of percolating coffee grounds with hot water and draining the brew through a filter, like hot brewed or drip coffee, cold brew uses time to extract the flavor.
The Japanese first invented the cold brew to cool down overstimulated bodies and promote health. It’s a perfect drink for hot summer days or a chill beverage on a cozy winter afternoon.
Since the coffee grounds aren’t exposed to heat, time, rather than hot temperatures, extracts the sugars, caffeine, and oils from the grounds. This helps the cold brew develops a smooth, silky taste that makes a great iced coffee drink.
Cold brew is often made with an automatic drip machine, but it is also made with an immersion method like a French press. Some people like to bloom the grounds first with hot water to wake them up and then finish the process as a cold brew.
Others just steep the grounds from start to finish in cold water for a true cold brew.
One problem with cold brewing coffee in devices other than a French press is that it can be messy. When you use a French press to achieve cold brew, it’s often easier and cleaner than traditional methods for cold brew coffee.
Since it’s an all-in-one immersion and straining device, once the coffee steeps for the correct amount of time, all you need to do is plunge and pour.
Here’s What You’ll Need
If you are new to brewing coffee with a French Press check out my guide: How to brew French press coffee for a perfect cup made easy
This “How To Make Cold Brew In A French Press Fast” article will have you well on your way to making a perfect batch every time. Keep in mind that “fast” is somewhat relative.
I’ll outline how to make it as fast as possible keeping in mind that it takes time to refrigerate. Following the methods step-by-step is your key to making the best cold brew coffee you’ve had.
Let’s get to it!
- French press. Since the 1940s, Bodum has made a great coffee maker. You can use their 34-ounce or 1 liter French press or another kind if you already own a French press.
- Filtered, room-temperature water. You can use a water filter pitcher if you don’t have a home filtration system. This gives the cold brew a better flavor than unfiltered water by removing impurities. You can skip this step if you don’t have any filter.
- Coffee beans. Choose the kind of coffee bean that you want to grind. French press cold brew tastes best with a dark roast.
- Scale. While this isn’t necessary, a scale can help you get the right coffee ratio that is a key to a delicious cold brew.
- Sealable bottle or container. Choose a container that is roughly the size of your French press so that you can pour the brew into this vessel. Glass works best since your coffee can absorb a negative flavor from other materials.
- A fine filter (optional). While this isn’t strictly necessary, you may want to filter out bits of coffee grounds and sediment sludge after the immersion process. You can use a cheese cloth or a Chemex paper filter. Keep in mind that the Chemex paper filter can taste like paper and remove many of the sugars and oils that give French press brew its bold flavor.
Follow these easy steps below to get the perfect grind, coffee-to-water ratio, and immersion time.
How To Make Cold Brew Coffee Using A French Press
1. Get the Grind Right
The grind that you choose for your French press brew is important. This will ensure that your hard work and patience pays off with a perfect cup of cold brew.
To get the proper result, you’ll want to stick to a medium to coarse grind. Try to use high quality coffee beans. Some experts advise using Intelligentia Black Cat or Starbucks Espresso Roast.
You can either buy the coffee pre-ground online or at the store. There’s also the option to grind it fresh yourself to get the right consistency.
When you use a coarse grind, the coffee can filtrate slower and easier. This gives the cold brew a smoother flavor without the acidic bitterness that occurs when a grind is too fine. If the grind is like powder, this heats the coffee grounds, and can result in a different cup of coffee that’s too bitter.
To get the grind consistency just right for the perfect cup of cold brew, set your grinder to the coarsest setting. If you’re using a spice grinder instead, just grind in brief, one-second pulses until the grind is coarse-ground.
Get out and measure your coffee beans. Aim to grind 2 cups of coffee beans down to a course grind. The general ratio of coffee beans to grind is 1:1, so this should result in about 2 cups of ground coffee.
Check that that the ground coffee looks like coarse sea salt or a coarse cornmeal texture. You can also check the texture by rubbing the grind between your fingers. If you’ve achieved the right consistency, the grind should feel like beach sand in your hands not like fine powder.
The coarser the grind, the better the immersion results.
Whether manual or automatic, you’ll want a good burr grinder that can get the job done right.
If you want to speed up the grinding process, the Bodum electric burr grinder is the easiest way to grind lots of coffee for your cold brew since it can grind up lots of coffee at the same time.
If you prefer a manual process, check out the Hario ceramic coffee mill that lets you grind by hand for a slower, more mindful process.
2. Add the Correct Coffee-to-Water Ratio
Once you’ve prepared the grind, it’s time to start adding ingredients together. The ratio used for a French press cold brew is different from traditional cold brew recipes.
Most people use a French press that holds about 1 liter or 34 fl. ounces. To get the proper amount of coffee to water for cold brewing, you will want to follow the ratio of 1:4 to 1:5. Add a little more coffee if you like your coffee on the stronger side.
When it comes to brewing coffee, it’s important to remember that the ratios are done in grams, not in volume. That’s where a coffee scale comes in handy to avoid using too much or too little.
If you don’t have a scale, you can work with volume measurements. This means that if you want to make a strong cold brew coffee in a French press without a scale, just use a 1:6 ratio.
For example, add 6 grams of water for every gram of coffee used. As a quick tip, if you round off a tablespoon of ground coffee, this usually comes out to 6-8 grams.
Use room temperature water. Filtered or bottled water is purer than tap water and will result in a better-tasting brew. A good rule of thumb to remember is that if the water doesn’t taste good plain, it won’t make a good cup of coffee.
The ground coffee will take up space in the coffee carafe, so if you’re using a 1-liter French press, you may want to reduce the amount of coffee that you put in when you pour the water to avoid a mess.
For instance, if you are using a total of 34 fl. ounces of water (1 liter), this means that your French press is larger than 1 liter, and you will need to use 5.89 ounces of ground beans or 167 grams to get the ratio right.
While the 1:6 ratio usually results in perfect, full-bodied cold brew, you can experiment with what works best for you. If the 1:6 ratio comes out too strong, you can add 1 part of coffee to 8 parts of water (1:8 ratio) instead.
Pour the water and coffee grounds into the waiting French press. Go slowly and pour in a circular motion. Do not stir the mix. Instead, gently press down on the coffee grounds with the back of a metal spoon.
This will catch any floaters, prevent grounds from sticking to the spoon, and ensure that the grounds are soaked well. A completely saturated grind will produce the best cold brew concentrate.
Next, put the stainless-steel screen filter on top of the French press. Push the plunger down a little until the grounds are submerged underwater.
Now comes the waiting game.
Once you’ve combined the water and ground coffee, don’t push the plunger all the way to the bottom yet. Instead, cover the coffee carafe with foil or plastic wrap and stick it in the refrigerator.
Some cold brew experts advise against using a refrigerator since this slows down the brewing process. Instead, they advise letting the French press sit in a cool, dark place at room temperature.
While precision with quality coffee and ratios is important, the cold brew process is typically simple and forgiving. The hard part is waiting for 24 hours for your cold brew to be ready.
While some coffee lovers like to give it a full day, others remove their cold brew from the steeping process after 12-15 hours. It’s important to remember that it will take longer to produce a cold brew if it’s kept in the fridge.
When you let a cold brew sit for half a day to 24 hours, the slow extraction process helps extract the coffee beans’ natural oils and flavors.
This slower extraction process creates a cold brew that is prized for its sweet notes. A cold brew process takes more patience since it uses time instead of heat to complete the coffee extraction.
4. Filter and Pour
Once the waiting period is over, remove the French press from the refrigerator or cool, dark place. With a quality dark roast, proper ratios, and enough time, you should now have achieved a dark, rich concentrate with a bitter finish.
Take off the wrap, lid, and filter. Stir the mixture up with a metal spoon. Let it sit for 2-5 minutes to give the grounds time to settle to the bottom of the French press.
Replace the lid and the screen and plunge down gently.
Take care to push down the plunger just a few inches, instead of all the way to the bottom. Pushing the plunger to the bottom will stir up the grounds and release more bitter flavor into your brew.
If you’re familiar with a French press, you know that the metal strainer screen doesn’t keep a lot of the sediment from the grounds out of the brew.
Here’s where you may wish to use a second filter, such as a pour-over dripper or a loose piece of cheesecloth tied over the container opening when you pour it into another container for storage.
Finally, pour the concentrate over ice.
5.Dilute and Store
Once you’ve filtered and poured the concentrate into an airtight, sealed container, you can dilute the mixture depending on how it suits your taste.
It’s best not to leave the brew in the French press for a long period, especially before you remove the coffee grounds, since this will compromise the brew’s flavor.
If you’re serving the cold brew without ice, dilute half a cup of cold brew with half a cup of milk or water. If pouring over ice, dilute a quarter cup of water with half a cup of cold brew over ice.
If you use a 1-liter French press, this should give you around 21 fl. ounces of concentrated cold brew. You can use this to make anywhere from 5-7 cups of coffee.
The great thing is that if you normally drink just one cup of coffee per day, making cold brew in a French press can give you a batch for the whole week.
French Press Cold Brew In A Nutshell
Making cold brew coffee in a French press is a slower, more mindful way to create a delicious cold brew cup of joe. While cold brew is high in caffeine, it’s also less acidic because the coffee grounds aren’t exposed to heat.
Although the process takes time, cold brewing your coffee in a French press at home is an easy and versatile way to do it without shelling out the money for a cold brew specific coffee maker.
Once your brew process is complete, you can enjoy a dark roast cold brew with a splash of milk, water, and ice for a refreshing year-round treat.
If you want to known why French Press tastes so good, check out my article: “Why Does French Press Coffee Taste Better”.
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