Cold Brewed Coffee using a French Press

 

I have been a big fan of cold brewed coffee since I first tried it. I learned about this method from a Washington Post article on the Toddy, which is a great device for cold brewing coffee. The article described the smooth, but full flavored cup that cold brewing produces and I had to give it a try. I ordered a Toddy and we have been brewing with for about 3 years. The Toddy makes it really easy to produce a large batch of coffee concentrate. Place the filter pad in the bottom, plug the drip hole, throw in a pound of coffee and then add 2 quarts of water. You then wait 2 hours and drain into a carafe. The concentrate can then be mixed with milk or cold water for a great iced coffee or with hot water. It can keep in the fridge for two weeks.

I was hooked on this system. Mixing the concentrate with milk produced an extra tasty iced coffee. This may sound weird but the taste comes close to matching the smell of fresh coffee as any method I have tried. The other great part is that you can use normal pre-ground, regular old Foldgers and still get great results. You don’t necessarily get a very complex flavor “profile” with lots of different notes, but you do get a very strong coffee flavor. It taste almost like melted coffee ice cream… in a good way!

All of this joy came to an end when my Toddy brewing bucket developed a small crack that caused it to leak. Luckily right around the same time someone gave us a French press as a gift. It produced a great cup of coffee, but one that was quite different than the Toddy. As summer rolled around, I yearned for a good cup of iced coffee, and not the watered down kind that comes from pouring hot coffee over ice.

Luckily it eventually dawned on me that cold brewing coffee doesn’t required special tools. The real magic is in letting the coffee and water sit together. The Toddy’s real strength was in making it easy to strain a lot of coffee. While pondering this I realized that the French press was also good at straining coffee grounds, and I set off on a path of discovery. Actually all I did was calculate backwards the water/coffee ratio in the Toddy recipe, throw it in the French press and then gave it a try in the morning. To my surprise I was able to easily filter out the coffee grounds and the resulting concentrate produced a great cup of coffee. I originally started measuring the coffee out by weight, but then got lazy and used volume. So far my results have been great! My French press is not big enough to make a full pound of coffee, but I find that even though the concentrate can be stored for 14 days, it does start to taste stale towards the end. The smaller batches taste fresher.

Cold Brewed Coffee Using a French Press

Ingredients:

  • French press (my Bodum one holds about 3 cups, I think)
  • 1 cup coffee (I just drip ground, crappy coffee. I have seen coarse ground recommended for cold brewed coffee. Feel free to experiment and try better coffee and a coarser grind. Add a comment if you do.)
  • 2 cups water

Directions:

  1. Pour the coffee in the press and then add the water. On my unit the water and coffee comes right up to where the plunger would start. Depending on how strong your coffee is you may want a little more or less water.
  2. Stir the coffee with a wooden spoon of chopstick. You want to make sure all of the coffee grounds are wet. Wait, about two minutes and stir again. Some of the grounds should now settle to the bottom instead of all floating at the top.
  3. Wait 12 hours. I have seen other recipes that say it should be good after 4 hours. I have also other recommendations that after 15 hours or so, you start to extract some of the bitter flavors from the coffee. I usually aim for over night.
  4. Press down slowly on the plunger. Pour out the concentrate into an airtight container. You might want to avoid pouring the very last part, it might be a little murky.

89 thoughts on “Cold Brewed Coffee using a French Press

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  4. Thank you so much for this article. I can see you put a LOT of thought and testing into the recipes. I have some brewing in the fridge right now, I have no doubt it’ll be delicious tomororow.

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  7. Looking forward to tasting my first cup of cold filtered in the morning, using my bodum French press. I gave up a “regular” coffee maker several years ago, preferring a vacuum system on the gas range. I’ve found that it makes smooth coffee, with significantly less acid. This should be interesting.

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  9. We do this at work during the summers buuut…we don’t mix it with water afterwards. We just throw it into a glass with ice and I usually down the whole thing before the ice melts.

    It tastes amazing and probably explains why I’m so hyper afterwards! :D

  10. I’m trying to make my first cold brewed batch tonight after having a delicious toddy at a local cafe. Just thought I’d throw in that this local cafe adds water to the concentrate and then steams it (just like you would steam milk for a latte). It is sooo good. Not sure if they add hot water or cold water to the concentrate, and not sure if that would make a difference anyway!

  11. Thanks very much for the very practical tips, and to everyone for your own experiences. I live by my french press in the winter. Now that the summer days make cold coffee more satisfying I was happy to see a suggestion for using the same gadget to make it.
    I thought, if a 1:2 or 1:4 ratio of coffee to water makes super-concentrated coffee, why not put my usual amount of coffee and water in the french press, but simply leave it in the fridge overnight? Wouldn’t that give me something I can drink right away in the morning?
    So I tried that. After 11 hours the taste is perfectly good. It’s on the strong side, but definitely still coffee and not concentrated syrup. I think I’ll keep doing this.

    • That definitely works! One of the benefits of making it more concentrated is that you can brew a large batch for the week. You can also add milk with out diluting the flavor.

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  14. I just bet that if someone had a fine enough mesh strainer, they could do this without any coffee-making devices at all. Just a couple glass jars, really.

    I have that exact toddy you’ve got pictured here, found it at Goodwill. Mine’s still good but someone was asking me if cold toddy could be made with a French press. Thanks for writing this!

    • You definitely can! You could always use a piece of cheese cloth or something along those lines. I just had the French press laying around so I gave it a try.

  15. Awesome! I’ve been wanting to try cold brew, but haven’t been ready to fork over the 30 bucks (and cupboard space!) for yet another coffee brewing device. I’m going to give this a shot! (Pun intended)

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Whoa!!!…..after reading the article, I MEDIUM (drip) ground some really nice (organic) Brazil beans (from Goshen Coffee) last nite and just finished my first cup of the most awesome coffee I have ever tasted.

      I let it sit for about 13 hours on the counter top and covered the top with plastic wrap. After pressing down on the plunger/filter of the Press, I used the suggested 1 cup of (drip) ground coffee to 2 cups of SPRING WATER. Hint: the quality of water contributes to your final product almost as much as the coffee bean! I grind my own beans using the cheap, but very effective Mr. Coffee coffee grinder (about $19 thru Amazon.com).

      Then, as also suggested, I used one-quarter cup of concentrate to three-quarters cup of almost boiling SPRING WATER. Just grrrrrrrreat coffee!!! So non-acidic, smooth and full bodied with a true “coffee” taste.

      I had been using a Bunn Thermal Fresh unit, and although it makes the best ‘conventional’ java I have ever tasted, it always left that telltale, slightly bitter aftertaste. I checked the websites for a method using my 12 cup French Press and was fortunate to find this site.

      Thanks so much for the great info! Heading back for my 2nd cup…3rd…4th…..

      Fred

    • Correction: 2nd paragraph should read…..”I let it sit for about 13 hours on the counter top and had covered the top with plastic wrap. I then pressed down on the plunger/filter of the Press and poured off the concentrate.”…etc

    • Great to hear it worked out so well!! The grind size and steeping time affect the coffee so it is good to hear what worked for people.

  16. Just made a batch of cold brew coffee using a corse grind of a very dark roast following your method. Ive been led to believe that the concentrate that is made should usually be strong enough to be diluted. I just made an iced coffee with it using the entire concentrate and a small splash of cream and it tastes great but I was expecting the concentrate to last a bit longer than one drink. Am I doing something wrong? or should I expect a cup of coarse ground coffee to make one drink?

    Besides all that, this method truly does make a great cup of iced coffee.

  17. I’m making a bodumful of cold brewed tonight, but since I live in the cold North East US, I like a hot cuppa in the morning. What’s the best way to achieve this? Add extract to cup and add hot water? What if it’s not hot enough to withstand milk? Microwave?

    • OK, so the results are fabulous. So much so that the whole question of what to do about adding milk or cream is now irrelevant, as I wouldn’t dream of covering up the taste and aroma of this brew with anything. Clearly, I was using dairy to lessen the acidity, and this is no longer an issue. My only issue with using a french press is that it doesn’t produce very much. I have a standard 1 liter press, and the grounds are already taking up a lot of volume. Also, I like to drink my coffee strong, so I mixed it about 1:1 with hot water. No way is this amount of brew going to last more than a day in the fridge. That’s a good thing, but considering it takes 12+ hours to make cold brew, if i offer some to a guest, then there’s less for me. I guess I could offer hot brew to guests…

    • Thats great to hear! Out of curiosity, do you know what kind of coffee it was and how finely it was ground? If you want to make a larger batch, you can just use a larger glass container and filter it through a cheese cloth or coffee filter… or the french press in a couple of batches.

    • If your really enjoying using the french press you can always go buy one that is much larger. I have seen them in 40oz sizes before. But thats only if you want to invest in one :)

  18. Thank you so much for the wealth of information! I’ve been toying with the idea of cold-brewing for quite a while now, and just today have finally had time. I’m using your ‘recipe,” and its stewing now! Eleven hours and counting!

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  20. Last week I read the ingredients in McDonald’s iced coffee. Yuk! Then I found your site. Bought press yesterday, cold brewed last night. HEAVENLY!

    Thanks so much!

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  22. love, Love LOVE this method of brewing for making iced coffee! CC’s Coffee House in south Louisiana uses cold brewed coffee to make their iced coffees and they are delish. Unfortunately no CC’s in north Louisiana, just Starbucks and a few independent coffee/wifi cafe’s that ice down hot expresso to make iced coffees. Cold brewed is infintely better! Now I make my iced mocha caramel coffee at home and it is fantastic. Thanks Luke!

    I have bought my son a french press and all the stuff he needs to make iced coffees at home as he is addicted to them. Not sure if it’s much cheaper, but iced coffee on demand rather than driving halfway across town to get it (he lives in south Louisiana) can’t be beat — and you don’t have the hit and miss flavor wise depending on who is working at the coffee house at the time!

    After 3 years this blog is still making a difference to coffee drinkers. WTG Luke!!!!

  23. Thanks for the post, I’ve been doing this for a week or so now. I think I might be doing something wrong, though. While the coffee tastes great, I need to put about of third of a cup of extract into each mug of coffee to get it strong enough. Consequently, I go through the two cups of concentrate in about three days (two mugs of coffee per day). When I brew it hot, it only takes 1 tbs of grounds per mug. So I’ve switched from 6 tbs in three days to 16 (one cup). Does this sound right? I mean, I like it better, but I’m not sure it’s three times better. Thanks!

    • You know, that is a good question! I have a couple of thoughts. I wonder if you tried a strong roast of coffee if the concentrate would be stronger. Another thing to try is letting the brew steep for longer. I don’t I remember having to use as much concentrate when I did. I am going to start making cold-brew coffee again, so I will update this with the ratio I end using and try to figure out how many TBS it takes.

    • Thanks, Luke. I’m letting it steep a little longer (14 hours instead of 12). That seems to be helping, I only need three tbs now. I’m also buying the cheaper pre-ground coffee. So those two combined have my costs back to where they were before.

      Anyways, thanks again for this recipe. I mostly use it for hot coffee, but it’s helped a ton with my heartburn.

  24. Found you after doing a google search after forgetting where I read an article about cold brewing via french press for iced coffee and this is even more helpful than my original (lost) source! You are being shared on facebook too!

  25. I have several presses of different sizes, but my favorite for iced coffee is the (Bodum) Chambord 8 cup (1L). I have a spare beaker and keep the ‘cage’ it goes in loose enough so it slides out easily. So basically, with nothing but the glass beaker, I add 160-180 grams of slightly coarser-than-drip, medium-ish roast (can’t stand roast flavor, personally) good estate or single origin coffee. I then saturate as much coffee as I can with cold water up to the spout, wait a few minutes for everything to settle/bubble (the water level usually drops as the the liquid works its way down there), then top it back off. Next, it gets covered with plastic wrap or whatever, with NO STIRRING before it goes to rest at room temp on my counter, away from direct sunlight. 8-12 hours later, I uncover it, give it a good stir with a spoon to let the rest of the grinds settle and then I scoop the foamy stuff off the top (gives clearer taste IMO) and discard that in the sink/compost. I put the beaker back into the pour ‘cage’ (or sometimes not, if I had never removed it in the first place), the plunger goes in and then it’s carefully strained. I make it a point to use it within a week since the oils tend to get a little weird for my tastes when left in the fridge for longer.

    If I need to make more at a time, I simply use an extra beaker for the same size plunger and do two at the same time, straining as needed.

    If you’re a fresh-roasted, grind-it-at-home fanatic, cold-brew is great for any coffees you might have floating around that are two weeks off roast or more.

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    • I just want to thank you SO much for publishing this method. With GERD, hiatal hernia & Barrett’s esophagus, I thought my coffee days were over forever. I haven’t had a cup of coffee in almost 2 yrs and missed it so much. Thanks again!

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    • It should be good for about two weeks if you keep it in an air tight container. It starts to taste a little stale towards the end. If you mix it with milk and sugar it is tough to tell the difference though!

  28. Hi there – I just bookmarked this page and have been experimenting with cold brewing coffee using your French Press method. Thank you for posting this. Even two years later, people are still finding this article helpful!

  29. This sounds really great. After a move, Ihaven’t been able to find the plug & the filter from my Coffe Toddy was not usable anymore. The store where I originally bought my Coffee Toddy went out of business & I haven’t been able to find a place the carries the Coffee Toddy or replacement parts. I can’t wait to get home & try this out. I do have a functional french press. Thanks.

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  31. This is a great alternative to using the Toddy system. Lots of people use dark roasted coffee in a drip-brew since it’s smoother and has less acidity, but if you’re cold brewing, you might want to try a medium or light roast since cold brewing makes a smoother brew anyway.

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  33. When you cold-brew coffee in a french press, if is seems to be murky or dirty, strain it through a normal coffee filter and all the dust will be gone. i’ve also cold-brewed using an iced-tea pitcher, some cold water, and a fine cotton bag with the grounds in it. Squeeze the bag out after 12 hours and you got yerrselfff some fiiine cold brewed coofffeee!

    yay caffeine.

  34. Cold brewed coffee is much healthier than hot brewed. Hot brewing causes the fats and oils to be extracted from the coffee.

  35. I just found a small French Press at Ross Dress For Less. I’ll have to give your recipe a try. I have been hooked on iced coffee this summer. I have a Saeco machine. I make a large espresso, pour it over a lidded container with Splenda and ice and give it a good shake. I then pour it into a glass and add a splash of milk.

  36. I’ve been making this as regular strength coffee rather than as concentrate. I just grind up about 2/3 cup of beans in burr grinder to course grind, add them to the French press (the same model pictured above, oddly enough), fill with water and refrigerate overnight. My wife and I just add creamer or half and half in the morning.

    I haven’t tried regular ground coffee, but Whole Foods “Pleasant Morning Buzz” (a fairly dark roast) has been working really well.

  37. I love iced coffee and am looking forward to trying this. But I have one question. Do you let the coffee brew overnight at room temperature, or do you put it in the refridgerator?

  38. I found that normal espresso just thrown into a cup of cold milk with ice in it works just fine,
    but then again i spend all day doing this a a barista,

    o loved iced coffee (specially with some caramal)

    i would like to give this a try :)

    (but i think i will steal some freshly ground coffee from work lol)

  39. How many ounces total is your press? Different presses seem to measure a cup of coffee any where from 6-8 ounces.
    thanks I love cold brew toddy!

  40. Yea, I have wondered if heating the water first might bring out more flavor. I think some of the problem with doing that is that it will also bring out some of the bitterness and off flavors that you get in over brewed coffee. It could be worth a try though!

  41. I know we are using a cold brew method but couldn’t help wonder about the impact of starting the initial brews with increasingly higher temperatures of water.

  42. Just left your Cook’s Illustrated recipe for great bread and began to search your site when I chanced upon your cold coffee extract. I remember sipping cold coffee (from the refrigerator) mixed with milk and sugar during really hot, muggy summer days. Totally refreshing and you can really taste the coffee. I’ll use my Bodum for your recipe real soon.
    Great site!
    Tony

  43. Yep! you add a whole cup of ground coffee. The coffee extract you end up is really strong though. You only need a couple table spoons of the extract to make a cup. Mix it with hot water, or some milk.

  44. I’ve been dying to make some decent coffee with the rubbish pre-ground crap I get – this sounds fantastic!
    Just one question though – you put in one whole cup of coffee grounds??

    I’m giving this a try tonight!

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