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When the summer weather sets in, nothing is quite as refreshing as an icy coffee (or perhaps, a cold brew negroni?). The gentle cold brewing process produces rich, robust and refreshing coffee with minimal effort. “With cold brew, you have to give the coffee some time being immersed in cold water, but this can happen while you sleep,” notes co-owner and roaster Hazel de los Reyes of Gumption Coffee in New York City.
While cold brew is relatively straightforward to make, De los Reyes notes a few critical things. “Pretty much everything that makes coffee taste better applies to cold brew as well. Make sure it’s freshly roasted, freshly ground, and it’s the coffee blend you like. Also, feel free to experiment with the dose: Use more coffee if you want a stronger, heavier brew and vice versa. And remember, coffee should be enjoyed, not stressed about.”
With one of the following cold brew makers, you’re well on your way to an excellent cup of joe (or a coffee-based cocktail).
Best Overall: OXO Brew Compact Cold Brew Coffee Maker
This compact cold brew makes coffee both hot and cold (or Irish). Just prep your grounds, fill up your brewer, and the unit will automatically drain when the brewer is placed on the included carafe. Once you’re done brewing, immediately pop the carafe in the fridge to chill it down. When the mixture is done brewing, it’s ready to drink.
The perforated rainmaker top evenly distributes water over the grinds. The maker holds 24 ounces of water and produces 16 ounces of coffee.
If you live in tight quarters, this coffee maker is an excellent small space solution—though note this does require more grinds than an average coffee maker. The set includes an ultra-fine, stainless steel mesh filter, though if you prefer paper filters you can swap those out.
Best Large Capacity: Takeya 1-Quart Cold Brew Coffee Maker
If you’re looking for a classic cold brew maker, Takeya’s version is crafted specifically for making cold brew. Pick from either 1 quart or 2 quarts, depending on how caffeinated you like to be or how many coffee drinkers you have in your home; 1 quart will make four servings of cold brew. Fill up the insert with 14 to 16 tablespoons of ground coffee, add cold water, brew overnight and enjoy. Keep it in your fridge for whenever you need a boost (or happy hour when you need a reprieve). If you’re craving hot coffee, add boiling water to the coffee concentrate.
The BPA-free Tritan pitcher (Tritan is an incredibly durable glass-like material) includes an airtight lid and non-slip silicone handles.
Good to Know: When shopping for a cold brew machine, De los Reyes notes the priorities are “ease of buy, ease of use and ease of cleaning—believe me, I’ve seen many gadgets out there, some costing a pay packet, some so tricky to use, and all had gotten gunked up and produced horrible brews as a result. All brewers, be they hot or cold, should be simple enough to keep clean and keep the coffee tasting great.”
Best Design: Hario Cold Brew Coffee Bottle
De los Reyes recommends an immersion-style cold brew maker. “They’re small enough to leave brewing in the fridge, cheap to buy, easy to clean and deliver great-tasting coffee,” she explains. In that vein, Hario’s brewing bottles offer low-effort, high-reward coffee. Simply add your grounds to the wine-shaped carafe, add water, and let the mixture sit for eight hours. After the hours are up, you’re ready to sip excellent iced coffee. The carafe is made with durable glass with a tapered silicone top, a fine mesh filter, and a removable bottle spout and stopper. The Japanese-made bottle makes 5 cups of coffee per use.
All of the pieces are dishwasher safe, so simply disassemble the bottle and wash when you’re done. If you like cold brew but don’t want the effort of elaborate cold brew machines, this is an approachable option.
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Best Versatile: AeroPress Coffee Maker
While not a traditional cold brew machine, Alex Negranza, the barista-turned-bartender at March in Houston, swears by an AeroPress. “Bear with me here, but I love brewing hot coffee at a stronger strength and adding it to ice at home.”
The rapid brewing system works by quickly combining the beans with water, skipping the long steep needed with a French press. Each brew makes between 1 and 3 cups of coffee.
Negranza notes, “It's a little more labor- and bean-intensive, but I think it’s worth it. For instance, I brew on AeroPress at home and I usually brew with 25 grams per coffee I make, but if I'm making iced coffee, I’ll use 40 grams of coffee.” The kit includes the press, a funnel, scoop, stirrer, 350 filters and a filter holder.
Good to Know: “Once I have my iced coffee, I have a few fun things I like to add to it to spice it up: my go-to is a shot of Benedictine,” says Negranza. “It’s so delicious and underrated for coffee pairings! I’ve used cold brew for almost a decade now in the Irish Coffees I’ve been making, and it’s so simply thirst-quenching. Benedictine is something to keep around the house anyway for when you’re craving a delicious Vieux Carré. The other ingredient I like to add to my cold brew coffee is Cynar! The bitterness and sweetness of an amaro of that caliber make a great addition and depth of flavor for that afternoon pick-me-up.”
Best for Coffee Nerds: Chemex Classic Series Coffee Maker
The unit is a coffee shop staple, known for its unique design, signature leather wrap, and ability to make smooth, nuanced and clean coffee in just five minutes. Fans of the coffee maker note that it really lets the flavors of the beans shine and produces less sediment than other models.
While not a traditional cold brew coffee maker, a Chemex can be adapted to make cold brew by popping the mixture in the fridge. “Their signature filters help [these coffee makers] give the coffee more of a body than a standard because they are 20% to 30% heavier than other units. Plus, a Chemex removes all of the finest sediment particles, oils and fats.”
Related: The Best Coffees for Cold Brew
Best Nitro: GrowlerWerks uKeg Nitro Cold Brew Coffee Maker
This option is for the serious cold brew fanatics. GrowlerWerk’s canister makes super smooth nitro cold brew right in your home, dispensing cold brew then infusing it with nitro gas to produce fluffy, chilled coffee. It’s the first integrated cold brew coffee maker with nitro capabilities on the market, able to dispense a cascading pour of nitro cold brew.
With double-walled stainless steel vacuum insulation, your cold brew stays perfectly chilled all day—keep it on your kitchen counter and dispense when needed. A double filtration system prevents clogs.
The patented nitro system keeps coffee fresh and creamy for a whopping two weeks. Each purchase includes two nitro cartridges, four coffee filter bags and one funnel, plus the nitro cold brew unit.
Best Budget: Primula Burke Cold Brew Coffee Maker
“This is an instant favorite,” says De los Reyes. “It doesn't cost [a lot], like lab equipment, and you don’t have to treat it like one. As an immersion cold brewer, it’s so easy to use: Put ground coffee in, add cold water, and leave it in the fridge to brew. Brews deliciously too!”
This price-friendly option gives you the tools to craft cold brew in a snap. Add your coffee grounds to the filter, pour cold water over the filter, and let it sit overnight to your desired strength. In the morning you can start your day with fresh coffee.
While it’s easy to use, it’s also incredibly low maintenance. It’s dishwasher safe, sprays quickly to clean, and with the removable filter, it’s simple to empty your grinds, rinse and start again. The cold brew dispenser makes up to 6 cups (or 52 ounces) of cold brew coffee at a time.
Good to Know: Looking to whip up cold brew cocktails? De los Reyes suggests “charging the cold brew with nitrogen via an iSi syphon."
Best Manual/Best Compact: Cafflano Kompresso
While you may reach for a traditional cold brew maker, Asser Christensen, a Q Grader and founder of the website The Coffee Chronicler, prefers using a manual espresso maker to craft his cold brew. “It's very unorthodox, but the result can be fantastic. Use an espresso roast and grind a bit finer than you usually would. Instead of using hot water, add ice water to the brew chamber. Press the piston or lever down a tiny bit and let the coffee puck pre-infuse for one minute. Then proceed and pull the shot. The result should be a cold espresso shot packed with a multitude of new flavors and impressions,” he explains. The manual machine uses hydraulic water compression to craft excellent pulled espresso.
For those on the go, the unit requires no electricity, making it sustainable and easy to travel with. Each press makes one shot.
Related: The Best Martini Glasses
If you’re looking for a compact, effective machine to boost your warm-weather coffee regimen, the OXO Brew Compact Cold Brew Coffee Maker is an excellent choice (view at Amazon). If you have more space in your home, Hario’s Cold Brew Coffee Bottle boasts excellent design and a large capacity (view at Amazon).
How does a cold brew coffee maker work?
Instead of using hot water to brew, cold brew coffee makers infuse coarse ground beans with cold water, creating a less acidic coffee concentrate. Cold brew comes down to two categories: immersion and slow drip. The former slowly infuses the water, while slow-drip coffee makers involve water being slowly dripped over coffee grounds through a filter.
How do you best clean and care for your cold brew maker?
A standard cold brew maker is quick to clean: Simply empty or dispose of the filter, disassemble the unit, and pop it in the dishwasher or clean by hand, depending on what the coffee maker requires.
How long will cold brew last?
Cold brew should last about a week to 10 days in the refrigerator. That said, play it by ear: More concentrated versions can last up to two weeks. If it tastes or smells off, consider giving it to your plants instead!
What to Look for in a Cold Brew Coffee Maker
Most standard cold brew makers are quite small, making them ideal for folks living in smaller homes. If you are looking to make just a couple of cups at once, there are plenty of options for you. That said, if you’re looking for larger options for making big batches, opt for a bigger coffee maker. There are cold brew makers with larger capacities available, but keep in mind this will take up more space in your fridge.
There are two different types of cold brew coffee brewing methods: immersion and slow drip. With immersion coffee makers, the coffee grounds are soaked in cold water overnight (or until it reaches your desired strength). With slow drip, cold water will slowly drip through coffee grounds. Slow drip is quicker, while immersion requires at least 12 hours.
Type of Coffee
Not all cold brew tastes the same. First of all, there is regular cold brew. Then, there's nitro cold brew: nitrogen-infused coffee that is fluffy, creamy and loaded with flavor. To make nitro cold brew, you need a machine equipped to handle nitrogen tanks. Nitro aside, immersion coffee makers are different from slow-drip ones because they produce a coffee concentrate: You will need to water it down with either ice or milk before sipping.
Filters or infusers are essential to keeping grinds and sediment out of your coffee, but each machine will approach its filtration method differently. While the difference is minuscule, it will affect your cleaning greatly. Paper filters are easy to throw out after use, but you do have to continue purchasing them, and they can spill and rip. Metal infusers will save you money in the long run and are environmentally friendly.
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Kate Dingwall is an experienced spirits writer and glassware collector. She has been writing about the bar and spirits world for six years. For this article, she interviewed coffee experts Hazel de los Reyes and Alex Negranza.