Your Guide To Never Buying Cold Brew Again

Photographed by Nicole Maroon.
There are coffee fans and then there are cold brew fanatics — a group we personally identify with. This intense breed of seasonal java drinkers run wild when temperature rise and are known to drop serious funds on their weekly supplies. Because cold brew (iced coffee's less acidic, richer concentrate cousin made through a prolonged, room temperature brewing process) is expensive.
So we consulted Blair Smith, resident coffee expert at Brim, in order to light a fire under our lazy, coffee-craving asses. Blair dished on how and why we should and realistically can BIY (Brew It Yourself) and provided some cold brew hacks we had no idea we were missing. Brace yourself, because the information below may turn you from a serial cold brew-buyer into an at-home artisan.
1. It's The Easiest Coffee To Make
Unlike other coffee drinks with more complex brewing methods, Blair points out that cold brew is actually quite forgiving: "When you think of a shot of espresso, if you let it run five seconds longer you can have a completely different flavor. Cold brew you can keep going several hours more than you intended and it'll still be smooth and really sweet."
If you're looking to hit the brewing sweet spot, she recommends capping the process between 12-15 hours — with 20 hours being the absolute max. Blair's advice for those looking to fast track the process is to initially cover the grounds with hot water (before submerging with room temp) and then to let it brew for eight hours. "You're getting it started faster by hitting it with that hot bloom, and eight hours is still a good amount of time to get a little more acidity and flavor from it."
2. You Can Use Old Coffee Beans
Turns out, freshly-roasted coffee doesn't equal the best-tasting coffee — especially when it comes to cold brew. According to Blair, "A lot of people will just use old coffee [beans] for cold brew because the extraction time is a lot longer, so it doesn't impact the flavor as much." She also shared that even though we're trained to buy fresh beans and use our bags up before they go stale, older coffee beans can actually taste better. "This past week, I used coffee in a competition that was over a month old, and some of the flavors really balance out — you get a lot of deeper sweetness when you have coffee [beans] that have been sitting out for a little while," she says.
Blair does stress, however, that certain methods are key in successful prolonged bean storage: "Of course, air is going to be the most detrimental to the coffee. If you have it sealed, it holds up well, it's de-gasing, it's supposed to do that. But it's not really getting too much of that from the air, unless you have your coffee on the counter with the bag open." She also says that storing your beans in the fridge or freezer is a big no-no: "I don't like to tell people to put their coffee in the fridge, because moisture is something that is affecting the bean at that level. You never want your beans to get wet before you've ground them."
3. It Lasts For Two Weeks
Unlike traditional hot coffee, a home-made batch of cold brew concentrate can last as long as two weeks in your fridge without losing flavor or intensity — meaning you don't actually have to BIY everyday in order to get your morning fix.
4. You Can Drink It Hot
Contrary to its name, cold brew concentrate doesn't always have to be cold! Blair suggests cutting it with hot water (instead of serving it over ice) as a fast and easy at-home approach for traditional coffee lovers. "It's a super smooth, very chocolatey sort of coffee," she says. "There's not a ton of acidity, and if you're adding cream and sugar it's going to be great."
5. It Really Does Add Up
As much as we may groan about how expensive cold brew is, we often justify our splurges based on sheer convenience. And yet, "That coffee adds up at $2 a day — by the end of the week you're at $14-$15. And $2 is a pretty cheap cup of coffee, so you're really thinking $3 — then you're spending $15-$20 when you could've bought a $12-$13 bag of coffee and saved all the time making it at home," Smith tells Refinery29.
"I do understand it's an upfront cost to buy the equipment and [coffee] bags, but you're ultimately going to save money and time," she says, urging us to consider not only budget, but also time spent waiting in line mid-commute for that pricey, pre-made cup.
6. You Can Make It Into Ice Cubes
Cold brew's lengthy fridge-life translates to an even longer freezer-life. Try pouring your concentrate into an ice tray for fast and easy iced drinks; be sure to store the frozen cubes inside an air-tight container to protect them from absorbing outside freezer odors. Blair recommends thinking outside the box and getting creative with your iced concentrate additions: "We actually used to serve a drink with just Coca Cola and cold brew iced cubes. It sounds really weird, but it's fantastic."
7. You Can Make Cocktails With The Leftovers
Speaking of getting creative, Blair reminds us that cold brew isn't just for the a.m., it's also a tasty cocktail mixer. We have two of her craft recipes below — so not only will we save money making it at home, but we'll also be able to sip it morning, noon, and night, all summer long.
The Black and Tan
By Blair Smith
1 part water
1 part ice
1 part cold brew
Leave about 2 in. from the top of whatever vessel you’re using — froth up some whole, almond, or oat milk — and top off the beverage with the textured milk.
Cold Brew Manhattan
By Blair Smith
1 part cold brew
1 part tart cherry juice
Aromatic bitters (4 drops)
1 part peach green tea
Stirred — not shaken — with ice, strained, and served in a cocktail glass.

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