What To Do if You Struggle Making Your Cold Brew

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If you are staring into the murky depths of yet another coffee attempt gone wrong, we understand. Here is what to do if you struggle to make your cold brew at home.

Use the Tools You Actually Need

Making coffee at home gets complex quickly. With so much technical jargon mixed in with an industry where baristas often make a drink by the look and feel more than exact measurements, the at-home coffee experiment loves to go wrong. On top of that, every gadget maker and their mother are trying to sell get-drip-quick schemes that promise to make cold brew instantaneously with kitchen tools that will end up collecting dust on a countertop.

Use only the tools you need and know how to use. Minimally, making cold brew requires:

  • Ground, roasted coffee beans (preferably darker roasts)
  • A glass or plastic container
  • Cheesecloth
  • Distilled water
  • Refrigeration

If you aren’t sure of the purpose of a tool you’re using, it might overcomplicate your cold brew process. One thing that shops tend to rely on beyond these essentials is labeling tape that tells baristas when a batch will go bad—which is within two to three days for diluted cold brew.

Remember To Dilute Your Concentrate (Seriously)

Cold brew’s flavor swings on a pendulum between sour and bitter. A sour flavor lets you know that you’ve under-extracted your coffee or the grounds have started to go stale. A bitter flavor is a more common issue that tells people they have done something wrong. Even in coffee shops, forgetting to dilute cold brew can spell disaster.

There are many different takes on how much you need to dilute cold brew, and some people have even taken to drinking cold brew concentrate straight. If you don’t enjoy the flavor of black coffee, adding enough distilled water to double the finished concentrate’s initial volume is a baseline for dilution. You can always begin adding less water in future batches to increase the bitterness.

Ask the Local Pros

If you are doing everything in your power to recreate the cold brew of a local shop—using their beans, their grind, everything—don’t be afraid to ask them how they do it. Not every barista will have the specifics for water temperature, but they might tell you how long their cold brew is going for and how much they dilute it.

If you tell your barista the issues you’re having, it’s likely something they’ve experienced before and can give you some tips and tricks to fix it.

If you struggle making cold brew, don’t consider yourself a caffeine-loving failure just yet. Cold brew is a process of trial-and-error for everyone who tries it. Keep experimenting and try to record every change you make, not just to have the recipe when you perfect it, but to get a sense of pride in the progress you’ve made along the way.