Warm weather is here, so that means it’s time to cool down with cold-brew coffee. Different from traditional iced coffee, cold brew is made by steeping grounds in cold water for hours. It’s an umbrella term with several styles falling under it, including examples like nitro coffee and New Orleans-style iced coffee (more on that below).
The coffee market abounds with several kinds of gadgets to cold-brew coffee at home, but what are the best ones? We figured there was no one better to ask than the people who make cold-brew coffee for a living.
HuffPost asked Michael Phillips, director of coffee culture for Blue Bottle Coffee, and David Forman, director of operations at Columbus, Ohio’s One Line Coffee, to share the cold-brew coffee equipment they implement in their cafes, so that you can use the same gear at home.
“We live in a magical era for coffee making,” Phillips said. “There are more brewers than I can count out there that will help you make cold brew. ... That being said, half the fun with coffee is the exploration process, so follow your heart if you’re feeling adventurous.”
The Classic At-Home Method: Toddy Cold Brew System
The Toddy is a popular tool for making cold brew and is what kick-started the at-home cold-brew movement. One Line uses a commercial size ($119.99) for its cold brew, but it’s recommended you try the 2-quart version ($40) at home.
In this method, grounds steep between 12-24 hours and the Toddy’s a filtration system makes for a silky smooth texture. “At the shop, we go through a ton of Toddy,” Forman said. “That’s our standard method for making iced coffee. It’s geared a little more towards sweetness and simplicity. No worse or better than slow drip (see below), per se, just different. Where slow drip is an exploration, Toddy is more of a simple pleasure.”
Blue Bottle is known for its New Orleans-style iced coffee, which the brand describes as “coffee that’s cold-brewed for 12 hours with roasted chicory and sweetened with organic cane sugar. The end result is a potent concentrate that we cut with organic whole milk. It’s sweet, creamy, and consistently delicious.”
“The format of the Toddy brewer allows you to have a very high coffee-to-water ratio, which allows us to create the high-strength concentrate that helps the coffee flavor balance so well with the milk,” Phillips said. “It also allows room for us to add in the roasted chicory, which creates the signature flavor profile of the New Orleans coffee. If [home brewers] like to add milk to their coffee or even want to try their hand at making our New Orleans-style iced coffee at home, then the Toddy brewer will be the best option.”
Easiest For On-The-Go: The Hario Cold Brew Bottle
Hario is the beloved Japanese brand of coffee devices, and all of them just happen to be aesthetically pleasing. The experts at Blue Bottle are a fan of Hario’s cold-brew bottle, in which you can make cold-brew coffee faster and with smaller parts than the Toddy.
“For a home brewer who loves black iced coffee, I think the Hario Cold Brew Bottle is hands down the best bet,” Phillips said. “It is simple to use and makes one of the cleanest cups around. We love the quality of the cup it is able to achieve with its fine mesh filter, which is also magically reusable. On top of that, you can store the cold brew in the same vessel you brew it in and it looks beautiful. There is no easier way for people to make cold brew at home, in our opinion.”
The Fanciest Method: Slow-Drip, aka Kyoto-Style Cold-Brew Coffee
This method uses an hourglass-esque contraption. Forman described how the process works: “Dose out your coffee, grind with a really good grinder, dose room temperature water, then start the brew process. First, we add a few hundred grams of water to fully saturate the grounds. Once saturated, we set our drip rate to around one drip per second. This results in a brew time around 16 hours.” It’s important to use room temperature water, not ice water.
“The slow drip method definitely produces an almost liqueur-like coffee with an exceptional emphasis on clarity of flavor,” Forman said. “A lot of what we focus on as a roaster is an exploration of a particular farm or growing region, and this can be difficult to do with cold brew. Due to the extended brew time, you lose a lot of aromatics no matter what you do. So you lose a lot of what makes different coffees unique. The slow-drip method does a better job of preserving those unique elements than other cold brew methods, like Toddy.”
Whereas One Line uses the Yama for slow drip, Blue Bottle prefers the Oji. “We love the intense, layered coffee that you get out of an Oji slow-drip tower,” Phillips said. “The craftsmanship behind it allows you to achieve an incredibly slow brewing process, adding water to the coffee bed literally one drop at a time and spaced precise seconds apart. The Yama is a wonderful brew method as well, achieving similar results, but we prefer the Oji because we have more experience with it.”
A Solid Grinder: Baratza Virtuoso+
While Forman uses a $2,850 EK43 Grinder at the coffee shop, there are much more affordable options for home cold brewers.
In terms of purchasing a good, affordable grinder for your cold brew (and all your other coffee needs), Phillips recommended the Baratza Virtuoso+.
“This grinder is built like a tank,” he said. “I use the previous model at home and would gladly upgrade if the darn thing would ever break down, but it just keeps chugging along! It is great for all cold-brew styles of coffee too, as it has a large hopper that can hold the larger amounts of coffee often used in these brew methods. It also has a clear, easy-to-use grind adjustment and burr set that works well across a range of brew methods.”