When you consider how delicious and easy making cold brew coffee can be, it’s no wonder why it’s become such a huge part of our coffee culture in The United States—and especially the warmer areas of our country.
But there’s something that confuses a lot of people. Cold brewing isn’t just one process, but two.
- The simple immersion process
- The mad scientist-y slow drip method
Each method has its advantages over the other, and there are certainly people who would thrive with one and not with the other. Let’s explore the differences between these two brewing methods to discover which is best for your coffee habits, budget, or taste preferences.
Immersion Cold Brewing: The Easy Way To Start
Chances are, if you’re just getting started with cold brew coffee, you’re going to start with the immersion cold brew method. It’s simple, repeatable, and brews great coffee.
In fact, it’s so simple that you may already have everything you need to get started:
- A coffee filter (or two)
- A brewing vessel
- Coffee + cold water
Most people choose to use their french press as the brewing vessel. The french press already has a filter built in, but I typically opt to use a second filter too. However, really any device that can be covered can work, like tupperware, mason jars, or a glass with plastic wrap.
Your filter can be a regular coffee filter, a pour over cone, a fine kitchen strainer, or even a super clean rag (tried it, don’t recommend it).
The Brewing Process
Making immersion cold brew is soooo straightforward.
- Immerse coarse grounds in cold water
- Set the covered brewing vessel on the counter or in the fridge
- Wait 12-15 hours
It’s fairly hands-off and so simple that you can easily repeat the recipe without error. This is a great one for setting up in the evening, straining in the morning, and enjoying cold brew coffee in the afternoon for the next few days.
The final cold brew is in a concentrate form, so you’ll probably want to cut it with some water and ice to make it drinkable. The amount of water you cut with depends on your coffee to water ratio during brewing. You can see how we go about this in our Ultimate Guide To Cold Brew Coffee.
Because of the long immersion process, the final result is full-bodied, full-flavored, and super satisfying.
Who This Method Is For
This method is really the go-to for most home brewers. Because of its simplicity, it’s great for newcomers to cold brew, people who would prefer a straightforward brewing process, and people who would like to brew a concentrate that can be used in a variety of creative beverages.
It’s also a great method if you’re on a budget. Since you likely already have a capable brewing vessel and a filter, not much is required in the way of startup costs.
Immersion Cold Brewing In Summary
- 12+ hour brew time
- Brews a concentrate
- Full-flavored, full-bodied
- Minimal tools required
- Straightforward and repeatable
- Can brew small or large batches
Slow Drip Cold Brewing: The Connoisseur's Method
If you’ve ever seen a scientific-looking device on the counter of a cafe that looks like a slow-dripping water tower, that’s a slow drip cold brewer. It looks intimidating, but it’s not as difficult as many assume (including myself at one point).
This method isn’t as straightforward, and a big part of that is the required brewing device.
It features a water reservoir connected to a valve that slowly drips water over a bed of coffee grounds. The water drains through the grounds, through a filter, and down into another vessel that collects the cold brew.
Since the coffee grounds aren’t immersed in the water for several hours (more like several minutes), the final cold brew is bright and delicious, but not as full-bodied.
The Brewing Process
Most people would rather just stick with the simpler immersion method, but for others, the brewing process is an exciting challenge.
The trick is to find the perfect balance between the water drip rate and the grind size. Typically, a medium-coarse grind setting is used, and most cafes and home brewers target around one drip per second.
But here’s the frustrating part:
As time goes on and there’s less water in the reservoir, the drip rate slows because there’s not as much weight pushing the water down. As a result, you end up having to adjust the drip rate a few times to ensure it keeps a steady pace.
However, this process does have its perks. It’s fun and fascinating to look at and it only takes 3-6 hours, since you use a slightly finer grind setting. The end product is still a concentrate, but it’s usually not quite as concentrated as the cold brew is from the immersion method.
For a deeper look at the brewing process, once again, check out the slow drip section of our Ultimate Guide To Cold Brew Coffee.
Who This Method Is For
This is a fairly difficult and intimidating brewing method for newcomers to cold brew. However, if you’re the kind of person who likes to figure things out for yourself, you may love this method. Of course, you actually have to purchase a slow drip brewer, which you can find for as low as $30.
Slow Drip Cold Brewing In Summary
- 3-6 hour brewing time
- Bright and light coffee concentrate
- Specific tool required (startup cost)
- Less user-friendly process
- Typically brews smaller batches
Cold brewing at home is a stellar way to enjoy rich iced coffee. You really can’t go wrong with either method, but I’m willing to guess you’ll find the immersion method simpler, more consistent, and just as delicious as you could imagine.
Of course, don’t forget that your brew will only be as delicious as the beans you use. There’s no substitute for specialty-grade, freshly roasted coffee—and that’s what we suggest cold brewing with to maximize freshness and flavor.
Our JavaPresse Coffee Club sends you stellar beans the same day that they’re roasted at our facility in San Diego. They’re from some of the best farms in the world and are all stellar picks for both cold and hot brewing.Check it out!