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Step aside, espresso: Among coffee drinkers, cold brew has become one of the most popular drinks in recent years, according to the National Coffee Association: Retail sales of refrigerated cold brew rose about 460 percent from 2015 to 2017, and experts say the cold brew trend is only continuing to grow. Though most coffee shops have cold brew on tap, it’s also surprisingly easy to make your own at home — and much more affordable. If you’re thinking about becoming your own barista, we spoke to some coffee experts about how to make cold brew at home and rounded up some of the best cold brew coffee makers based on their guidance.
SKIP AHEAD Best cold brew coffee makers
What is cold brew and how is it different from iced coffee?
On the surface, cold brew doesn’t look all that different from iced coffee. However, there are many discernable differences — namely, in the way the beverages are brewed. “Iced coffee is brewed the same way you’d brew a drip coffee, just over ice,” explained John Holmquist, commercial sales manager at Seattle Coffee Gear. “Cold brew, on the other hand, is brewed by immersing coarsely ground coffee in [room temperature or cold] water for 14-18 hours. It makes for a stronger brew that most people dilute with additional water.” According to Holmquist, cold brew typically has a “richer and more intense” flavor than iced coffee with less acidity (which means it’s not as harsh on your stomach).
The best cold brew coffee makers
Best overall cold brew coffee maker: OXO
One of the most popular cold brew coffee makers on the market and with a 4.6-star average rating from nearly 2,000 reviews on Amazon, this 32-ounce OXO machine uses a “rainmaker” feature to evenly distribute water across your coffee grounds for 12-24 hours. “The rainmaker feature is the main difference that will improve the taste of your cold brew, as even distribution of water is crucial and sometimes hard to achieve,” said Graham Peeples, director of beverage at Methodical Coffee. It has a stainless steel mesh filter and comes with a glass carafe lined with measurement markings.
Best automatic cold brew coffee maker: KitchenAid
For those looking for a cold brew coffee maker that does all the hard work, all you have to do is combine 6 ounces of water with every 2 ounces of coffee and this KitchenAid can brew up to 38 ounces of cold brew. The coffee maker — which features a steel filter — conveniently comes with a spigot so you can dispense your cold brew right from the machine, and it’s compact enough to fit in most refrigerators and on countertops. It has a 4.6-star average rating from more than 1,500 reviews on Amazon.
Best cold brew coffee maker for smaller batches: Takeya
According to Peeples, the Takeya Cold Brew Coffee Maker is ideal for “a grab-and-go scenario where you only need enough cold brew to last you a few days.” Featuring a fine mesh filter, the 2-quart carafe can brew up to four servings of coffee, according to the brand, and also comes in a smaller 1-quart size. The 2-quart maker has a 4.7-star average rating from more than 41,400 reviews on Amazon.
Best multipurpose cold brew coffee maker: Ninja
In addition to making cold brew, this coffee machine can also handle hot coffee, iced coffee and more. It has a knob that you can adjust to accommodate six brew sizes, and if you make tea, you can adjust the settings depending on the tea type. The versatile machine boasts a 4.3-star average rating from more than 430 reviews at Target.
Best cold brew coffee maker with paper filters: Toddy
If you’d prefer not to deal with a metal mesh filter, this cold brew machine from Toddy uses felt filters and requires no electricity to brew. According to the brand, the resulting cold brew is 67 percent less acidic than traditional hot coffee. The Toddy Cold Brew Coffee Maker System has a 4.8-star average rating from nearly 700 reviews on Amazon.
How to shop for a cold brew coffee maker
According to the experts we spoke to, there are a few things you should keep in mind when shopping for a cold brew maker:
- Size: The size of your cold brew maker will depend on how much coffee you drink and how big your fridge is. “A larger brewer might make more concentrate, but it might be inconvenient to store and put in the fridge,” Holmquist noted.
- Filter type: According to Peeples, paper filters provide the “cleanest taste,” though he added that they “are not the best environmentally.” Reusable cloth filters are also effective, but they can be difficult to clean and tend to “retain the oils from the coffee for a long time.” Metal mesh filters are the easiest to clean, but Peeples noted that they “let through a decent amount of sediment and give you a cloudy cup of cold brew.” (He recommends combining a metal mesh filter with “some sort of paper filter bag.")
- Clean-up: Certain types of cold brew coffee makers can be more difficult to clean up. According to Holmquist, bottle brewers like the Takeya Cold Brew Coffee Maker have smaller grounds chambers that are tougher to scrub, while machines like the OXO Cold Brew Coffee Maker have larger chambers “that you can dump and rise out.”