How to Make Cold Brew in a French Press

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Your French press is even more versatile than you think. There’s nothing wrong with the full-bodied, rich coffee that you’ve come to know and love, but it’s time to broaden your horizons. 

It’s time to learn how to make cold brew in a French press. But first, let’s take a look at what cold brew is, and why the French press is the perfect tool for making it.

What Is Cold Brew Coffee?

An iced cup of cold brew coffee

Cold brew is coffee made using room temperature (or colder) water to extract the coffee grounds. It’s a very hands-off brewing method, but it takes 12+ hours to complete. The result is a coffee concentrate that is typically diluted to match the strength of drip coffee.

Cold brew is not the same as iced coffee. Iced coffee is made by brewing coffee hot and adding ice to cool it down. On the other hand, hot water is never used during the cold-brewing process. Since it’s already chilled, cold brew can be iced without diluting the flavor, a huge plus over iced coffee.

What’s So Great About Cold Brew?

Coffee lovers tend to stick around for the unique flavor of cold brew. Compared to hot coffee or iced coffee, cold brew is smoother and more mellow. The flavor tends to be chocolatey, nutty, or earthy, without some of the fruity or floral notes you might find in hot-brewed coffee.

Cold brew is a low-acidity coffee. That makes it great for coffee drinkers with stomach issues, acid reflux, or a variety of other health issues. Just make sure to dilute the coffee sufficiently, as the concentrate’s higher caffeine content can be a stomach irritant

Why Make Cold Brew Coffee in a French Press?

It’s convenient! You can make cold brew in a mason jar or pitcher, but why not use a French press if you already own one? The plunger also allows for easy filtering of your cold brew coffee. A cold brew pitcher is still the easiest way to make your own cold brew, but a French press is the next best thing.

Choosing Beans for French Press Cold Brew

A hand holding coffee beans, like the beans you might use for French press cold brew coffee

Choosing the best coffee for cold brew is all about balancing the unique impact of cold brewing. Cold-brewed coffee is very mellow, so you’ll probably want something extra flavorful. On the other hand, some people prefer to lean into the mellowness, and there is nothing wrong with that. 

Colombian coffee beans are especially popular for cold brew, so that’s probably a good place to start. Sumatran coffees are also an excellent choice, as they tend to have the kind of earthy, nutty flavors that can really shine in cold brew.

If you buy pre-ground coffee beans, you should buy ones specifically labeled as coarsely-ground coffee, cold brew grind, or French press grind. Standard drip coffee grinds or espresso grinds will be too finely ground to make cold brew with. I do recommend that you grind your own coffee beans, though, as whole bean coffee is fresher and available in more varieties.

How Long Does French Press Cold Brew Last?

Once you dilute your cold brew, it will have the same lifespan as regular coffee. Hot-brewed or diluted cold brew coffee goes bad after a couple of hours on the counter or a couple of days in the fridge. 

If you keep your cold brew as a concentrate, you can safely store it for up to two weeks in the refrigerator. However, the flavor will degrade after the first several days. Still, that’s 2–4 times as long as regular coffee can survive.

 French Press Cold Brew Recipe

A french press coffee maker and coffee grinder

What you’ll need

  • 1 and 1/4 cups coffee beans or coarse-ground coffee. 
  • 3 cups water (filtered). It doesn’t have to be filtered, but tap water often has impurities that can impact the flavor of the coffee. You can use either cold water or room-temperature water.
  • Extra filtered water to dilute
  • A coffee grinder. Only if you are using whole bean coffee.
  • A French press coffee maker. 

We’re using a coffee-to-water ratio of 1:7. If you want to adjust that for stronger or weaker coffee, I’ve put some common defaults for cold brew in my coffee-to-water ratio calculator.

Step-by-step instructions

Coarse grind coffee, with a dime for size comparison
  1. Grind your coffee beans (If using whole bean coffee). You want grinds that are about the size of ground peppercorn. That should be a coarse or extra-coarse setting on your coffee grinder. If you only have a blade grinder or if your grinder doesn’t have a coarse grind setting, you should either switch to pre-ground coffee or get a French press coffee grinder.
  2. Add the grounds. Pour the grounds into the bottom of your French press.
  3. Pour the water. Gently add water to the grounds. 
  4. Stir the coffee. With a long spoon, mix the water and grounds until all of the grounds are immersed and no clumps remain at the bottom.
  5. Let the coffee brew. Cover your French press, but don’t press the plunger down. Set the French press aside for at least 12 hours (24 hours is better) to let the coffee steep. You can do this at room temperature or in your refrigerator. If using the refrigerator (which I do suggest), definitely let the coffee brew for the full 24 hours.  
Making coffee with some of the best coffees for French press lovers.
  1. Filter the grounds. Press the plunger all the way down to strain away the grounds. You can then pour the filtered cold brew into another mug. Some French press filters still leave residue (especially if you aren’t using extra-coarse grounds), so you may prefer to pour the concentrate through a regular coffee filter to eliminate any remaining grounds. 
  2. Dilute your coffee. Your cold brew concentrate is ready, but you’ll likely want to dilute it before drinking. Start with a 1:1 concentrate-to-water ratio, but feel free to dilute it further if the flavor is too strong or if it gives you too much of a buzz. A 1:2 or even 1:3 ratio is about right for the average cold brew coffee drinker.
  3. Enjoy! Drink your cold-brewed cup of coffee as-is, with ice, or even heated. 

The Coolest Use for a French Press

French presses have been around a long time, but there is always a new way to enjoy them. French press cold brew and French press espresso are two of my favorites, but there are literally hundreds of other French press recipes you should check out. 

Looking for the next step? You can take your newfound French press cold brew skills and use them to make nitro cold brew at home. There’s nothing cooler than showing your friends that you’ve recreated their favorite over-priced coffee shop drink.

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