Cold brew coffee, if made right, is simply divine. It’s the smoothest, loveliest summer refreshment I’ve ever had. Sadly, it always tastes better at the coffee shop or from a bottle. I’ve found that homebrew can be incredibly tricky to get just right.
So many guides and products seem to have a wide variety of advice on how best to go about it. They’ll recommend different makers, different methods, different coffee grounds, different water ratios, different brew times, and different temperatures for your water. After filling my fridge to test 16 different cold brew makers, I still haven’t made what I’d consider my perfect cup of cold brew coffee, but I’m a lot closer to cold brew nirvana than I was a few months ago.
Below are the best cold brew coffee makers I’ve tested so far. I’ve tried pot immersion (tea style) pots, big immersion buckets, slow drip makers, French presses, mason jars, and even a couple automated brewers. In them I’ve tested more than half a dozen different cold brew friendly coffee blends to try and find a combination I could recommend to our readers.
1. The Best Overall
There’s nothing insanely unique about Coffee Gator’s 47 fl oz glass immersion cold brew coffee pot. It’s similar to many others you’ll find from other brands, but Gator made almost all the right design decisions. After steeping for 24 hours, coffee came out smooth and flavorful without too much bitterness (though you won’t need to add a lot of water) and the filter is fine enough that there was very little sediment left at all, which can ruin a good cold brew by adding a gritty mouthfeel and aftertaste.
Filling the Gator, like other pots, is slower because you have to pour your water through the grounds and let it settle through, but the included metal scoop and collapsible funnel made adding grounds and water an easier, tidier process. I liked them so much, I began using these handy accessories with all the other cold brew makers. Cleanup is also faster than other brewers because you can quickly detach the grounds filter, which has a twist-off bottom for easy rinsing.
It’s hard to find a simpler way to make cold brew than with the Coffee Gator, and its customer service is responsive, too. Since the Gator seems to keep selling out (then coming back in stock), I also tested a nearly identical (seriously, identical) Cold Brew Coffee Pot by Vremi ($16) that is almost as good. It doesn’t have the scoop and funnel, but it does have a spout that seals, which is nice, and a fruit infuser if you like to make tea or flavored water.
Nearly Identical Alternative: Vremi Cold Brew Pot ($16)
2. Best for Perfectionists
The WIRED Gear team has liked OXO’s cold brew coffee maker for years (we ranked it highly, giving it an 8/10, and our WIRED Recommends seal of approval). It’s a cold brew connoisseur’s dream rig that’s meant to sit proudly on your kitchen counter, and it’s the best purchase if you want bucket-style immersion brewing that allows for greater experimentation.
Not only does it look classy, OXO’s maker produces up to 32 fl oz of very fine coffee with minimal sediment that can come out far more concentrated (which means you’ll get more out of it) than the Coffee Gator and other pot-style brewers. It also has the potential to produce richer, more robust flavors, thanks to the design, which includes a “rainmaker” lid. You’ll have to tinker with your recipe, though, and make sure to dampen your grounds before you begin or things will get bitter, quick.
After sitting on the counter, or in the fridge, for 12-24 hours, you flip a switch and your brew cleanly drains into the graduated decanter, which may give you flashbacks to high school chemistry class. It also comes with a measuring lid. Perhaps most importantly, the coffee it makes is fantastic.
3. Best for Sheer Speed
Cuisinart’s 7-cup machine does not produce cold brew coffee that I found to be as tasty as other machines on this list, but it’s foolproof by comparison, and the coffee is totally acceptable. You fill the filter cylinder with coffee grounds, then use the glass pot to fill the water reservoir with cold water.
Hit the brew button and listen to it twist and violently shake the flavor out of your grounds for 25 – 45 minutes. Out of its three modes, and I preferred the bold setting. You can always water it down if your bean juice turns out too strong. Flip the switch when it’s done, and out pours your cold brew.
Cleaning the grounds cylinder can be annoying if you let it sit for too long, and the coffee that comes out will have a lot of sediment (protip: add a small paper filter in the carafe’s mesh filter to catch it), but it still tastes decent and takes approximately 23.5 hours less time to make.
4. Best If You Hate Gritty Cold Brew
I’m going to be honest with you—I didn’t love this Filtron-made brewer. It’s similar to the OXO brewing system, just not as good in most ways that count.
It’s basically a big bucket with grounds in it, and a smaller bucket above that drips water into it. It’s made of cheap plastic, requires paper liners and filter pads that you’ll have to keep buying (filter pads last about 10 brews), and I had tons of trouble getting the water to completely drain into the grounds. You also have to use a rubber stopper to drain the coffee after 24 hours, which will always get your hands messy, and cleanup is time consuming. The instruction manual also looks like it was made by a 5th grader learning how to print with Microsoft Word. It’s filled with low-res images and poor formatting.
Unfortunately, it makes rich, full-bodied cold brew coffee that has the least sediment of any product I’ve tried so far. Those pads and paper filters are annoying, but they do work. If you’re okay with a little inconvenience, the Filtron will make a damn good cold brew concentrate. It’s similar to the Toddy Cold Brew System, though that one at least has a glass carafe with a spout.
5. Best for Brewing Large Batches
County Line Kitchen is a family-owned business in Wisconsin. Its Cold Brew Maker uses a trusty ol’ 2-quart mason jar and stainless steel filter basket to brew. It works much like the Coffee Gator, but you can make a ton of joe with it. You fill the basket with a lot of coffee grounds, pour up to 64 fl oz of cold water through it slowly, and let it sit for 24 hours. When it’s done, take out the filter basket and use the lid to pour.
In my tests, the County Line produced relatively smooth cold brew coffee, though it was somewhat gritty, likely because the steel filter is a bit too porous. The instructions also tell you to shake the jar after adding water, but I found that a bit of coffee can leak out even if it’s sealed tight, which seems to be a common mason jar problem. Lingering grounds aside, if you want enough cold brew to last a week, this is a good way to get it.
6. Best French Press
I used French Presses as a quasi-control in my testing, and the Secura is the nicest I’ve tried. To my dismay, I haven’t yet been able to get any French press to produce cold brew coffee with flavor that’s as smooth or rich as with other methods. It’s usually a little bitter and gritty for my tastes. But it’s still quite drinkable, and if you play around enough or find the right coffee grounds, you can probably make a batch that suits your tastes.
You might very well already own a French press for hot coffee, but if you don’t, I recommend the Secura. It’s made of stainless steel and well-insulated to keep cold brew cold or hot coffee hot, and the handle doesn’t get too hot.
Great Cold Brew Beans
In my quest to make the perfect cold brew coffee, I tried at least half a dozen different types of coffee. Stone Street’s Arabica Columbian Supremo dark roast was my favorite. It’s made specifically with cold brewing in mind. They come coarsely ground (a coarse grind is best for cold brew) or whole bean if you own a grinder, and the 1 lb bag isn’t too expensive.
Stone Street was less bitter than some brands I tried and got closest to delivering that perfect, smooth cold brew flavor I was craving. Cold brewing requires a lot more grounds than normal hot brewing, so I appreciated its lower price, as well.
Brewers that Didn’t Make the Cut
I had high hopes for a few other cold brew coffee makers that didn’t quite make the cut. Some of them are below, along with why I didn’t endorse them.
Takeya Airtight Cold Brew Maker ($19): This maker has earned high marks from reviewers, but in my tests it just didn’t stack up to competitors like the Coffee Gator. The airtight seal is fantastic and lets you shake your coffee, but no matter how tight everything was, I found that a good deal of gritty sediment ended up outside the filter. It’s also tougher to clean the filter than competitors because its bottom doesn’t screw off, and the plastic container works, but isn’t as nice as glass.
Gosh! Dripo ($20): The Dripo made delicious coffee with no grittiness or sediment, which I credit to the slow drip brewing method, but the instructions were confusing and the setup was a lot of work for how little coffee it produces. On top of that, if you don’t pre-wet your grounds, it may not work at all. The intent is that you can take the cup with you to work, but it’s not a great to-go cup because of the lid design, which doesn’t drain the coffee back into the cup well. Overall, it’s too much setup and work for too little coffee.
Simple Life Cycle Mason Jar ($18): This compact brewer is fun, but the filter is too porous and lets through a lot of sediment. I also had issues with coffee seeping out, and the wooden lid developed a crack on the side. Maybe I tried to seal it too tight? Either way, the coffee it brewed was not as tasty as other makers.
Hario Mizudashi ($27): There is absolutely nothing bad about the Mizudashi, though its grounds tray sits a little high. It’s a good cold brew pot, but just isn’t as good as the Gator and others I tested.
Gourmia Automatic Cold Brew Maker ($60): I tested two automatic cold brew machines, and the Cuisinart bested this Gourmia by a long shot. I wanted to like the Gourmia, and though it can produce clear, relatively smooth coffee with minimal sediment, but setup is a chore and the controls are confusing. Despite it saying it brews in 10 minutes, you have to run it multiple times, and the results were scattered and still seemed watery after several brewing rounds. The ice chilling cycle also doesn’t seem to add much, but does water the coffee down further. It’s also prone to clogging.
Cold Brew Q&A
How did you test each cold brew coffee maker?
Each cold brew coffee maker was tested multiple times. First, I followed each brewer’s included instruction manuals precisely. Then, I did a simultaneous test where I put the same exact type of grounds and kept the ratio of grounds to water (tap, refrigerated and filtered) as equal as possible. Generally, I used 32 fl oz of water and 3/4 cup of coffee grounds. They all sat for 24 hours in the refrigerator before removing the grounds.
I noted how easy they were to operate and clean up, and how good the coffee tasted and looked in head-to-head tests both plain and with some half and half, which is how I like to drink my cold brew. My wife and some friends provided additional tasting assistance. Some units were tested extra times if the results seemed off.
How do you make cold brew coffee?
Many of the brewers I tested work in different ways, but generally, you use a ratio of 1 part coffee grounds (coarse grind preferred) to either 4 or 5 parts water depending. Pour a little cool or cold water over the grounds to wet them, wait a minute, then pour the rest through, preferably using some sort of filter to separate the water from the grounds. The better the filter, the less sediment there will be at the end, which adds a gritty mouthfeel to your coffee, which is undesirable to many.
Some recipes have you stir or shake it, and you usually let it sit and steep for 12-24 hours, either on a table or in the fridge. I used refrigeration, though many experts recommend brewing at room temperature. You should remove the grounds when brewing is complete and refrigerate. You’ll probably want to dilute it some with milk or water when drinking. If you don’t like the taste, adjust the methods a bit or use different coffee grounds/beans. If it’s gritty, buy some paper coffee filters and filter the finished coffee one last time after brewing is complete.
Does cold brew coffee have more caffeine?
Yes, sort of! It will give you the shakes if you’re not careful. The caffeine content of coffee varies wildly, but a cup of cold brew coffee can have more caffeine than regular coffee if you don’t dilute it too much.
How long does cold brew coffee last?
If it’s refrigerated, it should last up to two weeks, though the flavor may get worse after a week or so, from my experience. Whether you’ll actually taste the difference depends on your palette. If you’ve already added water, it may cut the shelf life down, so try to leave room for some water after you’ve poured it into a glass.
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