Tackling the topic of cold drip coffee is a bit like making an episode of Mythbusters. There is a lot of mystery, legend, and straight-up misinformation that has grown up around this style of brewing.
Some of the biggest misconceptions about cold drip coffee are:
- It’s a complicated method that is best left to baristas
- It takes at least a day to make
- It has less caffeine than a hot cup of coffee
We’ll lay rest to the first notion right now by telling you that cold drip coffee is actually one of the easiest and most hands-off methods of brewing coffee. It’s so simple and practical, it’s a shame that so many people feel too intimidated to try it at home and are shelling out coffeehouse prices for a cup when they could be brewing it in bulk for pennies.
If you’re interested in knowing what it takes (spoiler alert: not very much) to keep a carafe of cold drip on hand whenever you get the urge for a cup, we’ll cover everything you need to know to brew a cold drip coffee that is refreshing, aromatic, and delicious.
What cold drip coffee is not
Before we dive into how to make cold drip coffee, we need to devote a moment to definitions. It helps to start by clarifying what cold drip is not.
Cold drip coffee is not:
- Iced coffee
- Cold brew coffee
- Iced Americano
- Nitro coffee
- Flash-brewed coffee
All of these chilled coffee beverages have their own virtues, but the method of brewing is different in each case and produces a different finished result.
The closest kin to cold drip is cold brew, but here’s where they diverge in both process and product. Cold brew is based on immersion, in which coffee grounds are left to soak in cold water for a long period of time, usually anywhere from 8 to 24 hours. During that time, the water slowly draws out the flavor compounds of the coffee, and then the grounds are filtered out before serving.
So what exactly is cold drip coffee?
Like immersion cold brew, cold drip also uses cold water to extract the oils, acids, and sugars from the coffee beans, but it does so by harnessing the power of dripping water through a bed of grinds. Dripping the water through the coffee, rather than immersing it, speeds up the extraction time significantly and produces a light, bright, full-bodied coffee.
And that busts myth #2 about cold drip: that it takes at least a day to make. Cold dripping will work its magic in about 2 to 4 hours, so if you don’t want to wait until tomorrow for a chilled coffee beverage, cold drip is definitely the way to go.
Cold dripping is also very forgiving so if you aren’t the type to measure your water to the milliliter or your timing to the second, you’ll still end up with a great-tasting coffee.
So, in short, cold drip coffee is:
- A full-bodied brew that you can drink undiluted
- Less bitter than hot coffee
- Smooth tasting with low acidity
Oh, and that last lingering myth about caffeine content? Because of its slow extraction method, cold drip coffee has at least as much and often more caffeine than hot coffee. Do with this information what you will, whether it’s limiting your consumption to avoid the jitters or making it your preferred brain fuel.
Where does cold drip coffee come from?
Although its current popularity and trendiness might suggest that this is a newfangled and cutting-edge approach to jazzing up iced coffee, it’s actually as old as the seas, which is where it got its start.
Dutch traders developed and favored this method because it allowed them to brew large amounts of coffee that wouldn’t go bad quickly, since they needed it to last during long bouts at sea. Which means cold drip brewing has been making its way around the world for at least 400 years. In Korea and Japan, cold drip coffee has been around for ages and it goes by its historically accurate name of Dutch coffee.
How can I get started with cold drip brewing at home?
It’s a breeze to get started brewing your own cold drip at home.
What you need:
- Filtered water
- Ice (optional)
- Quality coffee beans (French press-level coarse grinds recommended)
- A cold drip brewer like the Dripster Cold Brew Coffee Maker or Yama Glass Tower
- A serving glass
As you can see, there’s really only one “barrier to entry” for cold drip brewing and that’s the issue of equipment. There’s no hack or cheat to get around this—you do need a dedicated cold drip brewer since this method hinges on controlling the drip rate of the water to about one drip per second.
To put this investment in perspective, a cold drip brewer comes in a range of makes and models, but in general they are less than the price of a quality espresso maker. Plus, they can often pull double duty as home decor because they are both beautifully made and fascinating to watch. That’s why coffeehouses love to keep their cold drip brewers out in full view: they’re simply gorgeous to behold and you can see the coffee come into being, one drop at a time.
How to make cold drip coffee step by step
The exact brewing steps will vary according to the style of drip tower you have, but here are the general guidelines for making a top-notch cold drip coffee.
Fill the coffee reservoir with your coarsely ground coffee beans. Shake them gently to form a uniform and level bed for the water to drip through. The ideal coffee-to-water ratio is about 7 to 10 grams of coffee grinds for every 100 milliliters of water.
Stack the water reservoir on top of the unit and fill it with cold filtered water. At this stage, you can also add ice to the water to keep it chilled, or you can simply pop the unit in your refrigerator to make sure it stays at the correct temperature.
You’ll want to pre-wet your grounds, and you can do this by lifting up the full water reservoir with your hands and opening the valve so a few drops of water drip out onto the bed. To ensure an even distribution, you may also want to lay a metal or paper filter on top of the grounds (again, this will vary with the kind of drip tower you’re using).
With the coffee bed nice and wet, fasten the water tank back into position.
Set your drip rate. Aim for one drip of water to hit the coffee bed every second.
Now we wait. The brew time can take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours. You’ll know it’s ready when all of the water has drained out of the reservoir, through the coffee grinds, and is collected in the carafe below.
Remove the top of the drip tower and pour your brewed coffee into a serving vessel.
Enjoy it undiluted, over ice, or with a little milk or cream. Feel free to experiment by mixing it with tonic water or incorporating it into cocktails (espresso martinis come to mind).
That’s it! Simple, straightforward, and nearly foolproof.
Don’t forget to log your cold drip in the Good Fika app where you can refine your technique and learn about how others in the coffee community are brewing the good stuff… cold.