If you don’t have a dedicated cold brew vessel or want cold brew now and then, cold brew coffee in a French press is a nice hack.
It is possible to cold brew coffee in a French press, but a few things to keep in mind before you begin.
So let’s start with those, and then we’ll get into how to brew this coffee precisely.
What happens when you use a French press to cold brew coffee?
When you cold brew coffee in a French press, you’re essentially making French press coffee but at a lower temperature. The process is as simple as you would expect, with just a long steep-time French press coffee.
Please keep in mind that because French presses are typically smaller than cold brew jars, you will often end up with smaller coffee servings than regular cold brew.
Let’s look at the differences between a French press and a cold brew jar.
The main distinction here is the filter you may wish to employ.
A dedicated cold brew jar has a metal filter with extremely fine holes and will usually provide you with a clear cup of coffee.
Sediment is normal, but not as much as you would find in a regular French press, Turkish coffee, or espresso.
That is, if you brew cold brew coffee in a French press, you are making cold French press coffee. Which, you’ll notice, will almost always have some sediment on the bottom.
This is normal, and you may not notice it.
If it does, there are workarounds, such as filtering the coffee after it’s been brewed. Use a regular paper filter, just like you would for pour-over coffee. Alternatively, you could use a very fine cheesecloth that has been folded several times.
Remember that you may lose some of the flavor and essential coffee oils if you filter the coffee.
How to Use a French Press to Make Cold Brew Coffee
Now that you know what to expect when making cold brew in a French press, you’ll understand why it may differ from the regular cold brew.
I recommend getting a good French press, whether you use it for its intended purpose or make cold brew now and then.
For this, you’ll need a good French press.
If you’re looking for a great French press, you should try the KONA French press.
This press can hold 34 oz/1 liter of liquid, but you must account for the coffee grounds (explained below).
The grip is comfortable, and the entire press can be disassembled and reassembled in a matter of minutes. This is very useful if you want to clean it thoroughly.
In addition, the press has a plastic casing on the outside. Durable means the glass won’t break while you’re handling the coffee.
And because there is no actual plastic on the inside of the press, none of it comes into contact with the coffee (except when you add the lid).
1. Prepare coffee by grinding it and filling a glass with cold water.
For this, you’ll need coarse ground coffee. In any case, coarse ground coffee is required for the French press, but some people recommend using a slightly larger grind than coarse.
This is primarily because the grind size for a regular French press is designed to steep quickly (about 4 minutes).
On the other hand, cold-brew takes much longer – 12 to 18 hours – and thus requires a slightly larger grind size.
If you use a too-small grind size, it may release more bitter/acidic elements than you’d like.
That being said, you are free to use a coarser grind size if you prefer. However, beginning with the same grind size as you would for a regular French press.
After all, the type of bean you use is important, and some may respond better to different grind sizes.
To determine the coffee-to-water ratio, you must first determine the total volume of your French press. For example, if it can hold 30 oz of water, you’ll need to factor that into your final product, which will include ground coffee.
That is, you will get 4 oz of ground coffee for every 26 oz of liquid. This is done with a 7:1 water-to-coffee ratio.
If you want your coffee to be stronger, use 4 or 5 times the amount of coffee.
For example, if your French press has a total volume of 30 oz, a 5:1 ratio would require 6 oz of ground coffee and 24 oz of water.
Make sure you know how much liquid your French press can hold.
If you overdo it and the coffee is too strong, you can always dilute it in your cup with some extra water or milk.
2. Pour coffee into the press, then pour in the water.
Prepare the press once you’ve determined how much ground coffee to use for your specific French press.
Remove the plunger and filters, then fill the empty press with ground coffee. Pour in the water and gently stir everything together.
You want water to touch every part of the coffee, so stir it thoroughly before leaving it alone for several hours.
When adding the water, start with half a cup and see how much more you need to fill the rest of the French press.
After you’ve determined how much coffee you’ll brew, it’s time to find a place for it to sit while it brews.
3. Allow steeping for 12-18 hours.
It takes a long time to steep cold brew coffee. So if you want a quick cup, you’re unlikely to get one because that’s not the nature of cold brewing anything.
It takes time, and you’ll need to plan ahead of time.
The length of time you let the coffee steep depends on how strong you want it to be and where you’ll leave it to steep.
If you leave it on the counter too steep, it will still be cold brew but will not require as long as 18 hours.
If you let it steep in the fridge, you’ll need to give it at least 18 hours, and possibly a little longer, to get the full flavor.
Also, whether you steep it at room temperature or in the fridge, a shorter steep time equals weaker coffee and a longer steep time equals stronger coffee.
However, only to a point. If you steep it for too long, say 20 hours on the counter, it won’t be much stronger than 16 hours.
And, even if you’re steeping in the fridge, there’s no need to wait 24 hours.
However, if your schedule is set up to be gone for 24 hours and has no other choice, your coffee will be fine. All I’m saying is that it won’t be any stronger.
Make sure you don’t put the plunger in the coffee while it’s steeping. Set it aside and wrap some cling film around the top of the press to create a lid.
4. Press the plunger very gently.
When you’ve decided the coffee is made steeping, remove the lid you’ve made and replace it with the top of the press with the plunger.
When you’re ready, gently press the plunger into the coffee. Take it slowly so as not to disturb the ground coffee too much.
Also, don’t go all the way down and touch the ground, or you won’t be able to filter it as well.
This procedure may take a half minute, but it will be worthwhile in the end.
5. Strain or pour into a large pitcher
You can now pour the coffee directly into the serving pitcher or filter it.
It will be a clearer, cleaner cup of coffee if you filter it. However, there will be sediment at the bottom if you don’t, and the water may become cloudy.
If you want to filter it, use a simple mesh strainer with a paper filter in it and pour the coffee through that into the pitcher or jar or whatever you’re using.
After you’ve finished decanting the coffee, store it in the fridge with a tight lid for up to one week. This is unsweetened and contains no cream or milk.
You can make your cold brew coffee right in your own home!
Use your French press as you would for any other cup of French press coffee. The only difference is that you’re using cold, fresh water and not heating anything.
The result is very similar to regular cold brew, albeit slightly cloudier.