Time is of the essence takes on a different meaning when it comes to cold brew coffee. This long extraction method brings out the true taste from whatever beans you use, and the sweeter, less acidic flavor is well mellowed by time. Making good home cold brew depends on water quality, the perfect grind, the ratio of grounds to water, and good filtration for a smooth finish. Some coffee brewers accomplish this, while others don’t, but our product selection will narrow down the best cold brew coffee makers that get it right.
What is Cold Brew Coffee?
Cold brew coffee is a full immersion brewing technique. Relatively coarse ground coffee is immersed in cold water, and left to steep or brew in a cool place or a refrigerator for up to 12 hours or more. A related brewing technique is over ice drip coffee where ice cubes are left to melt and slowly drip through the grounds in a basket below.
Difference Between Cold and Hot Brewed Coffee
Cold brewing brings out its own unique flavor which is different from typical hot brewed coffee or espresso. It produces a full bodied flavor with a richer taste of beans, and a fruity aroma. It is also sweeter and less acidic in taste.
Although the PH levels between hot and cold brewed coffee are pretty similar, research shows that hot brewed coffee has more acidic compounds, and shows more antioxidant activity than cold brew coffee. In short, hot brewed coffee is more complex in taste and chemical composition due to different compounds extracted at high temperature.
How to Make Cold Brew Coffee
If you buy a cold brew maker, it will include instructions on how to use it. It is, however, easy to make cold brew at home using any airtight jar or container:
- Generally, a coarse ground is recommended for cold brew, especially if you’re using a less effective metal or mesh filter. A medium to dark roast is usually preferred, and some people prefer to mix roasts.
- The ratio of ground coffee to water depends on the bean you buy, or the coffee maker you have. Many coffee bean packs will have a recommended ratio, which is typically one cup of grounds to four or five cups of water.
- Moisten the grounds by pouring the water over the grounds evenly in a circular motion, and then leave it to bloom for a minute. Add the remaining water, stir in all the grounds and leave it to steep and brew. About 12‒15 hours is a good average. Anything below 12 hours will produce a weak brew, and above 16 hours will make it stronger and a little more bitter.
- If you’re not using a built in filtration system or a coffee sock, strain the liquid through cheesecloth, or a drip coffee paper filter, to remove grits.
- Drink your coffee within 7 to 10 days for the best experience. Dilute the concentrate with water or milk as you prefer— one to one for a strong taste— or use the concentrate in anyway you wish for ice cream or other dessert preparations.
What’s the Best Coffee for Cold Brew Coffee?
Coarse grinds are generally preferred because they will give you a less acidic, more mellow and rounded flavor. Coarse grounds are also better when it comes to filtering your coffee. If the grounds are too fine, some grits will not get caught, or it will take a lot longer to filter through an additional paper filter.
As with regular brewed coffee or espresso, fresh ground beans have an all round better taste. It’s best to use a burr grinder for a more even grind rather than a blender, especially if you use a mesh or cloth filter. A hand burr grinder is very convenient and relatively inexpensive.
The type of roast to use really depends on you. Although light to medium roasts are naturally more acidic in flavor, cold brewing will keep the acidic flavors to a minimum, giving you a different roast experience. The darker the roast, the easier it is to extract more flavors and compounds. For this reason, some people prefer a dark roast because it produces a nuttier, richer and more earthy flavor, with a darker texture.
For the most part, a single bean coffee is the better choice because there’s less need to balance out bitterness and acidity. With a cold brew you’re more able to experience the fullness of the bean flavor without it being overshadowed by bitter or acidic flavors. So with African beans you can enjoy a fruitier, sweeter taste, or choose South American beans for a bolder flavor.
Guide to Choosing the Best Cold Brew Coffee Maker
These are the key things to think about before purchasing the best cold brew coffee maker to suit your needs and budget:
Materials – Cold coffee brewers and their components are usually made from glass, plastic, or silicone. Some people prefer glass, but most plastic brewers are made from BPA free or other certified safe plastics. Mason jars are the sturdiest glass containers available, since other glass brewers can sometimes crack or break if you’re not careful.
Complexity – For the most part, making cold brew coffee is about filling up a filter or a brew bag with grounds and adding water. There are some mechanized devices on the market to speed up brewing time, or simple contraptions that regulate the water pour. An airtight brewer is better for trapping in flavor and aromas, avoiding spills and the coffee also lasts longer.
Size – Typical brewers will hold about 1 liter or 34 oz of liquid. With the filter and grounds inserted, although it will yield less than 1 liter of cold brew concentrate. Other common sizes are 40, 48 or 50 oz with the larger sizes being mason jars. Make sure you have space in your refrigerator, and check the base diameter and height if you plan to put it in the refrigerator door.
Filtration – If you’re buying the cheaper jars, you’ll need to measure your coffee grounds and put them in filter bag. There are many kinds of bags or coffee socks, some of them reusable. The advantage of a built in filter is you don’t have to worry about ratio measurements, and it’s less messy. It’s better to choose a make with a high quality, extra fine filter or a system with double filtration, otherwise you’ll end up paying more to run your coffee through a drip filter.
Cleaning – Most glass containers are made from borosilicate glass, so they can easily go in the dishwasher. For plastics, or filters with plastics parts, and silicone gasket rings, it’s safer to wash by hand. Filters can stain over time and oils can clog the fine pores, so you will need to use vinegar to do a deep cleanse from time to time.
Reviews of The Best Cold Brew Coffee Makers in 2020
Our best cold brew coffee makers all bring something unique to the table with original design, practicality, and easily affordable options that don’t compromise on the value you should get.
- Penguin Coffee Cold Brew Maker – Best to Buy in 2020
- Kitchenaid Cold Brew Coffee Maker – Best Countertop
- Cuisinart Cold Brew Coffee Maker – Best Express Brewer
- Takeya Delux Cold Brew Maker – Best for On A Budget
- Madesco 5 Gallon Cold Brewer – Best for Commercial Use
- Asobu Cold Brew Coffee Maker – Best Portable Brewer
- Dripster 2 in1 Cold Brewer – Best for Over Ice Coffee
Here is our selection of the best cold brew coffee makers in 2020:
1. Penguin Coffee Cold Brew Coffee Maker – Best to Buy in 2020
This Penguin Coffee cold brewer is a stylish and elegant brewer. It makes some of the strongest cold brew concentrate, strong enough to be used in espresso style drinks, and has one of the best filtration systems on the market. It’s airtight, fits easily into any refrigerator door, and the larger size will get you a perfect 1 liter of concentrate.
The Usual Cold Brewers
Many cold brew makers don’t distinguish themselves in anyway. Cliched laboratory style carafes abound and although some fit into your refrigerator door, others bulge too much. Other choices are cheap looking jugs with substandard immersion filters, or fancy devices that don’t offer any true advantage and take up lots of space.
The Penguin Cold Brewer
The Penguin Coffee cold brewer is different. It’s a perfect shape and fit which can easily go into any fridge door, and the tapered middle makes it easy to grip as well as looking very stylish. The glass is hand blown, borosilicate glass, so it is resistant to high temperatures and rapid temperature fluctuations. All parts are dishwasher safe.
Top Class Filtration with Style
There’s no need to worry about BPA free plastic, because the brewer contains no cheap plastic—instead the airtight lid and seal are made of food grade silicone. The most important and impressive feature is its double layered stainless steel micro mesh filter, which ensures no grits or bean powder escape—meaning you get the smoothest, silkiest drink possible. The decorative outer layer gives this brewer an elegant finish that will look good in any kitchen.
Versatile Size Choices
When a cold brewer says 34 ounces or 1 liter, that’s not usually what you get out at the end of the brew. With the Penguin Coffee flasks, the larger 1.6 L will produce 1 L of concentrate which will then deliver about 2.5 L after it’s been diluted. The 1.6 liter pitcher measures 11 ⅛ inches high, with a base diameter of 5 ⅛ inches. The 1.2 L pitcher is 9 ⅛ inches with a base of 4 ¾ inches and will produce 1.5 liters from the concentrate.
If you need an extra carafe, or if you break one, you can get replacements on the manufacturer’s homepage, but they are a little pricey. They also sell T-shirts, caps and mugs.
Brew Strength and Concentrate
A Penguin Coffee representative advised the following for using this product:
As a general rule of thumb, the filter and the pitcher should be filled almost to the top with coffee grounds and water respectively. This will use approximately 10 oz (280g) coffee grounds and 32 fl oz (950 ml) water.
The pitcher and filter are designed to provide the ideal ratio (1:3) of grounds to water for cold brew coffee. This ratio will produce a concentrated coffee which is two to three times stronger than typical brewed coffee. The recommended dilution is 1 part concentrate to 1‒2 parts water or milk. The strength of the concentrate allows you to make espresso like coffee drinks.
Penguin Coffee is one of the highest rated cold coffee brewers, although not the best known. Three things customers really love are the elegant design, the smoothness of the coffee, and just how strong the concentrate is.
The only issues that come up with this product is that the stainless steel edges of the bottom screw cap are quite sharp. If you’re not careful, you can cut yourself when washing it, or you can use the dishwasher.
There have been a few incidents where carafes cracked or broke easily—the product is made in China— but all products are replaced with no questions asked. customers love the fast, efficient and extremely friendly customer service.
If you want a cold coffee brewer that stands out from the crowd, is conveniently sized, and very well priced, Penguin Coffee is our best choice. It has one of the best filtration systems on the market, is stylish and well designed. Penguin also has commendable customer service. The coffee it produces is of excellent quality, and the strength is hard to beat. Penguin Coffee is a small business dedicated to a single product.
2. Kitchenaid Cold Coffee Brew Maker – Best Countertop
The Kitchenaid cold coffee brewer has a number of unique features. Its cube design is very appealing, it’s an easy fit for inside a refrigerator, and it looks especially good on a countertop. It has a removable steeping brew drum, a drip free dispenser, and a handle for easy lifting. Everything, except the top rim, is made from quality stainless steel and thick glass.
Style and Convenience
Kitchenaid has clearly thought out of the box for the original design of their cold brew coffee maker. While most cold brewers are flask or oval shaped, the Kitchenaid is cube shaped with a solid professional appearance. This means that it will easily fit inside your refrigerator, and you can quickly dispense from the refrigerator too.
If you sometimes like to do a full breakfast spread, this brewer adds some style. The non drip dispenser makes it super easy for anyone to pour coffee, or tea without spilling a drop. With the convenient carry handle, it’s easy to pop in and out of the refrigerator, to take outside, or even on a picnic.
Brewing and Capacity
The Kitchenaid comes in two sizes: a 28 oz model and a 38 oz model. The price difference between the two is, however, quite significant, so you pay a lot more for the extra 10 ounces. The 28 oz makes up to 14 servings, and the 38 oz about 19.
The standard 28 oz model takes 250g of coffee grounds. The recommended method is, after putting coffee in the steeper, to slowly add 1 liter of water in a circular motion, leave it undisturbed for 1 minute for blooming, and then add the remaining quarter liter. Kitchenaid recommend a 1 part to 3 parts dilution of the concentrate for drinking.
Once brewing is over, the basket is removed and the coffee can be dispensed as it is. The brew strainer has a convenient line mark to indicate how much coffee ground you need for a full brew, which takes away the guesswork. Grooved designs on the glass bottom will collect any residue, so they don’t get pulled through the dispenser nozzle. If you wish, you can look for brew bags to fit inside the drum.
People find this cold coffee brewer very easy to use, and to clean and it makes quality cold brew. Some feel that for the space it takes up and the price, it should have a bit more holding capacity. The only problem reported is that some units leak. Customer service is, however, friendly and helpful.
This Kitchenaid is robust and made from quality materials. It’s easy to use, pour and clean. It makes a quality cold brew that is well filtered with a smooth taste. If you want a brewer that is more professional looking and original in its design, then this is a good choice.
3. Cuisinart Cold Brew Coffee Maker – Best Express Cold Brewer
The Cuisinart is a mechanized device that will give you cold brewed coffee in 25 to 45 minutes depending on the brew strength you require. It doesn’t produce cold brew concentrate, but cold coffee that is ready to drink as it is. This is a convenient choice if you don’t have the time to make regular batches of cold brew coffee.
The Cuisinart cold brewer works by using a centrifugal spinning force on the removable brew basket. This speeds up the rate at which the coffee is extracted. It sounds a little bit like a food blender, but not as loud. A weak brew takes 25 min, a medium 35 min and the strong brew takes 45min.
In a world that demands speed and convenience, this is a good option, but the coffee it produces is not as rich and flavorful as a traditional cold brew, but it’s good enough. The device is very easy to use. There’s a measuring spoon and a guide in the manual for the ratio of coffee grounds to water depending on whether you want to make three, five or the maximum of seven cups.
Some users who enjoy stronger or more flavorful coffee find that brewing the coffee overnight in the traditional way, and then spinning the machine in the morning works quite well, and cuts a bit of time from the usual cold brew cycle. Because it doesn’t brew concentrate, this cold brew is not for mixing up speciality drinks.
There are issues with the filter basket on this machine. It can break easily if you’re not careful while washing it, so the best option is to use the dishwasher. It touts a double filtration system. Still, you don’t get the smoothest taste—although you can run it through a drip coffee filter. Cuisinart offers a generous three year warranty on the product, however, you still have to pay shipping costs and sometimes a processing fee if you need to return the product.
If you just want fast and easy cold coffee to drink in the morning, or any other time of day, this Cuisinart is the best choice for you. While it won’t make the best quality cold brew coffee, it works really well with pre ground coffee.
4. Takeya Delux Cold Brew Maker – Best for On A Budget
The Takeya is a popular and affordable answer to a convenient cold brewer. It’s airtight, has a silicone handle and the BPA free, fine mesh filter extends deep into the jug. It comes in a 1 quart and 2 quart size and can stand upright or lie sideways in your refrigerator.
Two features that may make this a good choice for you is Takeya’s durability and versatility. Many cold brew containers are made from glass, and many are quite fragile. This brewer is made from Tritan plastic which has been third party tested and proven perfectly safe. The handle is made from non slip silicon so it’s easy to grip and pour.
Because it is completely airtight, you can even place it on it’s side in your refrigerator—something you can’t do with most other brewers. You can also gently shake the container to make sure all the grounds get equal exposure to water.This is also a great container to take away with you for travel, or on a picnic. It can safely take hot water, but this is better used for making teas.
The way to use this brewer is to unscrew the filter from the lid, put in the grounds, reattach and then tightly screw back the lid. Most people find that the fine mesh filter is good enough, but if you want finer filtered coffee, you can use extra large paper tea filters. The filter is long, with a fixed bottom, so it can be difficult to clean, however, for deep cleaning soak in vinegar water and wash afterwards with soap.
All spare parts for this product, including the filters and the airtight seal can easily be purchased. Takeya products are made in the USA, and the customer service is both friendly and helpful. The 2-quart container is 12.2 inches tall, 4.1 across the base and 6.1 across the handle, and the 1-quart is the same but 9.5 inches tall.
If you want an affordable, durable and versatile brewer the Takeya is a good choice. It’s airtight feature makes it handy, versatile, and your coffee will last for longer. The Tritan plastic is high quality, perfectly safe, and made in the USA.
5. Madesco 5 Gallon Cold Brewer – Best Commercial Cold Brewer
For a commercial sized cold brewer what more do you need than a big bucket that costs over $50? And then you may as well triple the price every year with additional filtration costs. The Madesco cuts the frills by including a couple of specially designed 2-ply reusable filter bags. The bucket is made of food grade plastic, it costs much less than other brands, and you get an instructional DVD on cold brew and three food recipe books thrown in.
Madesco uses 12 inch filter bags, which ensures that all coffee grounds are no more than three inches from the surrounding water. This way, all coffee grounds are contributing as much as they can to the final brew and flavor. The manufacturer recommends using two bags at the same time for a stronger brew and maximum exposure of grounds to water.
The filter bags are made from a natural cotton blend, with no bleaching or harmful chemicals. They also have a 2-ply lining to filter out finer ground dust. Replacement filter bags are also readily available.
The dispenser and brewer is BPA free and made from high-density polyethylene which is recommended as safe for long-term food storage. HDPE is one of the most stable and inert forms of plastic containers sold specifically for food storage.
The Madesco is more reasonably priced than other 5 gallon coffee brewers, it does a good job and is made from safe materials. In addition, you can save money by using their custom reusable filter bags.
6. Asobu Cold Brew Coffee Maker – Best Portable Cold Brewer
The Asobu is a truly unique and stylish product. It’s well designed using quality, safe materials, and it’s leak proof. With the press of a button, the brew filters into a 1 liter thermo flask below. It can also be used to make hot drinks such as tea.
Asobu is a Canadian company which makes a variety of flasks, bottles and hydration products, but their cold coffee brewer is probably their most stylish product. The brew top is made from BPA free and certified safe Tritan plastic. The bottom thermo flask is made from stainless steel, which is perfect for both keeping cold drinks chilled and hot drinks warm.
The Asobu is really easy to use. Just fill the filter with a medium to coarse ground, pour cold, filtered water in a circular motion over the grounds until they are all wet, allow to bloom for a minute, and add the rest of the water. Leave it to steep for at least 12 hours, and when ready, you just push the button and the brew will drain into the flask below.
This coffee brewer makes a quality cold brew and the fine double mesh filter does a good job too. Not all parts are dishwasher safe, so it’s best to wash by hand. When washing, you should be careful with the rubber gasket ring. The only drawback is that the base is quite wide (4.8 inches), so it doesn’t fit vehicle cup holders.
Replacements for all parts, including the rubber gasket, are available on the product homepage. Customer service is very friendly and helpful.
This is one of the most stylish and well made cold brewers you can find. It’s perfect for taking to work or as a travel flask, although it’s not such a comfortable fit in a narrow bag. Customer service is top class and replacement parts are easily available.
7. Dripster Cold Brew Dripper – Best for Over Ice Drip Coffee
The Dripster is an innovative and unique device that allows you to make both over ice drip coffee, and standard full immersion cold brew. Over ice drip coffee takes at least two hours, requires less ground, and isn’t so rich in sweet or floral flavors. The Dripster is a trouble free device that any coffee connoisseur would enjoy.
Finding a worthwhile over ice coffee maker is difficult. They tend to brew small amounts, and the larger ones are quite expensive fancy contraptions like the Yama Coffee Tower or the Hario Slow Dripper. The key to a good, strong brew is control over the drip rate, and many models fail in this regard, need constant monitoring, or they quite often leak.
The Dripster Cold Brew Dripper, with its German engineering and design, largely avoids these issues and gives you the choice of making over ice drip coffee, or conventional full immersion cold brew coffee. It takes two hours to drip brew 4 cups of over ice coffee. The two brew methods are clearly illustrated [Click on image for full view]:
The middle section is a rotary valve, rather than a cumbersome spigot, which can be adjusted to control the drip rate or to close off the value. For full immersion, you plug the base of the water holder with an inverted filter, shut the valve, and open to drain the finished brew into the carafe below.
Like other brewers featured here, the carafe is borosilicate glass, and the water container is BPA free. It also features a high grade ultrafine filtration system, and there’s also a rubber lid for the carafe when brewing is done.
If you don’t use good quality filtered water, even for the ice, then you may have to adjust the drip flow rate, especially towards the end of the brew time. The recommended time for traditional cold brew is 18 hours.
If you are looking for an inexpensive and quality over ice drip coffee maker, then this innovative Dripster is our recommended choice. It brews a decent quantity, is leak free, and can also double up as a full immersion cold brewer.
Comparison Chart of The Best Cold Brew Coffee Makers in 2020
|Penguin Coffee||40 oz / 1.2 L 54 oz / 1.6 L||Double microfilter stainless steel||✫✫✫✫✫|
|Kitchenaid||28 oz / 830 ml 38 oz / 1.1 L||Stainless steel microfilter||✫✫✫✫|
|Cuisinart||56 oz / 1.6 L||Triple filtration||✫✫✫✫|
|Takeya||32 oz / 950 ml64 oz / 1.9 L||Fine mesh||✫✫✫|
|Madesco||5 gal / 20 L||Reusable cotton bags||✫✫✫✫✫|
|Asobu||40 oz / 1 L||Fine mesh double filtration||✫✫✫✫|
|Dripster||32 oz / 950 ml||Ultra fine stainless steel||✫✫✫✫✫|
Great Products That Didn’t Make The Final List
Coffee Bear used to be more exotically known as Coffee Panda, but bear politics has not affected the quality of this good brewer. Its build is sturdier than most other glass brewers, with a solid plastic handle and a non slip rubber bottom. It’s 1.3 liters big so you get a good 1 liter of concentrate at the end. It’s completely airtight and uses a unique twist cap to seal off the handy spout when brewing. The mesh filter is pretty good and not many people have issues with leftover sediment.
Bean Envy is a popular and quality product that lives up to its claims. It makes a good concentrate and the filter is effective as long as you use coarse grounds. It looks nice and is a convenient fit for almost all refrigerators. It also has an additional rubber base to prevent slippages. The filter is a little difficult to clean by hand, and so too is the flask.
If you’re happy with just a simple mason jar, Country Line Kitchen is probably the best you can get. It comes with a stainless steel filter and uses a silicone gasket to seal the jar and keep the filter in place. The filter works really well with coarse grounds, but with anything else, some grits will come through. The strength of the concentrate is pretty average. This is a good choice if you don’t want to be hassled with potential breakages.
The Mizudashi is made from glass, but it has a plastic handle and headset for easier handling. The filter takes quite a bit of ground, and it makes a relatively strong brew. The filter rests very well on the top and there is a convenient, airtight lid that pops on and off. It’s a great size for a refrigerator door, and comes in two sizes and three colors. The English instructions for the Hario Mizudashi are available online.
Our selection of the best cold brew coffee makers brings together products that not only make good cold brew, but have something unique to offer in terms of quality design and practicality. If you have anything you would like to add, or if you’d like to ask a question, please use the comment feature below. We are always here for you.