Choosing the Best Cold Brew Coffee System


Last week Isaac showed you our own homemade contraption using the Toddy felt filters, mason jars, plastic mason jar caps. Now that I’ve been testing it for a couple of week, I’ve decided what I like best. Here are all the things that I have tested so far:

Toddy Cold Brewer

The system that inspired our experiment was a gadget my sister owns, called the Toddy system. A simple plastic brewing container rests over the top of a carafe or mason jar. You layer coffee and water in the top portion, and let it sit 12-24 hours. Then you remove the cork plug at the base of the plastic container, and it slowly drips through a small felt filter into the mason jar below. Some aficionados claim it produces a clearer, less cloudy brew, since you aren’t stirring or disturbing the grounds as you prepare to filter it. You end up with approximately 5-6 cups of cold coffee at the end, so it doesn’t have a huge capacity. It’s one more gadget that I don’t have room for in my kitchen right now, but I love the simplicity. Also, at $35 for the initial investment, and then $2.50 for felt replacement filters, it’s not cheap.

Isaac’s Hourglass Invention

While this thing was fun to experiment with, it’s a bit of trouble to assemble. Which way does that straw go in? Which side do I screw to which jar? Every time I put it together I felt like it was an IQ puzzle meant to test my spacial awareness. And since it uses the Toddy filters, you still have the downside of needing to occasionally buy new ones. The upside is that I can use the mason jars I already own, the half-gallon jars make enough for almost a whole week for the two of us, and the only cost is teo wide mouth plastic caps, one narrow mouth plastic cap, a little caulk, glue, and a long straw. It works perfectly, but it’s more parts to disassemble, wash, and reassemble.


The French Press

Another method I’ve tried is simply using my insulated french press to cold brew, and then to use the plunger to get most of the coffee grounds out of the coffee. I have found that my stainless steel filter doesn’t quite get all the small particles out as I’d like, so it needed a second stage of filtering.

Other Filters and Strainers

I’ve also heard of using a coffee filter lined inside of a strainer, though somehow I always seem to spill a lot this way, by either missing the coffee filter, overflowing the filter, or missing the jar which the strainer sits on. Probably if I stopped trying to cut corners, and poured into something bigger than a jar, that would help. But I’m always very optimistic in evaluating my aim, and I despise using more dishes than necessary to get the job done. Hence the spilled coffee on the counter.

There are other options too: the fancy coffee sock (basically a cone shaped piece of muslin like I already have) the stainless steel filter Mason jar insert, or using cheesecloth. Cheesecloth is hard to rinse out – the weave is so course that the grounds get stuck in it, and it takes forever to get it clean.

The Winner

After much experimenting, I have decided that the all-around best method is to filter the coffee though muslin. It can steep in any container, and then you pour it through a bit of muslin cloth into any other container. I generally use a rubber band around the the top of a mason jar to keep it from falling in. It’s easy to just wash out the cloth with a little bit of soap in the sink, and hang it to dry – much easier than cheesecloth, much better filtering than steel mesh, and cheaper than disposable felt or paper filters.


My favorite option for the time being is to use a half gallon jar. I put 2 cups of ground coffee, then add cold water until there’s only about an inch of room at the top of the jar.  The next day I get one of my big gallon size pickle jars (these have so many great uses including kombucha, water kefir, storing raw milk, etc.) and put I rubber band my muslin bag over the mouth, then pour the coffee through it. The half gallon jar actually fits quite nice inside the mouth of the gallon jar, so you can just let all the coffee grounds drain at its leisure. This yields 6 cups of delicious cold-brew coffee. I use one part coffee, two parts milk, and then add ice.

Have you tried making your own cold brew coffee? What method do you use?

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