Cold brew is the “hottest” coffee drink in the world, and the Immersion Method is by far the most popular method of creating it.


Immersion is simply the process of placing coffee grounds in a vat of water and letting them steep for a period of time. Coffee solubles are slowly extracted by the water over 6 to 24 hours and then the grounds are filtered out to create the cool, smooth-tasting drink we love.


Making immersion cold brew is easy to do at home and we worked with over 150 coffee professionals and enthusiasts to guide us through the process.

They gave us the pros and cons of the immersion method, along with recipes and recommendations. We also developed a list of recommended brewing devices based on their feedback.


After this article, you’ll be ready to make your first batch of cold brew. If this isn’t your first time, you’ll undoubtedly learn new techniques and recipes to try in the future.


In this article, you will find:

I.    Benefits

II.   Drawbacks

III.  Equipment

IV.  Recipes

V.   Coffee

VI.  Brew Tips




Benefits of Immersion Cold Brew
Photo from Caravan Coffee in Newberg, OR


“Great body, balanced flavor, easy to extract, nearly fool-proof. Very difficult to over-extract.”

-Dave Forman, Director of Coffee, One Line Coffee, Columbus, OH


Simple and Consistent
Immersion cold brew is the simplest way possible to make coffee. You put ground coffee into a container of water and let it sit. No heat or special equipment necessary, just time.

It’s also very hard to mess up. You can let cold brew sit for 12, 18, or even 24 hours and the taste won’t change all that much. Immersion is the definition of “set it and forget it.” Start it at night and wake up in the morning to a container full of coffee.

Mellow flavor and low acid

Immersion isn’t just popular because it’s easy (though that helps). Fans of immersion cold brew think it creates the smoothest, tastiest cup of coffee around. Due to the long steep time and course grounds used, immersion cold brew has a very mellow, balanced flavor.

It also extracts less acid from the coffee beans than other brew methods. In fact, Toddy Cold Brew system claims their cold brew contains 67% less acid than other methods. This is great news for people with sensitive stomachs.


“The immersion method allows for complete saturation of the coffee grinds for an extended period of time. This method creates a super smooth, low acidity coffee with lower flavor notes such as caramel, brown sugar and cola.”  

-Susan Kennedy, Tend Coffee, Shirley, NY

Immersion is the easiest and most reliable method for doing so. It’s why over 70% of people who make cold brew do so using the Immersion method.



Drawbacks of Immersion Cold Brew


Not everyone is a fan of immersion cold brew. The biggest complaint is about the taste.

Muddled Flavor, Lacking Acidity or Brightness

If you love bright, floral coffee with nuances of flavor, then immersion method is probably not for you. Immersion method tends to muddle together the nuanced flavor of coffee, creating the mellow, balanced taste we mentioned before.

"It creates a different flavor profile that's usually not as "bright" or complex as the same coffee brewed hot. This isn't always a con though.” 

-Kaffe Keller

“If you don't use proper filtration, you can have a very muddied brew. Also, if you don't have a good system for keeping the coffee suspended, it will sink to the bottom and not extract fully.”

-Lee Sill, Quills Coffee, Louisville KY


Sooty or Gritty Mouthfeel

Immersion cold brew can also be sooty if not properly filtered. Fine, sand-like coffee particles can slip through the filter and give the cold brew a grainy mouthfeel. This also happens with French Press coffee, another immersion brew method.


“Heavy coffee. I feel like the flavors of the beans get muddled through this method.”

- Victor H.

Long Steep Time

Despite the simplicity of creating immersion cold brew, the sheer wait time can be a drag, especially if you didn’t plan ahead. Creating cold brew can take as long as 24 hours, not great for a last-second cup if you failed to start it the night before.


Choosing the Right Equipment


If you’re ready to make your own cold brew, the first thing you’ll need to do is choose your equipment. There are several affordable options on the market, plus a zillion ways to make it at home without any special equipment. We’ll give you the breakdown of each option based on feedback from the coffee community.  

A Good Grind is The Key To Better Coffee

Brewing great coffee demands a consistent grind, no matter which brewing method you use. Handground was created by a community of thousands of coffee enthusiasts to make it easy to achieve a consistent grind for any brew method.

Click here to learn more about Handground

Toddy and Filtron

Toddy Cold Brew System. Photo by CNET


Toddy and Filtron are the two biggest names in immersion cold brew. They are essentially the same device with just a few aesthetic changes; a bucket for brewing coffee with water on top of a container for storing the cold brew after it has been steeped in the upper container. First lets see what’s to love about these devices.


Pros of Toddy and Filtron

Easy to use

“It's very easy to brew. You only have to get the coffee immersed in the water, and then it doesn't require any more labor during the brewing process. “ 

-Caroline King, Yellow Brick Coffee, Tucson, AZ

Consistent and reliable

“Tried and true foolproof cold brew method. Low acid and great flavor” 

-Richard Latronica // Spoke Bicycle Cafe

Great for large batches

“[Pros of Toddy method are] the ability to make large batches, more consistent flavor control, & can control end concentration easier for different applications.” -Matthew Scott, Lemonjello's Coffee, Holland, MI


Replacement parts easy to find

“Both the permanent and paper filters are easily obtainable, and reasonably priced, as well as being easy to use.”  

-Monkeynest Coffee, Austin, Tx


Cons of Toddy and Filtron


Slow process, up to 24 hours

“It's a slow process. The coffee brews in the water for 24 hours before being strained, so it takes some patience.”  

-Caroline King, Yellow Brick Coffee, Tucson, AZ


Muddled flavor

“The flavor profile is extremely limited. Expect chocolate notes, perhaps some nutty hints. There is little clarity and it can often fall "flat".
-Branch Street Coffee Roasters, Youngstown USA


Clean up

“It also is a bit time intensive to clean the brewer.” 

-Zoey Thorson, Gimme! Coffee

Coffee Sock

The Coffee Sock Immersion System. Photo by Cuppow


Coffee Sock is a newcomer in the home cold brew arena compared to Toddy and Filtron, but it offers many positives that the pillars of the industry cannot.

The kits consist of an organic cotton "sock" filter that you fill with coffee and then steep in a mason jar. They're simple to use and look pretty cool, too.


Pros of Coffee Sock


Smaller footprint than Filtron and Toddy

The ½ gallon and even gallon-size coffee sock fars fit easily in the fridge.


Attractive-looking container

Let’s face it: Toddy and Filton are ugly. They look like they belong behind a coffee bar, never to be seen by a customer. If you want something you can show off to friends, coffee sock is a much better option.


Environmentally friendly

The organic cotton filter sock is 100% reusable after a quick wash. There is no plastic, just cloth, metal, and glass.


Inexpensive

Coffee sock is less than half the price of a Toddy and Filtron


Cons of Coffee Sock


Clean up

“The only real con is the cleanup afterwards which requires cleaning out the grounds and your filter. Overall, it isn't much to deal with really.” 

-David Inden, Seattle, WA USA


French Press

French Press Cold Brew. Photo by Coffee Concierge


Though not technically a “cold brew maker”, the French Press is a very popular option for those who don’t want to buy a dedicated cold brew device. Its built in filter makes it easy to strain out the grounds and pour the cold brew into a container. It’s a great option for an “all-in-one” coffee maker.


Pros of French Press


No specialized equipment

“I had a french press for general use. Once the summer hit, it was an easy way to make some cold brew.” 

-Chad, Portland, OR


Inexpensive

“It's cheap easy and does the job well” 

-Julian Aicea, Chicago


Cons of French Press


Muddy and sooty mouthfeel

The metal mesh filter of a French Press does not filter out the fine particles in the coffee like a paper or cloth filter. The result is a muddy, gritty cup of coffee with soot at the bottom of the glass.


Smallest batch size

Most french presses only hold about 1000 grams, which means you can only make a few servings at a time



DIY Immersion Cold Brew

If you don’t want to buy any equipment at all, then just take a look around your house. Chances are you already have everything you need to make cold brew.

Homemade cold brew device from Food52


Tools for Homemade Immersion Brewer

1. Vessel or container

Pretty much anything will work: a bowl, a vase, a shoe. If it holds liquid, you can make cold brew in it.


2. Filter

You’ll need to remove the grounds once the cold brew is done brewing. You can either pour the cold brew mixture through the filter after steeping, or steep the coffee in a filter bag for easy removal.


Common DIY filters include:

  1. Regular coffee filters
  2. Cheese cloth
  3. Fine mesh filters (this will cause the same sooty mouthfeel as a French Press filter)
  4. Clean cotton pillowcase

Pros of DIY Cold Brew


No extra equipment

“For home use, I do not need a five gallon toddy, I need something that will last a few days without going bad, and all a toddy really is, is a large container to soak water with grounds. “ 

-Sump Coffee


Ultimate customization

“This is our in-house developed system that incorporates the easy filtering or a cloth filter. It is suspended so that the beans and the brewed coffee are some what separated. Lastly it is taped out of the side, not the bottom, which allows the fine silt to settle out improving taste and mouthfeel.” 

-Uel Zing


Cons of DIY Cold Brew


Spills and leaks

“Occasional leakage of grounds which requires filtering again.” 

-Creative Coffees


Extra filtering required

“[A disadvantage is the] necessity of final beverage filtration: sometimes it takes 2-3 times to get a clean beverage” 

-I.Blank, Double B



Immersion Cold Brew Recipes
Cold Brew Coffee By Fair Trade Cafe in Phoenix, Arizona


Coffee pros and enthusiasts from around the world shared their favorite immersion cold brew recipes with us. We organized those recipes by brewing device below.

We also developed “collective” recipes for brewing methods when we received enough submissions. This average recipe does more than just make an “average” cup of coffee.

We got the idea from a book called The Wisdom of Crowds, where the main idea is that groups collectively make better decisions than individuals (under the right circumstances). The collective recipes for French Press and Aeropress were delicious, and these ones are too.


Try out the Collective Recipe, and then try out recipes from the community.


Toddy Cold Brew and Filtron Recipes


1. Collective Recipe

This recipe is scaled down to be more appropriate for home use


Coffee: 340 grams (12 ounces)

Grind: Setting 6 on Handground

Water: 2012 grams (71 ounces)

Water-to-Coffee Ratio: 6:1

Steep time: 17 hours 33 minutes

  1. Grind coffee and place in filter or filter bag
  2. Fill the container with cold water, making sure all the grounds are saturated
  3. Let the coffee steep for just over 17 hours. Filter and store cold brew in the fridge.


2. Large Batch Recipe- Lower Strength

Yeekai Lim, Cognoscenti Coffee, LA, CA


Coffee: 2280 grams (80 ounces)

Grind: Setting 7.5 on Handground

Water: 21,000 grams (740 ounces)

Water-to-Coffee Ratio: 9:1

Steep time: 24 hours

  1. 4 liter bloom for one minute
  2. Pour 10 liters of water in then use whisk to make sure all grounds are saturated then tie string
  3. Add remaining 7 liters and lift bag up and down to make sure water is well mixed in

Cold Brew Operation by Uel Zing in Indiana



3. Large Batch Recipe- Higher Strength

Hubbard and Cravens Coffee Co. Indianapolis, IN


Coffee: 2265 grams (79 ounces)

Grind: Setting 5 on Handground (medium-coarse)

Water: 12,936 grams (456 ounces)

Water-to-Coffee Ratio: 6:1

Steep time: 16 hours

  1. Start with a clean container, no stains or old coffee grounds from previous brew, paper filter and nylon strainer.

  2. Insert one commercial filter into the nylon strainer. Put strainer and filter into brewing container with the open end facing upwards. Ensure that the paper/nylon filters are resting at the bottom of the bucket.

  3. Grind 5 pounds of the Cold Brew Iced Coffee on Auto Drip. It is helpful to have an empty silver 5# bag ready to catch the ground coffee. Pour this coffee into the paper filter in the bucket.

  4. Pour 7 quarts of the filtered cool water into the open filter, making sure to saturate all of the coffee grounds.

  5. Tie the filter bag closed with the attached string. The string should be tied approximately 3 inches from the top of the filter bag. Leave plenty of room for the coffee to move around. (Tying the bag too tight will result in dry pockets in the grounds and the coffee concentrate will be very weak.)

  6. Gently add 7 more quarts of the filtered cool water to the brewing container, being mindful of not tearing the paper filter.

  7. Gently move the paper filter bag around in the container, utilizing the nylon strainer, to assure saturation.

  8. Cover with lid and let brew for 16 hours.

  9. Gently lift the nylon strainer, with the paper filter, holding both from the top of the bags from the brewed coffee. It is easy to tear the paper filter so ensure that you are holding both together.

  10. Strain the ground coffee in the nylon bag until you have approximately 10 quarts of the coffee extract in the container.

  11. Pour iced coffee into a smaller pitcher/container for ease of use. Add equal parts water for iced coffee

  12. For remaining iced coffee in big container: Date container for 14 days from the current day, cover with lid & refrigerate.

  13. Keep iced coffee away from hot machines as it will go bad/mold within a day if not careful

  14. Disposal/Clean-up: Dispose of coffee grounds, rinse nylon strainer and allow to air dry.


Note: nylon strainer is re-useable DO NOT THROW AWAY! Paper filter bag is not re-useable.   

4. Small Batch Recipe- Lower Strength Brian Maiers, Joe Van Gogh, Hillsborough, NC

Coffee: 200 grams (7 ounces)

Grind: Setting 8 on Handground (Coarse)

Water: 1200 grams (42 ounces)

Water-to-Coffee Ratio: 3:1

Steep time: 13.5 hours

  1. Pour about 400 grams of hot water over the grounds of coffee and gently stir. The initial "hot bloom" preserves the acidity of the coffees we like.
  2. Wait for at least 60 seconds and add the remaining cold water to slurry. Give it another gentle stir.
  3. You want to make sure the coffee is stirred enough so that it's evenly saturated but, not overly agitated in order to control the extraction.
  4. Steep for 13.5 hours and then strain the grounds from the cold brew.

5. Small Batch Recipe- Higher Strength

Dustin Thomas, Steadfast Coffee, Nashville, TN


Equipment: Filtron

Coffee: 453 grams (16 ounces)

Grind: Setting 7 on Handground (Coarse)

Water: 1500 grams (53 ounces)

Water-to-Coffee Ratio: 3:1

Steep time: 18 hours

  1. Grind 1lb of coffee rather coarse.
  2. Put a filtron filter in the bottom of the filtron brewer.
  3. Put the cheesecloth bag in the filter and the ground coffee in the bag. Then add water. It will be close to a 1:3 ratio of coffee:water.
  4. Let this steep for around 18 hours. I’ll typically steep between 18-20 hours, depending on the coffee.
  5. After the steep time is complete, let the coffee drain into a measuring pitcher. Once it is completely drained, combine equal parts cold brew concentrate and water. Now you have ready to drink cold brew!


Coffee Sock Recipes

Coffee Sock Filters for cold brew and pour over. Photo by Bolstr


Coffee Sock Recipe

David Inden in Seattle, Washington


Coffee: 50 grams

Grind: Setting 6.5 on Handground (coarse)

Water: 750 grams

Water-to-Coffee Ratio: 15:1

Steep time: 24 hours

  1. Wrap opening of filter around mouth of the jar
  2. Place coffee into filter
  3. Cover grounds with water, roughly 50-60 grams, and let bloom for 60 seconds
  4. Wet thoroughly inside jar and fill jar with water up to 750 grams
  5. Close filter by wrapping strap around neck a few times and slipping neck through glass ring
  6. Let steep


French Press Cold Brew Recipes


1. Collective Recipe


Coffee: 75 grams

Grind: Setting 7 on Handground (coarse)

Water: 645 grams

Water-to-Coffee Ratio: 8:1

Steep time: 13 hours 30 minutes

  1. Add ground coffee to French Press and pour in enough water to fully saturate the grounds. Let the grounds bloom for about 1 minute.
  2. Pour in the remaining water and place the lid onto the carafe. Don’t push down the plunger
  3. Let the coffee steep for 13 hours and 30 minutes
  4. Push down the plunger and pour the cold brew into a different container for storage.

2. French Press Recipe- Higher Strength

Tommy R., Cortlandt Manor, NY

Coffee: 105 grams (3.7 ounces)

Grind: Setting 8 on Handground (coarse)

Water: 750 grams (26 ounces)

Water-to-Coffee Ratio: 7:1

Steep time: 16 hours

  1. Use a typical French press coarseness to grind beans. Place grounds in French Press
  2. Add 750 grams of water and stir
  3. Let steep at 20 hours at room temperature.
  4. Pour coffee then water into the French press, stir to saturate grinds, leave alone for 20 hours.
  5. Plunge and place coffee concentrate in a container, put it in the fridge. Enjoy for the next 2 weeks.

3. French Press Recipe- Lower Strength

Julian Aicea, Chicago

Coffee: 60 grams (2 ounces)

Grind: Setting 8 on Handground (coarse)

Water: 700 grams (24 ounces)

Water-to-Coffee Ratio: 12:1

Steep time: 16 hours

  1. Add coffee to the French press, pour over cold water, stir with a spoon, place the lid on and put in the fridge over night.
  2. Once you wake up press the grounds down and pour in A carafe. Clean French press and enjoy coffee.

DIY Homemade Immersion Recipe

You can make immersion cold brew in practically anything. Even a pillow case.

Pillowcase for Nitro cold brew

This recipe is from Nathan in Ohio:

Coffee: 1375 grams (48 ounces)

Grind size: Setting 6 on Handground (medium-coarse)

Water: 19000 grams

Water-to-Coffee: 14:1

Steep: 24 hours

Buy a clean new white or natural organic cotton pillowcase...wash it by hand and rinse very thoroughly...fill pillow case with 3lbs of coarsely ground coffee...put into sanitized 6.5gallon bucket and fill with 5 gallons or more of cold water...cover and let steep for 24 hours, then lift pillowcase and allow to drain into bucket (a large colander is helpful here). Pour into 5 gallon "cornelius" keg and put into kegerator. Keep pressure on the keg very low, or you will have carbonated coffee. Can use Nitro Air for beer for Nitro coffee as well.  




Coffee Recommendations
Glass of Black House cold brew from Modern Times


Immersion method tends to create cold brew coffee that is balanced and relatively mellow. The cold brew will have fewer bright, citrusy notes along with fewer bitter flavors, creating a smooth, even taste. Coffees that naturally fit this taste profile tend to worst best as immersion cold brew.

56% of respondents said they prefer medium or dark roasts for immersion cold brew, compared to 23% who preferred light and bright coffees. The remaining people said immersion works well with any coffee.

Dark Roast Blend

“We use a dark roast blend of South American, Central American and Indonesia coffees. Heavy amount of Sumatra.”
-Monkeynest Coffee, Austin, TX

Medium Mexican and Colombian

“I've tried all kinds, but a medium Mexican or Colombian roast has been my favorite.” -Chad, Portland, OR

Nutty and Chocolatey

“Nutty & chocolatey coffees with some fruity-sweet notes are great candidates.” 

-Brian Gumm, Ross Street Roasting Co., Tama, Iowa

Caramel, sweet fruit, and chocolate
“Cold brew brings out smoothness and sweetness in coffee, so it works best with coffees that have notes of caramel, sweet fruit, and chocolate. In general, this method works best with coffees that have a low acidity and a balanced body.” 

- Caroline King, Yellow Brick Coffee, Tucson, AZ



Immersion Cold Brew Tips
Blooming Grounds. Photo by Offbeat and Inspired



Use a Hot Bloom

If you want to bring out the brightness of a coffee while using an immersion method, try the hot bloom technique.

“I use about 1/3 the water at 205 degree and add it to the grinds. I let it bloom for 45 seconds then add the rest of the water cold. Since acids are more one of the most water soluble components of coffee at hot brewing temperatures, my goal is to extract some of those more pleasant bright notes then hit it with the cold water before any of the less pleasant bitter alkaloids are extracted. This gives a much fruitier/floral cold brew than typical cold brewing methods.”
-Tito Pena, The Wydown Coffee Bar, Washington D.C.

Be sure all the grounds are saturated

Just like brewing hot coffee, it’s important that all your grounds are saturated for an even extraction.

“All the beans within the filter bag should be saturated with water with no clumpy dry spots. (We use a big spoon the stir everything evenly) Make sure most of the beans are below the water before letting it steep.”
-Mario Baltodano, Bibble & Sip, New York, NY USA

“Our best results comes with layering, that is, use 1/4 coffee and 1/4 or the water, so on and so forth until completed. Allow coffee to mix well and gently mix if necessary “
-Daniel Noguera, Urbana Cafe, Cincinnati OH


Don’t tie the bag too tightly

“Tying the bag too tight will result in dry pockets in the grounds and the coffee concentrate will be very weak.” 

-Hubbard and Cravens Coffee Co. Indianapolis, IN



Cold Brew Coffee Series

The coffee community is full of passionate professionals and enthusiasts who love to share their advice on brewing better coffee. We received so much information from the 150 respondents that we had to split up the information into 4 separate articles.

If you missed the Introduction to our Cold Brew Series, you can start here:


The Beginner's Guide to Cold Brew Coffee: Recipes and Tips from Pros

www.handground.com/grind/beginners-guide-to-cold-brew-coffee-recipes-tips-from-the-pros


If you want to explore the other methods of brewing cold brew, check out these articles on Cold Brew Drip and Japanese Iced Coffee:

How to Make Ice Drip Cold Brew Coffee


The Complete Guide to Japanese Iced Coffee


Cover Photo by Higher Grounds Coffee in Traverse City, Michigan