Cold-brewed coffee, if made right, is simply divine. Sadly, it almost always tastes better at the coffee shop or from a bottle. That’s because brewing it at home can be incredibly tricky. I’ve read many guides that recommend different makers, methods, coffee grounds, water ratios, brew times, and temperatures.
In my quest to make better coffee, I’ve tested 22 cold brewers in the past year. I’ve tried pot immersion (tea style) methods, big immersion buckets, slow drip makers, French presses, mason jars, and even a couple of automated brewers. In them, I’ve tested more than half a dozen cold-brew-friendly coffee blends to try to find a combination I could recommend. I still haven’t made what I’d consider my perfect cup of cold-brewed coffee, but I’m getting closer. Below are my favorite picks.
Updated in February 2019: We’ve added a new recommendations from Primula, a new coffee blend, and a few new cold-brew makers to our list of products to avoid. Other changes were made for clarity.
1. The Best Overall
The Coffee Gator was my favorite cold brewer for many months, but Primula’s Burke immersion brewer has taken its top spot. It’s shorter and wider with a more durable build than the Gator. I couldn’t quite fit it into the door of my fridge, but it could fit in some. It makes about 32 ounces of coffee at a time.
Like other pot-style brewers, you put coarse grounds into the mesh basket, snap it into place, slowly pour water through it, and come back 24 hours later. Coffee came out smooth and flavorful without too much bitterness, and the filter is fine enough that there was less sediment than many immersion brewers. Too much sediment can ruin a good cold brew by adding a gritty mouthfeel and aftertaste.
Cleanup is easier than some brewers because the bottom of the Burke’s filter screws off, allowing you to easily eject used grounds. The only downside compared to the Gator (below) is that it doesn’t come with a scoop and funnel, though it does have a wider grounds filter, so you should be OK, but I’ve added one that looks good in the accessories sections below.
The Primula Glass Carafe brewer ($26) also works well if you want a taller carafe. It has a stirrer you can add in. The downside: It lets in a lot of grit, so you need a coarser grind on your beans.
2. Runner Up
There’s nothing insanely unique about Coffee Gator’s glass immersion cold-brew coffee pot. There are a host of pots that look just like it on Amazon, but the included metal scoop and collapsible funnel made adding grounds and water an easier, tidier process. I liked them so much, I began using these handy accessories with all the other cold-brew makers. Cleanup is also faster than other brewers because you can quickly detach the grounds filter, which has a twist-off bottom for easy rinsing.
It’s hard to find a simpler way to make cold brew than with the Coffee Gator, and the company’s customer service reps are responsive. The downside is that the handle does feel like it’s made of cheap plastic and the the glass base isn’t very thick. I’ve had mine almost a year and have not broken it, but I recommend you treat it with care.
3. Best for Perfectionists
The WIRED Gear team has liked Oxo’s cold-brew coffee maker for years (we ranked it highly, giving it 8/10 and our WIRED Recommends seal of approval). It’s a cold-brew connoisseur’s dream rig that’s meant to sit proudly on your kitchen counter, and it’s the best purchase if you want bucket-style immersion brewing that allows for greater experimentation.
Oxo’s maker produces up to 32 ounces of very fine coffee with minimal sediment and comes out far more concentrated (which means you’ll get more out of it) than pot-style brewers. It also has the potential to produce richer, more robust flavors, thanks to the design, which includes a “rainmaker” lid that trickles the water onto your grounds to encourage the bloom. You’ll have to tinker with your recipe, though, and make sure to dampen your grounds for the right amount of time or things will get bitter quickly.
After sitting on the counter for 12 to 24 hours, you flip a switch and your brew cleanly drains into the Erlenmeyer flask of a decanter, which may give you flashbacks to high school chemistry class. It also comes with a measuring lid. Perhaps most important, the coffee it makes is fantastic.
4. Best for Sheer Speed
Cuisinart’s 7-cup machine does not produce cold-brewed coffee that’s as tasty as other machines on this list, but it’s foolproof by comparison, and the coffee is acceptable. You fill the filter cylinder with coffee grounds, then use the glass pot to fill the water reservoir with cold water.
Hit the Brew button and listen to it twist and violently shake the flavor out of your grounds for 25 to 45 minutes. Out of its three modes, I preferred the Bold setting. You can always water it down if your bean juice turns out too strong. Flip the switch when it’s done, and out pours your cold brew. Cleaning the grounds cylinder can be annoying if you let it sit for too long, and the coffee that comes out will have a lot of sediment, but it still tastes decent and takes approximately 23.5 hours less time to make than other makers.
5. Best if You Hate Gritty Cold Brew
I’m going to be honest with you—I didn’t love this Filtron-made brewer. It’s similar to the Oxo brewing system, just not as good in most ways that count.
It’s basically a big bucket with grounds in it, and a smaller bucket above that drips water into it. It’s made of cheap plastic, requires paper liners and filter pads that you’ll have to keep buying (filter pads last about 10 brews), and I had trouble getting the water to completely drain into the grounds. You also have to use a rubber stopper to drain the coffee after 24 hours, which will always get your hands messy, and cleanup is time-consuming. The instruction manual looks like it was made by a fifth grader learning how to print with Microsoft Word. It’s filled with low-res images and poor formatting.
But fortunately, it makes rich, full-bodied cold-brewed coffee that has the least sediment of any product I’ve tried so far. Those pads and paper filters are annoying, but they work. If you’re OK with a little inconvenience, the Filtron will make a damn good cold-brew concentrate. It’s similar to the Toddy Cold Brew System, though that one at least has a glass carafe with a spout.
6. Best for Brewing Large Batches
County Line Kitchen
County Line Kitchen is a family-owned business in Wisconsin. Its Cold Brew Maker uses a trusty ol’ 2-quart mason jar and stainless steel filter basket to brew. It works much like the Coffee Gator, but you can make a ton of joe with it. You fill the basket with a lot of coffee grounds, pour up to 64 ounces of cold water through it slowly, and let it sit for 24 hours. When it’s done, take out the filter basket and use the lid to pour.
In my tests, the County Line produced relatively smooth cold-brewed coffee, though it was somewhat gritty, likely because the steel filter is a bit too porous (use coarse grounds). The instructions also tell you to shake the jar after adding water, but I found that a bit of coffee can leak out even if it’s sealed tight, which seems to be a common mason jar problem. Lingering grounds aside, if you want enough cold brew to last a week, this is a good way to get it.
7. A Fantastic French Press
I used French presses as a quasi control in my testing, and the Secura is the nicest I’ve tried. To my dismay, I haven’t yet been able to get any French press to produce cold-brewed coffee with flavor that’s as smooth or rich as with other methods. It’s usually a little bitter and too gritty. But it’s still quite drinkable, and if you play around enough or find the right coffee grounds, you can probably make a batch that you like.
You might already own a French press for hot coffee, but if you don’t, I recommend the Secura. It’s made of stainless steel and well-insulated to keep cold brew cold or hot coffee hot, and the handle doesn’t get too hot.
Great Cold Brew Beans
Stone Street Reserve Colombian and Bizzy Smooth & Sweet
In my quest to make the perfect cold-brewed coffee, I tried at least half a dozen types of coffee. Stone Street’s Arabica Colombian Supremo dark roast and Bizzy’s organic Smooth & Sweet Blend are two of my favorites. They’re made specifically with cold brewing in mind and come coarsely ground (a coarse grind is best for cold brew) or as whole beans if you own a grinder. The 1-pound bags aren’t too expensive.
They were less bitter than some brands I tried and got closest to delivering that perfect, smooth cold-brew flavor I was craving. Cold brewing requires a lot more grounds than normal hot brewing, so I appreciated its lower price.
Brewers That Almost Made the Cut
I had high hopes for a few other cold-brew coffee makers that didn’t quite deliver. Some of them are below, along with the reasons why they missed the endorsement.
Takeya Airtight Cold Brew Maker ($19): This maker has earned high marks from reviewers, but in my tests it just didn’t stack up. The airtight seal is fantastic and lets you shake your coffee, but no matter how tight everything was, I found that a good deal of gritty sediment ended up outside the filter. It’s also tougher to clean the filter than competitors, because its bottom doesn’t screw off. The plastic container works but isn’t as nice as glass (though it is more durable).
Hario Mizudashi ($27): There is absolutely nothing bad about the Mizudashi, though its grounds tray sits a little high. It’s a good cold-brew pot but just isn’t as good as others I tested.
Gourmia Carafe Cold Brew Maker: This immersion brewer looks nice and does completely seal, but the steel mesh filter is too porous, resulting in gritty coffee. It can also get slippery, and the grounds basket is tough to clean, because the bottom does not screw off.
Brewers We Do Not Recommend
I didn’t like these cold brew machines much at all.
Gosh! Dripo ($20): The Dripo made delicious coffee with no grittiness or sediment, which I credit to the slow-drip brewing method, but the instructions were confusing and the setup was a lot of work for how little coffee it produces. On top of that, if you don’t pre-wet your grounds, it may not work at all. The intent is that you can take the cup with you to work, but it’s not a great to-go cup because of the lid design, which doesn’t drain the coffee back into the cup well. Overall, it’s too much setup and work for too little coffee.
Simple Life Cycle Mason Jar ($18): This compact brewer is fun, but the filter is too porous and lets through a lot of sediment. I also had issues with coffee seeping out, and the wooden lid developed a crack on the side. Maybe I tried to seal it too tightly? Either way, the coffee it brewed was not as tasty as other makers.
Vremi Cold Brew Coffee Pot ($16): Since the Gator seemed to keep selling out, I also tested a nearly identical brewer that seemed about as good. It doesn’t have a scoop and funnel but does have a spout that seals, which is nice. Unfortunately, the jar cracked in the fridge, then broke severely for no reason while being unscrewed. I don’t recommend this model.
Gourmia Automatic Cold Brew Maker ($60): I tested the 6800 and 6850 models of this automatic cold-brew machine. I wanted to like the Gourmia. It can produce clear, smooth coffee with minimal sediment, but it was always too watery. Despite it saying it brews in 10 minutes, the results still seemed watery after six separate 10-minute sessions. The ice-chilling cycle seems to water the coffee down further.
Dash Rapid Cold Brew Maker ($80): The Dash is a neat idea. It makes cold brew in 10 to 20 minutes by shooting water through tubes between a grounds tray and carafe. I wanted to like the Dash, so much so that I had the company send me a second unit after the first failed. Sadly, both had numerous problems. The biggest problem with both was a small drip from the spout due to a bad seal. The overall build quality felt cheap, and my second unit had a grounds container that wouldn’t fully secure itself in its tray—it would rock back and forth a bit.
Cold Brew Q&A
How did you test each cold-brew coffee maker?
Jeffrey Van Camp
Each cold-brew coffee maker is tested multiple times. First, I follow each brewer’s included instruction manuals precisely. Then I test them more consistently. Generally, I use 32 ounces of water and 3/4 cup of coffee grounds. They all sit for 24 hours in the refrigerator before I remove the grounds. I also do simultaneous tests on multiple makers, putting in the same type of grounds and keeping the ratio of grounds to water (tap, refrigerated, and filtered) as equal as possible.
I note how easy they are to operate and clean up and how good the coffee tastes by itself and with milk (my preferred way to drink it). My wife and some friends provide additional tasting assistance. Some units are tested extra times if the results seem off.
How do you make cold-brew coffee?
Many of the brewers I test work in different ways, but generally, I use a ratio of one part coffee grounds (coarse grind preferred) to either four or five parts water. Pour a little cool or cold water over the grounds to wet them, wait a minute, then pour the rest through, preferably using some sort of filter to separate the water from the grounds. The better the filter, the less sediment there will be at the end, which adds an undesirable, gritty mouthfeel to your coffee.
Some recipes say to stir or shake it, and I usually let it sit and steep for 12 to 24 hours, either on a table or in the fridge. I use refrigeration, though many experts recommend brewing at room temperature. You should remove the grounds when brewing is complete and refrigerate. You’ll probably want to dilute it some with milk or water when drinking. If you don’t like the taste, adjust the methods a bit or use different coffee grounds/beans. If it’s gritty, buy some paper coffee filters and filter the finished coffee one last time after brewing is complete.
Does cold-brew coffee have more caffeine?
Yes, sort of! It will give you the shakes if you’re not careful. The caffeine content of coffee varies wildly, but a cup of cold-brew coffee can have more caffeine than regular coffee if you don’t dilute it too much.
How long does cold-brew coffee last?
If it’s refrigerated, it should last up to two weeks, though the flavor may get worse after a week or so, from my experience. Whether you’ll taste the difference depends on your palate. If you’ve added water, it may cut the shelf life down, so try to leave room for some water after you’ve poured it into a glass.
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