Why Does Making Cold Brew Use So Much Coffee? Or Does It?

When making cold brew, don’t you feel like you’re putting way too much coffee grounds in there? Let’s see if that’s actually the case.

Cold brew uses more coffee grounds but, the difference isn’t as big as it seems. Cold brew is concentrated, so it’s diluted before serving. While it seems like you’re using a lot of grounds for the amount of water, the amount of coffee used for the final cup isn’t much more than other methods.

This might be surprising to you so if you’re interested, I’ll explain exactly how and why below.

How much Coffee does it take to make cold brew?

So, to see if cold brew actually takes a lot of coffee, we need to know how much you need for both types of making coffee.

That’s a bit more difficult to say than for normal drip coffee since you can make cold brew in different ratios. Recipes around the internet have cold brew ratios from 1:1 to 1:18 (coffee grounds to water).

1:1 is very strong and 1:18 is very weak. A lot of recipes call for a ratio of 1:10 to start off with. That would mean 100 grams of coffee for a liter of water (Ideally you would weigh the water but milliliters is close enough for most purposes).

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However, for me personally 1:10 is a bit weak if diluted 50/50 which is often recommended. 1:8 is a much better ratio for me with the same 50/50 dilution. So to make a liter of cold brew with a 1:8 ratio means you need 125 grams of coffee grounds.

You’ll still have a lot of grounds but it also makes a lot of coffee. If you’re wondering what to do with all those grounds, there are a few great uses for spent coffee grounds to make your morning cup zero waste. Check out how to use your spent grounds to get rid of nasty odors and more here.

How much coffee grounds does normal coffee use?

Here things get even more complicated. What is normal coffee? There are tons of ways to make coffee and they all require slightly different amounts of coffee grounds.

I think for most people ‘normal coffee’ means pour-over or machine coffee in a paper filter. Most of the coffee at home is made like that which makes it ‘normal’.

For pour-over coffee, ratios from 1:11 to 1:18 are given. But most baristas and coffee aficionados say a ratio of 1:17 is perfect. That means to make a liter of coffee, you only need 58.8 grams of coffee grounds.

If you look at it like this, it seems like cold brew uses way more coffee grounds than normal coffee. It’s not even in the same ballpark. But, it’s not as bad as it seems.

How does cold brew coffee use compare to drip coffee?

Most of the time, you’ll drink hot coffee like it is. Maybe you add some milk or sugar but you don’t significantly dilute it before drinking. So one cup of water in a hot brew method, translates to one cup of coffee in your cup, minus the little bit of liquid that’s left in the grounds.

With cold brew, you almost never drink it straight unless you use a very low ratio of coffee grounds to water. As explained above, you can make cold brew in different ratios. But if you use a 1:3 ratio, that doesn’t mean it’s served that way. A ratio below 1:5 is more like a concentrate. You get a very strong cold brew that’s not really suitable to drink straight.

Cold brew has to be diluted to become a nice drink.

While usually water or ice is used to dilute cold brew. That’s not the only choice though. Find 12 options in this post.

That means that one cup of water you let steep in you cold brew container, doesn’t translate to one cup of coffee you drink. One cup of concentrate cold brew can be diluted to become more cups of coffee.

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So that makes it a bit more complicated to see how much coffee each type of brewing uses per final cup  but let’s see if we can do some simple math.

How much coffee per cup?

So let’s calculate the amount of coffee grounds you use per cup of cold brew coffee.

To make it a bit easier to compare, let’s first look at how much you need to make a liter of both types of coffee.

A 1:8 ratio for cold brew means you have 125 grams of coffee grounds for a liter of water.

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For hot brew drip coffee there are different ratios just as with cold brew. For a paper filter the recommended ratios range from 1:11 to 1:18 depending on how strong you want it. The 1:17 ratio is generally seen as the ‘golden ratio’ so let’s use that for this purpose.

A 1:17 ratio for drip coffee means roughly 58.8 grams of grounds to a liter of water.

As said before, hot brew coffee is drunk straight and cold brew is usually diluted.

Cold brew made with a 1:8 ratio is good to serve diluted 50:50. In reality that means you fill a glass with ice, pour over the cold brew and wait a few minutes for the ice to melt a little and you’re there. However, the more accurate way to do it would be with water.

That means that the liter of cold brew, actually makes two liters of coffee in the end. That means you use 125 grams of coffee grounds for two liters of coffee that ends up in your cup.

To make two liters of hot drip coffee, you need about 117 grams of coffee grounds.

So you can see that, yes, cold brew uses a little bit more coffee grounds but the difference is very small. The difference is a little bit more that a teaspoon for two liters. Not really worth fussing about.

So for a cold brew serving of 250 ml, you use a bit more than 15.6 grams of coffee. But, for a 250 ml cup of hot drip coffee you use 14.7 grams. That’s really not a difference your wallet gets worried about.

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Ratio matters?

You might think that the ratio of cold brew matters for how much coffee grounds you use per cup. Well, it does slightly but it’s not as big a difference as you might think.

For a 1:8 cold brew, the standard dilution ratio is one part cold brew for one part water or 50/50. However, if you would go to a 1:4 ratio, you used twice the amount of coffee grounds but your cold brew is twice as strong as well.

That means to get to the same strength as with the 1:8 dilution, you have to add three parts of water for every part cold brew. You just dilute it down to the same strength as it was before. So a lower ratio doesn’t mean you use more coffee.

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That means you’ll end up using the same amount of coffee grounds, regardless of concentrate ratio.

Of course, there are differences in tastes. Some people prefer their coffee stronger than others and therefore dilute their cold brew less. But the same people will likely prefer their hot brewed coffee stronger and use more grounds for that as well so the difference doesn’t get any bigger.

How much water should I add to my cold brew? How far you want to dilute your cold brew depends on your taste. However for a cold brew that’s bred with a 1:8 ratio, a 50/50 mix of concentrate to water is a good place to start. For a 1:4 concentrate one part of water to three cups of water. If served over ice, use a little less water.

How long can you keep cold brew? In the fridge, cold brew will keep up to two weeks and still be good to drink. Although the first week it’ll taste the best. Outside of the fridge it can only be kept for about two days.

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Favorite cold brew tools

With these items, you will brew better cold brew

  • Grinder: Fresh beans have to be ground. A hand grinder like the Hario Slim (Amazon) is affordable yet effective hand grinder that will improve your cold brew.
  • Scale: The amount of grounds you use makes a big impact on what your cold brew tastes like. A simple set of scales will makes your brews more consistent. I’ve been using this one (Amazon) for over a year wit h great success. Not the most aesthetic but effective.

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