Ultimate Guide to Cold Brew Coffee Steeping Times

Discover the ideal steep time for cold brew coffee, based on your personal preference and brewing equipment. Learn how long to brew cold brew for the best flavor and taste.

Wondering how long do you steep cold brew for that perfect balance of flavor and caffeine?

If you’re a coffee or tea aficionado eager to dive into the world of cold brew, you’ve probably been puzzled by the steeping process. Too short and it’s weak; too long and you’re in bitter town.

The ideal steeping time for cold brew coffee or tea ranges from 12 to 24 hours, depending on your taste preference and the coarseness of your grind.

Curious to find out how to hit that sweet spot for your cold brew? Stick around. As an expert in coffee and tea preparation techniques, I’ll guide you through the optimal steeping durations, whether you should steep at room temperature or in the fridge, and how to adjust your methods for the perfect cold brew at home. We’ll even delve into common mistakes to avoid and how to make your cold brew super smooth. So, let’s get brewing!

Key Facts:

  1. Cold brew is made by steeping ground coffee beans in cold or room temperature water.
  2. The steeping duration typically ranges from 12 to 24 hours.
  3. The type of coffee beans and grind size can affect the steeping time.
  4. Steeping time plays a crucial role in flavor extraction and caffeine content.
  5. Using cold, filtered water is advisable for steeping.

How Long Do You Steep Cold Brew: The Basics

The ideal steeping time for cold brew coffee is 12-24 hours. This allows the coffee grounds to fully extract into the water, resulting in a smooth and flavorful cup of coffee. However, the exact steeping time will vary depending on your personal preferences. If you prefer a stronger coffee, you can steep it for longer. If you prefer a milder coffee, you can steep it for a shorter period of time.

Here is a more detailed breakdown of different steeping times and the corresponding results:

  • 12-16 hours: A smooth and balanced cup of coffee with less acidity and bitterness than traditional hot brewed coffee.
  • 17-20 hours: A stronger and more flavorful cup of coffee with a slightly sweeter taste.
  • 21-24 hours: A very strong and bold cup of coffee with a rich flavor and aroma.

Once you have found the perfect steeping time for your taste, you can simply strain the coffee grounds and enjoy your cold brew coffee!

What is Cold Brew?

Cold brew is a method of making coffee by steeping ground coffee beans in cold or room temperature water. Unlike traditional coffee brewing methods, cold brew doesn’t involve hot water, which results in a smoother, less acidic beverage.

The process is simple but requires patience. You’ll need to steep the coffee grounds for an extended period, usually between 12 to 24 hours. This slow extraction process is what gives cold brew its unique flavor profile, distinct from hot brewed coffee.

Why Steeping Time Matters

Steeping time is crucial for flavor extraction and caffeine content in your cold brew. The longer you steep, the more flavors and caffeine are extracted from the coffee grounds.

If you steep for too short a time, you’ll end up with a weak, under-extracted brew. On the other hand, steeping for too long can lead to over-extraction, making your cold brew taste bitter or astringent. Finding the right balance is key to achieving the perfect cup of cold brew.

Tip: Start with a 16-hour batch and adjust the steeping time based on your taste preferences.

Factors That Affect Steeping Time

Type of Coffee Beans

The type of coffee beans you use can significantly impact the steeping time. Dark roast beans generally require less steeping time compared to light roast beans.

Roast LevelRecommended Steeping Time
Light Roast18-24 hours
Medium Roast16-20 hours
Dark Roast12-16 hours

Grind Size

A coarse grind is ideal for cold brew. Fine grinds can lead to over-extraction, making your brew bitter. Coarse grinds allow for a slower extraction process, which is perfect for cold brew.

Key Takeaway: Always opt for a coarse grind to prevent your cold brew from becoming too bitter.

Desired Flavor Profile

The steeping time also affects the flavor profile of your cold brew. Here’s a quick guide:

  • Mild and Refreshing: 12-16 hours
  • Balanced: 16-20 hours
  • Strong and Flavorful: 20-24 hours

Mild and Refreshing

For a milder flavor, aim for a steeping time range of 12 to 16 hours. This will give you a cold brew with a bright, refreshing flavor profile.


If you’re looking for a balanced flavor, steep your cold brew for 16 to 20 hours. This duration allows for a richer flavor profile, making it neither too strong nor too weak.

Strong and Flavorful

For those who prefer a robust, full-bodied cold brew, aim for a steeping time of 20 to 24 hours. This will result in a bold flavor profile, perfect for those who like their coffee strong.

Tip: Experiment with steeping times to find your perfect flavor profile.

Additional Tips for Making Cold Brew Coffee

Best Practices for Water Quality

Always use filtered or cold water for the best flavor. Tap water can contain minerals that may affect the taste of your cold brew.

The Steeping Process

  1. Combine your coarsely ground coffee and cold, filtered water in a large, sealable container.
  2. Stir the mixture well before sealing the container.
  3. Place the container in the fridge for your desired steeping time.
  4. After steeping, strain the coffee grounds and dilute the concentrate with 3 to 4 cups of water.
  5. Stir well and serve according to your preference.

Key Takeaway: Using cold, filtered water and a large, sealable container can significantly improve your cold brew’s flavor.

Storage and Shelf Life

Cold brew can last up to two weeks if stored properly in the fridge. Always use an airtight container to keep your cold brew fresh for as long as possible.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Over-steeping and Under-steeping

Incorrect steeping times can ruin your cold brew. Over-steeping leads to a bitter taste, while under-steeping results in a weak brew. Always adhere to the recommended steeping times for the best results.

Wrong Water-to-Coffee Ratio

The ideal water-to-coffee ratio for cold brew is 4:1. Failing to maintain this ratio can result in either a too-strong or too-weak brew.

FAQs About How Long Do You Steep Cold Brew

Should you brew cold brew in the fridge?

Yes, brewing in the fridge helps prevent bacterial growth and results in a smoother brew.

How do you steep coffee for cold brew?

Use coarsely ground coffee and cold, filtered water. Steep in a large, sealable container in the fridge for 12 to 24 hours.

Can you make cold brew in 2 hours?

No, a minimum of 12 hours is recommended for proper flavor extraction.

Is 9 hours enough for cold brew?

While 9 hours may give you some flavor, it’s generally considered too short for optimal extraction.


In summary, the ideal steeping time for cold brew ranges from 12 to 24 hours, depending on various factors like the type of coffee beans, grind size, and your desired flavor profile. The key to perfect cold brew lies in finding your sweet spot within this range. So, are you ready to experiment and find your perfect steeping time?

By following these guidelines, you’re well on your way to becoming a cold brew connoisseur. Happy brewing!

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Nick Cho
Nick Cho

Nick Cho is a Korean-American entrepreneur and specialty coffee expert. Cho is a writer, speaker, and social media influencer, inspiring excellence in the specialty coffee industry.

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