There's A Good Reason For Cold Brew's Higher Price Tag

Most coffee drinkers love (and let's be honest, often need) their coffee so much that they're willing to pay the price for a good cup of joe. Whether buying coffee is a once-in-a-while treat or an everyday expense, you probably know by now what your go-to order will cost at your local coffee shop.

As of 2022, a cup of coffee costs nearly $5 on average at coffee shops across the U.S. If you like your coffee cold and bold, you've probably noticed you're paying at the high end, or higher than that average. At some craft coffee shops, you might even see cold brew on the menu for $6 or $7 for a single cup.

What is it about cold brew that makes it more expensive? The answer is simple — cold brew costs more to make and thus costs more to purchase. This is because the process of making cold brew requires more of two valuable resources — coffee and time.

More coffee takes more time to brew

It's not necessarily that cold brew uses better or more expensive coffee beans, which you might assume because it tastes different from hot coffee. It's that it requires more coffee grounds — up to three times as much — to make the same amount of cold coffee as hot coffee.

Cold brew is made by brewing coffee with cold water rather than hot. Since cold water isn't as effective at extracting flavor from coffee, you need more grounds to achieve the flavor profile and level of strength desired. The cold water is also what imparts that smooth, rich taste that many love about cold brew. The absence of heat means less acid and oil are extracted from the coffee beans, which means less bitterness.

However, you don't just need more coffee to make cold brew — you also need more time, and as we all know, time is money. Where a pot of drip coffee (or regular iced coffee) will take mere minutes to brew, a batch of cold brew is typically a slow-steep process that can take up to 24 hours of brewing time. This results in a less acidic (yet strong) flavor that's slowly infused rather than quickly extracted.

How to make cold brew at home

Now that you know what goes into a cup of cold brew, it makes sense why it'll cost you a pretty penny. If you crave the smooth flavor and boldness of a refreshing cold brew coffee, the good news is that it's easier than you think to brew a batch at home — and it doesn't require any special equipment.

Most cold brew is prepared as a concentrate, which is a caffeine-packed liquid that can then be diluted with water or milk to your liking. To make the concentrate, a ratio of 1:4 coffee grounds to water is usually recommended. Simply mix your coffee grounds with your cold water in a pitcher or bowl, and let it steep at room temperature for anywhere from 12-24 hours.

Once your brewing time is up, strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth a couple of times to separate the leftover grounds. Keep that concentrated liquid in the fridge, and dilute it with a 2:1 ratio of water (or milk) to concentrate for your cup of homemade cold brew. Using coarsely ground coffee grounds (rather than finely ground coffee) yields more flavorful results and is also easier to strain.