Hotter doesn’t always mean more pleasure, as New Yorkers are reminded every sweltering summer when standing in the subway saunas.

Coffee shops across the country have been jumping on board the cold brew train lately- we all know that if Starbucks has rolled it out, it must be mainstream. But trust us, we’ve been talking about it before Starbucks even knew what hit them. Here’s the definitive guide to cold brew: what it is, where to buy it (if you’re anything like us and coffee chains just aren’t your thing), and how to make it.

Okay, so don’t tell anyone I asked, but what is cold brew?

Cold brew (a.k.a. cold drip, cold press, or toddy) refers to coffee that is made by steeping ground coffee beans in either cold or room temperature water, rather than the boiling hot water that is typically used. What does this mean for us? As it turns out, keeping your beans away from heat gives you an irresistibly sweet cuppa without the acidity of hot brew, making the perfect iced coffee to cool you off on a hot summer day.

Does it have more caffeine?

EVERYONE asks this question, and it’s not that straightforward. Cold brew can be higher or lower in caffeine content than regular coffee depending on how much it’s diluted (more on this later). So whether you want it to knock your socks off or just give you a small energy boost, cold brew stays flexible.

How is it made?

Let us tell you, you’re not paying more for this baby for nothing. A lot of time goes into the cold brewing process. As a general rule, the coffee beans need to be ground coarsely and soaked in the water for 12 hours or more. After steeping, the grounds are filtered out, leaving a coffee concentrate that is usually diluted with water or milk, unless you’re the type of coffee superhero that shoots it straight (WARNING: this may result in being awake for days and/or ultra-productivity bordering on manic behavior). For the rest of us mortal humans, it can be served in a variety of ways, including over ice, hot, and blended with flavors like chicory, vanilla, or chocolate.

Where did it come from?

This process was popularized by Cornell chemical engineering graduate Todd Simpson, who was inspired by a cup of joe he had in Guatemala in 1964, and is responsible for it being referred to as toddy. In Guatemala, he was served cold coffee concentrate alongside boiling water, and thought that the different flavor might have appeal among people who weren’t regular drinkers. His company, Toddy, invented and patented a simple system for creating homemade cold press coffee, which is now used around the world in both private and commercial settings. Although the history of cold press brewing is not entirely clear, it is believed to have originated somewhere in South America.

Why do so many people swear by it?

Proponents of cold drip swear by it due to its simplicity. The Toddy system, for example, is really just a plastic pitcher with a fabric filter at the bottom, where the coffee concentrate drains into a separate container below. All you need to do is add the ground beans and water into the top and leave it over 10-12 hours, and you’ll have a coffee concentrate that is ready to be served. It doesn’t even require electricity.

The reason that cold brewing coffee results in a drink that is so different from hot brew is that many of the compounds that are extracted from the beans during the typical brewing process are only activated and dissolved by heat. These compounds are the fatty acids and oils responsible for the bitter, biting taste that causes most people to weaken their brain juice by adding sugar. The cold drip process extracts the sweeter flavor compounds and some of the caffeine in the coffee beans, but leaves these other compounds behind, resulting in a concentrate that can then be added to hot water without creating a bitter flavor.

Are you still reading? You really must have had a cup of cold brew. Now enough science, let’s get into how you can make your very own cold brew in the comfort of your own home, with minimal ingredients and preparation. Too good to be true? Yeah, we know. Thank us later.

How can I make it at home?

Things you’ll need:

A pitcher

A coffee filter

Coarsely ground coffee

Cold water

Saran wrap

Though it may take more time, making your own cold brew is actually pretty low maintenance (much like the best significant others). That is, unless you qualify using a Keurig or Nespresso as “making your own.” In that case, we aren’t friends anymore.

You’ll start with coarsely ground coffee beans that you either bought that way or ground yourself. Purchasing the beans whole and grinding them will always result in a fresher-tasting cuppa for a number of reasons, but buying it pre-ground will work too. The most popular choices of coffee beans tend to be African or South American, but any type will work, so feel free to experiment.

The whole process takes 12-24 hours, and the resulting coffee concentrate will stay fresh for 1-2 weeks, so you could make it in bulk on Sunday and drink throughout the week for maximum efficiency. If you don’t have the time, CUPS is a convenient alternative for exploring coffee shop cold brews! Download it for iOS or Android.


Add your beans and cold water to the pitcher in a ratio of 4:1, water to coffee. Anywhere from 2:1 to 7:1 will work depending on how strong you like it, but 4:1 is a pretty safe bet in most cases (keep in mind that the end product is a coffee concentrate that you’ll dilute further with water or milk, so there’s some flexibility here).

Cover the pitcher with saran wrap and leave for 12-24 hours. If you need to get your caffeine fix in the meantime, try a coffee from around the world, or maybe go to a coffee shop that doubles as a bar.

Pour the mixture into a new pitcher or similar container, through the coffee filter so it catches all of the solids and removes them from the equation. This is a slow process and you will have to do it a little bit at a time. We found that it was easier to put the filter into a fine-mesh strainer so we could leave it alone and come back as bit by bit drained through. You also might find it worthwhile to change the filter once or twice depending how much you are making.

Once you get to the bottom layer that is all grounds with little liquid remaining you can stop, and just discard it. Keep in mind that the grounds should not go down a drain or garbage disposal, so just pour them into the trash or recycle them for other uses.

You now have a coffee concentrate that will vary in strength depending on how much water versus coffee you used in the first step. You can mix this with boiling water for hot joe drinkers, or cold water and serve over ice for those who prefer it cold. Another option is to use milk in place of water. Regardless, mixing 1:1 is a good place to start, although you may find that you want to use more milk/water than coffee concentrate. We found that from a 4:1 ratio in the first step, mixing the concentrate 1:1 with boiling water and adding a splash of milk produced a smooth, delicious cuppa.

Whatever the case, you’re now a cold brew pro. Keep it covered and refrigerated, and your coffee concentrate will be usable for up to two weeks.

That’s one DIY way to make your own toddy, but there are other options. You could use a French press instead of a pitcher, which saves you some trouble in terms of filtering, not to mention making you feel quite fancy in the process. With a French press, you’ll put your water and ground coffee beans into the press with the plunger at the top. After letting it sit for 12-24 hours, all you have to do is slowly move the plunger down until only the grounds are below it, and you’ll have fresh cold-brewed concentrate. The Toddy system is an option as well, at only $35, and allows the coffee to slowly drip down into the lower chamber, rather than pouring into a new vessel at the end of 12 hours.

I’m not into waiting that long, where can I buy the best already-made cold brew?

There are a lot of ways to get your hands on cold drip coffee if you don’t have the time or motivation to make it yourself. A Brooklyn-based company called Grady’s Cold Brew makes cold-dripped coffee concentrate that you can buy and keep refrigerated, and then mix to taste with hot or cold water or milk. Their product is widely available in markets and bodegas around New York, and can be found in many other major US cities – check the locations tab of their site to find a seller near you. Austin-based Chameleon Cold Brew is another similar option, and is widely available across the US, including in stores like Whole Foods and King’s Supermarkets. There are many other brands to choose from if you can’t find either of those in your area.

If you’re in New York City and looking for a delivery service, perhaps for an office, the aforementioned Grady’s will also deliver its product right to your door, as long as you buy in bulk. The minimum order is either 6 32-ounce bottles or 12 16-ounce bottles. If you’re feeling really hardcore, you can even get cold drip kegs of java from Joyride Coffee, who offer a variety of blends and deliver in both San Francisco and NYC. They also offer non-keg options for different-sized offices or personal use. If you live somewhere else, Wandering Bear Coffee delivers to both homes and offices across the US, and is available for pickup in a couple of NYC stores.

Cold brew is also available at many coffee shops and cafes across the country. You could find it in any Starbucks in NYC, as well as several of their other locations across the Northeast and Midwest, but we know you’re totally better than that, so keep reading.

Sounds amazing, but why don’t all coffee shops sell it then?

One point that needs to be made is that many coffee shops do not serve cold brew for a number of reasons. For one thing, it is hard to keep an in-demand product in stock when it takes hours and hours to prepare. Also, making it in bulk requires a lot of space and some expensive equipment, both of which can be hard to justify in a place as expensive as NYC. Some also feel that it is wasteful because it uses more coffee beans per capita than regular coffee, and doesn’t make full use of those beans. For some connoisseurs who have spent years finding the best beans to create a rich, delicious cup of coffee, the fact that cold press only uses some of the compounds contained within the bean feels like a cheap ripoff of their craft.

Despite these misgivings, it is undeniable that people love the taste of toddy, especially in the summer, and there are many cafes that overcome these barriers to produce it anyway, usually at a higher price than other coffee. Many shops around New York have cold press on the menu, including the following establishments:

** indicates they are part of the CUPS family using the app available on iOS or Android


**The Jeffrey (Upper East Side)

60th & 2nd

Yelp: 4/5 | Foursquare: 9/10

The Jeffrey is an espresso bar by day and craft beer bar by night, known for great food and drinks at any hour and a big backyard for when its nice out.

**Ground Central (Turtle Bay)

43rd & 2nd | 52nd & 3rd

Yelp: 4/5 | Foursquare: 9/10

Ground Central sets a killer vibe with vintage rock and roll played on vinyl, and a nice lounge area in the back, not to mention well-made java that has earned them a very loyal crew of regulars.

**The Jolly Goat (Hell’s Kitchen)

47th & 10th

Yelp: 5/5 | Foursquare: 8.8/10

This little coffee shop is a staple of Hell’s Kitchen, and boasts an all-organic food menu, as well as brew made with Stumptown beans.

**Simon Sips (Theater District)

47th & 6th

Yelp: 4.5/5 | Foursquare: 8.8/10

Although a little bit hard to find (its inside a set of revolving doors across the courtyard from the restaurant Utsav in between 46th & 47th), Simon Sips is a hidden gem known for their latte art.

Intelligentsia (Chelsea)

21st & 10th

Yelp: 4/5 | Foursquare: 9.2/10

Intelligentsia has locations in LA and Chicago, but it all started in NYC. Located inside the High Line Hotel, they boast a large space with a variety of seating options, great java, and Doughnut Plant donuts.

**Madman Espresso (Gramercy/Garment District)

14th & 2nd | 35th & 7th | 37th & 9th

Yelp: 4.5/5 | Foursquare: 8.8/10

Madman Espresso is known for friendly baristas, and uses beans from Seattle’s Caffe Vita, who are proponents of the Farm Direct movement, meaning they work directly with growers in various countries.

**myWayCup (Flatiron)

23rd & Park

Yelp: 4/5 | Foursquare: 8.3/10

This tiny cafe is a neighborhood favorite known for a friendly staff and delicious food to complement their variety of coffees.

Ninth Street Espresso (Alphabet City)

9th & Avenue B

Yelp: 4/5 | Foursquare: 9.1/10

This cozy little place has free wifi, a great view of the park, and a minimalist decor.

**Cafe Silan (Alphabet City)

10th & Avenue A

Yelp: 4.5/5

Cafe Silan is run by two coffee enthusiasts who have a well above average rapport with their customers (check the Yelp reviews and you’ll see what I mean), and make their own vegan date syrup, which can be used as a replacement for honey.

Stumptown Coffee Roasters (Greenwich Village)

8th & Macdougal

Yelp: 4.5/5 | Foursquare: 9.3/10

Stumptown has a reputation for one of the best toddies in the city, and serve it on tap. They have locations in several cities across the country, and are also famous for their coffee beans – they work closely with growers in multiple countries, roast them with extreme care, and supply many other shops, including several on this list.

**The Coffee Foundry (West Village)

4th & Barrow

Yelp: 4.5/5 | Foursquare: 8.5/10

This spot is famous for their killer iced coffee (which is cold-brewed), and becomes a karaoke bar by night.

Bluebird Coffee Shop (East Village)

1st & 1st

Yelp: 4/5 | Foursquare: 9/10

Located at the nexus of the universe, Bluebird is run by a pair and boasts homemade ice cream sandwiches alongside java made with Counter Culture beans.

Everyman Espresso (East Village/SoHo)

13th & 3rd | Canal St. & West Broadway

Yelp: 4.5/5 | Foursquare: 8.9/10

Voted the best coffee shop in America in 2014 by The Daily Meal, Everyman Espresso has an enthusiastic, knowledgeable staff, and most importantly, amazing coffee.

Ground Support Cafe (SoHo)

Spring St. & W. Broadway

Yelp: 4/5 | Foursquare: 9/10

Ground Support has communal picnic tables inside, some outdoor seating in the summer, and is the kind of place where you can sit for hours and do work. They are also dog-friendly.

**Housing Works (SoHo)

Crosby & Houston

Yelp: 4.5/5 | Foursquare: 9.4/10

Housing Works is a fully functional bookstore with a cafe inside, where the staff is all volunteers and 100% of profits go to Housing Works charity. There are always events happening as well, so keep an eye on their calendar.


**El Cafecito (Bushwick)

Wyckoff & Hancock

Yelp: 5/5 | Foursquare: 7.2/10

El Cafecito opened shop in the summer of 2014, and has a juice bar, a food menu, and plenty of space to work. They use South American beans, rather than the African beans that most places use, giving their joe a unique flavor. The owner is also a professionally-trained chocolatier, and offers homemade chocolate bark to complement her flavorful drinks.

**Daily Press (Bed-Stuy/Williamsburg)

Franklin & Hancock | 4th St. & Havemeyer

Yelp: 3.5/5 | Foursquare: 9.2/10

Serving coffee from small local roaster Kitten Coffee, Daily Press has a great ambience with a back terrace for the warmer months, and the Bed-Stuy location offers beer and wine as well.

Brooklyn Diamond Coffee (Gravesend)

5th St. & Avenue U

Yelp: 4.5/5 | Foursquare: 7.9/10

Brooklyn Diamond serves a chicory-infused toddy that is also available bottled in grocery stores around the tristate area, and is one of the only cafes on its side of Brooklyn that serves high-quality craft blends.


**Blind Barber (Williamsburg/Alphabet City)

Ainslie & Lorimer | 10th & Avenue B

Yelp: 4/5 | Foursquare: 8.9/10

This place is a barbershop, bar, and coffee shop all rolled into one. A haircut comes with a free drink!

Various locations

Yelp: 4/5 | Foursquare: 8/10

Named for a Swedish place of gathering, Konditori is popular among Scandinavians, and all of their beans are ground daily on-site.

Doughnut Plant
Various locations

Yelp: 4.5/5 | Foursquare: 9.5/10

Known for arguably the best donuts in the city, Doughnut Plant brews their iced coffee in a walk-in cooler for maximum smooth flavor. They’re all over the place, so odds are you can find one near you.

Blue Bottle Coffee
Various locations

Yelp: 4/5 | Foursquare: 9.1/10

Blue Bottle is a national chain known for strong brews bordering on rocket fuel, and they also produce and sell their own beans. If you’re looking for a cold press that will kick you in the ass, look no further.

La Colombe
Various locations

Yelp: 4.5/5 | Foursquare: 9.2/10

La Colombe makes a bottled toddy that you can buy at any of their locations, and they also have just debuted an iced latte that is served on tap from a cold-pressed keg. It’s currently only available in one of their Philly locations, but will be rolling out around NYC in the next few months.

Don’t already have CUPS app? Get with it! Download it on iOS or Android and go cool down with some cold brew!

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