How Long to Steep Cold Brew Coffee? Finally Answered!

By Evelina •  Updated: 10/21/22 •  6 min read

Finally, the question that has been on all of our minds has been answered. How long should you steep cold brew coffee for? We tried it and the answer is anywhere from 12 to 24 hours!

So if you’re looking for that perfect iced coffee recipe, now you know how long to let your coffee sit in the fridge. Keep reading below to learn more about the experiment we did and what specific factors contribute to the ideal steeping time.

The Truth Behind the Timing

To get the most out of your cold brew, it’s important to understand what actually happens during the steeping process. Coffee grounds are full of oils, acids, and other flavorful compounds.

When hot water passes over them, these elements are extracted and dissolve into the water. This is why your coffee has more body and flavor when it’s brewed with hot water.

Cold brewing works a little differently. Since the water is cold, it takes much longer for the compounds in the coffee grounds to dissolve. This is why cold brew coffee tastes less acidic and has a smoother flavor.

Related Read: How Long Does Cold Brew Last?

Factors That Affect Steeping Time

coffee beans in a jar coarsely ground

Our experiment showed that the length of time you steep your cold brew has a big impact on the final flavor. But there are other factors that can affect the steeping time, too.

1. Coffee to Water Ratio

The first factor to consider is the coffee-to-water ratio. A general rule of thumb is to use 1 part coffee grounds to 8 parts water. However, if you like your coffee weaker or stronger, you can adjust the ratio accordingly.

Just keep in mind that the more coffee you use, the longer it will need to steep, because there are more grounds that need to dissolve.

Tip: The water you are going to use will also affect the taste of your cold brew. If you use tap water, try using filtered water instead. This will make a big difference.

2. Type of Coffee Beans

The type of coffee beans you use will also affect the steeping time. For example, light roast beans will release more flavor faster than dark roast beans. If you’re using light roast beans, you may only need to steep for 14-16 hours.

On the other hand, if you’re using dark roast beans, you’ll probably need to steep for the full 24 hours. I can’t really see the difference between light and dark roast when it comes to cold brew coffee, but some people say they can taste a difference.

If you tried it and have a personal preference, let us know!

3. Temperature of Water

Another factor to consider is the temperature of the water you’re first soaking your coffee in. If you start with room temperature water, your coffee will need more hours (probably 1-2 more) to reach full flavor potential.

But if you start with warmer water, it will speed up the process and your coffee will be ready faster. So if you’re in a hurry, starting with lukewarm water is the way to go.

4. Storage Container

The type of container you use to store your cold brew coffee can also affect the brewing time. For example, if you’re using a French press to store your cold brew, the coffee will steep faster than if you’re using a plastic container.

This is because the glass that the coffee is in will absorb some of the heat from the coffee, which speeds up the brewing process. If you’re using a plastic container, the coffee will stay at a consistent temperature, which means it will take longer to brew.

What Happens if You Don’t Steep Cold Brew Long Enough?

Don’t Steeping Cold Brew enough

When making cold brew coffee, it is crucial to steep the grounds long enough in order to extract all of the flavor and caffeine from them.

If you do not steep your grounds for a long enough time, you will end up with a weak, tasteless brew that has no discernible flavor or caffeine content.

This can be especially problematic when making a cold brew concentrate, since this is typically made with a much larger ratio of ground coffee to water than a standard cup of coffee.

Without proper extraction, you will end up with an overly diluted concentrate that tastes more like wet grounds than anything else.

To avoid this scenario, it is important to pay close attention to the extraction process and make sure to steep your grounds for at least 12-24 hours before attempting to drink it.

Read Also: Cold Brew vs Hot Brew Coffee

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long to Steep Cold Brew Coffee

How Does Grind Size Affect Cold Brew Steeping Time?

Grind size plays a crucial role in the steeping process for cold brew coffee. A fine grind results in fast extraction, due to the smaller surface area exposed to water. This leads to a strong and bitter coffee, with higher acidity levels.

Alternatively, a coarse grind takes longer to steep, but yields a smoother and more flavorful brew with less acidity.

The right grind size for cold brew is and will always be medium-coarse. This is the perfect balance between a fast extraction and smooth taste.

Do You Need to Steep Cold Brew in The Refrigerator?

No, you do not need to steep cold brew in the refrigerator. While some people may find it convenient to steep their coffee in the fridge, doing so can actually result in a less flavorful cup of coffee.

Ideally, cold brew should be prepared at room temperature and then refrigerated to help the flavors infuse fully into the coffee grounds.

Additionally, if steeping in the fridge, you are more likely to experience oxidation and flavor loss over time. So while it may seem like a good idea to simply put your cold brew in the fridge, it is actually better to just prepare it as usual and then store it there instead.

In the end, your cup of coffee will taste much fresher and more satisfying if prepared without refrigeration.

Should You Stir Cold Brew While Steeping?

Yes, you should stir cold brew coffee while it is steeping. This is an important step in the brewing process, as it helps to evenly distribute coffee grinds in your immersion brewer and helps to pre-infuse the coffee with water.

Also, stirring allows you to better monitor the color of your brew and keep track of how much time remains before your coffee has finished steeping.

Of course, if you prefer, you can also choose to skip this step, but doing so may affect the final flavor of your coffee.

Final Thoughts

So, when it comes to steeping cold brew coffee, you may want to go longer than you think. A minimum steeping time of 12-24 hours is ideal, but if you can manage to go even longer, your coffee will be even better.

Remember, the grind size and steeping temperature are also important factors to consider, so make sure to keep those in mind as well. With a little practice, you’ll be a cold brew master in no time!

Happy Brewing!


Evelina’s passion for coffee could never been hidden. Having worked as a barista, she learned the true value of the coffee bean and its secrets. As she continued to evolve as a barista, so did her knowledge, techniques on making different coffee blends and most importantly how to operate every kind of gear when it comes to coffee. Having a degree in biomedicine and being a barista, allows her to provide our community with in-depth knowledge surrounding the topics of coffee.

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