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From Immersion to Slow Drip, the 6 Best Cold Brew Coffee Makers Turn Your Habit into a Ritual

Saveur logo Saveur 7/29/2021 Celine Bossart
a close up of a glass cup on a table: From Immersion to Slow Drip, the 6 Best Cold Brew Coffee Makers Turn Your Habit into a Ritual © Tarik Kizilkaya / Getty Images From Immersion to Slow Drip, the 6 Best Cold Brew Coffee Makers Turn Your Habit into a Ritual

Ask any barista and they’ll tell you that not all caffeinated drinks are created equal—in fact, the terms “iced coffee” and “cold brew” denote completely different styles of preparation, each resulting in a unique flavor profile. Despite its name, iced coffee is initially brewed hot, whereas cold brew uses chilled or room temperature water to make coffee or a concentrate.

Generally, cold brew is significantly lower in acid than hot and iced coffee, as cold water extracts much less acid from coffee grounds than hot water does. It also tends to have a richer, fuller flavor and mouthfeel than traditionally-brewed coffee, and you can expect higher caffeine levels because of its grounds-to-water ratio.

When making your own brew at home, there are three main methods to choose from: immersion, slow drip, and automatic. Each style has its own quirks and nuances, and preparation time varies by method; whether you’re someone who likes to make their coffee in advance or you’re less of a planner, there is an option for every drinker. Find out which method is best for you and shop the best cold brew coffee makers to turn your morning habit into a ritual at home.

a close up of a bottle: From Immersion to Slow Drip, the 6 Best Cold Brew Coffee Makers Turn Your Habit into a Ritual © Provided by Saveur From Immersion to Slow Drip, the 6 Best Cold Brew Coffee Makers Turn Your Habit into a Ritual

Best Overall: Ovalware Airtight Cold Brew Iced Coffee MakerBest Value: Bodum Brazil French Press Coffee and Tea MakerBest Splurge: Osma Cold Brew MakerBest Nitro: GrowlerWerks uKeg Nitro Cold Brew Coffee MakerBest Automatic: Cuisinart DCB-10 Automatic Cold Brew Coffee MakerBest Slow Drip: Yama Glass Cold Brew Coffee Tower

The three general methods for making cold brew are immersion, automatic, and slow drip. Immersion can be done simply by placing coffee grounds into a porous bag and steeping it in water over a 12- to 24-hour period—the size of the container you’ll want to use is simply determined by how many servings you want to make. Cold brew coffee makers that operate using this method are designed to streamline the process by building the structural components (e.g. a glass carafe and a metal mesh filter) into one another. 

a close up of a pot: From Immersion to Slow Drip, the 6 Best Cold Brew Coffee Makers Turn Your Habit into a Ritual © Provided by Saveur From Immersion to Slow Drip, the 6 Best Cold Brew Coffee Makers Turn Your Habit into a Ritual

Then there’s the slow drip method, which requires a somewhat elaborate setup for what is a relatively simple concept that involves water droplets slowly passing through a chamber of coffee grounds over an extended period of time (usually 18 to 24 hours). There’s an undeniable wow factor here, though, in that the display is impressive and the method itself yields a lighter, more delicate coffee than other cold brewing processes.

Automatic cold brewing is done by machine and can come in many forms. Often, automatic cold brew machines are structured similarly to classic drip coffee or espresso-style machines, and all use electricity, cold or room temperature water, and elements like pressurization or recirculation (spinning) to expedite the cold brewing process. While automatic cold brew machines bring the brew time down to mere minutes, there’s no true replacement for hours of steeping, so cold brew made using an automatic machine will generally lack the deepness and complexity that you’ll get from immersion or slow drip.

Your chosen cold brew method will determine which kind of filter you need to use, if any. The different types of filters are paper, reusable (usually a thin, porous cloth material), and metal mesh, which is typically used in immersion setups. If you’re using a French press, the plunger acts as a good initial filter that separates the grounds from the liquid, but cold brew made by this method can benefit from additional filtration.

Cold brew makers can range from something that fits in your hand to a tall, elaborate tower of glass beakers and chambers. Most immersion and automatic options are appropriately-sized for counters and cabinets, whereas the slow drip method can take up much more space.

engineering drawing: From Immersion to Slow Drip, the 6 Best Cold Brew Coffee Makers Turn Your Habit into a Ritual © Provided by Saveur From Immersion to Slow Drip, the 6 Best Cold Brew Coffee Makers Turn Your Habit into a Ritual

Ovalware’s airtight cold brew setup is about as straightforward and easy-to-use as they come—for those who prefer (or wish to try) the immersion method, this is the perfect place to start. Complete with a non-slip rubber base, a stainless steel superfine laser-cut coffee chamber, a dishwasher-safe pour-spout glass carafe, and a leak-proof lid, this pitcher is available in two different sizes and can also hold hot liquid, making it a great tool for loose leaf tea. Depending on your coffee-to-water ratio, you can either make cold brew or concentrate—either way, its airtight lid will keep flavor locked in for approximately two weeks.

a close up of a bottle: From Immersion to Slow Drip, the 6 Best Cold Brew Coffee Makers Turn Your Habit into a Ritual © Provided by Saveur From Immersion to Slow Drip, the 6 Best Cold Brew Coffee Makers Turn Your Habit into a Ritual

Fun fact: you can easily make excellent cold brew with a simple French press, according to bar and coffee expert Amanda Whitt. “I add my water and (coarse-ish) grounds to a French press, and in the [morning], I stir and then press down the plunger,” they share. According to Whitt, this method will yield a cold brew that will keep for up to three days, although if it’s strained through a paper coffee filter, it can last for up to five. Don’t skip the pre-plunge step, they note—The grounds will stick to the glass if you forget to stir the mixture.

If futurism, clean lines, and high efficiency speak to you, then Osma’s hi-tech machine is the ultimate choice. Avoid the lengthy immersion and slow drip process; Osma distills it down to a cool 90 seconds for the perfect cup on demand. Think of it as the splurge-worthy Nespresso or Keurig of cold brew, although in this case, there really is no imitation thanks to the patented process, which the brand claims is “like straight-up magic to anyone who’s not a physics major.” It functions somewhat like a classic espresso machine and can brew three to 12 ounces in one go (you can also pull a short shot as a concentrate and add hot water to make an Americano). Plus, it’s American-made and can be cleaned simply by running water through the system.

From Immersion to Slow Drip, the 6 Best Cold Brew Coffee Makers Turn Your Habit into a Ritual © Provided by Saveur From Immersion to Slow Drip, the 6 Best Cold Brew Coffee Makers Turn Your Habit into a Ritual

Nitro is essentially cold brew coffee infused with nitrogen gas for a rich, round, velvety mouthfeel—ordering a cup of this at your local café will generally run you a bit more than a standard order as the process is somewhat complicated. The fact that GrowlerWerks has created a nitro setup for home brewers is no small feat, and any aficionado is bound to have a field day with it. With a 50-ounce capacity, a patented pressurized system, double filtration, and double-walled vacuum insulation, this black chrome stainless steel and brass keg keeps your coffee fresh for weeks. It also includes a serving mat, four filter bags, two nitro gas chargers, and a funnel.

From Immersion to Slow Drip, the 6 Best Cold Brew Coffee Makers Turn Your Habit into a Ritual © Provided by Saveur From Immersion to Slow Drip, the 6 Best Cold Brew Coffee Makers Turn Your Habit into a Ritual

If you’re looking for a happy medium between high efficiency and relative affordability, Cuisinart’s automatic cold brew maker is the way to go. This machine operates somewhat like a regular drip coffee maker, using cold water in place of hot, and it offers three different strengths to choose from. With this machine, you can make up to seven cups of coffee at a time in as little as 25 minutes (45 if you choose the highest brew strength), which certainly beats having to wait overnight for your fix.

Last but not least is the classic wooden cold brew drip tower—this particular model, which is available in a wooden or white frame option, is a surefire conversation starter and is significantly easier to use than it might appear. Nispira’s cold brew drip tower is available in two different sizes (600 milliliters and 2500 milliliters, or up to eight cups and 25 cups respectively), and this contraption can also be used to make iced tea or to infuse oils, spirits, and the like. Just be prepared to carefully hand wash several different components.

Cold brew is significantly less acidic than regular coffee (both hot and iced). This is because when hot water is used to brew coffee, acid is extracted from the coffee grounds in the form of oils, while cold water extracts much less acid.

Because the cold brewing process uses a higher quantity of coffee grounds than that of hot or iced coffee, cold brew does tend to have higher caffeine levels.

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