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How to Make Decaf Cold Brew (And Why You Should)

Cold brew coffee is my favorite drink on the planet. I will take a glass of cold coffee over hot brewed coffee ANY day of the week.

Because I love cold brew so much, I find myself wanting to drink multiple glasses a day. However, I definitely don’t need all that caffeine in my system.

Enter: DECAF cold brew.

Cold brew in mason jar

When I did a search for decaf cold brew, a shockingly low amount of results came back.

I thought that maybe there was a reason nobody is making decaf cold brew. Maybe decaf coffee beans make a terrible batch of cold brew.

So, I decided to give it a try.

Spoiler alert: it didn’t taste any different from regular cold brew! I have no idea why so few people are making their own decaf cold brew, but I’m here to show you how easy (and amazing) it is.

 

What’s so special about cold brew, anyway?

Years ago, when cold brew coffee become very popular, I thought it was just a fad.

I mean, it’s just iced coffee… right?

Wrong!

Cold brew coffee and iced coffee are not the same drink. I have a full blog post breaking down the differences between iced coffee and cold brew that you can read here, but I’ll summarize the main differences here.

Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee

To simplify: iced coffee is any hot coffee that is served over ice. If you brew regular coffee in a pot, pour-over, or French press, then serve it over ice, it’s considered iced coffee.

Cold brew, on the other hand, never uses any hot water. Cold brew coffee is made by steeping coffee grounds in cold water for 12-24 hours.

The result is coffee that is incredibly rich & smooth with virtually no acidity at all. If you experience acid reflux from drinking coffee, cold brew will eliminate that completely!

Cold brew coffee has a smoother taste than hot coffee, and I absolutely love it.

 

How much caffeine is in a typical cold brew coffee?

It’s no secret that cold brew is a highly caffeinated coffee, but just how much caffeine is in a single cup?

The exact amount of caffeine in cold brew will vary based on the exact brewing method and type of coffee beans used, but let’s look at Dunkin’ & Starbucks to compare the caffeine content.

Starbucks Cold Brew

Tall (12oz): 155mg

Grande (16oz): 205mg

Venti (24oz): 310mg

Dunkin’ Cold Brew

Small (10oz): 174mg

Medium (14oz): 260mg

Large (20oz): 347mg

For comparison purposes, a typical 8oz cup of hot coffee typically contains 70-140mg of caffeine, according to Healthline.

If we estimate around 100mg of caffeine for the average 8oz cup of coffee, that means that every ounce of coffee contains about 12mg of caffeine.

When it comes to cold brew, based on Dunkin’ & Starbucks, each ounce of cold brew coffee contains 13-17mg of caffeine, making it slightly more caffeinated than the average cup of hot coffee.

It’s worth noting, however, that cold brew is most often made as a cold brew concentrate. With a cold brew concentrate, it is highly caffeinated as it is designed to be diluted with water or milk to your preferences.

So, in that sense, cold brew contains much more caffeine than regular coffee, but it is meant to be diluted, which will bring that caffeine content down!

 

Why make decaf cold brew?

You now know what cold brew is all about. So, why should you make your own decaf cold brew?

Glass of decaf cold brew

If you’re anything like me, you love coffee. I love starting my morning with a cold glass of cold brew coffee (or two), but by the time noon rolls around, I’m ready for more.

Some days I just need the extra caffeine boost, which is just fine. But more often than not, I just want the taste of delicious coffee.

Once I started brewing decaf cold brew, it allowed me to drink more cold brews without constantly pumping my body full of caffeine all day long!

Now, I start every day with a regular cold brew coffee, then enjoy a decaf version in the afternoon.

Here are some other reasons you might want to make decaf cold brew:

  1. You’re pregnant or nursing and trying to keep your caffeine consumption to a minimum.
  2. You don’t tolerate caffeine well.
  3. You’re trying to cut back on caffeine, so you start drinking half-caff cold brew.
  4. It’s late in the day and coffee sounds great, but you know the caffeine will keep you awake.
  5. You just want some decaf cold brew!

There are many other reasons why you might want to make your own decaf coffee, and we don’t judge around here. All coffee is welcome!

 

How to make your own decaf cold brew at home

Making cold brew at home is surprisingly easy. In fact, all you need to do is let coffee soak in water, then strain it out.

And although the process is very simple, it’s important to use the right materials and tools for the best result.

That, of course, starts with choosing the right coffee.

Decaf coffee beans

When I make my own decaf cold brew, I always start with decaf dark roast whole beans. Specifically, I love this French roast from Trader Joe’s.

Cold brewing brings out the natural sweetness of coffee, so a dark roast will lead to the deepest flavor. A light or medium roast will work just fine, but if you truly want the best flavor, dark roast is the way to go.

If you only have pre-ground decaf coffee, feel free to use it for your decaf cold brew.

Decaf coffee grounds

While this ground coffee will work just fine, for the best result, you want to use coarse ground coffee, which is why I always recommend grinding your own.

I use the OXO Burr Grinder, which has 15 different size settings for you to choose the perfect coarseness.

Here’s a quick visual breakdown of how the different coffee grinds look:

Different types of coffee grinds

Any coffee grounds will work for cold brew, but you’ll notice a much better end-product if you use coarse coffee.

When it comes to brewing your decaf cold brew, I use this OXO Cold Brew Maker. I wasn’t sure if buying a dedicated cold brew maker would be worth it, but it’s one of the better purchases I’ve made.

OXO cold brew maker

Having a specific system like this is not necessary, but I definitely recommend it to make your life very easy.

This is basically just a container to hold the coffee grounds and water, which then strains out into the small carafe. You can follow a very similar process with a pitcher and strainer, which I demonstrate in my How To Make Cold Brew Concentrate guide.

Brewing cold brew with cold brew maker

To make the decaf cold brew, you simply need to add 10 ounces of ground coffee to the container, then pour 5 cups (40 ounces) of water over the top.

Let the coffee steep at room temperature for 12-24 hours, but I find the best results to be right at the 16-hour mark.

Strain the coffee out, and you’re left with a perfect decaf concentrate!

Diluted cold brew

To serve this decaf concentrate, my preference is to use a 1:2 coffee to water ratio. In other words, add 2 ounces of cold brew to a glass, then add 4 ounces of water.

If that tastes too strong to you, you can use a 1:3 coffee to water ratio, which will be 2 ounces of cold brew and 6 ounces of water or milk. Feel free to experiment until you find the perfect taste for you!

The OXO Cold Brew Maker has a lid that doubles as a 2-ounce measuring cup, which is just another reason why I love it so much.

Enough talking. Go make yourself some delicious decaf coffee!

 

Cold brew in mason jar

How to Make Decaf Cold Brew

Yield: 3 Cups of Concentrate (12-14 Cups of Coffee)
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Additional Time: 16 hours
Total Time: 16 hours 5 minutes

Cold brew coffee is amazing, but if you want to drink a lot of it, you're going to end up with a ton of caffeine in your system. Make this decaf cold brew to enjoy more cold brew in your day, combine it to make a half-caff batch, or go completely caffeine free!

Materials

  • Decaf Coffee Beans (or ground decaf coffee)
  • Cold Water

Tools

Instructions

  1. Grind 10 ounces of decaf coffee beans into coarse ground coffee, or measure out your pre-ground decaf coffee.
  2. Add 10 ounces (about 284g) of coarse ground coffee to your brewing container (or pitcher).
  3. Slowly pour 40 ounces (5 cups) of cold water over the top of the coffee grounds.
  4. If the coffee grounds don’t seem to all be wet, you can take a spatula and mix up the container to make sure all of the coffee grounds are steeping. 
  5. Let the cold brew steep at room temperature for 12-24, but I recommend 16 hours for the perfect length of time.
  6. If using the OXO cold brew maker, place the carafe underneath and flip the switch to drain the coffee concentrate out. If you are not using a cold brew maker, pour your coffee through a mesh strainer to separate the liquid. Then run the liquid through a coffee filter or cheesecloth to remove any "sludge" that may be left behind.
  7. Store your decaf cold brew concentrate in the fridge in a sealed container (either in your carafe, a mason jar, or bottle).
  8. You should get about 3 cups of cold brew concentrate out of this, which will yield 12-14 cold brew drinks!
  9. When ready to serve, use a 1:2 or 1:3 coffee to water/milk ratio. In other words, pour 2 ounces of cold brew concentrate into a glass, then add 4-6 ounces of water or milk depending on your taste preferences.

Notes

This concentrate is made with a 1:4 coffee to water ratio (10 ounces of coffee + 40 ounces of water). If you want to make ready-to-drink decaf cold brew, use a 1:8 ratio (5 ounces of coffee to 40 ounces of water).

A longer steep time doesn't lead to more caffeine. Most of the caffeine is extracted from the coffee beans in the first few hours, so a longer steep time simply results in a stronger flavor (but sometimes that means an over-extracted flavor if it sits too long).

Hot tip (pun intended): You can heat up cold brew and drink it hot! While it may sound counter-intuitive, it will yield an incredibly smooth hot cup of coffee because the cold brewing method removes all of the acidity from the coffee.

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