In the early 2000s, cold brew coffee was a niche item, a drink for those in the know who sought out specialty coffee shops or combed through online forums trying to perfect their at-home brews. When I first learned about cold brew, it defied everything I thought I knew about coffee. It even sounded sort of silly to describe to someone else. “You just throw coffee grounds in cold water and just...let it sit there?” In the nascent days of cold brew, it would have been easy to write off the trendy new drink as a fad.
But it's now clear that cold brew is here to stay, and there are hundreds of gadgets and gizmos that promise to help you make the best cold brew coffee at home. After hours of rigorous testing, brewing, and drinking, here are my favorite cold brewers to make the perfect cup at home.
The Winners, at a Glance
The Best Cold Brew Coffee Maker: OXO Brew Compact Cold Brew Coffee Maker
The OXO Compact Cold Brew Coffee Maker consistently produced the most delicious cold brew and, unlike many of the other brewers I tested, it's dead simple to use. Its compact size also means it’s easy to store, and it comes with an attractive glass carafe for pouring.
Best for: People who drink a cup or less of cold brew a day; need a simple brewer with minimal instructions; have a small kitchen or workspace; want a brewer that performs well every time.
The Best Cold Brew Coffee Maker for a Crowd: Toddy Cold Brew System
The Toddy Cold Brew System is as ubiquitous in cafes as espresso machines. It makes a liter of cold brew, which is enough to last even the most insatiable cold brew drinkers at least a few days. The Toddy uses both a paper filter and a felt disc to produce an ultra clean cup that's nuanced and smooth and can hold up well to the additions of milk and sugar. Although it’s a little finicky to use, once you get the hang of it, the Toddy cold brewer makes a superb beverage.
Best for: People who want a clean cup of coffee without any soot or coffee particles; who need to make larger amounts of cold brew; who love cold brew from their local coffee shops and want to closely mimic those professional brewing techniques.
The Best Cold Brewer if You Can’t Be Bothered to Buy a Cold Brewer: The Coffee Gator French Press
You don’t need special equipment to make a delicious cup of cold brew and can probably make a decent cup with objects you already own. We tried a few brewers that use mesh filters but I found that I could get a really unctuous and heavy-bodied cup by using my French press with a few simple hacks.
Best for: People who don’t want to purchase a new brewer and who don’t mind a little extra work.
What Is Cold Brew?
What makes cold brew unique is the slow extraction process. Coffee is brewed for a long period of time (usually between 12-24 hours) in cold or room temperature water, strained, and served either cut with water or straight up (if you’re feeling wild and under-caffeinated).
A full day to make coffee might seem complicated, but cold brew is the “set it and forget it” of all coffee-brewing techniques and you don’t need much to make it great, so small details really make a huge impact. (If you'd like to read more about cold brew, this explainer covers all the basics.)
The Criteria: What We Look for in a Great Cold Brew Coffee Maker
A great cold brew coffee maker has two jobs: it has to make great coffee, and it has to be simple to use. While cold brew is easy to make, it can be incredibly messy, so a brewer that’s easy to clean is a necessity.
Why You Should Trust Us
I’ve made hundreds of gallons of cold brew in my 10 years behind the bar. I had one job in particular where it was so popular we’d line up glasses of ice and just continuously pour cold brew and hand it off to guests.
I’ve written a lot about coffee, including reviews on the best espresso machines and milk frothers, for Serious Eats. This cold brew article presented an interesting opportunity—because I didn’t have to drink anything I made immediately, I was able to randomize everything I made to ensure I wasn't influenced by any preconceived notions if which would be the best brewers.
I ultimately found that the design of the brewer had a significant effect on the coffee’s final flavor. Most of the cold brewers I tested fell into two categories: a full immersion brewer that allows water and ground coffee to interact freely or a glass carafe with a cone-shaped basket to hold grounds. I also tested a slow-drip brewer.
At the end of the day, the brewers that made the best cups of coffee won out. I tested all samples without knowing which was which: I made coffees on each brewer, drained the concentrate (every cold brewer yielded a “concentrate” that was meant to be diluted once ready to drink), and labeled each concentrate in a mason jar with a number. Then, my partner, Jesse, who also works in coffee, diluted each sample and randomly arranged them by letter. We sampled the first two test batches and then brought in another friend, who owns a local coffee shop in the neighborhood, to test the final batch with us. Everyone recorded their impressions silently and then we talked about the results once we all tasted and made our determinations.
As a control, I bought cold brew from a local shop and picked up a bottle of ready-made cold brew to test alongside the samples.
I put each of my 10 brewers through two rounds of randomized testing. Once I eliminated my least favorite brewers, I then designed a third test, broken up into two parts. Finally, I considered usability and ease of cleaning.
Test 1: Standardized Brewing
For this test, I wanted to brew every coffee exactly the same, regardless of the instructions that came with each machine. Based on Stumptown Coffee's Brent Wolczynski’s recommendations in this cold brew FAQ, I used the ratio of 12 ounces of coffee (a standard retail bag size) to 64 ounces of water (for easy math, that ratio is 1:5.33, so if you know how much coffee you’re using, just multiply by 5.33), and scaled this up and down based on the capacity of the brewer.
I didn’t agitate any of the ground coffee when brewing, so I did notice that some of the brewers had dry spots that weren’t fully saturated. Some of the brewers specifically say not to agitate—the Filtron and the OXO brewers both have a perforated lid with dozens of tiny holes meant to drop water on the coffee almost like rainwater, so for this first round I didn’t agitate.
I brewed each sample for 16 hours at room temperature with filtered water and used a coffee readily available in my grocery store (Wonderstate Coffee’s Driftless Blend, which is usually made up of a rotating selection of coffees—as of this writing, it’s actually composed solely of a coffee from Mexico. They give each coffee a rating based on how light or dark the coffee is roasted, one being light and five being dark roasted, and this received a 4/5). I let the brewers drain, put the coffee in the fridge for two hours, and then labeled each one from 1-12 in identical Mason jars. I also bought ready-made cold brew from the store and cold brew from my local coffee shop to use as controls.
Then I asked Jesse to randomly assign each jar a letter and relabel them, noting which letter corresponded to each number—he didn’t know what the numbers meant, and I didn’t know how the samples were arranged once we switched to letters. We diluted each sample with a 1:1 ratio—each glass got two ounces of cold brew concentrate and two ounces of filtered water—and we added two ice cubes to each drink. We cupped the coffees separately, took notes, and then, together, shared our favorite samples.
I held onto these samples and tasted them a week later to see how the flavor changed and degraded over time. Wolczynski recommends hanging onto cold brew for about a week, and I noticed that brewers with paper filters made coffee that retained its original complexity and deliciousness, which is likely because paper filters are better at removing oils that can quickly go rancid.
Test 2: Sampling Based on Instructions
For the second test, we used the same coffee and employed each brewer’s instruction manual to make coffee. We kept some things uniform for the sake of consistency: we brewed for 16 hours this time (almost every instruction manual gave a 12-24 hours time frame). We also diluted each sample based on the manual’s suggestions.
We recorded our results and, combined with our impressions from Test 1, we whittled down the field to our four favorites.
Test #3: Maximize the Potential
Once we settled on our four favorite brewers, we decided that this test should maximize the potential of each brewer. However, we still wanted to do some of the testing without knowing which brewer produced which coffee, so we broke up the testing into two phases.
Phase 1: We used a different coffee—a light-roasted single origin coffee from Ethiopia—to determine how well each brewer would work with a range of roast profiles and origins. We followed the protocol set in Test 2, then sampled each coffee and discussed our results.
Phase 2: Once we knew which coffee was from which brewer, we experimented with dilution. We discussed what we liked about each coffee and tried to achieve the most balanced cup possible.
Usability and Ease of Cleaning
Cold brew is a messy game because you have to transfer ground coffee once the brewing process is done. There’s nothing worse than dropping a bag of cold, wet grounds on the floor, and even if you’re careful, you’re likely dripping cold brew somewhere.
Removing the grounds from your finished product was incredibly easy with some brewers and a logistical nightmare with others. I also took into account the size of each brewer, how easily it sat on my counter, and what extras it came with.
The Best Cold Brew Coffee Maker: OXO Brew Compact Cold Brew Coffee Maker
Compact? Check. Easy to use? Check. Affordable price? Check. Makes delicious coffee? Check. The OXO compact brewer ticks every box.
The OXO brewer is deceptively simple. You don’t need a scale to measure out coffee—the brewer has a dot on the front to indicate where you fill your coffee up to. It also comes with a carafe that has a dot to indicate how much water to use, and the carafe doubles as a depository for your concentrate once you’re done brewing. There’s even a cute lid with a silicone seal to keep your coffee fresh.
Design-wise, the OXO brewer has two key features that differentiate it from the rest of the brewers we tested: the rainmaker showerhead and a spring-loaded base that only dispenses cold brew when nestled on top of the carafe. Is this rainmaker essential? No, but what it does is ensure that your coffee grounds are saturated evenly.
The spring-loaded valve release is so wonderfully clever that I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw this function on other cold brewers in the future. All you have to do to dispense cold brew is to place the carafe below the brewer….and walk away. It takes about 10 minutes to fully dispense, and you don’t have to awkwardly hold a bag of grounds over your brewer to get every last drop of cold brew.
The OXO brewer doesn't have a paper filter, but the mesh screen built into the base does a great job filtering out most silt and grit. Some coffee oils will end up in your final brew—this was fine initially, but when I tried the brewed coffee a week later, I noticed some funkiness; I much preferred older cold brew produced by brewers with a paper filter. However, the OXO compact brewer only makes about 16 ounces of cold brew concentrate, so I imagine most people would work through that amount in a week or less.
Coffee from the OXO performed consistently well. The first coffee we tried tasted like chocolate, which is a classic cold brew note, and it had a nice balance between flavor clarity and body. It also stood out in Test 2, and we were pleased with the recommended dilution instructions (they recommend a 1:2 or 1:3 ratio of coffee to water, and we agreed that somewhere in the middle was the right amount). On Test 3, the Toddy and the Filtron allowed the flavors of the Ethiopian coffee to shine more than the OXO, but it still produced a fun and exciting drink.
The Best Cold Brewer for a Crowd: Toddy Cold Brew System
If you’ve worked in a cafe or ordered cold brew from one, you’ve likely had a Toddy-brewed coffee. The home version of the Toddy cold brewer works exactly like its industrial counterpart and produces clean and sweet coffee that holds well over time.
The Filtron and Toddy performed similarly and feature a lot of the same design elements: They’re both plastic buckets with a hole at the bottom for coffee to drain out of, and they both have a place for a felt screen to help with filtration. Both come with their own comically sized proprietary paper filters, which contribute to the cleanness of each cup.
I picked the Toddy because its parts are easier to replace. The Toddy brewer came with four felt screens, two stoppers, and three proprietary paper filters. The Filtron came with one felt screen, one stopper, and three filters. I also googled “order more Toddy filters” and “order more Filtron filters” and got way more hits for Toddy filters than Filtron ones.
Jesse didn’t pick out the Toddy on the first test, but I did, and I’m glad because the coffee brewed on the Toddy was vastly improved by one simple step: agitating the grounds. I didn’t agitate them on Test 1 as per the protocol, but I did in Test 2 and found the coffee to be much fuller and richer in flavor. The Toddy brew held up well as it sat in my fridge and reacted well to the single origin coffee, displaying the most balance and showcasing the high notes of stone fruit and sugar candy sweetness.
The Toddy makes enough cold brew for a crowd (a full liter), but it can be annoying to clean. If you’re into a zero-waste brewing experience, the paper filter can be kind of a bummer, but the Toddy gives you instructions on how to brew with and without the filter (spoiler alert: they’re essentially identical, you just don't use the filter).
The Best Cold Brewer if You Don't Want to Buy a Cold Brewer: The Coffee Gator French Press
As a person who’s never been a huge fan of French pressed coffee (I prefer filter coffee), I am constantly surprised by how versatile the French press can be. This was the wildcard out of our picks, but, as Jesse pointed out, the French press is just a less fancy version of all the immersion brewers we loved.
The French press as a cold brewer is vastly improved with just a few tricks. When I tasted the French press after Test 1, I noted a pronounced heaviness. For Test 2, since the French press didn’t come with cold brewing instructions, I used a Stumptown recipe from Wolczynski’s FAQ. Per his recommendation, I decided to run the final brew through a paper filter to pick up some of the grit at the bottom of the cup. I also agitated the grounds and made sure they were well mixed with the water.
The mechanics of a French press aren’t much different than most cold brewers. The only noticeable difference is that it takes forever to run the final brew through a paper filter—I set up my Kalita brewer with a paper filter, poured the concentrate, and was still waiting for the final dregs to drain out an hour later. I think the flavor of coffee made in the OXO and the Toddy (and the Filtron) was slightly more nuanced, but the French press performed far and away better than any of the brewers that used a cylinder mesh or metal filter.
- If I had to rank all the brewers in terms of taste, the Filtron would have won—but just barely. The differences in flavor were so minute and weren’t worth how finicky it was to source and find parts.
- The TAKEYA Patented Deluxe Cold Brew Coffee Maker is one of the most popular devices on Amazon, but its design resulted in underextracted coffee and it was a pain to clean.
- If I had to describe the OXO Good Grips Cold Brew Coffee Maker, I’d say it’s like they took the best parts of the Filtron and made them more functional and prettier to look at. But it simply didn’t pass the taste test, and its compact counterpart brewed a superior cup.
- I had high hopes for the KitchenAid KCM5912SX Cold Brew Coffee Maker because it looked liked it was designed to fit in the fridge and the spigot for dispensing coffee seemed clever, but its mesh screen was difficult to remove (and heavy—you had to hold it over the top to let cold brew drain) and the coffee it produced was mouth puckeringly bitter and strange.
- The County Line Kitchen Durable Cold Brew Mason Jar Coffee Maker had the same flaws at the TAKEYA—it was underextracted and weak.
- Out of all the brewers with a cone shaped mesh or metal filter, the Ovalware is the most attractive and doubles as a brewer and pitcher, but it suffered the same problems as other brewers with similar designs.
- The Bruer Cold Drip Coffee System uses a slow drip to make cold brew, but it’s difficult to use and makes a very distinctive cup of coffee—one that I enjoyed a few sips of but found to be overwhelming.