To bring you the best, easiest cold brew at home, we tested a range of devices using a wide set of criteria (outlined below) over several weeks. We measured, dripped and steeped, patiently waited and poured our way through a 5-pound bag of Stone Street Coffee’s cold brew reserve grind, which produced a rich, nutty, chocolaty concentrate. We tasted each brew on its own straight from the carafe, over ice and with as many different milks as we could keep in our refrigerator — and when we ran out of storage, we gave carafes to neighbors for their feedback. We drank a massive amount of cold brew, and we became converts.
Countless icy and quickly condensating glasses later, we settled on three standout brewers:
The best cold brew coffee maker
The beauty of cold brew coffee shines with this device, which falls at the intersection of function, style and affordability. And the system couldn’t be easier to operate, even if one had come to it never having made a batch of cold brew.
The Mizudashi arrives in a slim, sparsely designed cardboard rectangle, and it’s a perfect harbinger of the space-conserving, efficient experience to come. There are, of course, simple but precise directions, with helpful graphics, but if you’re more touch-and-go with your coffee, you simply fill the filter with grounds to the top of the mesh, place the filter back into the carafe and slowly pour filtered water over the grounds until the carafe is full. (Even at a slow pour, this process takes maybe 60 to 90 seconds.) There’s a mark on the filter that you align with a mark on the spout of the carafe before you replace the lid to keep the filter from coming out when you remove the lid. When the lid is on, put the entire thing in the fridge and wait eight hours or so, to your preferred cold brew strength, and you’ve got 1 liter of liquid magic: roasty, chocolaty, nutty, smoky, but smoother than any coffee we’d ever tasted. All the pluses of cold brew come through in this compact delivery system.
From the unboxing of this beauty on, design lovers will appreciate the tall, slender carafe, which could be proudly displayed on any table and will fit unobtrusively on kitchen counters or within most cabinets. The filter is constructed of a light mesh and plastic. The lid and handle, made from a durable plastic that easily screws on and off during brews and cleanup, make the whole glass setup less precarious for the clumsy among us. A plastic lid secures the filter and, once the filter is removed after steeping is done, the remaining liquid in the carafe. And cleanup is easy, thanks to the bottom of the mesh filter unscrewing for easy dumping of used grounds.
This pitcher produced consistently robust coffee and looked great (in one of three colors: black, brown and red) doing so.
Other cold brew coffee makers we recommend
How our recommendations compare
Best cold brew coffee maker overall
Best cold brew coffee maker for design lovers
Best cold brew coffee maker for travel
|What we loved||
The Hario Mizudashi is sleek, sophisticated and streamlined. It's among the simplest to assemble and use, it executed an exemplary brew in about the shortest time span and it looked snazzy doing it.
The Ovalware RJ3 is pleasingly easy to use and a handsome visual addition to a breakfast table. As straightforward as any of the brewers, this was one of the most upscale design-wise, without feeling fussy.
Affordable and unbreakable, the Takeya cold brew maker is great for taking with you wherever you want a cool, refreshing coffee drink.
|What we didn't like||
The Hario uses a lot of plastic parts, and while they are well built, they may not appeal to those looking to avoid the material.
The glass handle feels more fragile, and while we didn't run into any problems, we worry that in a high-traffic household with kids or pets or under heavy use it might break over time.
The plastic construction means it doesn't feel as high-end as some of the other brewers; can leak when turned on its side for brewing if you aren't careful.
1-liter capacity; plastic and glass construction with steel mesh filter; available in brown, black or red
1-liter capacity; all-glass carafe, all steel filter
1.8-liter capacity; all-plastic construction
How we tested
The testing process for these cold brewers was exhaustive, lasting more than five weeks. We evaluated each device based on criteria important to users, namely function, durability and design. We tested each device at least twice, using the same pre-ground coffee from Stone Street. We took photos of each device’s unboxing, assembly and use, and we took notes in a spreadsheet about every detail of each of these brewers, from how they felt in our hands and how much counter space they demanded to how they appeared during the brewing process and the liquid they produced at the end of that process. We became enamored with many of these brewers as well as their end result: the sumptuous cold brew that became our morning’s mission over these summer weeks. We drank gallons of cold brew, and yes, lay awake at night thinking about the pros and cons of each of these devices. Read on for our evaluation criteria and their breakdowns.
- Optimal taste: We tasted the cold brew from each device immediately after completing the recommended brew cycle, on its own, with ice, with added cold water, with different types of milks and a day later. We rated each brewer based on the taste and perceived level of acidity of its cold brew.
- User-friendliness: We assessed how user-friendly each brewer is, both for someone who has never attempted cold brew before and for a regular cold brew consumer. We noted how easy each brewer was to assemble, how carefully each set of directions needed to be read (if at all), whether the markings on each device are easy to read and follow and whether each device was intuitive or complicated to operate. Overall, we considered how easy it was with each device to produce a batch of cold brew, from the first opening of the brewer box through the first taste of cold brew.
- Volume yield: We noted how many ounces or liters each device can brew and assessed how that capacity would enhance the overall user experience of that brewer — e.g., some users desire larger batches, while others may be happy to produce less in one usage.
- Everyday durability/signs of damage: For this category, we observed how each brewer felt during setup, if the parts felt stable or precarious and if any of the parts could be easily damaged during a standard brew cycle.
- Build quality: We noted what materials each brewer is made of — glass, plastic/silicon, metal — and the tangible feel of each of those materials and parts in the user’s hands.
- Serviceability: We observed the ease of opening and taking apart each of the brewers, in the case that the device would need to be serviced or parts replaced.
Setup and breakdown
- Ease of assembly: We noted how long it took to unbox each device, how many minutes it took to assemble and whether there was any setup beyond just washing the parts with warm, soapy water.
- Size: We observed how much space each device took up on the counter both during coffee setup, during the eight to 24 hours of brewing and in the refrigerator once the cold brew is finished.
- Ease of cleanup: After each cold brew process, we noted the effort needed to clean the filter or brew basket, the carafe and any additional parts, including storage of the parts that aren’t used after the brew process is complete.
- First impression: We noted our first impression of each brewer, whether it was an appealing design and if we would want to place it on a breakfast table or look at it each morning in the refrigerator.
- Multiple color availability: We researched whether each brewer came in any colors besides the standard black.
- Warranty: We checked the number of years of warranty for each device.
Other cold brewers we tested
County Line Kitchen Cold Brew Coffee Maker
From $28 at Amazon
From the standpoint of ease, the County Line Kitchen Cold Brew Coffee Maker was a clear standout.
Essentially a Mason jar with a screw-on lid, handle and pop-up spout, this contraption couldn’t be easier to set up, pour and clean. While the County Line Kitchen model made 1.75 liters of formidable brew with little mess or labor, it didn’t score as high in aesthetics. It’s not a high-design item, and for the more modern, discerning types among us, this may not be their, um, cup of brew. Its straightforward, rustic design also extends to the packaging and directions; when we read the brochure that comes with the County Line Kitchen model, it felt like something that might be sold in the gift store of a roadside country diner, which is an aesthetic that isn’t for everyone. For function alone, though, this one gets an honorable mention.
Oxo Good Grips Cold Brew Coffee Maker
$50 at Amazon
The Oxo Good Grips maker brewed pretty near-perfect cold brew, but the whole thing felt a bit like a chemistry experiment. You fill a big plastic tub with a whole lot of ground coffee, then you put a plastic perforated cover on it and pour the water through that cover, activating a “rainmaker” effect that supposedly evenly distributes the water over the grounds for optimal flavor extraction. There aren’t any measurement markings on the brewing container, so in theory, you use the glass carafe that eventually holds the cold brew — which resembles a chemistry beaker and does have measurements — to measure.
After letting the grounds steep in the container for 12 to 24 hours, you place the container on top of a third piece — a tower — that has a switch to release the brew, allowing it to slowly drain into the carafe. Once the coffee concentrate has drained into the carafe, you can move the plastic pieces of this tower (which nest for easy storage when not in use) aside, top the carafe with a plastic, sealable lid and store the nice-looking carafe in the refrigerator.
During the steeping and once the coffee is brewed, this setup is fairly simple, but with all the parts laid out, it feels more cumbersome than necessary, as we thought to ourselves while unboxing this one: This isn’t an assemble-after-two-glasses-of-wine apparatus (unlike the winners).
Bonus: Oxo also makes a very cute compact version of this brewer that’s $20 cheaper and yields 16 ounces. It’s a “mini me” that’s equally functional and more fitting for smaller homes/kitchens/fridges.
KitchenAid Cold Brew Coffee Maker
$110 $90 at Target
The KitchenAid model brewed excellent, very strong cold brew after 11 hours, and it offers a lot of appeal. However, its higher price tag, more cumbersome assembly and slightly more complicated brewing process knocked it out of contention for a winning title. There are four components to assemble, so out of the box, it feels a bit more intimidating, but once we read the directions and did put it all together, this one was fairly turnkey. Fill a stainless steel steeping bucket with grounds, place it inside the brew jar and fill the whole thing with water. The next morning, or 12 hours later, remove the steeping bucket, and voilà: 28 ounces of cold brew in a solid square glass jar, with a tap for easy, spill-proof dispensing and a handle for easily moving the jar from counter to refrigerator and back again.
We did find what appeared to be a confusing error in the directions to our KitchenAid: The diagram of which way to turn the tap while steeping did not match the written directions, so we spilled some of the “coffee water” while filling the brewer. Once we had this brewed and set, though, the coffee-tap function was rather pleasing, as is the handle, which turns this device into a coffee clutch of sorts. If you’re interested in those extra features, the KitchenAid is right for you.
Bruer Cold Drip System
$80 at Amazon
If it’s possible for a design to be both complicated and intuitive, the Bruer hits the mark. Everything about this feels extra, to both its benefit and detriment. The brewer arrives in a stunning cylindrical cardboard package, and the buyer gets excited, thinking they’re opening a fancy piece of glassware or some high-minded European wooden toy. There are about six different pieces to the brewer, including sleek curved glass, bright colorful silicon and brushed metal — the whole thing feels like an industrial design installation.
You add ground coffee, then slowly add a bit of water to bloom the grounds, then add remaining (ice) water and, finally, adjust the drip valve to let the water drip through the coffee at the rate of about one drip per second. So with this setup, you’re actually very slowly brewing the coffee, one drip at a time, over about six hours. Watching this brewer do its magic is mesmerizing and worthy of a time-lapse video — this is perhaps the Technivorm MoccaMaster of cold brewers — and for that reason, plenty of users will love it. It does make an excellent cup of cold brew, but not everyone will want this much processing just to get a cup of coffee. Gosh, it’s fun to observe, though, if you have the patience and need a new hobby.
Filtron Cold Water Coffee Concentrate Brewer
$40 at Filtron
The Filtron is an old-school kind of setup: a big bucket that you fill with grounds and then put a literal plug in the bottom, a water bowl on top and a plastic guard in between. The water slowly drips into the coffee bowl, and the brew slowly steeps. Steeping takes 12 to 24 hours, then you place the bowl on top of the carafe (which resembles a wine carafe in an old Little Italy red-checkered-tablecloth restaurant), unplug and watch the coffee drip through. The result is 1.5 liters of cold brew, which is a nice amount for a bigger group or family.
Setup of the Filtron, though — washing all the components, soaking the filter pad, measuring out the coffee and water — took about 20 to 25 minutes, which, compared with the other devices we tested, just felt like a lot. Also, there’s no top to cover the water bowl during steeping; one could and probably should cover the bowl with plastic wrap, but the fact that there isn’t a built-in part to cover it felt like a design omission. Still, the carafe is cute and easy to store in the refrigerator. In the end, the resulting coffee was fine but not among the best brews we tasted, and this all felt like more effort than we wanted to invest.
Toddy Cold Brew System
$40 at Amazon
The Toddy operates similarly to the Filtron: Fill a big plastic bucket with grounds, plug up the bucket at bottom, fill the bucket with water, let steep and release coffee into carafe 12 to 24 hours later. The Toddy process is appealing in a way, like a giant chemistry set, but like the Filtron, it’s a lot of parts and labor for an outcome similar to what you’d get with less complicated devices.
The brew bucket balances on a skinny foundation, and during testing, we were anxious that it might tip over and spill its 1.65 liters of dark syrup all over the counter and floor (it did not). It also takes up a lot of counter space, and the bucket, which is white, is a bit laborious to clean since the grounds’ oils stick to it and are visible on the white plastic. The whole thing is a little involved, we thought, but if you like your Coffee Making, with a capital C and capital M, to feel like a mad scientist’s lab, this is a fun option to try.
Dash Cold Brew Coffee Maker
$150 at Amazon
The Dash Cold Brew Coffee Maker was different from any other device we tested; it’s the only machine that makes cold brew fast, in five to 15 minutes, depending on how much time you have. That’s a fun feature, if somewhat unorthodox in the cold brew universe. There are multiple parts to this machine (and yes, it plugs into an outlet and uses electricity), and the first time we tested it, we didn’t secure the filter properly and coffee liquid began spewing all over the countertop — our bad, sure, but you do have to pay attention when putting this together for the first time.
It operates in a way like a stovetop percolator, in that you pour water into one section, and it percolates quickly, through grounds, to another section, resulting in coffee liquid. This process, which makes a slightly distracting whirring sound for those five to 15 minutes, ultimately makes a delicious cold brew — and one that doesn’t take a whole night to make — but it does take some patience to assemble and get working. If you want cold brew, you want it now and you’re not a purist when it comes to process, this is an appealing option. It is, however, difficult to get all the liquid coffee out of the maker if you are, say packing it up to move or storing it for the winter. Bottom line: You’ll get cold brew in a few minutes, if that’s your wish.
Read more from CNN Underscored’s hands-on testing: