Cold Brew Coffee to the Rescue: My Coffee Revelation

Cold Brew Coffee

Cold Brew to the Rescue: My Coffee Revelation

Hello folks! Thanks for stopping by The Green Swan. Coffee is often the subject of folks living the frugal life and that is no different for me and my wife, Lucy. Many frugalistas condemn paying for high priced coffee…yes we get it, that $4 latte every day over 30 years could alternatively compound with an 8% return and accumulate to over $165K! That’s no small potatoes!

Coffee is an easy expense target to cut, no doubt about that, but for the Swan household there is no way of avoiding its consumption. Just like any expense in our budget, it is closely scrutinized and evaluated; trying to find the perfect balance in consuming coffee on the cheap, while also enjoying our coffee (aka quality/premium coffee). Not all coffee is created equally, and we have come to like quality coffee!

I want to share a story today on how coffee has evolved for us and how we consume it on the cheap. And the new revelation…cold brew coffee to the rescue.

My History with Coffee Consumption

My consumption of coffee slowly ramped up through college and was full-steam ahead by the time I graduated. At first, I tried to keep it moderate at one cup a day during the week and none on the weekend. I was afraid of being addicted to the caffeine and getting pounding headaches whenever I go a day without it!

Unfortunately, my consumption grew to two cups a day out of necessity. This was in part due to life getting busy…I started my MBA in a nights and weekend program while maintaining a full workload at work. Naturally coffee consumption became more and more important. This is the period where I began routinely increasing consumption to two cups, and more and more frequently having coffee on the weekend.

The addiction is real as I do remember a few times on the weekends where I would get headaches when not consuming coffee. I took that as a sign that I needed to temper my consumption during the week…but I needed it!!

The final straw was when we had our little one two years ago. Coffee consumption was full-bore, two cups a day including weekends and regular consumption of tea in the afternoon at work for a bit more caffeine. Three cups of coffee is not out of the question today, although I try to limit this to only rare situations (i.e. the occasional 90 hour work week where I get 3-5 hours of sleep at night).

The Health Benefits

Great news for all coffee drinkers…there have been numerous studies in recent years praising the health benefits of regular coffee consumption of up to two cups a day. This is what ultimately helped me get comfortable with my growing habit of more and more coffee. And I drink mine black, so no added cream or sugar to my daily diet!

My History with Buying Coffee

Cold Brew Coffee

As I began consuming more and more coffee, I was obviously conscious of how much it would cost. In college I never went out to buy coffee, I solely made it at home and I bought my coffee grounds in bulk to lower the costs. Making my own coffee was cheap, especially with the cheap coffee maker I had, and it got the job done.

When I entered the workforce full-time, my office provided coffee for free. This was awesome! The coffee didn’t taste much better or worse compared to what I would make at home, but I would have been foolish not to take advantage of this. As my consumption increased to the point where I was drinking it more on the weekends, I still had to rely on my home brew.

I began focusing more on the quality and taste of my coffee and naturally got a bit more picky. While I wasn’t ready to splurge for an expensive coffee maker, I was valuing quality coffee more and needed to find a better way to make it.

I bought a Brita water pitcher for better water quality and I cleaned my coffee maker regularly, but I was still buying the cheapest coffee I could find in bulk. This is when I researched and found out that coffee older than two weeks had a higher level of acid and lost its aromatic flavors as it oxidized and resulted in a more bitter taste. And at this point I was basically a full on coffee snob!

My Pursuit for Quality Coffee

My evolution with coffee continued as I began to search for quality coffee and was more willing to spend a few more bucks to get it. Although I still rely on my free work coffee 95% of the time (the office has a Keurig so it is decent coffee), I will occasionally splurge for a Dunkin or Starbucks coffee.

For my weekend coffee, I no longer buy in bulk. Instead I “splurge” and buy the smaller 12 oz packages of premium coffee, such as Starbucks or Dunkin (depending on what is on sale), from the grocery story. Since coffee grounds are only really good for about two weeks as the grounds become exposed to air and oxidize, I might as well only pay for coffee that I can consume relatively quickly. Since I only home brew on the weekends, 12 oz bags are still too big, but a better alternative than buying in bulk quantities.

Two of my brothers have recently bought French presses to make coffee. This is a delicious cup of coffee, but I was not that excited to splurge on the press, the kettle for hot water and grinder for the fresh ground beans like they did.

Although tempted, thankfully I’ve held off on these three products. Why? Because I have recently learned about cold brew coffee!

Cold Brew Coffee: A Coffee Revelation

Cold brew coffee has been around for a couple years, but it is new to me. I first heard about cold brew through my wife and I’ve now seen it advertised more and can be bought in coffee shops and at grocery stores. It has been around for a while, but its popularity is just starting to increase quite a bit.

Just this last weekend we saw some cold brew for sale from the store so we decided to drop $5 on it to test it out. Guess what…I liked it! It was different, but good. It had smooth taste with no bitterness. After my first glass, I started wondering, will hot black coffee ever be good enough for me again!? But buying cold brew coffee from the store wouldn’t be cheap and it isn’t available for free at work…there has to be a better way!Cold Brew Coffee

What is Cold Brew Coffee?

For those of you in the same position I was just a few weeks ago, cold brew requires steeping water in coffee grounds at room temperature for a prolonged period of time, usually 12 to 24 hours. This should not be confused with iced coffee which is brewed hot and then cooled and poured over ice.

Instead of extracting the coffee flavors quickly from high heat through the normal brewing process, cold brewing allows the flavors to release slowly over time at room temperature. The problem with brewing coffee with high heat is that you not only extract the coffee flavors, but also the undesirable acids, bitterness, and oils from the coffee bean. The end product with a cold brew coffee is a slightly flatter, but a naturally sweeter taste (gosh I am such a coffee snob…someone help me!).

The added benefit is that through cold brew, some of the un-extracted attributes of coffee such as the acidity remain in the grounds meaning that freshness of the beans is not as important. So with cold brew coffee I will no longer need to be as worried about consuming the coffee grounds within two weeks from opening the package…the acidity and bitterness won’t be extracted during cold brew anyway.

A Cheaper Cold Brew Coffee

With my new cold brew coffee revelation, my quest is now for a cheaper alternative from buying it in store. A quick search on Amazon and what did I find? My solution…the Takeya cold brew coffee maker. While it is basically the same price as the Hario cold brew coffee maker, it comes with airtight lid locks allowing me to brew and keep it fresh in the fridge for up to two weeks. I will mention, the benefit of the Hario is that it is glass rather than BPA free plastic so it may provide a better, cleaner taste. The Takeya is just fine for me though and my preference.

Another option…perhaps DIY with existing supplies at home. All you need is a coffee pot to steep it in, a seive and some cheesecloth. My brothers could even use the French press they already own to steep and filter the coffee.

Tale of the Tape

The first question on my mind was what is the difference in how much coffee is used to brew hot versus cold and what is the caffeine comparison. I’m no expert, but in searching the web I was able to find some help.

Note that these numbers are a rough SWAG, but generally speaking set your cold brew with a water to coffee ratio of 4:1 at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. This will result in a “coffee concentrate” that can then be diluted with water at a ratio of 1:2 to 1:3 and served in a glass of ice. I’m still playing with this a bit myself, trying to find the right mix and ratios for my taste. But this generally lines up with the same amount of ground coffee producing an equal amount of coffee to drink whether brewed hot or cold.

Imagine waking up in the morning and instead of brewing coffee, you simply grab it from the fridge and pour a glass! Cold brew is a different take on normal coffee. Is cold brew for you? You may just have to try it and find out!

Have you tried cold brew coffee before? What do you think of it? For any baristas out there, what do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for taking a look!

The Green Swan

Work Harder, Work Smarter, Retire Earlier and Find Your Beach


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  1. I’m not a coffee drinker. Don’t like the taste. The same goes for beer. People usually react strangely when I mention this. Tea is my beverage of choice, but try and avoid having it cold to avoid too much sugar. I still like it hot on those cold mornings.

    1. I wonder if you’d care for cold brew since it has a slightly different taste than normal hot coffee?

      Tea is good and good for you as well. Sweet tea is big in the South but I’ve never cared for that.

      Thanks for sharing, Brian.

  2. I’m a 3-4 cups a day coffee guy – have been for years. I’m lucky that I never get the headaches though, even if I have to go a day without. I’m going to have to put cold-brew on my list of things to try. Sounds cool (no pun intended) and I like that it can be ready to go in the fridge!

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. We are cold brew drinkers! We bought a cold press device on line last year and love it. The best part is it’s easy to clean.

    Usually buy beans and grind then with the grinder at the grocery store so they are a little fresher than pre-ground

    Coffee is a must in the AE house

  4. I drank a lot of coffee back in the day, but I never ended up with headaches if i didn’t drink as much on the weekends, whew! I have since switched to 1 to go cup in the morning and green tea all day at work. Mainly, I went to get coffee and had to make a new pot all 3 times I went for it one particular day and decided, “That’s it! I’m drinking tea!” The hot water never has to be refilled, lol.

    Mrs. SSC did a post about cold brew coffee titled “No, I don’t own a Keurig” or some such version of that, but she makes it by just putting whatever appropriate amount of grounds she needs in a Nalgene bottle and then puts it in the fridge. Minus seiving it the next day, that concentrate would last her for a few days, and then she’d just repeat as needed.

    If you’re interested in cheaper “good coffee”, have you thought about roasting your own beans? I get 5 lb bags of greeen coffee beans from a company called “Smokin Beans” and pay about $20-$25 per bag. After your first purchase, mine was thru Amazon, they send you a coupon for 20% off the next order and free shipping, so it cuts the price even further. They have a lot of variety and pretty accurate descriptions on their site.

    Roasting your own beans is easier than you might think, and you get fresh roasted coffee whenever you want, on the cheap. I should really just finish the post I’ve cobbled together about it for more info, lol.

    1. Haha that’s a funny story of how you switched to tea.

      I have to say I never thought about roasting my own beans! Didn’t know that was an option…I’m learning all sorts of new stuff today. I’ll have to look into that more… Or read your post when you get around to finishing it 🙂

      Thanks for sharing, Mr SSC.

  5. Swan, have you tried World Market for buying your coffee? We buy their Sumatra (low acid) blend and for 12 oz it’s only $6.99, plus you get a free bag after every 6 you buy if you are a member of their loyalty program. (We buy 20 ozs for $9.99, as we go through a pot a day, and find the savings and quality worth the inconvenience of making extra trips out just to buy coffee.)

    And we love our coffee grinder. I think my last one lasted 20 years, and beans keep longer than ground coffee and taste better. For us, having one is definitely worth the investment.

    I haven’t tried the cold brew, as I love my hot cups in the morning. But it might be worth trying for decaf, since I do like cold coffee in the afternoon but can’t tolerate the caffeine, and decaf beans are usually not as good.

    1. I haven’t tried their coffee yet, I’ll have you do that. That’s a pretty reasonable deal. I’ve also never tried grinding my own coffee so I guess I don’t know what I’m missing!

      It may be worthwhile for you to try cold brew just to see what you think. I always enjoyed my hot coffee but I’m starting to change my mind.

      Thanks for the comment!

  6. Thanks for sharing this information GW. I’m normally only a weekend coffee drinker myself. Definitely not a coffee snob, and usually just end up grabbing my coffee at McDonald’s for a buck. But I do have a bunch of glass mason jars like in your picture, so maybe I might take a look at cold brewing.

    1. It may be worth a try! But who knows, maybe McDonald’s will follow suit with all the other coffee shops and begin offering a cold brew option for you. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. I don’t drink coffee but Rick LOVES it. Our solution to his addiction is to buy whole bean Colombian Supremo at the warehouse club ($14.98) and use our $15 grinder to grind it fresh each day. He does also add creamer (about $12 a month) but at least we’re keeping it below $30 a month. 🙂

    1. $30 per month all in is pretty reasonable. Seems like many of my readers grind their own coffee! I may need to try that out…

      Thanks Laurie!

  8. I make a strong recommendation for using The Pioneer Woman’s cold brew method- it’s so clean tasting. I do cold brew with ice and 2% milk. Sometimes sugar too.

    As soon as our current coffee maker dies, I will buy a chemex for hot brew because it gives a superior taste (even relative to cones and other gravity brewing methods). But for some reason my coffee maker won’t die- it’s five years old and only cost $15

    I never grind my own beans though- I think it’s a bad habit to get myself addicted to when I have little ones who it could wake.

    1. I just looked up The Pioneer Woman’s method, thanks for sharing. Pretty similar ratios for steeping the coffee. I haven’t tried it with milk before though, I’ll do that tomorrow!

      I just looked up a chemex now too, looks like you are going for a deluxe cup of hot coffee! My wife has talked about the new ninja coffee bar before which looks like it’ll make a good cup too.

      Lol good point about waking up the kiddos with a grinder!

      Thanks for stopping by, Hannah!

  9. The timing of this post is great – thanks for this!

    My wife and I were just talking about the cold brew thing and speculating about ratios, timing, etc. Thanks to you, we’ve got what sounds like an awesome starting-point!

    Thanks much.

    1. Yeah you bet, let me know what you think. As I mentioned above I started falling in it by buying it in the grocery store which isn’t too expensive.

      Thanks for the comment, Thias!

  10. Can’t lie, I am not a fan of coffee. I have only drank it twice in my life, both at conferences for work this summer during my internship and it was ok. I do believe I will drink a lot of it once work begins though so may give this a try at some point!

    1. I hear ya, I started pretty sore in college myself. I rationalize my habit now based on the positive research of its health benefits :).

      Thanks for stopping by, Stefan.

  11. I don’t drink coffee (the horror!), but I do love tea of all kinds. Over the summer, I got in the terrible habit of buying the occasional can of Arizona iced tea. It’s so inexpensive to make my own, but boy was I quick to make that $0.50-$1 purchase a habit. Not good! Sounds like you’re onto something!

    1. I’m a tea fan as well. When researching cold brew options I realized that many of the cold brew makers also can double as a home tea maker. Maybe an alternative for you instead of the cans of Arizona tea? 🙂

      Thanks Penny!

  12. I am not a coffee drinker even though my entire family and extended family all are. But it seems like Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks are currently in a cold brew advertising war lately! My girlfriend actually prefers iced coffee, so she bought a similar cold brew coffee maker that you did last year. It’s much cheaper than buying coffee from the store, and like you said – you have a coffee “concentrate” that lasts longer than you expect. Plus it’s a nice “set it and forget” method of brewing instead of setting a timer on a coffee pot or using the refillable pods on the Keurig.

    1. Absolutely, so many positives to home brew cold brew! It’s been crazy how often I see cold brew advertised lately, it seems like everyone had jumped on board all of a sudden. Even though grocery store has a noticeably larger shelf space devoted to it. I guess I’m jumping on the bandwagon 😉

  13. I’m a double scoop 3 cups a day guy. I haven’t tried cold brew yet… The closest thing I have tried is just ice coffee but that is more like a treat drink and doesn’t really count as coffee sooo much sugar in those drinks.

    I’ll have to try it out… Thanks JW

    1. Yeah I’m not a big fan of iced coffee myself and because of that I was really hesitant to try cold brew. What a pleasant surprise though! Let me know what you think when you end up trying it. Thanks, Ray Ray.

  14. OK – so we cold brew now totally to lessen the acid since my husband went off prescription meds for acid reflux disease. BUT we heat up the coffee so it is still hot coffee most of the time. It is just “cold brewed”. My daughter and I love it for iced coffee too – no need to wait for the coffee to cool, or for the ice to all melt adding the coffee!

  15. I’m amazed that as a life-long coffee drinker I have not heard about this before. Ever. Can you imagine, I have to come to The Green Swan blog to find out about this? I will give this a try because I too don’t like the acidity and sometimes the coffee from my machine just has that coffee maker after-taste. I ordered one just a minute ago!

    1. And I heard about it from my wife who heard about it from an ex-co-worker. Funny how word spreads!

      Let me know what you think. I hope you enjoy! Thanks ERN!

  16. Coming from the small island and everyone thinking we only drink the best of British cuppa tea, not true.

    We have fully embraced the great American tradition of coffee to get ya going.

    I hasten to add that Starbucks is no longer on the regular stop on my way to work.

    Mrs PIE has very good, non traditional coffee shops near her work which continue to tempt her. She is doing admirably resisting. Most of the time.

    I’m not a fan at all of cold brew but Mrs. PIE is and she will be investigating this no doubt!!

    1. Glad you’ve fully embraced the American way! 🙂 Although nothing wrong with some Earl Grey either…

      Great, maybe home brew cold brew will help assist Mrs PIE resist those coffee shops even more!

      Thanks for the comment!

  17. Sounds delicious…!

    Sadly, I seem to have developed an allergy to coffee, or better, cafeine… I used to really enjoy my nespresso shots in the morning and at lunch time… short coffees, 20 ml.

    I have bought some caffeine free patches to try. I hope it tastes as good and does not give the migraine…

  18. I never touched coffee prior to marriage, but here I sit…. 3 years in… fully addicted!

    I have never tried cold brew, but I certainly will now. My only problem with coffee is that it’s so hot which is untenable in the summer. Cold brew could be my solution!

  19. Hmm.. I might even start drinking coffee because of the health benefits that could come from it. I never drink coffee because it keeps me awake at night and I thought that it was bad for you. I might change that after reading this but have to do some research before I change!

    1. Yeah give it a quick Google search and I’m sure some of the studies will come up. It seems like a number of positive studies have come out the last couple years. I try to limit my caffeine in the afternoon so that it doesn’t affect my sleep, but caffeine affects everyone differently. Thanks for the comment, Finance Solver.

  20. Crazy timing – just made a new pot with my Hario! Super cheap and holds about the right amount for a weeks worth. I put it in an insulated stainless steel bottle and take it to work.

    Especially nice as it starts to warm up down here… hard to stomach hot milk when the temperature is 25+. Definitely recommend given it a try!

    1. Nice, thanks for sharing and I appreciate the review on the Hario. The cold brew has been nice for us here too given it is still fairly hot outside, it’s refreshing! Thanks ADI!

  21. Love my coffee but don’t like it cold. I have a kuerig. But I but the cheapest pods for it and also buy coffee on special store brand, folgers and maxwell house are the main ones. I get them on special for 4.99 lots of times

    1. Not a bad way to go, the Keurig is nice and convenient. That’s a pretty good deal on the k-cups too, compared to what I see some of the Starbucks and Dunkin pods go for. Thanks for sharing, Doug!

  22. Great post!
    I thought I was a big coffee lover, but you’re way more dedicated than me haha. It’s something I’ve been wanted to know more about it, though. I wasn’t aware of the details on cold brew vs. ice coffee, so thank you for explaining! I’ve tried 1 or 2 of them from Starbucks and enjoyed them. Thanks again for sharing 🙂

    1. Thanks Graham! It has been fun playing around with cold brew at the home the last couple weeks and it has been pretty convenient in the morning just having to pour a cup. Thanks for stopping by!

  23. I have never seen the word coffee so many times in a pf article, haha. I’m a massive water drinker, I don’t actually like the taste of coffee sadly. I wonder how you’d like Australian coffee, supposedly we’re pretty good at it.


  24. I’m a little late to the party, but when I originally read this, I was not yet a coffee drinker. I strongly disliked the taste of coffee and preferred green tea. I, somehow, managed to make it through 7 years of night school and having two babies without utilizing the pick me up effects of coffee. A few months ago, we had a bug circulating in our house and after a few sleepless nights with sick kiddos, I headed straight to the coffee pot at work one morning out of desperation and exhaustion. It was so gross, but it did the trick. Long story short, I choked down the coffee when I needed some pep in my step. Enter cold brewing.

    About a month or so ago, we came across an infograph on Pinterest about cold brewing and decided to try it. I think it was this one:! We will never brew hot coffee again.

    We don’t have our process refined yet, but we currently buy whole beans (we like Trader Joe’s Organic Breakfast Blend), grind them in a magic bullet, brew overnight in mason jars at room temperature and finally, use a French press for the brewed coffee. We typically drink it iced with almond milk and if we are feeling a little adventurous, even a little maple syrup.

    1. Amazing how different cold brew is, huh?! That’s a funny story how you came around to it. I’ve never tried it with maple syrup… Sounds delicious!

      Thanks for sharing!

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