Cold brew coffee is taking the world by storm and new gear and tools launch every week with the intention of entering the thriving cold brew market. With all the noise, it can be difficult to sift through and find the information that is most valuable and relevant.
Update: We thought after a year it would be a good idea to give this a quick update with some of the new products on the scene!
That’s what this blog is for: breaking down the main differences between immersion cold brew and drip cold brew styles so that you don’t have to do any more research. These two cold brew coffee styles produce similar results, but the processes are quite different. One may suit your lifestyle and flavor preferences more than the other - and that’s what we’re looking to find out.
Close out your other research tabs and settle in. We’re about to go deep into the mechanics of making cold brew coffee.
Immersion Cold Brew vs Drip Cold Brew
Immersion Cold Brew Coffee
Most people who make cold brew coffee at home use the immersion method. It’s fairly simple, hands-off, forgiving, and produces full-bodied cold brew coffee that’s great over ice.
To cold brew using this method, simply immerse coarsely ground coffee in cold water. Since cold water extracts solids, oils, acids, and the other yummy stuff we like in coffee very slowly, you’ll want to leave the grounds submersed for 12 to 18 hours, depending on a few things.
- If you store your coffee and water mixture in the fridge while it brews, the temperature will drop and the coffee will require more time to produce a strong flavor and pleasant balance.
- If you brew with the vessel on a kitchen counter, the process will require less time.
Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Pot
Once the time is up, you just need to filter the coffee grounds out of the brewed coffee. This can be done with just about any type of coffee filter, though not all filters will produce the same results. Metal filters, for example, will produce a slightly more oily body, while paper filters will contribute to a cleaner body.
Since there’s no special technique or process, there’s a lot of flexibility when it comes to your brewing vessel. Many people just use their french press, but several products have been released in recent years that make immersion cold brewinga little easier than it already is.
Immersion brewers like the Hario Cold Brew In A Bottle and Hario Cold Brew Pot allow you to fill a removable filter will coffee grounds and lift it up and out when the brewing is complete. Other products, such as the Body Brew and Fellow Duo Steeper, work by filling a chamber with coffee grounds and water and having you flip the device over when the brewing is complete, causing the liquid coffee to drain through a filter into a separate chamber.
This style of brewing tends to work better when you brew a concentrate, rather than ready-to-drink coffee. This means that you can cut the concentrate with water and iced to make iced coffee or you can get creative with other ingredients.
- 12-18 Hours
- Full-Bodied Brew
- Very Concentrated
Drip Cold Brew Coffee
The drip cold brew coffee method is more hands-on than the immersion method, but in some ways it is more convenient. Instead of having to wait 12+ hours for your cold brew, you can have in 3-5 with the drip method. Flavor-wise, drip cold brew coffee tends to be a bit lighter and brighter than immersion cold brew coffee.
Hario Shizuku Slow Drip Brewer
This brewing style takes less time because of the way the mechanics work. Ice cold water is slowly dripped onto a bed of coarsely ground coffee. The water slowly makes its way through the coffee and falls through a filter into a carafe below.
Imagine putting some food coloring in a sponge. If you submerge the sponge, the color will slowly seep out, but it’ll take a while for the water to change colors. If you run fresh water over the sponge, that falling water will grab hold of the food coloring and drag it out relatively quickly. This is akin to how drip cold brewing works: the pure water drops are ripe for extraction and pull things out of the grounds quickly.
Now “quickly” for drip cold brewing is still 3-5 hours, but that’s nothing compared to the many hours of immersion cold brewing.
This style of cold brewing isn’t as accessible as immersion brewing. Since the process requires you to drip water very slowly (2 drops every 3 seconds or so), you’ll probably need some specialized equipment to get started.
If you’ve got plenty of room, you may want to opt for one of the beautiful tower-style drippers, such as the Tiamo Cold Dripper or Yama Cold Drip Coffee Maker. These fancy brewers are fascinating to watch and can really transform a kitchen. There are some lower profile drip cold brewers though, such as the Hario Shizuki,Bruer, and OXO Cold Dripper. New to the drip cold brew game is the Dripster, which we'd say is one of the best value cold brew makers on the market today.
Yama Cold Drip Coffee Maker
You can brew a concentrate with this style of cold brewing, but it’s difficult to reach the same level of concentration that immersion cold brewers can achieve.
- 3-5 Hours
- Medium-Bodied Brew
- Somewhat Concentrated
- Visually Stunning
Which Cold Brew Style Is Right For You?
You can’t go wrong either way, but one of these cold brewing styles may suit your lifestyle and preferences more than the other.
Immersion cold brewing is excellent for you if you’re looking for a forgiving hands-off method that you can start and come back to the next day. These brewers are affordable, simple to use, and can produce a very concentrated form of cold brew that can be used to make iced coffee, iced cold brew lattes, and other creative drinks.
There are two main types of coffee brewer - drip, and immersion. They each make coffee slightly differently, but one of them is far more efficient. Here's why!
Drip cold brewing is great for you if you’re interested in a hands-on method that can give you rich and balanced cold brew coffee in just a few hours. These brewers require more tinkering, but they’re beautiful to watch, rewarding to use, and produce a less intense, yet still versatile, cold brew coffee concentrate.
By now the answer should be becoming more clear. Will you go with the robust, forgiving, and lengthy immersion method - or will you go for the hands-on, rewarding, and stylish drip method?
Either way, if you’re in the market for some new gear, we’ve got you covered. Check out our cold brew coffee makers and get started making stellar iced coffee.