How to Save Money with Cold Brew Iced Coffee

Need cooled down energy but tired of paying for the ridiculously expensive mark up for iced coffee? Daily iced coffee buyers can save up to $100 a month by making their own iced cold brew coffee. The best part? Home-made cold brew coffee tastes better than what you can buy – even after the ice melts.

Read on to learn how to brew delicious cold brew coffee at home in detail; or just watch our 1 minute video below for an overview on how to do it:

Why Cold Brew?

Cold brew is up to 67% less acid than hot brewed coffee which is why it tastes better. And it’s why it’s easier on sensitive stomachs. Cold brew is an inexpensive way to get ‘coffeehouse’ taste as well. Let’s explore why it is cheaper than traditional iced coffee you would get at a Starbucks for example.

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The Costly Ice-to-Coffee Ratio

So much ice.

For the hot coffee, you’ll always pay less. Iced coffee is always marked up, sometimes as high as 300%. And just like the hot stuff, iced coffee is just mixing coffee grounds with water then adding ice cubes.

According to our research, the major chains like Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks add on average 5 – 9oz of ice. So you’re getting about 8 – 11oz of actual coffee. Those ice cubes are expensive!  The ice-to-coffee ratio is very much like how hard drugs are ‘cut’ with over the counter drugs to get more for less. Who wins from the ice-to-coffee ratio? The coffee dealers… er, coffee shops.

Savings Potential

Let’s take a small iced coffee which is 16oz, minus the ice. Let’s say you only have 6oz of ice because the barista is having a nice day. You’ll have a solid 10oz of actual coffee. A small iced coffee at a Starbucks near us cost $2.65 and at Dunkin Donuts it cost $2.59. So on average, your paying $2.62 for 10 ounces of actual coffee. That is $0.26 per ounce of ‘actual’ coffee.

Now, our method we used a 2lb bag of coffee beans which made us about 4 gallons for $13.99, or $3.49 per gallon (a gallon is 128oz). From that gallon we get about 12 servings, which is $0.29 per serving. That is a $2.33 difference for the average cost of one at Starbucks/Dunkin Donuts! The coffee shop iced coffee costs 803% more than our home made version.

Okay, ready to save money and maximize great taste? It’s time to make cold brew coffee.

How to make Cold Brew Iced Coffee


There are a couple ways to make cold brew iced coffee. The “best” one really depends on your personal taste and equipment budget. A few examples:

  • You can buy a cold brew coffee system like the popular Toddy, great for small batches but you will have to continue buying filters.
  • Simply pouring hot coffee onto lots of ice. The upside, it’s fast. The downside, it’s still acidic and it could have a watered down flavor from the extra ice needed.
  • Putting a bunch of ground coffee into any container with water; letting it sit and filtering the water after 12-24 hours. This gets messy.

Our favorite way is the one gallon method so let’s get going!

What you need

What you need to cold brew

1. Scale

You can ‘guesstimate’ gram amounts of coffee, but we found it tasted better after measuring with a scale like this one.

2. Gallon Container

Gallon Jugs

We used a $29.25 bubba sport jug which stays cool longer and has an airtight seal to keep coffee fresher. For a cheaper container, try a $5.88 Big Bucket Margarita Mix Container, but note that this one is 96oz, not a full gallon which is 128oz so you’ll need to adjust the amounts accordingly.

3. Filter / Nut Milk Bag

We used a nut milk bag, which is something like a large tea bag. However, you can use a cut up cotton t-shirt, cheesecloth or other fabric you have lying around.

4. Coffee


For this we used Cafe Don Pablo Gourmet Coffee Medium/Dark Roast which was $13.99 for 2 pounds ($0.44 per ounce) at the time of this post. Any coffee ground or whole bean will work. One warning however, espresso or medium/dark/bold flavors are often too aggressive for most people so start with a medium roast and move up the darkness scale if you find that too mild.

Some other brands we recommend are Gevalia or Dunkin Donuts light or medium roasts – and don’t forget to check for coupons and in-store deals. We recently got three Gevalia 12oz bags for about $4 at CVS ($0.33 per ounce) using coupons we found online.  Now that’s a sweet deal.

5. Optional: Grinder

In the video we used a $19.99 Secura Grinder. However, most coffee these days comes ground so this is optional. The upside to grinding your own beans is a better and fresher taste.  Ground coffee flavor actually diminishes quickly but if you’re using an entire bag at a time, you won’t have to worry about that.

6. Optional: Measuring Bowl

This is helpful if you are brewing larger amounts of coffee. We suggest something like this measuring cup.

Putting it all together

1. Get the coffee ready

For a good tasting gallon (128oz) of cold brew coffee you’ll need 6-8oz of ground coffee.

  • Measure out 8oz of pre-ground coffee or grind 8oz of your whole bean coffee.
  • Place the ground coffee in a nut milk bag or wrap in a clean t-shirt/fabric.  Make sure the bag or fabric is tied tightly so the grounds don’t escape.
  • For something fun, you can add other ground up ingredients like vanilla beans for extra flavor.

2. Add water & coffee

Once you have the coffee ready, you’ll need to add water to the gallon container.

  • Cold water is better, so pre-chill if necessary. Barismo recommends brewing in water under 40 F.
  • It’s best to fully cover the coffee bag in water and mix it around so the coffee is better incorporated with the water.
  • Seal the coffee container.

3. Let it brew

Now you are ready to brew.

  • Make some space in your fridge or keep it in a cool place.
  • Let the coffee container sit for at least 12 hours but no longer than 24 hours. Brewing too long increases the caffeine content and can alter the taste.
  • While brewing, it’s okay to mix the coffee bag around once or twice to make sure the coffee is well mixed in the water.
  • When you are done, discard the ground coffee (or read ideas below for what to do with coffee grind leftovers).

5. Store it/Serve it

Store for 3-7 days in your fridge and enjoy the great taste of saving money every cup.  For each cup just add ice, pour the coffee and …


What about leftovers?

Here are a few ideas for using the leftover coffee grounds after you make a gallon of cold brew.

  • Add to desert, dinner or any cooked or cold meal for extra flavor.
  • Store and re-use again. Or use the leftover grounds to make coffee ice cubes.
  • Deodorize nasty odors, just let it sit for a few days to absorb odors.
  • Mix together with olive oil for a body scrub.


Here’s a list of all the items we used if you want to check them out.

8/16/17 Update: This Hario Maker is what I’m currently using to brew, it costs $15-17 depending on the day on Amazon.

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by on March 2nd, 2017