Iced coffee in a tall glass

How to Make Perfect Cold Brew Iced Coffee


As a coffee lover, there’s one thing I just didn’t get—Iced Coffee. What?! The idea left me well, cold. Coffee is supposed to be hot. Very, very hot. And then I made a serious mistake. I accepted a sample of iced coffee in a popular coffee shop. It was strong, sweet, creamy, and icy, icy cold. Wow.

Iced coffee in a tall glass

I needed to figure out how to make this myself—it was that good—because as much as I might want iced coffee again, I was not going to pay the outrageous price to have someone else make it for me.

One might think, as did I, that pouring hot coffee over ice, adding milk and sugar would do the trick. Not exactly. Not even close.

The problem is that the ice seriously dilutes the coffee, a dilemma that sent me in search of the secret for why the sample was not at all diluted. That’s when I discovered that Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, is quite an iced coffee aficionado and quite willing to share her secrets.

Make cold brew

First, you must make a big batch of very strong “cold brew” coffee concentrate. This is the secret. You’ll need a large container, ground coffee, and water. And time—at least 8 hours (exact recipe and instructions below).

Cold brew coffee is not just coffee served cold. The thing that makes it cold brew coffee is that the brewing process itself happens without heat. Instead of steeping the grounds in hot water, you steep them in cold water for a lot longer.

And while you can make as little as one cup of cold brew concentrate at a time, why? I’d rather make 2 gallons at a time because it’s excellent for up to six weeks in the refrigerator.

Now you’re ready

Once you have that beautiful concentrate locked and loaded, it’s time to make a tall, beautiful, lovely iced coffee! You’ll need ice, coffee concentrate, and your choice of milk, cream, and or sugar. Or just drink it black. It will be non-acidic and not the least bit bitter. (Complete recipe below.)

And there you have it: Icy cold, undiluted, perfect iced coffee!

A cup of coffee on a table, with Iced coffee and Sugar

The Pioneer Woman’s Perfect Iced Coffee

Start small

Not ready to commit to nearly two gallons of coffee concentrate? No problem. Scale down the proportions: 2 tablespoons of ground coffee for each cup of cold water.

In any proportion, iced coffee made this way is even better than the sample that got me into this in the first place.

Updated 4-14-23


Iced coffee in a tall glass
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5 from 7 votes

How to Make Perfect Cold Brew Iced Coffee

As a coffee lover, there’s one thing I just didn’t get—Iced Coffee. What?! The idea left me well, cold. Coffee is supposed to be hot. Very, very hot. And then I made a life-impacting mistake. I accepted a sample of iced coffee in a popular coffee shop. It was strong, sweet, creamy and icy cold. Wow! The secret is in the cold brew coffee concentrate.
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time0 minutes
Brewing time8 hours
Total Time8 hours 30 minutes
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Servings: 1 servings
Calories: 203kcal


For a Single 12-oz Serving Iced Coffee

  • 1 ½ cups ice
  • 8 ounces cold brew coffee concentrate
  • 2 oz cream optional
  • 2 tspn sugar optional


To Make Proper Coffee Concentrate

  • Into a very large container, dump one pound of ground, dark, rich coffee. Any brand will do.
  • Now pour in 8 quarts (2 gallons) of cold water.
  • Stir with a wooden spoon until all of the dry coffee is wet. Cover. Allow to steep at room temperature for at least 8 hours, longer is just fine.
  • Line a large sieve or colander with several layers of cheesecloth and pour the steeped coffee grounds through. You’ll need to prod it a bit to get all of that coffee perfectly sieved, but stick with it. You’ll end up with just shy of 8 quarts of rich, dark coffee concentrate that will be void of bitterness and very low in acidity.
  • Discard the coffee dregs; tightly cover and place the concentrate in the refrigerator.

To make a tall, cold, wonderful glass of Perfect Iced Coffee

  • Fill a 12-ounce glass―or a one-quart canning jar―with ice.
  • Pour very cold coffee concentrate over the ice until the glass or jar is about 3/4 full.
  • Add your choice of milk or cream, optional.
  • Add the amount of sugar you need to make it as sweet as you desire, optional. Stir to mix.


Note 1:  Not ready to commit to nearly two gallons of coffee concentrate? No problem. Scale down the proportions: 2 tablespoons of ground coffee for each cup of cold water.
Note 2: The water you use is important: If your tap water is highly chlorinated (taste it, smell it to discover this; if it tastes good to you, use tap water here), opt for bottled or filtered water.
Note 3: Any ground coffee will do, but you'll be super happy if you start with dark, rich, freshly roasted coffee
Note 4: Nutrition based on 12 oz. serving with 2 oz. cream, 2 oz. sugar added.
This coffee concentrate will keep well in the refrigerator up to 6 weeks, provided it is kept tightly covered. Enjoy!


Serving: 12oz | Calories: 203kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 64mg | Sodium: 38mg | Potassium: 165mg | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 833IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 53mg | Iron: 1mg


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15 replies
  1. Wendy says:

    I make mine using a reusable coffee basket. I use a paper coffee filter over the top secured with a rubber band.
    I drop basket in pitcher and set in sun like sun tea.
    When finished it is easy to remove basket and I don’t have to strain it.
    If I want hot coffee I nuke my sun coffee in microwave. Never bitter hot or cold.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      Interesting, Wendy. I’d never heard of any one making “sun coffee.” So I did some research on that.

      Bacteria can grow in coffee if left exposed to the environment (sun, for one) for an extended period. Coffee can be a breeding ground for several types of bacteria, including E. coli, Salmonella, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. These bacteria can contaminate the coffee and cause foodborne illnesses if ingested.

      Please read this post for making sun tea, then follow the same steps to prevent unwittingly growing a pot of bacteria. Be careful out there!

      How to Make Sun Tea So It is Bacteria-Free and Safe to Drink

  2. Cindy K says:

    5 stars
    This is an amazing recipe! I used your conversions and made a trial smaller batch of three cups, and it came out perfectly! My daughter said it tasted better than what she got at a coffee shop! Tastes better, costs way less…win-win! I can’t wait to make it again in a larger batch, and try caramel syrup, as another reader commented. Yum! Thank you!

  3. Rich says:

    Coffee concentrate can be made much stronger for higher volume at once, to the saturation point of the water, with additional water added after steeping.

    I use a gallon jar with a spigot (think lemonade at a picnic!), add 4 cups of grounds and fill with water. Let steep 12 hours or more. Filter with a mesh coffee filter, then add water to make 2 gallons of total volume. This makes 8 pots of coffee at double concentration, which I keep in the fridge at all times in a 3 gallon jug with spout. We have a water filter inches from the coffee, so adding a half glass of water and topping with coffee makes straight coffee. Ice can be used instead of water, or drunk straight as my daughter does as a pseudo-espresso.

    I also have a backpacker French press for camping, about the size of a lage travel mug. I’ll cold brew a full pot-worth of grounds in this with 8 ounces or so of water, then add to more water in another larger container to make 2 quarts. Fresh coffee every morning even without starting a fire!

  4. Cally Ross says:

    5 stars
    I never drank hot coffee, I went straight for the iced version, with cream and caramel! My husband teasingly says it’s not “real” coffee, and drank his black. 🙂 Thank you for the easy instructions to make a large quantity of concentrate.

  5. Nancy says:

    5 stars
    We have been using the Toddy for about 5 years or more. Amazon.
    Sounds a lot like Donn’s Buddy. Same idea: big plastic bucket for the pound of ground coffee and 8 cups of water. You put a plug in the bottom and let it sit overnite. In the morning we remove the plug and it drips through the thick felt filter into a glass carafe and goes in the fridge.
    Our directions say it is good for two weeks. But I believe it would go much longer. It never does in our house. 😉

  6. Donn says:

    I remember making a cold brewed coffee concentrate when I was in grad school back in the 70s. I used a system called the Buddy coffee system and I have seen it recently available in Trader Joe’s for around $30. It comes with a container for keeping the cold coffee concentrate, which is then used as a carafe to store the it in the in the refrigerator. It also had a large hopper for pouring the water through the grounds and a very thick felt filter . The carafe lid acts as a measure for about a tablespoon or two of the concentrate per cup of hot water if I wanted hot coffee or over ice if I wanted to add cold water for iced. The coffee was so good that I bought a set of glass mugs because it was so clear and clean. It made the best coffee I ever drank.

  7. Joy says:

    Thank you for this recipe! I’ve been drinking my leftover coffee over ice but knowing something was different. Trying this now. One tip from any southerner who knows her way around sweet tea: sugar doesn’t dissolve in cold liquid! (Artificials do) so be sure to make simple syrup to sweeten with sugar or heat your milk/cream and dissolve it in that then chill.

  8. Jacki says:

    I also like to add a shot of sugar free syrup, my current fav is salted caramel, available at home goods, TJ Maxx etc. ❤️❤️❤️

  9. Tracy says:

    5 stars
    I’ve been drinking iced coffee for years – it’s a New England thing. I usually just make strong coffee ahead of time & let it cool overnight before adding ice, etc. I’ve had cold brew before & it’s amazing. Thanks for sharing the proportions. I’ll give it a go for sure!

  10. Sheri says:

    5 stars
    Wow!, Finally I can make iced coffee!
    Thank you so very much for the easy recipe and being able to down scale it when first trying it!
    I will defiantly give it a try!

      • Sheri says:

        5 stars
        Wow! It is absolutely delicious and smooth. It was nice and strong tasting with out the bitterness . I will defiantly make it again and again.
        Thank you so much for the recipe!!

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