One of my Christmas gifts from Matt this year was a (beautiful!) brushed stainless-steel KitchenAid Cold Brew Coffee Maker that delivers 38 ounces of thick, strong, delicious cold brew concentrate each time after 24 hours of passive steeping. I’ve completely fallen in love.
Testing Cheaper Cold Brew Coffee Makers
If you’re wondering whether a $99 cold brew coffee maker is worth it, I understand. This is actually the third cold brew coffee maker that we’ve tried, the first two being significantly less expensive.
Cheaper Cold Brew Maker #1: I fled San Francisco to stay with Matt in rural Iowa and wait out the initial spike of COVID-19 cases in early 2020, and we bought a cheap plastic cold brew maker—off-the-shelf at Hy-Vee—to meet my cold brew needs after coffee shops closed. Small and complicated, with poorly-fitting parts, it already wasn’t my favorite even before I tasted the weak, bitter coffee that it produced. In all fairness, we did not use high-quality coffee grounds milled specifically for cold brew, which was a definite mistake. Using “cold brew coffee grounds” may sound ridiculous, but don’t be fooled: it’s a necessity.
Cheaper Cold Brew Maker #2: Next, I tried a simple cold brew maker that was essentially a conical mesh filter inserted into an oversized mason jar (like this one). Although the simplicity of its design really appealed to me, it also made very small, weak batches of coffee, and it was a time-consuming chore to start batches brewing. Even using high-quality coffee fresh-ground specifically to make cold brew, this didn’t deliver.
Saving Money with At-Home Cold Brew Coffee
I don’t know how Matt found the KitchenAid cold brew coffee maker, but my wallet is so glad he did. If you’re not a definite cold brew coffee fan, this probably isn’t the setup for you but if you are then it’s 100% worth the investment. Making strong, delicious, cold brew coffee at home has already saved me money because I don’t buy cold brew coffees from the coffee shop anymore. A Starbucks medium-sized cold brew coffee is $3.95, and they never seemed strong enough so I’d add a double-shot of espresso for a total of $6.10 before tax and tip. Not financially prudent or sustainable!
Reducing Waste with At-Home Cold Brew Coffee
One of the goals of this site is to make actionable recommendations on leading a low-waste lifestyle. Making your own cold brew coffee at home definitely reduces your personal waste! To be more (the most?) low-waste, don’t buy a KitchenAid cold brew coffee maker but instead try your luck with mixing coarsely-ground coffee and water into a jar, letting it brew at room temperature for 24 hours, and then straining it through a coffee sock, reusable pour-over filter, or cheesecloth. I haven’t tried this personally, but it sounds like it might work (more details here in a Zero Waste Memoirs post). I love the KitchenAid cold brew coffee maker because I know it makes very strong and smooth cold brew concentrate while being easy to use and easy on the eyes.
Now that reusable cups are not allowed anymore, cold brew coffee at coffee shops is served in single-use plastic every time. Even if you buy cold brew coffee concentrate in big jugs at the grocery store, there’s still the jug itself (made of glass or, more commonly, plastic) to consider after you’ve consumed the coffee. I’m a fan of the KitchenAid because there’s less ongoing waste associated with every batch of concentrate. There’s still the packaging of the coffee beans or grounds themselves, however, which brings me to…
Recyclable/Compostable Coffee Packaging
Try to find coffee beans (of you have your own grinder) or grounds that come in compostable or recyclable packaging. Ethical Bean is a zero waste-friendly mail-order option. If you have access to bulk bins in your area, that’s also a great low-waste option.
How the KitchenAid Cold Brew Coffee Maker Works
- Fill the mesh filter basket with ground coffee up to the line, and place it into the coffee maker.
- Pour the recommended amount of water over the grounds (making sure to thoroughly wet them).
- Place the lid on the coffee maker, and let it steep in the refrigerator for your preferred amount of time. I like 12 hours for cold brew enjoyed black; if I let it steep for 24 hours I prefer it diluted with cream.
- If you have access to composting, compost the spent grounds after you’ve drained out all of the coffee.
Questions about the KitchenAid Cold Brew Coffee Maker? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I’d be happy to hear from you!