What is an Instant Cold Brewer and how does it work?
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Unless you have the money to buy a very expensive machine capable of making instant cold brew (like the Spinn) we recommend just buying a standard cold bree maker. Because as we explain below, there really is no such thing as instant cold brew.
Although the Toddy Brewer Cold brew has been around since the late ’60s, but the rise of cold brew is a relatively recent phenomenon. The process relies on long steeping times with coarse grounds that are brewed with a high coffee to water ratio to produce a concentrate that is then diluted to a preferred drinking strength. With the popularity of cold brew apparently increasing every year, more and more companies are developing instant cold brew coffee machines that aim to speed up the process and deliver cold brew coffee on demand. We tested two of these machines to see if they could deliver on that promise.
What is an Instant Cold Brew Coffee Maker?
While cold brew is a specialized method of brewing coffee, instant cold brew coffeemakers are a looser category of devices that brew cold coffee in minutes instead of hours. Not every machine works the same way, but most produce a drinking-strength coffee rather than a concentrate, unlike traditional cold brew.
How do you work?
A common version of the instant cold brew coffee maker uses a simple circulating pump like this one Model by Vinci we tested. You load the middle filter basket with coffee grounds, fill the carafe to the line with water and as soon as you turn it on, water circulates through the filter in the middle. The design uses a constant flow of water as the source of agitation, amplifying the natural osmosis extraction process that immersion brewers rely on and theoretically making cold brews faster, with settings running between 10 and 20 minutes.
We tested those too Spinner, an all-in-one fully automatic coffee maker that uses centripetal force in its centrifugal brewing chamber to extract coffee. While we were… impressed with its overall function, the cold brew it made outshone everything else. Utilizing a rotating brewing chamber, the spin can cycle between hot and cold water at various ratios to brew a variety of coffees.
Then there are the Osma cold brew coffee maker, which is modeled after an espresso machine. It uses a high-performance pump to create an extremely concentrated version of cold brew. We didn’t test this model as it is made in small batches and is currently sold out, but we thought it was worth mentioning as its extraction method is completely unique.
Is Instant Cold Brew Really Cold Brew?
Serious Eats / Jesse Raub
If you were to ask a handful of baristas what cold brew is, most would describe a brewing method – not a drink. As a term, cold brew refers to a style of brewing such as filter coffee or French press. The three main aspects of cold brew are based on a stronger balance of coffee, long steeping times and cold water.
Most cold brew ratios recommend using 340 grams of coffee for two liters of water, or a coffee to water ratio of 1:6. Cold brew is typically brewed to a target strength of 3% to 5% dissolved solids, which is then diluted by adding water, milk, or a combination of both to taste preference. A hallmark of Cold Brew is a heavier body, stemming from both a higher concentration than hot coffee and its long, fully submerged brewing process.
Hot coffee is brewed at a 1:16 ratio and targets 1.1% to 1.5% of total dissolved solids – a range determined by evaluating strength preferences between them a wide range of people. This means that cold brew is brewed two to three times stronger than filter coffee.
That’s where the Vinci Instant Cold Brew Maker comes in 70 grams of coffee for one liter of water, a 1:14 brew ratio that brews a drinking-strength coffee, it’s hard to call what they produce a cold brew, and it’s probably more accurate to call it “cold coffee.” And while we liked what the Spinn brewed, it was also brewed at drinking strength and shouldn’t be called a cold brew.
Is an Instant Cold Brew Maker worth buying?
In our testing, the Vinci model produced a thin, bitter coffee, and it was a mess to clean it up. Because it relies on circulating water as an extraction method, it took up to 10 minutes to brew a full cycle, and when we finished we were stuck in a tall, narrow chamber full of soggy coffee grounds that wouldn’t come out. Only after letting it run under the tap (very carefully with a bucket underneath so the sediment doesn’t go down the garbage disposal) were we able to fully clean the filter. It was also difficult to fill the filter without a funnel as coffee grounds spilled onto the counter. Other instant cold brew makers, such as Instant Cold Brew Coffee Maker work like the Vinci model we tested, so preparation and cleanup is an issue with the Instant Cold Brew concept rather than a single brewer. And since the end result didn’t look like cold brew at all, we don’t think these types of machines are worth the investment.
The spin brewer, on the other hand, worked great – it’s just expensive. It works with an app and brews two variations of cold coffee (Cold Brew Drip and Cold Brew Nitro) within 60 seconds. Both the standard drip cold brew and nitro cold brew tasted great, with balanced flavors and a mild sweetness, but neither had the body of a traditional cold brew. Buying one specifically for cold coffee seems overkill, but if you’re looking for an all-in-one coffeemaker as an alternative to capsule brewers like Nespresso, we think the Spinn brews better-tasting coffee and offers its excellent “cold brew” offerings sweeten the deal.
What is a good alternative?
When it comes to cold brew, the classic cold brew coffee makers are hard to beat. Although these breweries need to steep overnight, active preparation and cleaning time is less for them OXO Compact Cold Brew Coffee Maker (our top pick) as an instant brewer. The OXO Compact also made much better tasting cold brew.
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez
We also recommend single-serve instant coffee from some brands, which is light years better than the instant coffee jars found in the supermarket. comedian and Fast instant coffee are two great options. Both companies make instant versions of coffee by first extracting it and then processing it into single-serve packages. Cometeer concentrates and freezes its brewed coffee in capsules, while Swift uses freeze drying to create an instant powder. Since the coffee has already been brewed hot, both the Cometeer pods and Swift instant coffee can be dissolved in cold water and served over ice for cold instant coffee.
frequently asked Questions
Do quick cold brew makers work?
Instant or rapid cold brew coffee makers typically work by introducing agitation through a vortex or water circulator to brew cold coffee in 10 to 20 minutes. In our testing, these machines brewed a cold coffee that lacked the body of traditional cold brew and tasted thin and unbalanced.
Can you make cold brew in two hours?
Traditional cold brew coffee makers typically extract to their full concentration in about two to three hours, but it typically takes 12 to 18 hours for the full flavor to develop. Anova, the maker of one of our most popular sous vide machines, has one Recipe for Sous Vide Cold Brew this is advertised as only two hours, but we haven’t tested this process ourselves. Because cold brew is such a straightforward brewing method, we still recommend the standard overnight brew times.
Is there instant cold brew coffee?
Instant cold brew coffee makers can brew cold coffee in 10 to 20 minutes, however instant coffee powder can also be dissolved in cold water to make cold coffee in no time. Neither option will have the body that is a trademark of cold brew coffee. There are also ready-to-drink options and cold-brew concentrates, such as Slingshot Coffee Co. or Stumptown coffee.