September 23, 2016

How to Spice Up Your Cold Brew Coffee


Sweet, refreshing cold brew coffee. Is there anything better? Well, yes… there’s cold brew taken to the next level. We’re talking cinnamon cold brew, cold brew cake, and even cold brew salad dressing (that’s one way to banish the post-lunch slump).

So if you feel like getting a little creative, read on for four techniques that will take your cold brew to the next level.

Spanish Version: Cómo Darle Un Toque Especial A Tu Cold Brew

Cold brew coffee and journal

Cold brew coffee: an excellent base for experimentation. Credit: Sharon Turner, Magic Coffee Truck

1. Variety Is the Spice of Life…

…And spices are a sure-fire way to add variety to coffee. Chicory, cacao nibs, and cinnamon are easy starting points. With their history of use in various cultures, there are plenty of recipes to choose from.

Try adding a touch of sweet zing to your morning cold brew by adding two teaspoons of ground cinnamon for every 100g of ground coffee topped off with 3 cups of water. This creates a concentrated drink that you can dilute to your taste with ice, water, or milk. I’m partial to Saigon or Vietnamese cinnamon, but experiment with what is on hand or available at local markets.

This ratio will also work with almost any spice – cardamom is especially nice – but if your palate runs spicy, you’ll want to reduce the amount to around half a teaspoon.

As for spicier alternatives, a combination of cinnamon and cayenne creates a sweet hot brew that will open eyes and minds. Smoky chipotle and even peppercorns should also be on your experimentation list.

Spices and French press coffee

Always start with a small batch when adding spices to your cold brew. Credit: Sharon Turner, Magic Coffee Truck


  • 100 g medium-coarse ground coffee
  • 705 ml cool water (3 cups)
  • 5 g ground cinnamon (approx. 2 teaspoons)

Add coffee to your brewing vessel of choice (the French press can work really well), mix in the spices, and stir well to combine. Pour about 1/3 of the total water either through (if using a brewing bag) or into the grounds. Let it bloom for about 30 seconds and then stir vigorously, making sure to break apart any spice clumps that occur. Add the rest of the water and stir again.

If a press, set the lid on top but don’t press and either place in the refrigerator or countertop away from light and heat. If a jar or other immersion/bag method, close the bag/top and set aside.

After between 14 and 24 hours, slowly plunge the press and let the mixture settle. If you’re using a bag method, set atop a strainer to drain above the jar for about 30 minutes; you can gently squeeze the bag as well but this may contribute to overall sediment in your brew. (Optional: pour everything through a fine mesh strainer or, if you have the time, a paper filter.)

Store your cold brew concentrate in a sealed container (to keep out air) in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. Spices can reduce the overall shelf life of your usual cold brew by around a week.


What spices will you pair with your coffee?

SEE ALSO: Immersion Cold Brew Recipes: 4 Things You Need to Consider

2. Liquid Love

Ever thought about not brewing with water? Try going off the rails entirely with coconut water. Stronger fruit juice may react poorly with cold brewing, but lightly infusing water with watermelon or blueberry could enhance the resulting brew. Creating hydrosols, which taste like water but smell like… well, anything you want, is another great way to play with the senses.

The key for brewing with alternative liquids is to do a smaller batch first in a press or jar. This way, if you don’t care for the result, you haven’t wasted too much precious coffee.

On the topic of infusing liquids, why not borrow some techniques from other craft beverage circles and cold brew in a whiskey or bourbon barrel? Or even a wine barrel? Obtaining barrels can be pricey, so this would be a good opportunity to make friends in the spirits brewing world.

Eight-gallon bourbon barrel

Eight-gallon bourbon barrel ready for an upcoming cold brew coffee collaboration. Credit: Jon Shari, Little Cottage Brewery

3. Cocktails to Get Cocky About

Not only are cold brew cocktails fun, but recipes are easy to find. All we have to do is draw inspiration from the numerous coffee-based drinks around us, and swap out the hot coffee for a cold one.

Start by replacing the espresso in any cocktail recipe with a cold brew concentrate and see how you like that result. Then once you’re ready to get experimental, try adding your own simple syrups, vinegars, or even CO2/nitrogen. Before you know it, you’ll be crafting delicious and unusual drinks worthy of the World Coffee in Good Spirits Championship.


Cold brew (hot bloom) with brown sugar and apple cider vinegar – a take on a Kalle Freese recipe. Credit: Eric Busby

4. Leave the Drinks Behind

This next step will establish you as a culinary genius and true devotee to cold brew coffee: cold-brew-infused recipes. We’re talking cold-brew marshmallows and vinaigrette-style dressings – the kind of food that not only tastes delicious but means you’ll never go decaffeinated again.

This step isn’t just for zany people looking for a new trick, though. It’s related to the trend for cold brew coffee ice cubes and coffee gummies – practical ways to make people’s everyday lives simpler, easier, and more full of coffee.

You might wonder whether heat adversely affects the coffee. With all the recipes I’ve tested, even ones using the high temperatures required for sugar and candy making, the coffee still retains its strong, smooth taste.

Cold brew coffee marshmallows

Cold brew coffee marshmallows. Credit: Sharon Turner, Magic Coffee Truck

We all love a good cold brew, but there’s no need to stick to the same old recipes – or even food items! Let your imagination run wild, and see what you create.

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Feature photo credit: Dennis Tang via Flickr

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