Can You Brew Cold Brew With Milk Instead Of Water? (We Gave It A Shot)

If you are like me, you enjoy cold brew coffee with a splash of milk or cream in it. Maybe some sugar depending on the day.

Then the thought occurs to you, “Can I just brew cold brew in milk?”

Yes! You definitely can. But there are a couple of things you should consider before you start pouring milk on coffee grounds. 

Difference Between Water Brewing and Milk Brewing

Brewing cold brew with milk will give you different results. This is because the extraction process will react differently due to the higher fat content in milk. 

Here’s a little chemistry for you: Coffee has hydrophobic and hydrophilic components. The hydrophilic components are extracted faster when mixed with water and the hydrophobic components are broken down faster when mixed with the fat content of milk. 

The hydrophilic parts, which are extracted much faster in water, contain caffeine content and higher flavor notes. The hydrophobic parts, on the other hand, contain more bitter and oily aspects. 

Therefore, when making cold brew with milk, we would expect more bitter and earthy flavors. 

How Long Should You Brew Cold Brew In Milk?

Because milk will break down those bitter components faster than water, we want to brew milk-based cold brew shorter than water. The ideal brew time would be 8 to 12 hours. 

If we brew too long we will end up with a much too bitter drink!

Water on the other hand needs more time. That’s why it’s recommended to brew a water-based cold brew for over 12 hours. 

How Much Milk Do You Add?

Online you will find a variety of opinions for proper coffee to milk ratio. Most commonly people will say 1 part coffee to 4 parts water or 1 part coffee to 5 parts water. 

I strongly believe you should go with at least 1 part coffee to 4 parts water. I would even go slightly over pushing the 1 part to 3 parts!

However, we are planning on using milk not water. Is the ratio different? The answer is no. When brewing cold brew with milk use the same ratio as you would with water. 

Brewing Cold Brew With Milk: Step By Step Guide

Okay, let’s get down to it! In order to test the difference between brewing cold brew with water and brewing with milk, we made 4 batches containing the following:

  • Coffee grounds with milk (brew for 8 hours)
  • Coffee grounds with milk (brew for 12 hours)
  • Coffee grounds with water (brew for 16 hours) just to have a taste comparison
  • Coffee grounds with chocolate milk (brew for 10 hours) because why not!
Brewing cold brew coffee in milk prep

Here is the step by step guide for brewing cold brew with milk:

Step 1: Grind and Measure out your coffee

As mentioned earlier, you want a 1 to 4 ratio of coffee to milk. Grind your coffee grounds on a coarse setting, similar to what you would do for a french press. I like to do the most coarse option available on my burr grinder or 1 to 2 options after that.

In our experiment, we used 32-ounce mason jars. We measured 6 ounces of coffee and 24 ounces of liquid. 

Step 2: Add milk

Next, add your 4 parts of milk slowly. You will find that at first it is hard to soak all the grounds (Especially in milk) but don’t worry, they will gradually sink down. 

Adding milk when brewing cold brew

If you want, you can push the grounds down into the milk with a spoon. But don’t flip the jar over or shake it! 

Step 3: Brew for 8 to 12 hours

Place your coffee grounds and milk in the fridge and let them brew for 8 to 12 hours. 

Step 4: Strain your coffee through a filter

After your brewing period, it is time to strain your coffee. There are several methods to doing this. A lot of people use a strainer and paper towel or cheesecloth.

However, that method can be pretty messy and take FOREVER to strain.

I ended up using a reusable coffee filter to strain my cold brew with milk and it worked just fine.

Straining cold brew coffee

Keep in mind, straining milk cold brew will always take longer than water due to the liquid’s viscosity. 

Step 5: Enjoy!

Pour yourself a glass over ice or straight. I like to add some sugar to mine. Obviously not adding milk this time!

Brewing cold brew in milk results

Should You Use Whole Milk Or 2%?

Either way is going to be fine. 2% milk will act slightly more like brewing with water due to the fact that it’s diluted. 

Therefore, when brewing with 2% milk instead of whole milk, you should end up with a less bitter coffee.

Try brewing both and see what you prefer!

Should You Brew Cold Brew In Milk At Room Temperature Or In The Fridge?

When brewing cold brew coffee with water, it will take less time to brew at room temperature vs the fridge. Everything is dependent on personal taste, but normally you brew cold brew at room temperature for about 12 hours. In the fridge, you would brew the cold brew for about 3 to 5 extra hours. 

Either way, the taste doesn’t change, just the amount of time it takes to brew.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the sound of leaving milk out on the counter for 8 hours or more hours, so we will brew in the fridge. 

Because the extraction process for the bitter profile is faster in milk, we will still be brewing for less time than we did with water. 

Taste Difference When Cold Brewing With Milk

As I mentioned earlier, we did 4 cold brewing experiments. We brewed one batch of coffee with milk for 8 hours, one with milk for 12 hours, one with water for 16 hours, and one with chocolate milk for 10 hours. 

Here is my conclusion after the taste test:

When brewing cold brew with milk, the flavor is much more bitter. In addition to this, it’s lacking some of the fruity notes. You definitely get a different flavor profile than you would by just adding milk to a normal cold brew.

Is it bad? No, it’s not. I enjoyed it after adding some sugar to it. I felt it was necessary to offset the bitterness. 

Personally, I wouldn’t make cold brew like this again but it’s still enjoyable. Just not as enjoyable as a regular cold brew. 

One thing I appreciated is that it didn’t just taste like over-milky coffee. That was what I was worried about. But it was actually very strong. 

Brewing Cold Brew In Chocolate Milk: The Results!

Brewing cold brew in chocolate milk

Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised by the results for this. 

The cold brew coffee brewed in chocolate milk was rich and creamy. It was bitter but also sweet. It reminded me of a mocha flavored icecream. 

I genuinely enjoyed it. 

Although the richness definitely gets to you. You can’t have too much at once. I would highly recommend this as a little treat on occasion but not as a regular coffee drink. 

Which Brewing Method Is Best? 

In my opinion, brewing cold brew with water is still the way to go. This was a fun test and occasionally it’s nice to mix things up. 

Because of the extraction process, brewing cold brew with milk will give you a more bitter coffee. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just different. 

If you want to explore something new, definitely give brewing cold brewing with milk a try! 

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