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Fresh cold brew in five minutes? Meet the Dash Rapid Cold Brew system

Find out if Dash's coffee contraption really can make cold brew in five minutes.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Is it possible to make fresh, delicious cold brew in just 5 minutes? That's what the purveyors of $129 Dash Rapid Cold Brew System say. It's a bold claim that sounds flat-out impossible. The reason? Typically the cold coffee brewing process needs a full 12 hours to 24 hours to complete.

The traditional method for cold brew is dead simple. Just drop coarsely ground coffee into a container of lukewarm or cold water. Then you mix the ingredients, let steep overnight and drain. The liquid you ultimately separate from your solid grounds is what's commonly referred to as cold brew.   

This method substitutes the heat of standard hot water brewing with lots more time. Proper cold brew also calls for amped-up amounts of coffee. Conventional cold brew recipes call for triple or quadruple the ratio of grounds to water usually used for ordinary drip. That's why a machine billed to whip up cold brew in mere minutes struck me as preposterous. And that's why I had to put the Dash Rapid Cold Brew System to the test.   

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Another way to cold brew?

According to StoreBound, the company selling the Dash Rapid Cold Brew, the machine uses a technique it calls "Cold Boil Technology."The gadget consists of three main sections: an oblong base, a water pitcher and a filter apparatus.

Once all sections are in place, you activate an electric pump located inside the base. Vacuum pressure created by the pump causes water to flow from the pitcher through the filter section and then back again. Essentially it's a continuous loop that gently though swiftly circulates water throughout the system continuously.

Water circulates through the base, then through grounds inside the filter, then back again continuously.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

As this liquid moves, it percolates through the coffee grounds and in effect starts brewing. Instead of using heat, it's the pump that supplies energy in the form of motion. You can have it run anywhere from 1 to 15 minutes. When it finishes brewing, the coffee maker pushes the solution back into the pitcher.

Does it work?

Simply put, yes, at least mostly. At the end of a 5-minute brew cycle, the liquid inside the Dash Rapid Cold Brew was an reasonable approximation of good cold brew. It was stronger than regular drip, room temperature, and even had a familiar smell I associate with cold-brewed coffee -- sweet and earthy.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The flavor and concentration was weaker than I prefer. While I didn't detect any bitterness I also didn't taste the deep and intense complexity I can usually coax out of my test beans. For the record I was able to pack a good 6.5 ounces of grounds into the contraption. I also used 40 ounces (1.2 L) of water.

I pulled more richness into solution by running the same liquid through the same grounds for 15 minutes more. Even so, what I drank at the end was not bad cold brew, but not exceptional. Of course, if I'm ever in a hurry to get out the door on a hot day, I'd gladly take only OK cold brew than none at all.