What's the best coffee for cold brew? [Top 7 Picks]
On a hot summer’s day, it’s hard to beat the refreshing jolt of a cold brew coffee.
Known for being smooth and mild with low acidity and minimal bitterness, cold brewing can be the perfect way to bring out a bean’s most subtle flavors.
Of course, not all beans are created equal and some benefit from this treatment more than others.
Read on to learn all about how cold brewing affects the taste and aroma of your beverage and which beans make the best coffee for cold brew.
TOP PICK: Stone Street Colombian Supremo
What Is Cold Brew?
To understand which beans make the best cold brew, it is important to first understand cold brew itself.
Namely, the distinction between cold brew and iced coffee.
Cold brew coffee is made without any heat at all.
In contrast, iced coffee is made from regular brewed coffee that has been cooled and poured over ice.
The Effects Of Temperature
Hot coffee is extracted between 91 and 96 degrees Celsius (195 - 205 F) whereas cold brew is extracted between 2 and 21 degrees Celsius (35 - 70 F).
The absence of heat from the brewing process gives cold brew its unique and prized characteristics, but also means it requires twice as many grounds and many additional hours of brewing time compared with hot methods.
Many of the acids and solubles responsible for light and floral notes in coffee are only extracted above certain temperatures.
For this reason, cold brew is low in acid and easy on the stomach, but also tends to have more muted flavors.
Choosing the right beans is the best way to ensure a cup that is both smooth and flavorful.
When choosing the best beans for cold brew, there are a few factors you need to consider.
Immersion vs. Cold Drip Cold Brewing
There are two primary ways to make cold brew coffee - immersion and slow drip. The immersion method is usually favored by home brewers for its simplicity.
Ground beans are steeped in cold water for 12 - 24 hours before being filtered out.
In the slow drip process, ice water is slowly dripped onto ground beans and collected in a carafe below.
The main advantage of this method is its relative speed, though it still takes 3 to 5 hours to yield a cup of cold brew.
However, the specialized equipment required renders it out of reach for most home brewers.
From a flavor standpoint, the immersion method results in a full-bodied concentrated brew whereas the drip method yields a more dilute medium-bodied beverage.
Brewing method can be an important consideration when choosing beans for cold brew.
The Grind Matters
Whether buying pre-ground beans for cold brew or grinding them yourself, be aware that grind matters.
A coarse grind is always preferable for a cold brew.
Fine grounds often produce more harsh or bitter flavors as a result of being over-extracted.
If using the slow drip method, the grind size is particularly important. A coarse grind is quicker to begin dripping, while a finer grind can sometimes become too dense and restrict the flow of water.
Dark or Light Roast?
Choosing between a dark or a light roast is largely a matter of personal preference. Your best bet is to experiment.
Don’t assume that your roast preference for hot coffee will hold true for cold brew.
Experts are divided on the question. Some suggest light to medium roasts, which are naturally more acidic, because the cold brewing process eliminates much of the acidity of the beans.
Others recommend dark roasts because cold brew has a tendency to taste of darker, richer flavors, like chocolate, nuts and earthiness.
The bright acidity that characterizes light roasts may be difficult to extract through cold brewing and result in overall muted flavors.
Whichever you choose, bear in mind that lighter roasts will require a longer extraction time because the cellular structure of the beans has been less damaged by the roasting process.
Single-Origin or Blend?
While the question as to light or dark roasts seems to divide experts, most agree that single-origin beans are the best option for cold brew.
The cold brewing process allows the taster to experience the more subtle notes of a bean and truly appreciate the single-origin product.
While blends make sense for something like espresso, where a barista needs to balance acidity, sweetness, and bitterness, the absence of bitterness and acidity in a cold brew renders this process unnecessary.
To Milk or Not to Milk?
This is again a matter of personal taste.
Many experts recommend drinking cold brew coffee black because its flavors are already so subtle that it would be a disservice to further dilute them with dairy.
If you always add a little milk or cream to your coffee, consider sampling the cold brew without first.
You may be pleasantly surprised.
If you find it lacking, try mixing three parts cold brew with one part milk. Or, get creative with one of our delicious cold brew recipes.
Summary of the Best Coffees for Cold Brew
So now that you know everything to expect from cold brew, here are 7 beans that you can use to make your own at home.
|Tiny Footprint Coffee Organic Cold Press Elixir||CHECK PRICE →|
|Cafe Du Monde Coffee With Chicory||CHECK PRICE →|
|Stone Street Coffee Cold Brew Reserve Colombian Supremo Coffee||CHECK PRICE →|
|Cold Buzz Coffee Hazelnut||CHECK PRICE →|
|Metropolis Coffee Cold Brew Blend||CHECK PRICE →|
|Peet's Baridi Blend||CHECK PRICE →|
|Costa Rica El Encino Natural Green Beans||CHECK PRICE →|
Tiny Footprint Coffee is a small roastery based in the U.S. that is focused as much on producing great beans as making healthy decisions for the planet.
They have partnered with the non-profit Mindo Cloudforest Foundation and tout themselves as the world’s first ‘carbon negative’ coffee.
For every pound of coffee they sell, they offset the carbon used in its production and distribution by planting trees in the Ecuadorian cloud forest.
Their Cold Press Elixir is produced specifically with cold brewing in mind.
It is a mix of light and dark roasts highlighted with some high-end Ethiopian beans.
The result is a silky richness and sweet taste with subtle bright fruit and floral tones infused in a cocoa-like body.
Cafe du Monde is a french coffee shop that has been operating in New Orleans since 1862.
Popular among tourists, many say that its famed chicory coffee makes for an excellent cold brew.
The chicory root is softened, ground and added to coffee to limit the bitterness of a dark roast.
It adds a sweet tobacco-smoke aroma enhances much of what is already appealing about cold brew -- low bitterness, smooth and light body, and mellow flavors.
Stone Street Coffee is another American small-batch roastery offering beans designated specifically for cold brew.
They pride themselves on their ethical and intimate sourcing relationships with the best coffee farms and growing regions around the world.
The premium single-origin arabica Colombian Supremo beans are dark roasted to produce a slightly sweet, smooth, well balanced, and bold coffee flavor.
Colombian Supremo beans are characterized by notes of fruit, chocolate, and caramel and are widely considered to be among the best in the world.
Cold Buzz Coffee makes cold brewing as easy as possible by selling pre-ground beans already in bags, like tea bags. All you need to do is add water and soak overnight.
They source their 100% arabica beans from Central and South America and Europe. They are aware that cold brew is expensive because it requires many more grounds than hot coffee, so they work with roasters and wholesalers to try and keep costs down.
Cold Buzz Coffee offers a number of flavors, but the hazelnut is highly recommended. The sweet, buttery flavor is enhanced with a dark roast that makes it perfect for cold brewing.
Metropolis is a Chicago-based company with a commitment to sourcing the finest coffees through developing sound relationships with farmers.
Most notably, from Monday to Thursday, they roast each bag of beans to order.
This commitment to freshness suggests an appreciation for fine coffee that seems to be lacking among other purveyors of cold brew specialty blends.
The Metropolis Coffee Cold Brew Blend is another offering that is blended and roasted with cold brewing in mind.
The roast is atypically dark, giving a final product with flavors of dark melted chocolate, walnut and a hint of toast.
Peet’s is one of largest and the most trusted roasters and distributors of quality coffees. Baridi (the Swahili word for cold) is a specialty blend designed for both iced coffee and cold brew.
Though not single-origin, the beans making up the blend are all sourced from East Africa: Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Rwanda.
Products from these nations were chosen to maximize aroma, a feature that is frequently lacking in cold coffee.
The fruity, juiciness of beans from this region makes this a particularly refreshing cold beverage.
After experimentation, a medium roast was settled upon to best deliver a bold, smooth and slightly sweet flavor.
Costa Rican natural coffee is often touted as a favorite for cold brew thanks to a crisp and bright berry note and an unmatched balance between acidity and light body.
Flavors of tart fruits such as strawberry, raspberry and rhubarb are accompanied by notes of balsamic and a very pleasant acidity at the finish.
These single-origin beans come from a high elevation farm at 1900 meters that was honored in the 2015 Costa Rica Cup of Excellence competition.
If you have the equipment and desire to roast at home, this is one of the best options for cold brew.
Light to medium roasts are suggested to bring out the delicate fruit flavors and nuances.
THE VERDICT: Your Cold Brew Is Up to You
As I’ve already stated, the best coffee for cold brew is probably the one that tastes the best to you.
Dark or light roast, milk or cream, slow drip or infusion are all personal preferences that can influence your decision and any of the options reviewed above might appeal.
That said, the Stone Street Colombian Supremo is a great place to start.
This single-origin offering uses world class beans to deliver a delicious bold flavor that is wonderful served hot or cold.
We’d love to hear what you thought of this article in the comments along with your recommendations for the best beans for cold brew.
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