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 coffee bean’s most subtle flavours.
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 tasty cold brew.
Best Cold Brew Coffee Beans
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. We consider these the best coffee for cold brew.
|Pact Coffee Matanzo Honduras||
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|Aromistico Capri Cold Brew||
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|Coffee Masters Colombian Cold Brew||
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|Union Gajah Mountain Sumatra||
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|Rave Coffee Indian Monsoon Malabar||
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|Balance Halcyon Decaf||
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|Clumsy Goat Peruvian||
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And here are the details of each of these 7 beans, starting with our favourite choice:
Think of cold brew and the flavours that come to mind are usually chocolatey, sweet and smooth. That’s why the Matanzo Honduras from Pact Coffee was the obvious choice for Home Grounds’ best cold brew beans. It has the earthiness of dark chocolate, sweet cherry notes and a creamy aftertaste, which has been compared to a Black Forest gateau. When prepared as cold brew it’s smooth and delicious when served black, and extra chocolatey with the addition of milk.
The beans are sourced from the farm of José Salomon Benitez in the lesser-known growing region of Intibucá, Honduras. He’s only been growing coffee here since 2004, but his high-quality beans have taken him to the Cup of Excellence several times (ref-cup).
The idea for Pact Coffee came about when founder Stephen Rapoport discovered just how many middlemen there were in the coffee supply chain. He decided to build direct relationships with farmers in order to give a better deal and now works with more than 150 producers in 9 growing regions.
Single-origin coffees tend to be preferred for cold brew, as the brewing method can help enhance the subtle flavours of the beans. Blends can work just as well, however, especially when they’ve been created with cold brew in mind.
To get the right balance, Aromistico has combined coffees from Brazil, Ethiopia and Guatemala. It’s a mix of both Arabica and Robusta beans, so you’ll get some delicate flavours, as well as a bit of a kick in strength and caffeine. The overall flavour profile is smooth but intense, with a lingering finish of chocolate.
The Capri Cold Brew blend isn’t just designed for brewing cold, it also has a refreshing quality to the taste. This coffee is a great choice for serving over ice on a hot summer’s day, perhaps with a slice of lemon.
The Coffee Masters Colombian is another coffee that’s been selected specifically for cold brew, but in this case, it’s a single origin. Some Colombian coffees can be fruity and floral, but the Medellin area where these beans are grown produces coffees that are more chocolatey and nutty.
It’s these qualities that make the coffee a great fit for cold brew coffee. Even with a light roast, you’ll experience a pronounced chocolate flavour, with a lingering caramel sweetness. Notes of orange add some brightness and fresh acidity.
This coffee also offers peace of mind, with both Fair Trade and OF&G Organic certification. Coffee Masters supply machines and coffee to cafes around the country, so you’re getting a coffee that’s been tried and tested in a commercial setting.
The low price tag on this coffee is no reflection of the quality you’ll find inside. To start with, it’s earned speciality coffee status with a cupping score of 84. It’s a single origin from the mountains of Aceh in Sumatra, where coffees undergo the traditional wet-hulling process.
The unique form of processing lends a particular earthy quality, which manifests here in flavours of dark chocolate with a hint of smoke. There’s the lush sweetness of treacle and a syrupy, well-rounded body.
Union Coffee was started by two scientists working in San Francisco, who wanted to bring the coffee culture they found there back to the UK. Now based in London, they run their burgeoning coffee company with a focus on ethical sourcing and quality roasting. All coffees are hand-roasted to order, then dispatched the same day.
Just like Sumatran wet-hulled beans, Indian coffee labelled as Monsoon Malabar also has a unique, even divisive, flavour profile. The monsooning process dates back to the 19th century when green coffee transported by boat to Europe was exposed to heavy monsoon rains.
This process is now done intentionally, with the beans absorbing water over 3-4 months, during which time they grow in size and lose acidity. They also develop flavours that can be anything from chocolatey and spiced to musty and almost mushroom-like.
Rave Coffee’s Monsoon Malabar has developed flavours typical for this type of coffee. The aromatics are woody and smoky, while the chocolate taste provides a smooth finish.
The refreshing nature of a cold brew coffee means that it’s tempting to sip at any time of day, but that can be a little dangerous if you don’t want to be awake all night. Brewing with decaf offers the perfect solution.
Balance Coffee practises sustainable and ethical sourcing from Fair Trade cooperatives, in this case from the Tolima region of Colombia. The coffee is selected to provide a rounded and balanced cup that’s as rich as any full-caffeine brew. With these beans, you’ll get notes of smooth chocolate, with sweetness from stone fruit and a hint of spice.
Rather than the usual Swiss Water process, Balance Coffee uses the CO2 method of decaffeination. Despite the chemical-sounding name, this is an entirely natural process using just water and carbon dioxide and doesn’t affect the proteins or carbohydrates of the coffee (ref-sweet). These beans have also been tested as free from pesticides, mycotoxins and harmful moulds.
The rise of cooperatives in Peru has meant sourcing coffee from the country is increasingly sustainable and ethical. These beans come from the CECOVASA group, which works with indigenous tribes in the Lake Titicaca region. Here coffee is grown on the slopes of the Andes, with natural shade protection.
The Clumsy Goat Peruvian selection offers a medium body, with a nutty, chocolatey quality that’s perfect for cold brew. It works just as well black or with milk, as the caramel notes will develop further with a splash of dairy.
If for some reason the Peruvian option doesn’t take your fancy, Clumsy Goat offers a small but quality range of single origins and blends. The best thing is that they’re all guaranteed Fair Trade, with sustainable sourcing at the top of the brand’s list of priorities.
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.
Most often, ground coffee beans are steeped in cold filtered water for a long period of time in order to extract the flavour of the beans. In contrast, iced coffee is made from regular brewed coffee that has been cooled and poured over ice cubes.
The Effects Of Temperature on taste
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 flavours. Choosing the right beans is the best way to ensure a cup that is both smooth and flavourful.
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 favoured 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 requires investment.
From a flavour 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 size Matters (a lot)
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 flavours 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. Just make sure to use a good coffee grinder for making cold brew coffee.
Dark Or Light Roast?
Choosing between a dark roast or a light roast coffee 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 coffee.
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. Other cold brewers recommend dark roasts because cold brew has a tendency to taste of darker, richer flavours, 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 flavours. 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. Learn more about single origin beans in this post. 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 or regular coffee, where a barista needs to balance acidity, sweetness, and bitterness, the absence of bitterness and acidity in a cold brew renders this process unnecessary.
We are about to show you a whole list of the best option for cold brew, but here’s some of the best coffee beans in the world you should try (hot or cold).
To Milk Or Not To Milk?
This is again a matter of personal taste. Many experts recommend drinking cold brew coffee black because its flavours 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.
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, Pact Coffee’s Matanzo Honduras is a great place to start. This single-origin offering delivers those smooth, chocolatey flavours that make cold brew such a treat.
- Honduras 2011. (2018, August 8). Cup of Excellence. https://cupofexcellence.org/honduras-2011/
- What is the CO-2 Decaf Method? (2020, October 8). Sweet Maria’s Coffee Library. https://library.sweetmarias.com/co-2-decaf-method/