In those hot summer months, sometimes you just don’t feel like a hot drink. What you really want is a refreshing, icy beverage to cool you down. Enter Cold Brew. Cold Brew is an ice cold coffee that is usually drunk black and goes down like a treat on those hot summer days.
We have written this article reviewing the best coffee for cold brew to help you brew up the best batch of cold brew.
What Is Cold Brew?
Cold brew coffee is coffee that is brewed in cold water over a long period of time. The basic process for cold brew is that coffee beans are coarsely ground and then left to soak or ‘steep’ in cold water for 12+ hours. What makes this distinct is that it means the coffee grinds never touch hot water which in turn plays into the extraction process. Following the steeping process the grinds are removed through some form of filter, and the concentrated cold brew can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 10-14 days. Cold brew is very simple to make but takes a long time.
Cold Brew Vs Iced Coffee
In comparison, iced coffee is coffee that is brewed as per normal and then cooled down and poured over ice. Iced coffee is very quick to make compared to Cold Brew (taking only 5-10 minutes). It is often favored by many specialty coffee fans as it showcases the flavor profiles of different coffee beans more than cold brew. For more detail see our article here.
In terms of taste and texture, the taste of Cold Brew depends largely on the specific coffee beans which are used. However, the lack of hot water used in the process means that the finished coffee is often very smooth with low acidity. This is because many of the acids and solubles that are responsible for the fruity and floral notes are only extracted above a certain temperature. Cold Brew is usually brewed in concentrate form and then placed in a cup with 1 part concentrate, 1-2 parts milk or cold water, and ice.
Methods of Brewing Cold Brew
There are 2 main methods for brewing cold brew: Immersion or Slow Drip.
Immersion is the main method used. This is where coarsely ground coffee is steeped in cold water for 12-24 hours before the grinds are removed via a filter. This method results in a concentrated and full bodied brew. It is also pretty affordable to get the required equipment and easy to brew a reliable cup of coffee.
The second method occasionally used is Cold Drip. If you have been around the coffee world for long you will probably have seen the amazing looking towers reminiscent of a high school science lab. This method involves dripping iced water onto ground coffee and then collecting it in a carafe below. While this method is relatively fast in comparison to immersion (taking 3-5 hours) the resulting brew is more diluted and doesn’t taste as nice. It is also very expensive to purchase the specialized equipment required for this brew method.
Choosing The Best Coffee For Cold Brew
So now that we have given you the quick rundown of Cold Brew coffee, how do you find the best coffee for Cold Brew?
The first thing to consider is what level of roast you should opt for? Note this is a matter that experts are divided over so ultimately it will come down to personal preference.
Some people love using light roasts because the brewing method eliminates a lot of the acidity. However, others feel the light acidity and floral and fruity notes that characterise a light roast are lost when brewing via Cold Brew. Light roasts also have a longer brewing time as the structure of the bean hasn’t been as broken down by the roasting process. If you are a fan of light roasted coffee it is best drunk black when brewed.
Many consider medium roasted beans to be the best option for Cold Brew, as they produce a balanced brew, with deep and rich flavors and little bitterness. This is another good option if you are wanting to drink your cold brew black.
Dark Roasts are another favorite for Cold Brew particularly if you like a rich brew with chocolatey and nutty notes. Of all the roasts, they require the shortest steeping time. This is a good option if you are intending on drinking your cold brew diluted with milk.
Single Origin or Blend?
Unlike the matter of roast level, experts are rather unified on this question with most agreeing that single origin coffee beans are the best to use. Using a single origin bean allows you to taste and enjoy the subtle origin flavors of a bean. Blends are more used with brewing methods like espresso where you need to carefully balance the sweetness, acidity and bitterness. However when brewing Cold Brew, most of the acidity and bitterness is already removed so a blend is unnecessary.
When brewing Cold Brew you need to use a coarse grind, similar to what you would use for brewing with a French press. This is because Cold Brew has a long extraction time. If your grind size is too fine, you will find your coffee is harsh and bitter from being over extracted. A coarse ground is also easier to filter out at the end and produces a cleaner cup with less sediment.
Best Coffee For Cold Brew
Lifeboost Coffee Light Roast
If you are wanting to try a light roasted coffee, Lifeboost is an excellent option. Lifeboost coffee is a coffee roaster who produces high quality organic coffee. Their coffee is shade grown in Nicaragua and has naturally low acidity levels. Lifeboost take the utmost care when harvesting and processing their coffee; their beans are hand picked, sun dried and then washed in spring water before being hand roasted. As a result their beans contain no chemicals, pesticides, GMOs or Mycotoxins. Their Light Roast coffee beans are single origin coffee with a nutty profile balanced with hints of caramel and vanilla. They also have Medium and Dark roasted options if you would rather a richer brew. If you are wanting an organic, high quality coffee for Cold Brew, Lifeboost is an excellent option. To read our Lifeboost coffee review click here.
Coffee Bros Cold Brew Blend
Coffee Bros is a new and up and coming coffee roaster, founded in 2019 by brothers Nick and Dan Hunnewell. Their aim is to produce high quality coffee that is ethically sourced and roasted to order. While they have a range of different blends of coffee and roast levels, we recommend their Cold Brew Blend.
Made from Arabica green beans sourced from Brazil and Ethiopia, the beans are roasted to a medium level to bring out the bold flavor notes of chocolate, berry and brown sugar. Coffee Bros also have partnered with One Tree Planted to plant a tree for every 5 bags of coffee sold! If you are looking for a roaster that cares about coffee and the environment look no further. See our full review of Coffee Bros here.
Stone Street Coffee Cold Brew
Stone Street is a specialty small-batch roaster located in Brooklyn, NYC. Their Cold Brew blend is made specifically to create a smooth, less acidic coffee that won’t taste watery or bitter. Made from dark roasted Colombian beans, it produces a smooth, well-balanced coffee with a bold flavor and only the hint of sweetness. Their coffee is available as whole bean or coarsely ground.
Tiny Footprint Cold Brew Coffee
Tiny Footprint is another company that offers a Cold Brew blend. Their blend is made of 100% Arabica coffee (however we couldn’t find much information on the origin of these beans other than that some are from Ethiopia). The coffee is roasted to a medium level to produce a silky, rich brew with notes of cocoa and bright fruit and floral tones. Tiny Footprint are unique in that they strive to produce carbon negative coffee. So for every pound of coffee they sell, they donate a portion of the proceeds to fund reforestation in Ecuador’s Mindo Cloud Forest.
Cold Buzz Hazelnut Cold Brew Coffee
If you are looking for an easy way to brew Cold Brew coffee you could try Cold Buzz coffee bags. The coffee comes pre ground and packed into filter bags designed to be added straight to 2 cups of water. This takes the work out of making cold brew coffee… no grinder or coffee maker required! However you do sacrifice the freshness of the coffee. They have a range of flavors and even a decaf option. There isn’t much information regarding the origin of the beans, however they are 100% Arabica. Cold Buzz is a good option if you are wanting an easy and quick fix.
Trade Coffee Cold Brew
Trade Coffee offers the option of getting a Cold Brew subscription (for the enthusiasts out there). They allow you to choose between lively and refreshing or rich and chocolaty or dark and smoky Cold Brew. They then send you a different coffee each time curated to your tastes and cold brew coffee bags to brew it in. This is an excellent way to try different coffees and get a taste for what you like. The Coffee Bags also make it super easy to brew Cold Brew with little mess.
How To Brew Cold Brew Coffee
Cold brew requires very little equipment. You can just use a mason jar or french press to brew it in. However if you are enthusiast you may want to consider investing in a cold brew coffee maker, which makes the process of brewing simpler. If you want to make the best tasting cold brew it also pays to use a burr grinder, so you can brew with fresh beans.
Toddy Cold Brew System
The Toddy Cold Brew maker is a well known name in the coffee scene, having been around for years. It is a basic cold brew system featuring a large plastic brewing container with a handle, a rubber stopper and a glass decanter. The toddy is very simple to use and produces a rich, full bodied coffee. This is a great option for someone wanting a basic entry level cold brew maker. It is affordable, easy to use and will last for years!
The Baratza Encore is an excellent quality burr grinder that is both affordable and intended for home brewing setups. The Encore is very easy to use with an adjustable hopper that can rotate between 40 numbered settings from most fine to most coarse. But more importantly it does grind well and consistently at a price that is utterly affordable. The other great thing about this grinder and why we still recommend it, is that after a few years it still holds its reputation of reliability and the burr grinder of choice for manual brewing methods (everything but espresso).
This is a superb grinder for Cold Brew coffee at an excellent price point. See our in depth review here.
When it comes to brewing Cold Brew coffee you can either brew it as a concentrate or as ready to drink. Brewing a concentrate is the more common method. It results in a highly concentrated coffee, with an intense taste, that is diluted with either ice or milk. If you are wanting to brew a concentrate you should start with a brewing ratio of 1:5 or 200g of coffee to 1 Litre of water.
Brewing so the Cold Brew is ready to drink results in a beverage more similar in taste and texture to filter coffee. You serve it as is or diluted with small amounts of milk. To brew a ready to drink cold brew use a 1:15 brew ratio or 67g of coffee to 1 Litre of water.
Cold Brew Coffee Recipe
What You Need:
Serving Cold Brew Coffee
Cold Brew coffee is very versatile, you can have it black over ice, or dilute it with milk. Or if you are feeling fancy you can add some sparkling water or turn it into a frappe. Serve it in a chilled glass with some ice cubes and add:
Serving black add 1 part Cold Brew: 1 part cold water
Serving white add 1 part Cold Brew: 2 parts milk
Adjust as necessary according to how strong you like your coffee
So what is the best coffee for cold brew? Ultimately it is a bit subjective, you need to find beans that you love. But some good starting places are to opt for a single origin bean roasted how you like.
We love Lifeboost Coffee, which offers high quality, organic single origin beans. Or Coffee Bros blend is delicious as well! If you are a Cold Brew devotee looking to spice it up a bit give Trade Coffees subscription a go! It’s a great way to sample different beans and find what works.