Not all coffee roasts are created equal. There are certain coffee roasts that are great for cold brew, and then there are those that will completely ruin it. We have reviewed and rated seven products in order to determine which one offers the best coffee for cold brew.
Before you run out to your favorite coffee shop or click away to your favorite online store, check out our recommended brands. When you have the right coffee, all you have to do is work on your skills and the perfect cup of cold brew will be within your reach. Getting the wrong type of coffee will cost you money and poor taste.
Warning: this is dark roast Colombian single origin coffee and it will change the way you think about cold brew. Stone Street is also one of our most beloved brands as the quality and precision of their coarsely ground coffee is unmatched. Even though this is a dark roast, it has a very low level of acidity, it is slightly sweet, and carries a smooth and well-balanced taste. Most importantly, it is specifically designed for cold brewing.
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What is Cold Brew Coffee
If you’re not a coffee aficionado, you might wonder what exactly cold brew coffee is. “Isn’t that the same as iced coffee?” you might even ask yourself. Nope! This is a common assumption, but the true answer is not as simple as you might expect. Iced coffee is simply hot coffee that has cooled over time and poured over ice. Cold brew coffee, however, will never come into contact with hot water at all.
The cold brewing process is sometimes referred to as “cold water extraction” and involves ‘steeping’ coffee grounds or allowing them to settle in cool water for a long time. While hot coffee can be brewed quickly, in only a few minutes, the cold brewing process will typically last from 12 to 24 hours. At the end of the steeping time, the grounds are filtered out of the liquid, and the result is a very smooth flavor that is full-bodied and robust.
Cold Coffee Brewing Chemistry – The Temperature
The first and most obvious difference between regular coffee and cold brew is the temperature at which it is prepared. Because the coffee beans used in cold brew will never meet with heated water, the chemical process of extracting flavor from those beans is fundamentally different from other more conventional methods of brewing. Most coffee brewers aren’t chemists, but the differences are simple enough that anyone can understand.
Coffee beans, to start with, contain a lot of substances which are soluble (meaning easily dissolved) at higher temperatures, including caffeine and fatty acids. When hot water runs through the beans, it takes some of that caffeine and acid into the coffee with it, meaning that what’s in your cup will get you highly energized and offer a more acidic flavor. This acid is what can sometimes cause trouble for someone with a sensitive stomach.
However, when we brew coffee at lower temperatures, we reduce the amount of caffeine and acid in our finished product. All things being equal, a cold brew method will produce about 70% less acid than its hot counterpart.
Immersion VS Cold Drip
Although we’ve talked a lot about “the cold brew method,” there is actually more than one way to make cold brew! There are pros and cons to either method depending on the needs and desires of the person brewing the coffee, and thankfully this means that you can enjoy cold brew no matter what position you find yourself in!
Our first method is called “immersion.” Immersion is undoubtedly the simpler of the two processes and involves placing coffee grounds in a large amount of water and allowing the mixture to steep slowly over time. Using coarse grounds, the coffee solubles are extracted into the water slowly over 12-24 hours, and then the grounds are filtered out, leaving the brewer with a cool and smooth coffee beverage!
This is a very “set it and forget it” method, perfect for on-the-go types and meal preppers who want to their coffee to be ready before they are! This method tends to yield consistent results, and is the simplest and most commonly used, allowing brewers to make a large amount of cold brew with little or no equipment.
“Cold drip,” on the other hand, offers a faster, but more complex, process of making cold brew. It’s possible that if you frequent coffee shops, you’ve seen a cold drip in action. Sometimes the equipment can look like a chemistry set or a large hourglass.
While a cold drip can look very confusing, at its core is a very simple process: cold water drips slowly onto the coffee, seeps down into the grounds, and drips out into another container underneath as cold brew! Taking about 8 hours, the result of a cold drip can give you a variety of flavors, and many fans of this method extol its virtues because of how amazing the flavor can be.
However, cold drip requires more commitment on the part of the brewer, necessitating expensive equipment and more direct attention during the brewing process.
Dark, Light, or Medium Roast?
When it comes to the beans you use in your cold brew, does roast matter? Well, the answer to that, like many things in cold brew, is not as simple as it might seem.
Ultimately, any roast can be used when making cold brew, and at the end of the day, the roast you choose will depend on your personal preference. However, many coffee aficionados urge brewers to stick with medium-to-dark roasts (the darker the better). These tend to have chocolatey or earthy flavors which pair well with the low acidity of cold brew.
Cold Brew Grounds
Typically, cold brewing is a little bit more forgiving than regular brewing when it comes to grounds, but there are still some things to take into consideration. Coffee grounds are available in a range of textures, from fine, to medium, to coarse. The finer the grounds are, the more powdery they will feel in your hands.
For the purposes of cold brewing, coffee drinkers the world over recommend that you stick with coarse grinds. To give you an idea, coarse grinds are the kind that feels very gritty when you rub it between your fingers; imagine sand on the beach and how it almost has that scratchy quality to it. This is the texture of the grounds you’ll want to look for, and the reasons for it are two-fold.
To begin with, finely ground coffee tends to pack together densely, leaving little room for air inside the mixture, and therefore little room for the water to flow through it. If using finely ground coffee for cold brew, you might find that the water becomes stuck in this bed of grinds. Coarse coffee allows more space for that water to flow through without getting trapped.
Additionally, finely ground coffee can become “over-extracted” and result in a harsh or bitter flavor. Coarse grinds still have much of their integrity, so the flavor extracted from them remains sweet and smooth.
Pre-Ground or Whole Bean
Alright, so we know which method of cold brewing we’ll be using, we know what roast we want for our grinds, and we know how coarse those grinds should be when we start brewing. Now, should you buy your coffee already ground or should you grind it yourself?
Much like choosing between immersion and cold drip, this is a decision which rests on personal preference and personal need. There are advantages and disadvantages to either option.
Pre-ground coffee is a convenient choice for anyone with limited time or a limited budget. You won’t have to invest in a coffee grinder yourself and can immediately begin the cold brew process from the moment you open the package.
However, most of the aroma of a coffee bean releases within the first few minutes of it being ground, meaning that there is a huge window of freshness that you miss out on when you buy pre-ground coffee.
Whole bean coffee, however, gives you much more value when it comes to the flavor of your coffee. You’ll need to be able to use a grinder that can offer consistency in your grinds so you can have a reliable result. The most common recommendations are for a burr or mill grinder, as these provide the highest degree of consistency.
Blends v. Single Origin
Another area to consider when preparing to cold brew is whether you are interested in a blend or a single-origin coffee. If you don’t know what those mean, don’t worry, you’re about to learn!
While “single origin” is often thought to be beans from one specific farm, it can also refer to a group of farms, or a single region. Single origin coffees tend to be unpredictable or varied from season to season. These are more expensive, but they are fantastic for coffee drinkers who are looking to experiment with flavor.
Blends, on the other hand, shoot for consistency and reliability. By combining beans from multiple origins, the roaster provides a blend with specific flavor characteristics that are the same year after year. They may adjust the recipe over time to compensate for changes in the beans. Since cold brewing can cause flavors to blend together anyway, it is typically better to choose a blend.
Ice or No Ice
You’ve got your cold brew coffee, now you just have to keep it cold long enough for you to drink it! While it might be tempting to throw some ice into your cold brew, coffee enthusiasts recommend that you stop and reconsider. Because of the delicate flavor profile of cold brew, adding ice to your beverage runs the risk of watering down the delicious notes that you’ve worked so hard to create!
So, how do we prevent this from happening? Cold brewers recommend freezing some of your coffee into an ice cube tray and using those coffee cubes to keep your drink chilled. Because these can melt over time without watering down your coffee, this allows drinkers to enjoy the flavor at a relaxed pace.
Milk, Cream, or Neither
Coffee-lovers seem destined to fight forever over whether or not it is a mortal sin to add milk or cream to their coffee. While some people thoroughly enjoy a pure dark cup of black coffee, many insert milk or cream to offset the bitter and acidic flavor profile. But how does this long-standing debate fare when we’re talking about cold brew?
Because cold brew offers a lower acid content in the coffee itself, many more people are likely to drink it black without any additional dairy product. We recommend tasting it black so that you can assess the difference, and if you prefer to add milk or cream, adding slightly less than you would in a normal cup of coffee.
If you are lactose intolerant or avoiding animal products, there are also a variety of non-dairy options for your coffee. Pay attention to whether or not your non-dairy product is sweetened or not, and whether that additional sweetness will clash with the flavor profile of your coffee.
Stone Street Coffee’s Cold Brew Reserve
This is a single-origin coffee from Columbia which offers up one of the best dark roasts in the world. You’ve got tons of options for your coffee, and Stone Street Coffee knows the attention to detail that brewers put in to make sure they create a perfect cup of cold brew. That’s why this particular roast was artfully crafted with those specifications in mind, making it ideal for anyone trying their hand cold brew.
Whether you’re a seasoned barista or a coffee newbie, Stone Street offers a 100% Columbian Supremo bean for their Cold Brew Reserve, leaving you with a taste that is slightly sweet, very smooth, and beautifully balanced. These beans are a coarse grind, meaning they will get you a strong and bold coffee flavor to get you moving first thing in the morning.
Bizzy Organic Cold Brew Coffee
Bizzy Organic Cold Brew Coffee knows that not everyone has the hours and hours of time it can sometimes take to get yourself some good cold brew. This blend is made of 100% ethically sourced and organic Arabica beans from Peru and Nicaragua.
Bizzy knows that coffee isn’t a one size fits all endeavor, so they’ve put together multiple different roasts and flavors to suit the needs of the individual. Brewers can choose from their Dark & Bold blend, Light & Bright blend, and their Smooth & Sweet blend.
No matter which one of these delicious blends you choose, each of them will provide you with a delicious flavor that comes pre-ground, so if you’re low on time or just don’t feel like grinding your beans, Bizzy Organic Cold Brew Coffee has you covered with coffee that’s ready when you are!
Tiny Footprint Coffee’s Organic Cold Press Elixir
This coffee is a wonderfully organic and fair-trade roast made from 100% Arabica beans. Craft roasted in a 90-kilogram drum roaster retrofitted with fuel-efficient ribbon burners, Tiny Footprint Coffee is locked, loaded, and more than ready to deliver a consistently high-quality, perfectly roasted coffee every single time.
This coffee is available in a whole bean, meaning that you can save it for when you need coffee most, and grind it fresh to maximize the flavor profile! With Tiny Footprint Coffee, your cold brew will be rich and sweet, silky and bright, and infused with bright fruity and floral notes.
This is hands down the best whole bean coffee we’ve found and is perfect for coffee brewers who want to go one step beyond as they enjoy the full flavor profile of their cold brew.
Cafe du Monde
Cafe du Monde Coffee comes with a history that’s almost as rich as their coffee! With each sip, they invite you to transport yourself from your drab and dreary kitchen to the beautiful French Market of New Orleans, where music and aromas fill the air!
There’s a reason Cafe du Monde Coffee has been steadily improving in business since the 1880s, and it’s hard to argue with their long-term success. This blend is the same as the one served since the 1880s at the historic Original French Market Coffee Stand, and when you taste it, you’ll understand just how easy to close your eyes and imagine yourself sitting at a table on Bourbon Street and watching the people go by.
Cafe du Monde is the best source of a consistent and time-tested flavor profile, and one of the best options you can find for your next cold brew adventure!
Cold Buzz Coffee
Cold Buzz Coffee prides themselves on making cold brew easy and accessible, while still providing the highest quality and efficiency. This mission is fully realized through their Hazelnut Cold Brew Coffee 5-Pack. With pre-portioned iced coffee bean bags, you can make your own cold brew simply and with minimal mess.
All you have to do is take one of these bags and place it in 16 ounces of water, and 24 hours later you will have a delicious glass of cold brew waiting for you! The Hazelnut Cold Brew Coffee 5-Pack provides the perfect marriage of convenience and excellence, bringing the magic of cold brew to pretty much anyone with enough interest and time to spare.
This is the perfect product for anyone who is new to cold brewing and wants to get their toes wet or seasoned pros who just want to cut down on time!
Metropolis Schweik’s Blend
This coffee is a delicious light-medium roast blend of African coffees brought to you by the wonderful folks at Metropolis Coffee Company, who proudly provide fresh, roasted to order coffee sourced from trustworthy producers and importers.
Metropolis is committed to broadening the horizons of coffee drinkers, and this particular blend boasts notes of caramel, citrus, and floral notes, bringing a refreshingly light flavor profile to your cold brew. These flavors are perfect for the low acidity that comes with cold brewing and can offer you a significantly different coffee experience than any you’ve ever had.
Remember, though, brewers: Schweik’s Blend offers a very subtle flavor profile that is best enjoyed without the addition of milk or sugar. For the experienced cold brew drinker, Schweik’s Blend can steer you in a brand new and unexpected direction!
Peet’s Coffee believes that the best coffee tells a story, and their focus is on providing only the best whole beans to help you tell yours! They are obsessed with freshness, and it shows with their Big Bang medium roast.
With every blend they sell, Peet’s Coffee ensures that the quality of the bean is prioritized above all else. They are also proud to say that their coffee is grown and sourced responsibly, making sure that the farmers and communities who harvest their beans are treated with respect.
Although they offer light, medium, and dark roast coffee, we believe that Peet’s Coffee unites their desire for excellence with their ethical standards most noticeably in their Big Bang medium roast, which is available in whole bean form to allow brewers to get the most flavor possible from their coffee.
There will always be coffee aficionados around every corner to keep us up to date on the newest and most exciting things to learn in the world of coffee, but thankfully cold brewing is one thing that is easily accessible for all of us to learn and enjoy.
While there are many specific recommendations to be made for those who want to try their hand at cold brewing coffee, there is still so much wiggle room dependent on individual tastes and preferences. Whether you’re a barista in a fancy shop or someone who just wants to liven up their morning routine, there’s always a way to get your cold brew on!
Anthony is a professional barista in the city of Chicago. He has written for many online publications on various topics related to coffee.