When the mercury rises and the sun beats down, the last thing on your mind is piping hot coffee. But, what if we told you there was a way to make your coffee cold without it being grossly disappointing? It might surprise you, but cold brew coffee is rapidly replacing chilled soda as the best summer drink.
Cold brew is mild and smooth, with less bitterness and lower acidity than hot brew coffee, and it is the perfect way to bring out the most subtle flavors of a coffee bean.
That said, not all beans are destined to create the perfect cold brew, and there are so many different grinds to choose from, it can be tricky for the novice home barista to choose the best coffee beans to make cold brew coffee.
Luckily for you, dear reader, we at Roasty Coffee have taken time out to prepare this comprehensive guide to choose the best coffee beans to put in that cold brew maker. Just for you.
Quick Summary: The Best Coffee for Cold Brew
|LifeBoost Organic Coffee||Check Best Price|
|Tiny Footprint Coffee Organic Cold Press Elixir||Check on Amazon →|
|Café Du Monde Coffee with Chicory||Check on Amazon →|
|Cold Buzz Coffee Hazelnut||Check on Amazon →|
|Farmer’s Market Jo, Light Medium Roast||Check on Amazon →|
|Real Good Coffee Company Breakfast Blend||Check on Amazon →|
Our Best 6 Coffees for Cold Brew
LifeBoost Nicaraguan Coffee
LifeBoost is an up-and-coming coffee brand based in Virginia. They source all of their beans from a single, family-owned farm in Nicaragua situated at an elevation of 5,700 feet, high atop Mt. Kilambé.
Their entire brand is centered around sustainability. In addition to being USDA certified organic, these coffee beans are non-GMO, fair trade, exceptionally low-acid, kosher, slow-roasted, hand-picked, and shade-grown.
The beans are available both as whole beans and as preground coffee, and you can choose whether to have them light, medium, or dark roasted. For cold brewing, we recommend choosing their flagship whole bean, medium roast option.
Tiny Footprint Coffee Organic Cold Press Elixir
Tiny Footprint Coffee is a small US-based coffee roasting house whose ethos is to produce great beans from an eco-friendly, “earth positive” perspective. To offset the carbon that’s used in the production of their coffee, Tiny Footprint Coffee plant trees in the Ecuadorian cloud forest for every pound of coffee that they sell.
Cold Press Elixir is a blend that’s specifically produced for cold brewing. This Arabica coffee is a mix of dark and light roasts, enhanced with some high-end Ethiopian beans. The result is a sweet, silky, rich flavor with notes of subtle floral and bright fruit tones, infused with cocoa.
You can choose from grounds or whole beans if you prefer to grind your own.
Café Du Monde Coffee with Chicory
To make this tasty blended coffee, chicory root is cooked, ground, and then added to the grounds to reduce the bitterness of a dark roast. The result is a sweet, smoky aroma, light body, and mellow flavors.
This coffee is smooth and very low in bitterness, tasting great when brewed hot or cold. Due to the intensity of the dark roast and chicory combination, the end brew works well with milk or cream too. So this is a great coffee choice for our dairy lovers out there looking for their best cold brew companion.
Cold Buzz Coffee Hazelnut
Cold Buzz Coffee source their 100% Arabica beans from South and Central America and Europe.
Cold Buzz Coffee makes cold brewing straightforward by selling their coffee beans pre-ground in bags similar to tea bags. All you have to do is soak the coffee-bags overnight in water. The company produces several different flavors, but we especially like the hazelnut. The dark roast beans are enhanced by the sweet buttery flavor that’s delicious in a cold brew.
The main drawback of this cold brew coffee is that you have no control over the number of grinds used. Consequently, you may find the result too strong or too weak for your taste. Also, because the coffee bags use added flavors, this option may taste too “processed” for those who prefer that dark, classic coffee flavor.
Farmer’s Market Jo, Light Medium Roast
Farmer’s Market Jo uses a blend of only directly sourced raw Arabica coffee from artisan roasteries around the world. Their beans are certified USDA organic, Fair Trade Certified, and Kosher Certified. So if you are looking for a coffee bean to check all of your boxes, this is the way to go.
These coffee beans are a light-medium roast with cupping notes of sweet pecans, bittersweet chocolate, and wild honey. The brew is super palatable and light, making it an ideal choice for novice cold brewers to experiment with their technique.
Despite being on the lighter side of the roasting scale, this coffee still works great with a splash of cream for a refreshing summer beverage.
Real Good Coffee Company Breakfast Blend
For those who prefer to grind their beans themselves, The Real Good Coffee Company Breakfast Blend is the way to go for cold brewing.
The Arabica beans used in this light roast morning coffee are sourced from South and Central America, before being roasted fresh in Seattle, USA.
The citrus flavor of this blend is balanced nicely by creamy, chocolate flavors, so the fruity, bright tones of the coffee shine through without acidity.
Because this is a light roast (rather than the more standard dark roast), you’ll want to steep your grounds for at least 20 hours before use to achieve the best results.
Stone Street Cold Brew
Behold, Stone Street Coffee Company’s cold brew coffee beans made especially for cold coffee fanatics. This particular offering from the New York-based company is a fan favorite for many who have been making the coveted concentrate for years. And it’s easy to see why!
This bag contains 100 percent Arabica Single Origin Colombian Supremo beans. It’s a classic, coarsely ground, dark roast, but the brew from these beans is especially crisp and clean in comparison to other options. It is available in both pre-ground and whole bean options.
Overall, this is a great choice for beginners lookings to brew a few safe cups before adventuring into less traditional flavor profiles. However, you can catch cold brew veterans drinking this one because, honestly, it’s hard to knock such a classic flavor.
What is cold brew coffee anyway?
To know which beans to choose for a perfect cold brew, you need to understand the brew itself.
Unlike iced coffee, cold brew is made without using any heat whatsoever.
To make cold brew, ground beans are steeped in cold water for a long time to bring out the flavor of the bean. Iced coffee is made from cooled, regular coffee that’s poured over a glass of ice.
Want to learn more? Check out this video showing how to make a delicious and simple cold brew at home:
What gives cold brew its distinctive flavor?
It’s the absence of heat in the brewing process that gives cold brew its unique flavor and character. However, cold brew is more expensive to make than traditional hot brew coffee because it requires twice the amount of grounds.
The flavors in cold brew tend to be muted because the acids and other solubles in coffee are only derived when the beans are exposed to higher temperatures. That makes cold brew coffee easier on the stomach, although the flavor can be too bland for some palates.
How the brewing method influences flavor
The method that you use to make your cold brew will affect the type of bean you choose.
- The immersion method of brewing involves steeping the ground beans in cold water for up to 24 hours, before filtering them.
- The slow drip process involves slowly dripping iced water onto the grounds and collecting the resulting brew in a carafe below. This method is the quicker of the two, although it still takes up to five hours to make one cup of cold brew.
When it comes to flavor, the immersion method of brewing yields a more full-bodied, concentrated drink than the more dilute, medium-bodied brew produced by the slow drip process. It is the preferred method of most home-brewers, as you can use a variety of tools from a french press to a mason jar.
The Taster’s Wheel
The flavors that you derive from your blend are based on the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s Coffee Taster’s Wheel. The guide is used by producers to label the flavors of their blends and will help you to work out what to look for in a cold brew bean or grind.
On the right side of the wheel, you’ll find medicinal and acidic flavors. Thanks to the cold brewing process, these flavors can be lost, although some of the more floral and fruity notes will come out. On the other extreme, if you pick a roast that gives lots of cocoa, spice, and sweet notes, you could find that the result is overpowering.
So, to play it safe you should stick to the middle area of the wheel for cold brewing. Alternatively, employ a longer steeping time for a light roast. It’s a matter of experimenting until you find the combo of bean and brewing time that works best for you and gives you the flavor result you want.
Blends or single origin coffee?
If you’re new to cold brewing, your safest bet is probably single origin bean coffee. These tend to have a clearer flavor profile than blends, so you’ll enjoy the full range of each flavor.
Single origin coffees do tend to be more expensive than blends, but in our experience, the little extra investment does make for a significantly better brew. That said, if you have a blend that you know and love, definitely give it a shot. You’ll notice we’ve even included several blend options in our top picks!
Does the grind matter?
Yes, it certainly does!
So, whether you’re buying pre-ground beans for cold brewing or going for whole bean and grinding them yourself, you should know that grind does matter.
If the grind is too fine, the flavors of the finished brew will be bitter and harsher, because of over-extraction. Therefore, your grind should be coarse for cold brewing. Also, if you’re using the slow drip method of cold brewing, a coarse grind will allow for a quicker flow, whereas a fine grind is too dense, restricting the flow of the water.
Should I use pre-ground coffee for cold brew?
One of the questions we get the most for cold brew coffee is “Can you use regular ground coffee for cold brew?” or something along the lines of “Do you need special coffee for cold brew?” Unfortunately, the “hipster” coffee culture has led to a lot of informal gatekeeping within the coffee community. The truth of the matter is, you can use whatever coffee you want to make cold brew.
Will some grind and coffees get you better results than others? Absolutely. Should that stop you from using whatever tastes good to you? No.
We have a couple of tips to consider if you do choose to go pre-ground:
- Avoid “Espresso”. Phrases like “extra fine grind” or “espresso blend” should be huge red flags when you are selecting coffee for your cold brew. Like we mentioned before,
- Look for a coarse grind. There will be bags of pre-ground coffee that are specifically labeled as a “coarse grind” that are perfect for a cold brew. However, these options may be limited, which brings us to our next point…
- Trial and error is your best friend. If you are going off-script with your coffee grounds, just make sure you are ready to accept a few sub-par batches before you get your ratios and timing correct.
- Check the dates! The biggest reason people go for whole coffee beans is for the sake of freshness. Make sure to look for the roast date and other freshness indicators on your preground coffee beans to ensure that you get the best results.
Ultimately, you don’t need to be grinding your own coffee beans for cold brew. Just make sure you are paying attention to the size of the grounds and how fresh they are.
To cream or not to cream …
Coffee aficionados insist that cold brew coffee has a natural creamy mouth and doesn’t need enhancement with milk or cream.
Our advice is to try your finished brew first. If you prefer a little dairy in your coffee, add some. But you may find you don’t need it. A blend of three parts cold brew to one part milk works well; it’s all just a matter of personal taste.
Ice, ice baby …
When adding ice to your cold brew coffee, remember that ice will melt on a hot day!
Melting ice will dilute your brew, potentially spoiling the flavor that you’ve worked so hard to achieve. Balled ice melts more slowly than cubes (yep, really), and thus causes less dilution. Perhaps the best option is to use whiskey stones. Whiskey stones or rocks can be placed in your freezer until ice-cold and then used to chill your drink without diluting it. Perfect.
An alternative would be to freeze your cold brew coffee in an ice tray and use the cubes to chill your brew. Genius.
Sexing up your brew
If you want to give your cold brew coffee a twist, you could try adding a shot of booze. Avoid anything with coffee flavor though, as this will destroy the brew’s characteristic taste.
For something different:
- Take a glass of cold brew and top it off with a dash of soda water
- Take a slice of fresh lime and rub it around the rim of your glass.
This cold brew spritzer makes for a very refreshing hot weather drink.
Hey, why not add a dash of Tequila if you’re feeling reckless …
Wrapping it up
Cold brew coffee is a very refreshing summer beverage, but you do need to make it properly.
- When using a light roast, avoid citrus or medicinal blends
- Steep dark roasts for a shorter time so as not to saturate the brew with sweet, cocoa flavors
- Use whiskey stones or frozen cold brew coffee to chill your drink, rather than ice cubes that will dilute it
Remember, at the end of the day, the best cold brew coffee is the one you decide is best for you!
Happy caffeinating, and stay cool.