When the sun is beating down on you on a hot, mid-summer day, 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 with so many different grinds to choose from, it can be tricky for the novice home barista to select 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 — you’re welcome.
At a Glance: The Best Coffee For Cold Brew
Quick Summary: The Best Coffee for Cold Brew
|LifeBoost Coffee||Check On Lifeboost→|
|BIZZY ORGANIC COLD BREW||Check on Amazon →|
|COFFEE BROS. COLD BREW BLEND||Check on Amazon →|
|JOE COFFEE GREAT HEIGHTS BLEND||Check Price →|
|GREATER GOODS COFFEE CO. GOOD VIBES||Check Price →|
|Tiny Footprint Coffee Organic Cold Press Elixir||Check on Amazon →|
|Café Du Monde Coffee with Chicory||Check on Amazon →|
|Farmer’s Market Jo, Light Medium Roast||Check on Amazon →|
|Real Good Coffee Company Breakfast Blend||Check on Amazon →|
|STONE STREET COLD BREW||Check on Amazon →|
What’s the difference between cold brew and iced coffee?
All chilled coffee lovers should know that not all the types of coffee served over ice are created equal. No, cold brew and iced coffee are not the same. But what is it that sets the two apart?
Well, when it comes to the two coffee beverages, there’s a difference in brewing methods. Iced coffee is just regular coffee — from a drip coffee maker, maybe — that’s been cooled down and served over ice.
Unlike iced coffee, cold brew is made without the use of any hot water at all. The cold brewing method requires coarse coffee grounds to steep in cold water for at least 12 hours. Then, the grounds are filtered or strained out, and the coffee concentrate is served.
Roasty Rankings: The Best Coffee for Cold Brew
Now that you know enough information to join the ranks of cold brew coffee experts…er, okay, maybe you’re not an expert. But you at least know enough to make a cool smooth brew at home, which is why it’s the perfect time for us to introduce you to all of our favorite types of beans for cold brewing!
Lifeboost is an up-and-coming coffee brand based in Virginia that sources all of its beans from a single family-owned farm in Nicaragua situated high atop Mt. Kilambé, at an elevation of 5,700 feet.
The entire brand is centered around sustainability, and in addition to being USDA-certified organic, Lifeboost’s coffee beans are non-GMO, Fair Trade, exceptionally low acid, slow-roasted, hand-picked, and shade-grown…pretty impressive, right?
You can buy these beans whole or pre-ground, and you even get the luxury of choosing between light, medium, or dark roasted coffee. However, since you’ll be making cold brew, we recommend selecting medium-roasted whole beans and using a burr grinder right before brewing.
Bizzy Organic Cold Brew Smooth & Sweet Blend
An important part of Bizzy Coffee’s slogan is that it’s “made for busy people, by busy people,” so the next time you need a batch of cold brew strong enough to fuel even your most jam-packed day, consider pulling out a bag of Bizzy’s Smooth & Sweet blend.
As you’ve probably guessed by the blend’s name, this coffee produces a brew that’s smooth and sweet; the medium roasted arabica beans are littered with notes of caramel and hazelnut. And because the good people at Bizzy are so passionate about cold brew, the company micro-sifts each batch of the coarse coffee to make sure you’ve got a consistent grind size and, therefore, perfectly extracted brew.
Coffee Bros. Cold Brew Blend
Coffee Bros. was founded in 2019 by brothers Nick and Dan Hunnewell to provide good coffee while giving back to the regions in which it was grown. So, you can enjoy every sip of joe brewed with this cold brew coffee bean blend, knowing it’s not only doing good for your taste buds but also for the area from which it came.
This medium roast was curated explicitly for cold brewing coffee, complete with the rich chocolate, mixed berry, and brown sugar goodness you’ll love pouring over ice.
These flavorful beans hail from Shara, Yirgacheffe Ethiopia, and Minas Gerais Brazil. Because they’re small-batch roasted, you know the second batch of these beans you purchase will taste just as bold and delicious as the first.
Joe Coffee Great Heights Blend
Joe Coffee Great Heights Blend
Nutty and cherry notes complement deep cedar tones make a deliciously light cup brewed hot or cold.
Don’t get it twisted; even though Joe Coffee’s Great Heights blend — also known as the Overnighter, if you’re a longtime Joe Coffee fan — was created to be served cold in Joe Coffee storefronts, the brew is versatile enough to appeal to hot coffee drinkers, too!
After you’ve loaded your beloved cold brew maker with these rich-bodied and satisfying beans sourced from Minas Gerais, let the bean and water mixture steep, then pour yourself a glass. You’ll savor every flavor of sweet chocolate, syrupy molasses, and spicy-sweet cinnamon — it’s so good!
Greater Goods Coffee Co. Good Vibes
Greater Goods Coffee Co. Good Vibes
So complex but squeaky clean – we bet Brian Wilson would approve. Big and bold with a cocoa-like structure supporting a peanut-buttery sweetness.
Nothing quite brings on the good vibes like a good cup of coffee, right? At least, that’s what we think! That’s why this particular bag of Brazilian beans from Greater Goods Coffee Co. caught our eye; with a name like Good Vibes, you know you’re in for a treat with this medium-dark roasted joe!
If you’re a frequent cold brew drinker, you know the best servings of the chilled beverage are pretty smooth, and Greater Goods’s Good Vibes coffee is just that. But smooth doesn’t mean mild; this brew is both bold and full-bodied with its nutty, dark chocolate notes on full display. When you’re drinking coffee like this, it’s hard not to feel good every time you pull out the cold brew maker.
Tiny Footprint Coffee Organic Cold Press Elixir
Tiny Footprint Coffee is a small U.S.-based coffee roasting house whose goal is to produce great beans from an eco-friendly, “earth positive” perspective. To offset the carbon used in the production of their coffee, Tiny Footprint plants trees in the Ecuadorian cloud forest for every pound of coffee that they sell.
Cold Press Elixir is a blend 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 subtle floral and bright fruit tones infused with cocoa. If you’re a fan of convenience, you can find this blend pre-ground, but if you like the control of grinding your own beans, whole beans are available, too.
Café Du Monde Coffee with Chicory
Chicory root is cooked, ground, then added to the dark roast coffee to reduce its bitterness to make Café Du Monde’s tasty coffee blend. The result is java with a sweet and smoky aroma, light body, and mellow flavors.
This smooth coffee tastes great, brewed hot or cold, and because the coffee and chicory combination is so potent, you’ll find that the resulting brew works well with milk or cream. If you’re a dairy lover looking for a cold brew companion, this just might be the joe for you.
Farmer’s Market Jo, Light Medium Roast
Farmer’s Market Jo uses a blend of only directly sourced raw arabica coffee from artisan roasteries worldwide. 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 sustainability boxes, this is the way to go.
These light-medium roast coffee beans have cupping notes of sweet pecans, bittersweet chocolate, and wild honey. The resulting brew is super palatable and light, making it an ideal choice for novice cold brewers who are experimenting with their technique. And despite being on the lighter side of the roasting scale, this coffee still makes a great pair with a splash of cream for a refreshing and caffeinated summer beverage.
Real Good Coffee Company Breakfast Blend
The arabica beans used in this light roast morning coffee from Real Good Coffee Company are sourced from South and Central America before being roasted fresh in Seattle, Washington. If you prefer to grind your beans yourself, pick up a bag of this coffee and get your taste buds ready for something delicious.
This blend’s citrus flavor is balanced nicely by creamy, chocolate flavors, so all of the coffee’s bright, fruity tones shine through without too much acidity. And because this is a light roast, you’ll want to steep these cold brew coffee grounds for at least 20 hours before you start sipping for the best-tasting result.
Stone Street Cold Brew
Behold, Stone Street Coffee Company’s cold brew coffee beans! This joe is especially for cold coffee fanatics, and this particular offering from the New York-based company is a favorite of many who have been brewing the coffee concentrate for years.
And it’s easy to see why! This bag contains 100 percent arabica Colombian Supremo beans. The single-origin java is a classic dark roast, coarsely ground for quality cold brewing (also available as whole beans, if you prefer to do the grinding yourself). The coffee in your cup will be exceptionally crisp and clean in comparison to other offerings.
Overall, this is an excellent choice for beginners looking to brew a few safe cups before venturing into less traditional flavor profiles. However, you can catch cold brew veterans drinking this one, too, because honestly, it’s hard to knock such a classic flavor.
What gives cold brew its distinctive flavor?
The absence of heat in the brewing process 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 does the brewing method influence flavor?
The method 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 diluted, 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, to produce a brew.
The Taster’s Wheel
The flavors you derive from your blend are based on the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s Coffee Taster’s Wheel. Producers use the guide to label their blends’ flavors and 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 coffee. These tend to have a clearer flavor profile than blends, so you’ll better enjoy the full range of each flavor.
Single-origin coffees tend to be more expensive than blends, but in our experience, the little extra investment makes 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!
How do you fix weak cold brew?
Maybe you used the wrong coffee to water ratio, and instead of getting a drink that’s packed with bold coffee flavor, you ended up with a weak, watery mess. So frustrating! But no worries; we’ve all been there, and we’ve got some tips for you to try as you troubleshoot.
Let it steep longer.
If your first batch of cold brew was missing all the robust flavors you expected it to have, try letting the next go-round steep in your refrigerator longer — up to 24 hours. But you’re already letting your cold brew steep that long and the end result is still not as strong as you’d like, you’ll need to try something different and…
Add less water.
If you let your cold brew machine and its contents sit on your refrigerator shelf for a whole day and still ended up with a lackluster brew, chances are the ratio of coffee grounds to water is off. A weak cup usually means too much water was added.
If you find this is the case for you, be sure to combine a smaller amount of water with your scoop or cup of coffee grounds. After the corrected ratio cold brew has steeped in the fridge for 12 to 24 hours, try the delicious coffee and see if any of the flavors of your favorite coffee bean show up in your cold brew.
All About the Add-Ins
What, if anything, should you pour into your cold-brewed coffee? Read on to find out!
To add cream or not to add cream…that is the question.
Coffee aficionados insist that cold brew coffee has a natural creamy mouthfeel and doesn’t need enhancement with milk or cream. Some people, however, can’t stomach even one sip of coffee without the aid of cream. So, what’s the right way to drink cold brew?
That’s up to you! But 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, but 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!
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 and thus causes less dilution, but 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.
Another alternative would be to freeze your cold brew coffee in an ice tray and use the cubes to chill your brew.
And for a more grown-up twist…
If you’re of the legal drinking age and want to give your cold brew coffee a bit more oomph, try adding a shot of booze to your joe. Just don’t use any coffee-flavored alcohol, though, as it works against and drowns out the unique range of flavors present in your cup.
To make a very refreshing hot weather drink, take a glass of cold brew and top it off with a bit of tonic water and simple syrup. Rub a slice of fresh lime around the rim of the glass for a little extra something, and you’ve got a delicious coffee tonic!
Feeling extra wild? Pair your cold brew with a shot of tequila instead!
A Cold Brew Q&A: Everything You Need to Know
Concerning caffeine…how does cold brew compare to espresso?
Contrary to popular belief, a shot of espresso is not actually the most caffeinated coffee drink on the market today. That is, unless you consume around 16 times the recommended serving size!
The standard espresso serving size is a single shot, or about an ounce, containing an average of 60 milligrams of caffeine. Sixteen ounces of cold brew, which is probably the size of the largest serving at your local coffee shop, contains about 200 milligrams of caffeine. That makes cold brew more caffeinated by serving, not volume.
Which coffee roast makes the best cold brew?
This question tends to divide coffee lovers everywhere because technically, you can use light, medium, or dark roast coffee to make a cup of cold brew.
However, when you pull out your cold brew maker, we recommend using a bag of medium or dark roasted beans to get the job done. Dark roast joe tends to boast a richer flavor, as it’s usually full of chocolatey or spicy notes that taste delicious with a splash of milk.
If you prefer to enjoy your coffee black, though, a medium roast is the way to go. These beans have all of the balanced flavors and aromas you’d find in a dark roast brew without the bitterness.
Does grind size matter?
Yes, it certainly does!
So, whether you’re buying pre-ground beans for cold brewing or pulling out your trusty coffee grinder and a bag of whole beans, 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 cold brew coffee brands give 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 the pre-ground route:
- Avoid “Espresso.” Phrases like “extra fine grind” or “espresso blend” should be huge red flags when selecting coffee for your cold brew.
- Look for a coarse grind. There will be bags of pre-ground coffee specifically labeled as a “coarse grind,” and those are perfect for making 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 pre-ground coffee beans to ensure that you get the best results.
Wrapping it up
Cold brew coffee is a very refreshing summer beverage, but you do need to make it properly, so here are some last-minute tips for you to keep in mind as you brew:
- 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.
And 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!