Coffee aficionados are raving about cold brew. Far different than good ol’ iced coffee – which is basically just regular coffee dumped over some ice – cold brew is made without using any heat at all.
While the techniques used to make cold brew coffee are really pretty simple, it does require a shift from some of your familiar, hot coffee brewing habits.
One of the most common questions we get is how to pick the right coffee beans for making cold brew, given that the extraction method is so different from other routes. Hang in there, we’ve got the best coffee for cold brew lined up for you.
What is Cold Brew Coffee?
Let’s start at the beginning – what is cold brew coffee anyhow?
First of all, it’s important to remember that we’re not talking about iced coffee, although cold brew is also served chilled most of the time.
Cold brew is cold-extraction coffee, so it’s any coffee made without heat. The difference between iced coffee and cold brew is that iced coffee is just regular coffee that’s either chilled in a fridge or poured over ice to make a cool coffee drink.
Since the flavor compounds from the two kinds of coffee are extracted differently, you end up with different flavor profiles. This holds true even if the eventual destiny of both brews is to end up in a blended iced mocha.
How is Cold Brew Made?
A favorite in blended coffee drinks, especially in the summertime, cold brew coffee can fetch a pretty penny, which is why many people are learning how to make it themselves.
Don’t worry, we’ve got you. It’s really pretty simple to make yourself at home.
Immersion Cold Brewing Method
This is the simplest way to make cold brew at home, and it really couldn’t be easier. It gets its name because you immerse your ground coffee (we recommend a fine ground) in cold, filtered water overnight, then strain in the morning.
Remember – this will give you cold brew concentrate, which you probably don’t want to drink straight. It’s full-bodied, so the goal is usually to drink it over ice or with milk.
- Sealed container
- Grind coffee
- Add about ¾ cup ground coffee to an airtight container
- Fill with 4 cups of cold, filtered water.
- Cover container with a lid
- Store on the countertop or in the fridge overnight (or longer)
- Strain in the morning
- Enjoy your cold brew concentrate over ice or with milk
- 12 hours for countertop, more like 15-18 for in the fridge
Ice Drip Cold Brew Method
Yielding a slightly lighter and brighter cold brew concentrate, the ice drip cold brew method is a lot of fun but used a lot less frequently because it requires specialized equipment. Basically, a special coffee maker slowly drips cold water through the coffee grounds.
This can be a great method if you want to make cold brew in a quarter of the time as the immersion method, though.
- Cold brew coffee maker (like this one)
- Grind coffee
- Add ground coffee to your drip coffee maker’s attached reusable filter
- Add filtered water into the reservoir
- Turn the machine on
- Wait about 3 or 4 hours, depending on the model
- Remove the filtered coffee, usually from the bottom of the machine
- Pour & Enjoy!
- Anywhere from 3 to 4 hours
- Moderately easy
Japanese Cold Brew Method
This method is quickly growing in popularity around the world, as it seems to combine the best of both worlds. Like other cold-brew methods, you get a smooth, non-acidic concentrate, but it’s much faster to make – under 10 minutes in some cases – making it comparable to regular hot brew methods.
Some people also call it flash-chilled or flash-brewed coffee, but it all amounts to the same thing.
The trick here is to make sure you pour the hot, brewed coffee over your ice cubes immediately after brewing. This halts the extraction process and results in a lighter, brighter flavor.
In order for this Japanese cold brew method to work, you need to be extremely precise in your measurements to get a perfect flash-chilled cold brew.
- Coffee maker
- Grind your coffee
- Measure your ground coffee into your coffee maker (use about twice as much as you normally would)
- Measure your ice into a glass
- Brew your coffee as normal
- Immediately drip the brewed coffee over ice cubes
- Pour & Enjoy!
- 10-15 minutes
- Intermediate to Advanced – Your measurements need to be precise in order for this method to work
Why Do People Drink Cold Brew?
So just because you can make cold brew, should you? Is it really any better than regular old iced coffee?
Coffee is a world of endless customization and you will find people fiercely defending their favored personalization’s. Cold brew is no different. There are those who like it for the smooth, sweet taste. Some claim it is easier on the stomach. And others just flat out don’t like it.
Benefits of Cold Brew Coffee
Cold brew coffee has several benefits, hence its growing popularity. We’ll go through each one to help you understand the reasoning behind the trend.
Of course, the number one reason any coffee method gains popularity is for the flavor it provides. Coffee is like wine – there is an almost infinite number of combinations that can be achieved by combining different beans, roasts, grind size, and brew types.
Cold brew coffee boasts additional sweetness. This is because the hot water that usually pulls out the acidic compounds in coffee is absent in cold brew.
Fans of cold brew coffee swear that it’s easier on the stomach than regular coffee. Since cold water and hot water pull out different compounds from the coffee, there is some truth to this.
Some research suggests that the carbohydrates in cold brew coffee are a little bit gentler on the stomach lining and perhaps slightly less acidic.
The immersion method of making cold-brew is incredibly easy and produces pretty reliable concentrate without a lot of babysitting. It has the benefit of being easy but it still lets you blend together a fancy coffee drink to impress your friends.
If you want to make espresso at home, you’re going to have to spend a pretty penny on an espresso machine. Cold brew, on the other hand, doesn’t require any major special equipment.
You will have to use about twice as much coffee as you normally do to produce the concentrate, but since you normally mix it with filtered water, milk, or ice later on, it all balances out.
Cold brew is just a fun trick to have up your sleeve during the hot months. It might not be the method you rely on every time you want coffee (or hey, maybe it will!) but it’s definitely a fun brewing method to have on hand.
Negatives of Cold Brew Coffee
Just like with any brew method, there are downsides to cold brew coffee when compared to making other ways of making coffee.
Though cold brew coffee does not require very much hands-on time, the immersion method takes over half a day to prepare.
Unless you have a cold-drip brew machine or are comfortable with making precise measurements that the Japanese cold brew requires, you can’t just make cold brew coffee on a whim. It’s going to take some planning.
Like we mentioned above, it takes about twice as much ground coffee to make cold brew as standard brewed coffee. This means you could be shelling out quite a bit of money on coffee to make a single batch.
Since you rarely drink cold-brew straight (though you could), this tends to work out in the end. Cold brew also produces a decent amount of concentrate that can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Hot or Cold?
We tend to recommend against reheating coffee once it’s brewed, since that tends to destroy some of the desirable flavor compounds. Because of this, cold brew is best enjoyed….well…cold.
While it’s great if you want to store your coffee in a fridge for blending later, and if you like cold drinks, it just won’t do it for people who really love their coffee hot.
The Best Type of Coffee For Cold Brew: Grind, Roast, and Origin
Every cold brew fan will enthusiastically recommend the best coffee for cold brew. Once you start asking your friends for their best cold brew coffee recommendations, you’ll find that you get referred to everything from light roast to espresso roast.
So how do you sort through it all? What is the best coffee for cold brew?
What Size Coffee Grind is Best For Cold Brew?
When making cold brew, a coarse ground is usually best. This is because finer ground coffee extracts much more quickly. While this is great for making espresso, it will result in over-extracted coffee when making cold brew.
What Type of Roast is Best For Cold Brew Coffee?
This is a bit more complicated than grind size. A lot depends on personal preferences and how you plan to drink it.
As a rule of thumb, if you plan to mix the cold brew concentrate with milk, a darker brew is preferable. If you plan to drink it alone or just over ice, you will appreciate the lighter, brighter flavors of a light roast coffee.
Single Origin Coffee or Blend?
While single origin beans are typically preferred for most coffee brewing methods, coffee blends will work fine for cold brew. Blends tend to be a bit cheaper than single origin coffee and given that cold brew requires much more coffee, we usually brew ours with a blend.
5 Best Coffees For Cold Brew
What is cold brew coffee without the best beans? Every great cup of coffee starts with great coffee beans. We’ve got the scoop on all the best cold brew coffee brands out there.
Best Overall Cold Brew Coffee: Java Planet Guatemalan Single Origin Medium Roast
Medium roast is a great place to start if you’re new to cold brew. Organic, single-origin Arabica beans means there’s no pesticides or other toxic compounds in your cold brew. The chocolate and caramel notes work well alone or when mixed with milk.
Overall, these are some of the best coffee beans as a cold brew choice for beginners and experienced coffee pros alike. We like the eco-friendly, family-owned story behind the farmers and it works great for traditional brew methods too – it’s not a one-trick pony.
As a bonus, it’s a low-acid coffee, so if you’re going with cold brew for its stomach-soothing benefits, this is a great pick.
Best Budget Cold Brew Coffee: Raven’s Brew Resurrection Blend Whole Bean Coffee
Available at most grocery stores, this blend is a lovely, medium roast coffee that won’t break the bank. It’s a little spicier than most of the coffees that we chose for this roundup, so it’s also a nice flavor change if you want to mix it up with a different blend, though it might not be the pick of those who like sweeter flavors in their cold brew.
While it’s not specifically roasted for cold brew, it works well for this purpose and still bodes well for other brew methods as well.
Best Upgrade Coffee For Cold Brew: Tiny Footprint Coffee Organic Cold Brew Elixir
Ready to step up your cold brew game? It actually doesn’t take that much more of a price bump to try some really fun things with your cold brew coffee.
We liked the mix of light and dark beans and the craft-roasting process they use to get evenly-roasted beans. There’s all kinds of flavors in there – from cocoa to floral, these sweet notes surely won’t disappoint.
Also – it’s carbon-negative, which means that they help replant the rainforest. How cool is that?
Best Flavored Coffee For Cold Brew: Stumptown Hairbender Blend
This Portland brew looked around the world to create its distinctive blend. We really liked the citrus and dark chocolate notes of these beans.
This whole bean, flavored coffee bills itself as an espresso blend, so it’s best for those of you who prefer a darker blend. On the other hand, that makes it a really versatile bean to have in your cupboard, because you can turn around and use it for hot brew methods, as well.
Best Ground Coffee For Cold Brew: Bizzy Cold Brew Ground Coffee
If you prefer to buy ground coffee over whole beans, we would recommend Bizzy. A bestseller for a reason, this coffee has sweet, hazelnut flavors and is an Arabica blend.
Designed specifically to provide the best coffee for cold brew in a convenient, pre-ground version, Bizzy comes exclusively in a coarse grind, ideal for making cold brew.
It does lack the freshness of grinding whole beans yourself, but if you don’t have that luxury, this is a great alternative.
Other Top Coffees to Make Cold Brew Coffee
At this point, you may be asking “can you make decaf cold brew coffee?” Yep! We liked the Kicking Horse Coffee Decaf blend for its sweet notes and dark roast.
Believe it or not, cold brew coffee bags are actually a thing too. This makes the process even simpler by eliminating the measuring step. You can buy disposable coffee bags and fill them yourself, of course, eliminating the need to filter the coffee at the end of immersion brewing.
One final question that tends to arise when discussing cold brew is: “is cold brew stronger than regularly brewed coffee?”
The answer is: sort of. While cold brew does extract a lot of caffeine out of the beans, it is usually diluted with ice, water, or milk before being drunk. So, the caffeine content of your final cold brew could vary widely, depending on how you enjoy your drink.
Whatever cold brew coffees you choose, feel free to experiment. It’s hard to go wrong with cold brew, so have fun with it and enjoy this trendy, flavorful brew.