Quick Summary: The Best Coffee for Cold Brew
On a hot summer day, do you really want to go for a steaming espresso? Wouldn’t you rather have a refreshing ice-cold caffeinated treat with all the best taste nuances of your favorite beans? That’s what cold brew is all about. It might seem like a fad, but we don’t see it going away anytime soon. Instead of fighting over the “proper” way (and temperature) to brew your coffee drink of choice, let’s embrace the weird and make most of the cold brew, shall we?
First, let us introduce the seven varieties that made it to our shortlist. All come with their fair share of pros and cons, and we’ll share more on those in a minute.
Best Cold Brew Coffee Beans in 2020: Everything You Need to Know
First, let us dispel the common misconception about cold brew being a new development. The method comes from Japan, where it was the only acceptable way to brew java for centuries. The local caffeine lovers enjoyed both the immersion and drip methods without ever heating the water. The recent uptick in the popularity of this method across the globe means cold brewing is here to stay.
Before we dive into the specifics, let us set one thing straight first. Iced coffee is not the same as a cold brew. The former uses traditional brewing methods, such as espresso, pour-over, or French press, and lowers the temperature by pouring it over ice cubes. The latter does not involve hot water at all.
What makes cold brew different from any other method? The answer lies in the chemistry of steeping. At low temperatures, the transfer of flavor from the beans to water runs slower, and a different set of chemical compounds is released. For one, cold brew contains more caffeine than any other coffee drink made with the same amount of beans. Therefore, you shouldn’t have more than two cups per day to avoid health issues. While the pH level of hot and cold brews is the same, the latter holds a lower titratable acid concentration that makes for lower overall acidity of the drink.
After cold steeping, the taste is milder, less pronounced and powerful. Most coffee lovers prefer to take it black to enjoy the flavor nuances. The darker roast you select, the more intense they become.
For the Best Cold Brew Coffee, You Will Need
Coarsely ground beans of your choice. Unlike espresso, cold brew takes more time, and the finest grinding can cause oversteeping, making the coffee undrinkable with too much bitterness or acidity. Filtering the fine grounds can also turn into a pain, so French press coarseness is considered the best for cold steeping.
Room temperature or chilled water. Filtered, bottled, or tap - all are fair game when it comes to cold brewing. However, low-quality water may affect the drink, so don’t cut corners if you don’t want to waste the grounds.
12 to 24 hours of brewing time. The exact time depends on the coarseness of the grounds, water temperature, and, most importantly, your preferences. Try your drink after 12 hours and decide whether you want a richer flavor. The manufacturer’s instructions should also provide an estimate for the best results.
Coffee filter, French press, or a sieve to filter the drink. Unless you use filtering coffee pouches for your brew, you will need to get rid of the sediment before enjoying the drink. You can use anything on hand in your kitchen or invest in a cold drip system (more on that in a minute).
Sugar and milk to emphasize the flavor profile. Depending on your bean and roast choice, you might want to add a little extra oomph to the drink. Cream and milk will both make the taste milder, and 1 to 3 proportion is a classic proportion.
Never ones to miss an opportunity, kitchen appliances manufacturers are now offering specialized machines for cold drip brewing. Instead of steeping the grounds in water, these devices drip the cold water through the coffee at a slow pace. It’s faster than immersion brewing, but still takes hours to complete. When you become a true cold brew aficionado, you might want to invest in one of these machines, but for now, let’s go over our list of the delicious cold brew coffee beans you can enjoy using nothing but a filter and a jar.
Our Top 7 Picks for Cold Brew Coffee Brands
As always, our recommendations are based on research, personal experience, and online reviews. We like these particular seven varieties, as each one has unique qualities, be it taste, roast, or eco-friendliness. Take our advice, experiment, and you’re sure to find the perfect cold brew java!
Bizzy Organic Cold Brew Coffee Review
- Amazon #1 bestseller
- Coarse grinding for consistent taste
- A sweet, nutty flavor with caramel notes
You wouldn’t believe the number of Amazon reviews for this variety. Considering it’s the bestseller among iced coffee and cold brews, we are happy to add our positive review to the ever-growing list of fan faves. For one, the company specializes in making the perfect refreshing cuppa and has mastered the coarse grinding that ensures deep extraction of the flavor without overwhelming bitterness or acidity.
The coffee blend is a mix of Arabica beans coming from Nicaragua, Peru, and Guatemala. The medium roasting brings sweetness to the fore, along with the nuanced notes of hazelnut and caramel. Despite the claims by some reviewers, this is not a flavored drink, and it does NOT contain anything aside from ground coffee, so you don’t have to worry about allergies and caloric intake. Both hardcore Starbucks fans and coffee gourmets will enjoy this delicious combination.
One of the best attributes of this brand is its down-to-earth approach to cold brew. They demystify the chemistry and break down the process into a couple of simple steps with clear instructions and measurements. The packaging does not specify this, but you can alter the proportions to fit your taste better. This particular variety is available in one and two-pound bags, as well as pitcher packs.
Volcanica Cold Brew Whole Bean Coffee Review
- Freshly roasted whole bean coffee
- Low-acid arabica blended with bold Sumatra beans
This whole bean option is perfect for those who wish to experiment with a home grinder to find the ideal coarseness for a cold brew cuppa. The taste of low-acid arabica coupled with powerful Sumatra beans unfolds at low temperatures and ensures delicious results. However, one reviewer noted the difference in flavor profile from one bag to the next. The notes of chocolate, cocoa, and flowers may be present in some batches, but not others, depending on the harvest season weather conditions.
Volcanica baristas recommend you mix this blend with water in a French press (1 to 4) and let it steep in the fridge for 12 hours. As always, you should experiment with these parameters until you find the combination that hits your buttons.
For some reason, the manufacturer offers a variety of grind options for this blend. If you don’t want the hassle of grinding the beans, you can select among French press, drip, and espresso grind varieties. It is beyond us why you would want to run this coffee blended specifically for cold brew through an espresso machine, but you can have that option. One-pound vacuum-sealed bags are the brand’s standard packaging option, and the price is very competitive when compared to the more popular varieties.
Tiny Footprint Carbon Negative Organic Coffee Review
- Shade-grown arabica
- A mix of light and dark roast
- A bit bitter without milk and sugar
If you’re serious about sustainability and care about green initiatives, this organic cold brew coffee is right up your alley. Unlike many large-scale plantations, this brand only uses shade-grown arabica, meaning no trees are cut down to make room for the farms. Moreover, a part of the profits of each bag sold goes towards the reforestation of Ecuador. This is what “Carbon Negative” in the name stands for. Moreover, the manufacturer promises over 50 pounds of good karma with every pound bag. It’s a reference to 54 lbs of carbon dioxide the newly planted trees will remove from the atmosphere.
While the mission of this company is great, the coffee leaves a lot to be desired. The packaging promises the mix of light and dark roast coupled with Ethiopian beans, but the drink is often too bitter to be enjoyed. Many reviewers complain about the taste being unpleasant without the addition of milk, cream, or sugar. The small-batch roasting approach is an acquired taste. It’s definitely worth checking out but don’t go investing in a three-pound bag from the get-go. Start small and make sure you like the unique, rich taste with floral notes in your cold brew.
Stone Street Coffee Cold Brew Reserve Review
- 100% Colombian Supremo beans
- The freshest artisanal roasting
- Outstanding rich flavor without acidity or bitterness
If you want to add an artisanal twist to your cold brew, this should be at the top of your shopping list. Roasted by a specialty company based in Brooklyn, it’s described as the perfect bean for cold brewing by hundreds of happy reviewers. For one, the single-origin beans are 100% Colombian Supremo after a dark roast. This combination results in a powerful, vibrant flavor without unnecessary acidity or bitterness. Instead of tasting burnt, as many dark roast blends do, this variety is smooth and rich with nuances of chocolate, nuts, and caramel.
Another point in favor of this product is the packaging. The three-layer kraft bag is degassed and sealed to preserve the fresh aroma and flavor without adding plastic to the mix. You can get your hands on a one or two-pound bag or go for the win with a five-pound packaging. The whole bean option is there for grinder owners willing to find the perfect setting. Still, the company can also accommodate those who want to eliminate the extra step by offering the ground version of the same bean.
This might not be the number one seller, but it is our top recommendation. When it comes to flavor, price, packaging, and overall experience, you can’t beat Stone Street Coffee.
Death Wish Organic USDA Certified Coffee Review
- The strongest coffee in the world
- Smooth flavor with notes of chocolate and cherry
Our shortlist of the best coffee beans for cold brew would never be complete without at least one variety of the Death Wish coffee. If you’ve never heard of it, the company is lauded for producing the strongest java in the world that promises an extra-powerful punch. The increased strength is the result of a blend of arabica and robusta beans that produces an overwhelming taste along with a caffeine boost.
Despite the myth of lighter roasts containing more caffeine, the brand relies on a unique small-batch slow roasting process to produce a smooth and balanced taste without any bitterness. Although the package contains only organic (USDA certified) beans, the coffee boasts the winning combination of cherry and chocolate notes. Quality packaging lineup includes one, two, and five-pound bags.
Is it actually stronger than other blends? The opinions differ. Some reviewers claim an overwhelming boost to productivity and recommend only taking this coffee in the morning. Others complain about the lack of caffeine boost and find the flavor mediocre or even off-putting. You’ll have to try for yourself to learn whether this blend has the desired effect on you.
Cold Brew Lab Ground Organic Coffee Review
- Sourced, roasted, and blended for cold brew
- 100% USDA certified arabica
- A mix of medium and dark roasted beans
Yet another offering from an artisanal roast shop in New York, this blend was created specifically for the slow process of low-temperature brewing. For top-shelf quality and safety, the company sources arabica beans from USDA certified plantations that do not use pesticides. The coffee is then roasted in small batches, and the medium and dark roasts are blended for the best cold brew flavor, smooth and balanced without bitter notes. The big body with low acidity makes this variety a favorite for many java enthusiasts.
The product comes in one- and two-pound bags, so you can check the brand out before committing to a larger packaging. The coarse grind is perfect for French press and cold drip machines, saving your time and making the brewing as easy as breathing. However, you can opt for a whole bean version and grind it at home before steeping for the best extraction of flavor and aroma.
While not as popular as other items on our list, this brand is definitely worth checking out. Even if it doesn’t become an instant fave, ColdBrew is sure to get into your regular rotation.
Real Good Coffee Co Breakfast Blend Light Roast Review
- Seattle-roasted beans sourced in Central and South America
- Light roast with notes of citrus, chocolate, and cream
If you’re looking for a smooth and aromatic cuppa to start your day on the right note, this might be a good option. With the beans sourced across Central and South America, this 100% arabica blend offers a delicious combination of citrus nuances with milk chocolate and cream undertones. The light roast is great straight up with no sugar or milk added. Throw in the mellow taste of the low-temperature extraction, and you get an instant fix of caffeinated goodness with every cup.
With over thirty years of roasting experience, the Seattle-based brand is sure to please your caffeine urges. However, this variety is only available in two-pound bags, which, while affordable, might not be the best choice if you merely want to check out the offer. And you definitely should do that, as some reviewers complain about the strange flavor and smell of the blend. You won’t learn whether this is your cup of coffee until you try it.
What Are the Best Beans for Cold Brew?Considering the low temperature and long steeping process increase the caffeine content in the cuppa, we recommend going with arabica. Robusta beans may lower the price, but their taste is not universally well-liked, and the increased caffeine content might be over the top for many. Besides, the cold brew method results in a low-key taste, so there is no need to waste money on exclusive single-origin options, as blended varieties taste just as well, if not better.
What Are the Best Coffee Grounds for Cold Brew?The coarser, the better, some would say, but that’s not entirely true. French press grinding is considered the happy medium for cold steeping; however, you can go with slightly finer or coarser beans, depending on the duration of the process and your taste preferences. Do not experiment with espresso grounds unless you are looking for disappointment. When the beans are too fine, the extraction process is accelerated, and in twelve hours, you get an undrinkable sludge you can’t filter.
For the Best Cold Brew, Coffee Beans Are the Only Factor, Right?If that were true, we wouldn’t have a variety of coffee-centric kitchen appliances. When it comes to cold brew, the coarseness matters, as well as the water quality, temperature, and the duration of the steeping. We recommend you start by following the manufacturer’s instructions and experiment with different parameters until you find your sweet spot. For instance, you might prefer steeping at room temperature to keeping your French press in the fridge. You can also experiment with preparing a cold brew concentrate to be mixed with milk, water, or ice.
What Is the Best Ground Coffee for Cold Brew?You’ll have to answer this question for yourself. We’ve provided a selection of seven solid options, but no one can guess how each particular variety will taste to you. You might even start your cold brew experiments with the beans you use in your espresso machine or drip coffee maker. As long as you get the right grind, you might never have to switch brands. Still, if you want more variety, check out our top recommendation.
The Verdict. What Is the Best Coffee for Cold Brew?
With so many options, finding a good coffee for cold brew is still a challenge. You have to account for the type of beans and their origin, roast, coarseness. Even packaging can ruin your first impression if the bag reaches you with a broken vacuum seal.
Of course, personal taste is the decisive factor. We can’t promise you will love the best-selling option and hate the one with horrible reviews. That’s why we’ve presented a shortlist with seven options for you to choose from, whether you care about carbon footprint, organic sources, or caffeine content. Still, we’ve found our winner, and that’s Stone Street Coffee Cold Brew Reserve. The combination of dark roast and Colombian Supremo was a surprising revelation that’s a match made in heaven for the cold brewing method. Taste-test, tweak the proportions and steeping time, and remember us when you enjoy this refreshing and delicious treat!