What Are Best Beans for Iced Coffee? Our Top Picks

You don't have to suffer through tongue-burning shots when it's over 100 degrees outside, and the sun is trying to melt the city blocks around you. Instead, you can enjoy the same energy boost of a caffeine shot in a chilled, refreshing drink. Join me on a hunt for the best beans for iced coffee, and you'll never feel lethargic or drained throughout the summer months.

Driftaway Cold Brew Coffee Beans

Driftaway Cold Brew Coffee Beans

  • Brand: White Coffee
  • Roast Level
  • Medium_roast
  • Flavor: Tip of the Andes
  • Specialty: Organic
  • Weight: 0.2 Pounds

The first time I stumbled upon the Driftaway site, I was blown away (in the best way) by the info dump I got on every single bean they offer. While there are three cold brew options on offer, I feel like profile #3 is best suited for iced coffee, as it's more intense thanks to a medium-dark roast. The ice doesn't wash out the vibrant citrusy acidity or the molasses-like sweetness. And there are distinct notes of chocolate and caramel that work perfectly with a bit of sugar or milk in your cold drink.

The unique, large beans of the Parainema varietal of Arabica come from two Honduran producers: Finca Miraflores (Santa Barbara) and Finca Terrerito (Copan). At the time of writing, Driftaway offers the freshly picked beans harvested in December 2020 and roasted in January 2021. Every batch rests for up to four days before quality assessment, packaging, and shipping. You got to love the transparency this brand offers!

For brewing iced coffee, I recommend you go with a pre-ground version of the beans without the mesh bags designed for easy cold brewing. You'll have a choice of four package sizes (from 11 oz to 5 lbs), but I always recommend you start with the smallest batch possible for taste-testing. Once you know this is the java for you, set up a subscription to never run out of beans and save a few bucks.

Bizzy Organic Cold Brew Coffee

Bizzy Organic Cold Brew Coffee

  • Brand: Bizzy
  • Item Form: Ground
  • Flavor: Smooth & Sweet
  • Caffeine Content: Caffeinated
  • Diet Type: Vegan

That's yet another company specializing in cold brew with plenty of solid options. While most of their blends are geared toward steeping in cold water, I've found two that work great for iced coffee. Dark & Bold and Espresso Blend are personal faves, as both deliver that much-needed depth of flavor without feeling watered-down. The former is toastier and sweeter, while the latter is ripe with notes of brown sugar and chocolate (all without the added flavorings!).

Unlike Driftaway, Bizzy's varieties are blends, not single-origin beans, so expect your cuppa to be a mix of USDA Organic certified Arabica from Guatemala, Peru, and Nicaragua. Both varieties I suggest for iced coffee are medium to dark roasted and coarsely ground. That means you can't load them into an espresso machine and expect to pull excellent shots. Instead, use a French press or a pour-over pot to brew java before pouring it over ice.

Now for the practical part. Bizzy beans used to be available in 12 oz and two-pound bags, but now all varieties are sold in one-pounders for around $15. You can save 5% by setting up a subscription or buying a variety 3-pack, though you'll have to settle for the roaster's or the brewer's choice.

Death Wish Organic Coffee

Death Wish Organic Coffee

  • Brand: Death Wish Coffee Co.
  • Item Form: Whole Bean
  • Roast Level: Dark_roast
  • Flavor: Chocolate
  • Caffeine Content: Caffeinated

I'm always hyped for all-in-one solutions, and Death Wish is just that when it comes to my caffeine addiction. These are not only perfect for a morning energy-boosting espresso shot but also the best espresso beans for iced coffee. The intense chocolate-and-cherry palette tastes delicious when cold, with or without a dash of milk. The dark roast is surprisingly smooth and rich without a hint of bitterness. And the added caffeine of Robusta in the blend is just what the doctor ordered for those sweltering, brain-melting August afternoons.

Death Wish isn't geared toward cold brew, so the ground version is better suited for traditional brewing methods, like drip machines, Moka pot, or percolator. But if you're like me and want to enjoy this variety in as many ways as possible, I suggest buying whole-bean. This way, you can pull a shot and drink it hot or pour over ice for a refreshing summer drink.

My only gripe about this blend is the price tag. It's around $20 per pound, so quite a bit more expensive than other options on the list. However, I can get away with using a lower bean-to-water ratio for my iced coffee when compared to other blends, so a bag of Death Wish can actually last longer.

And it's organic and Fair Trade too!

Stone Street Coffee Cold Brew

Stone Street Coffee Cold Brew

  • Brand: STONE STREET COFFEE COMPANY
  • Item Form: Whole Bean
  • Roast Level: Dark_roast
  • Flavor: Whole Bean
  • Caffeine Content: Caffeinated

Hailing from Brooklyn, this micro-roastery specializes in gourmet-grade java, and their cold brew variety is no exception. Despite the dark roasting, the flavor is free of bitterness, but it's not sour either. Instead, it's a complex interweaving of sweetness and toastiness that's surprisingly refreshing when drunk cold. That's why it's perfect for both cold brew and iced coffee.

Once you realize this coffee is 100% Colombian Supremo, you'll understand where that punchiness comes from and appreciate it all the more. The grind is a bit more complicated. You can go with the pre-ground variety for brewing pour-over iced coffee or French pressing it. But if you're like me and prefer espresso shots or even drip coffee, you'd better opt for the whole-bean version and grind it before brewing.

Expect to part with $15 for every pound of Stone Street beans or save a few bucks by ordering a 2-pound or a 5-pound bag. Setting up a subscription with a delivery window of every 2 to 6 weeks is also a great way to save once you know this is the right coffee for you.

Volcanica Cold Brew Whole Bean Coffee

Volcanica Cold Brew Whole Bean Coffee

  • Brand: Volcanica Coffee
  • Item Form: Whole Bean
  • Roast Level: Medium_roast
  • Caffeine Content: Caffeinated
  • Diet Type: Kosher

Volcanica is among my go-tos when it comes to java, and their cold brew blend of 100% Sumatran Arabica is yet another hit for me. I love the low-acid beans that go gentle on my tummy yet taste delicious when cold. The medium roasting is good for bringing out the sweetness of the chocolate and the nutty notes. There's just a hint of bitterness, but it's easily counteracted with a dash of milk in my iced coffee.

Now the best thing about Volcanica is its dedication to our drinking pleasure. Unlike most brands on this list, they don't saddle you with a one-size-fits-all grind or a whole-bean version of the same blend. Instead, they offer three options: French press, drip, and espresso grind. So you can choose your favorite way of brewing coffee before pouring it over ice. And that makes me one happy camper, as I'm not always in a mood to French press when I can get a full carafe at a press of a button.

The price is somewhere between Stone Street and Death Wish at $17 per pound. As always, you get to save when buying a 3-pack or a 5-pound bag, but I'd never suggest such an investment on your first try.

Onyx Coffee Lab Monarch Blend

Onyx Coffee Lab Monarch Blend

  • Brand: Onyx Coffee Lab
  • Item Form: Whole Bean
  • Roast Level: Medium_roast
  • Specialty: Natural
  • Weight: 10 Ounces

If you're often disappointed by your favorite blend taking a turn for the worse all of a sudden, Onyx is the solution to your problem. They don't mix Arabica varieties at random, hoping for delicious results. Instead, the company works out a flavor profile and continuously looks for the best beans to uphold the same flavor all year round. That's how their Monarch blend was born and why it's among the best coffee beans for iced coffee recipes. It retains the lovely intensity of dark chocolate and mulled wine all the time!

At the moment of writing, the blend relies on Arabica beans from Ethiopia Worka Natural to provide the notes of dried fruit and berries. Java from Colombia La Union delivers an intense, full body, with chocolate and caramel nuances. The medium-dark roast is superb in an espresso shot, but it also works wonders when coupled with dairy or plant-based milk, and iced coffee is a thing of beauty.

The gourmet coffee experience comes with a price, so Monarch is something of a treat, and it can be a great present for a true coffee lover in your circle. For $10, you can only hope to get 4 oz of whole beans, while a 10-ounce bag is around $17. The more you buy, the more you save, and subscriptions are available too.

Bones Coffee Company Flavored Coffee for Cold Brew

Bones Coffee Company Flavored Coffee for Cold Brew

  • Brand: Bones Coffee Company
  • Item Form: Ground
  • Roast Level: Medium_roast
  • Flavor: Vanilla, Chocolate
  • Caffeine Content: Caffeinated

I'll admit that flavored coffee is something of a guilty pleasure of mine. I don't indulge every day, but sometimes my sweet tooth gets the better of me, and sipping a cookie-and-cream iced coffee is a way to keep away from unhealthy sweets. Cookies n' Dreams is the one variety I tried, so I stuck with it, though there are plenty of other options, some of which might not be as suited for enjoying cold.

This particular blend is 100% Brazilian Arabica with artificial and natural flavorings that make it taste like your favorite ice cream. I fed the grounds to my drip coffee maker and was disappointed by the weak flavor after adding ice. I recommend you up the ante by adding more grounds than you usually would to intensify the flavor. Buying whole-bean and grinding at home for your preferred brewing method is always the best, but I couldn't be bothered.

I don't expect this blend to be a regular in my pantry because it's too expensive an indulgence for me. You only get 12 oz for $18, and using an extra tablespoon for every iced coffee serving is just unsustainable for me. But I'll still keep a bag around for an occasional hedonistic cuppa.

Your Guide to the Best Coffee Beans for Iced Coffee

Now that we're already on our way down the rabbit hole of iced coffee let's embrace the insanity and dive deeper. First, I suggest we set things straight and answer the ultimate question that has probably been nagging you since you started reading.

What's the Difference Between a Cold Brew and Iced Coffee?

Both are usually cold and refreshing. While cold brew has been gaining popularity over the last couple of years, iced coffee has fallen by the wayside. The former is said to be healthier, tastier, and better all around.

'Cold' is the key word in 'cold brew.' Unlike any other brewing method, this approach calls for steeping the beans in room temperature (aka cold) water. As the temperature is low, the steeping period must be longer, and it usually takes 12 to 24 hours to achieve a drinkable cold brew. Leaving the grounds to soak longer will make the drink too strong and bitter.

Surprisingly, cold brew can be served hot. All you need to do is pour a cuppa and heat it in a microwave, but it will still be a cold brew if the steeping took place in cold water.

Iced coffee is served cold, with ice, but it is brewed using any traditional (‘hot’) method. You can turn an espresso shot or French-pressed java into iced coffee, use a drip machine or an Aeropress. Just cool down the brew and pour it over ice in a tall glass, and you've got yourself an iced coffee.

Cold brew usually tastes smooth and sweet, without the acidity or bitterness of the hot-brewed java. However, it's also stronger, as caffeine has more time to infuse the water. Iced coffee can sometimes taste watery, and it's weaker, all because of the melting ice. But you can compensate for this undesirable side-effect by using frozen coffee cubes instead of water.

Best Roast for Iced Coffee

As we've established, melting ice is the bane of iced coffee, as it dilutes the flavor. If you don't want to deal with freezing coffee, you must decide what beans are best for iced coffee carefully. They should have an intense, full-body palette. That's why medium-dark to dark roasts are better suited for iced coffee. Light and medium roasts may get washed out and taste too watery to be called coffee.

However, that's a matter of personal preference. And if you up the bean-to-water ratio when brewing, you may get away with using a brightly acidic light roast for your iced coffee.

Best Grind for Iced Coffee

There can never be one answer to this question. You can whip up an iced coffee using any brewing method, so the grind depends solely on your chosen coffee maker. Espresso machines and Aeropress call for the fine grind, while drip machines work best with a medium grind. And you'll need a coarse grind for a French press or a pour-over pot.

Do not try to cheat and use the wrong grind for your chosen brewing method. If the grounds are too fine, over-extraction will make the brew bitter, and no amount of ice will mask it. If the grounds are too coarse, under-extraction will turn your java sour and weak even before adding the ice cubes.

Brewing Time

Once again, the correct answer depends on the brewing method of your choice, and messing with the recommended steeping duration will turn the best beans into undrinkable swill. Check out detailed brewing guides for every technique to learn more.

The only tip I'll give you here is to make most of pre-infusion or 'blooming.' The simple step of soaking the beans with hot water (around 200 F) for 30 seconds before the actual steeping will make a world of difference. It allows the water to pass through the full volume of the coffee puck and extract every last ounce of aroma and flavor. Trust me, that's extra important for an iced coffee.

How to Make Iced Coffee at Home

It couldn't be easier once you know how to brew java from the best beans to use for iced coffee.

You'll need:

  • a batch of room temperature or chilled coffee,
  • ice cubes (water or coffee-based),
  • milk, cream, or half-and-half,
  • sugar or any other sweetener of your choice.

Fill a tall glass with ice cubes, pour java until the glass is almost full, and top it off with milk or cream. Add sugar or another sweetener. Stir until combined. Take a fancy pic for your Instagram account, and enjoy!

I always keep a tightly sealed bottle of pre-brewed coffee in the fridge throughout the scorching summer months. So whenever I need a caffeine boost and don't want to suffer through a hot cuppa, I can whip up an iced coffee in under a minute.

Renat Mamatazin

Renat Mamatkazin

2021/03/31

Founder and owner of Lion Coffee and 3ChampsRoastery, 1st place winner of Ukrainian Barista Championship 2017. Interested in travelling, football and Formula-1 (besides coffee, of course).

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