Best Coffee for Cold Brew
Not everyone is as passionate about cold brew as we are. There is something wonderful about a nice cold glass of cold brew on a hot summer day. From the rich, smooth and bold flavors it possesses, to the low acidity it offers people sufferings from acid reflux, it's truly an amazing beverage. Despite how simple the process is, there is actually quite a lot that goes into making delicious cold brew, and it starts with the best cold brew coffee maker as well as the coffee you use. So, let's discuss the best coffee for cold brew!
To give you a quick and easy answer, the best coffee for cold brew depends on your personal preferences, to be honest. Some people love the bold, bitterness of a darker roasted coffee, while others love the complex flavor notes of a lighter roasted coffee. In our opinion, the best coffee for cold brew is a combination or middle point between the two. Whether you use your favorite medium roast, or simply mix a bag of light roast and dark roast, that will usually give you the best of both worlds.
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Dark Roast Cold Brew
Chances are, you fall into one of two categories if you enjoy dark roast cold brew. You either need the "strongest" and boldest coffee option, or you are someone that puts tons of additives into your coffee, so it should probably be quite dark to mask the cream and sugar while still delivering a little bit of residual coffee flavor.
A dark roast coffee does make a wonderful cold brew, especially if you don't mind watering it down a bit. Many people mistake the slight bitterness of a dark roast with a "stronger" coffee, so when it comes to cold brew, adding water to dilute it can go a long way, both financially and taste wise.
Don't get me wrong, we have tested our dark roast coffee with the cold brew slow immersion technique, and it does taste magnificent. However, in order for it to be the best coffee for cold brew, it needs to have stronger flavors, which a dark roast lacks. The lighter the coffee, the more flavors it'll have, which is where a dark roast fails.
Medium Roast Cold Brew
As we already mentioned, a medium roast coffee is arguably the best coffee for cold brew. In fact, it's where we start when recommending coffees for cold brew to our cafes and customers. It does a great job at providing the subtle flavor nuances of a light roast, while also offering a bolder cup as that of a dark roast.
Our best selling coffee, the Maineiac Blend, is also the best coffee for cold brew according to our testing. Not only do we recommend it for cold brew, but our customers and cafes suggest and recommend it as well. Let us know your thoughts once you've tried it!
Light Roast Cold Brew
The more and more I become a coffee snob, the less additives I put into my cup of coffee and the lighter I prefer it. I use to hate reading flavor notes, especially when they described something as "fruity' or 'tea-like". Now, I actually prefer it!
So, what about cold brew? To be honest, I find that light roast coffee lacks the boldness or the body that one typically associates with cold brew. I love how much natural flavor there is in a light roast, but we find that it just isn't enough for us alone when slowly immersed in water.
That's why we feel as though a light roast needs to be taken a bit darker if it wants to stand up as a contender for the best coffee for cold brew. There is one alternative though, which brings me to my next option.
Dark and Light Roast Blend
Some coffee roasters out there offer a light and dark blend, usually with a creative name like "salt and pepper" or something of that nature that shows dichotomy. Now, we do think it is quite clever and innovative, and we value your taste buds if you have tried it and liked it, but it is fundamentally wrong! Well, at least for drip coffee or if you are introducing hot water to the ground coffee. Let me explain.
When you have a mix of light and dark roasted coffee, the beans are very different in regards to their cell structure. The lighter beans are very dense, while the darker beans are very porous. Since you are grinding them together, the grind size is where this blend fails. No matter how you grind these, they will either be too fine for the dark roast or too coarse for the light roast, which results in half of your cup being under or over extracted.
If you try to find the sweet spot in between, you'll end up with an average cup of coffee that may be bearable, but it'll be slightly sour from the light roast beans being under extracted and slightly bitter or astringent from the dark roast being over extracted. So, what about cold brew?
Luckily for cold brew, this is no longer an issue since everything is equally extracted for the most part due to our friend osmosis. Like the medium roast coffee, this results into a delicious cold brew concentrate that is bold and complex. This may in fact be a better option than medium roast coffee, so we recommend testing it out. In my opinion, even if it is the best coffee for cold brew, we recommend the medium roast first.
Cold Brew Coffee
For those of you that haven't heard of cold brew, you probably don't get out much. It is only the trendiest coffee trend of all the trends! Well, maybe not as trendy as it's little brother below, but I digress.
How to Make Cold Brew
It involves a slow immersion technique, where your coffee grounds (coarsely ground) steep in room temperature or cold water for 12 to 24 hours before consuming. Think of it as making tea except you aren't using hot water and can't enjoy it's deliciousness for a day!
Due to the slow brewing method and low temperature of water, less acid is released from the coffee grounds. This is one of the main reasons behind the trend, the fact that it has less acidity.
Another reason cold brew is a fan favorite is that it produces a full bodied smokey and chocolaty taste, it's quite delicious and goes well with donuts.
Why do coffee roasters and cafes like cold brew? It still tastes consistently delicious even with poor quality or older beans! Not that I recommend using either, but it's quite interesting that even lesser quality, or aged coffee beans, will taste good.
For those of you that are confused and don't quite know how cold brew is different from nitro cold brew, American iced coffee and Japanese iced coffee, i'll give a quick explanation of each below.
Best Grind For Cold Brew
Depending on the type of grinder you are using, the best grind for cold brew is anything that can grind the coffee beans coarsely. Can you use normal coffee grounds that come in a standard ground coffee bag? Sure, but we recommend grinding it a little more coarse for a few reasons.
It is best to grind coffee beans as coarse as possible because it allows for an easier cleanup and a better filtered cold brew. When you prepare cold brew with cheese cloth or metallic filters, it is common for coffee sludge, or even coffee grounds, to make it into your final cup. Using coarse grounds will usually prevent this, giving you a cleaner cup of cold brew!
Whole Bean Cold Brew
Weird, right? Actually it's quite common. Not only is the cold brew easier to clean up, and better filtered, it can be achieved without any tools or equipment. Even the cavemen were able to prepare coffee this way because no grinding was needed. Okay, I'm exaggerating there, but it does make for an easy solution if you find yourself without the proper coffee gear.
The whole bean method may make for an easy cup of cold brew, but it is not the most time sensitive method for extracting cold brew. In fact, the finer the coffee grounds, the more quickly the cold brew will be finished. Since cold brew uses the steeping method for extraction, finer coffee grounds will be exposed to water more quickly, allowing for osmosis to be achieved quicker.
How Long Does Cold Brew Take
Like we mentioned, the finer the ground, the quicker complete osmosis will be achieved. Generally, for a coarse ground coffee to be done steeping, it is recommended to wait 24-36 hours. If you use regular coffee grounds (medium ground), it may be finished as quickly as 12-24 hours.
On the opposite spectrum, if you are using whole beans, it may take a week or longer to be finished extracting. So, how long does cold brew take? Well, it depends on how patient you are and how coarse the coffee grounds are. We recommend tasting it for yourself after a day or two to test what the optimal time period is for making the best cold brew for your palette.
How Long is Cold Brew Good For
The question of "how long is cold brew good for" seems to keep popping up. It turns out that properly stored cold brew can be consumed up to two weeks after it was prepared, if kept in a refrigerator, in an air tight container. Some places offer canned cold brew which may be good for much longer. Keeping the two week storage time in mind, we recommend trusting your taste buds if the coffee doesn't taste right before the two weeks has passed.
Quicker Extraction Time
Cold brew has become quite a popular method for making coffee. With benefits such as lower acidity, bigger batches of coffee, bolder flavors and less of a need for high quality beans, it is obvious why people have switched. With that said, there remains the bottleneck of time. For a quick cup of coffee, cold brew is not possible. You need to adequately plan for cold brew and remember to keep the cold brew machine filled!
One solution that I have seen for quicker Cold brew is a bloom with hot water in the beginning of the extraction process. A bloom is just the process of adding just enough hot water to coffee grounds to saturate them enough for carbon dioxide to be released. This process helps increase the overall taste of the cup and allows for better extraction which is why most pour over techniques include the bloom in the beginning.
Following the bloom, you then would add cold water like normal, allowing for the cold brew to be achieved in as little as 6-12 hours. This method will release a little bit more acidity into the cup, but if you are using a thick filter, or do not suffer from acid reflux, I think you'll enjoy this cold brew even more.
Nitro Cold Brew
Nitro Cold Brew is just cold brew that has been introduced to nitrogen, giving it that cascading effect with a rich, foamy and creamy top. Personally, I do not enjoy nitro cold brew, but for those that enjoy a nice Guinness, this may be a beverage worth giving a try. If you have any interest and want to try to make some at home, check out this article we wrote on the best nitro cold brew coffee maker.
For many of you, your first experience with trying iced coffee was probably when you added ice to older coffee that had been sitting out for a little while. There is no shame in that, you have to start somewhere! For me, it started out when I was 8 years old, stealing sips off of my parents iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts. Anyways, yeah, that's what American style iced coffee is, just normal brewed coffee that has cooled down and was added to ice. Boring, old and unimpressive.
Japanese Iced Coffee
So what is "Japanese" iced coffee? Japanese iced coffee is when you brew hot coffee directly over ice utilizing a pour over method, usually with something like a Chemex. When you do this, it is essential that you are using just enough ice to cool the coffee down but not too much that the coffee weakens.
Lets say you like to use a 16 to 1 ratio for grams of water to grams of ground coffee. For Japanese Iced Coffee, you may use a 10 to 1 water to coffee ratio that gets poured over 6 parts of ice. This allows for you to brew very strong coffee with the 10 parts of water, and the 6 parts of ice will cool the coffee down enough to consume instantly!
The reason this method is so amazing is that it locks the taste in and allows for immediate consumption. When it comes to coffee, oxidization kills (flavor and freshness that is). You lose a lot of taste in the hour or two your coffee sits around when you are waiting for it to cool down.
For specialty coffee beans with complex acidity, and unique flavor nuances, you'll need to brew the coffee with hot water in order to truly taste the bean. This is why we recommend Japanese iced coffee for specialty coffee beans.