Cold brew coffee was virtually unheard of a couple of decades ago. Nowadays, though, it’s everywhere. Even the big chains like Starbucks have been getting in on the act.
What is so special about cold brew coffee?
It’s the lack of bitterness and acidity, coupled with a very mild and smooth flavour that makes it easy to drink and incredibly moreish. Many consider it to be the best way to draw out the more subtle flavours of coffee beans.
Just because all coffee beans can be prepared using cold brew methods, though, does not necessarily mean they are all going to work well and produce a nice tasting beverage. That is why you need to be selective when choosing the best coffee beans for cold brew. We know only too well that there is such a diverse selection of beans on the market these days, all pushed forward by their producers, roasters and suppliers as being the best.
This can make things very stressful. Therefore, to help you out and get the benefit of a truly delicious cold brew, we have helped pick out a small number (three to be exact) of coffee beans that we think work perfectly in cold brews. We have also put together a helpful buying guide that covers everything you need to know about making cold brew.
Before we go any further, we feel it’s necessary, for all the complete newbies, to explain the difference between cold brew and iced coffee.
Cold-brew coffee involves the beans being soaked in filtered cold water over a long period, which extracts all those nice flavours from them. There is no heat used in the process whatsoever. For, iced coffee, however, you make coffee in the normal way, with hot water and then cool it down and pour it over ice cubes.
Coffee Masters Colombian Cold Brew Ground Coffee, Single Origin, 500g
First on our short but sweet list of the best coffee beans for cold brew drinks is this excellent single-origin Columbian coffee beans, sourced from Antioquia and Medellin. It consists solely of 100% Arabica beans that are organic and ethically sourced as a fair-trade product, so you can be sure you can have a good conscience while sipping on a cold brew. With a capacity of 500-grams, you can make a total of 5-litres of cold brew coffee.
The kind of flavours you can expect from this single-origin coffee is chocolate with orange peel and very bright levels of acidity. Coffee Masters have been in the business long enough and well established that they have developed a ground coffee that is very easy to turn into a delicious cold brew. You just need to immerse the grounds in cold water for at least 12 to 24 hours.
- 100% single-origin Arabica coffee bean grounds
- Fair-trade and organic
- Makes a total of 5-litres of cold brew coffee
- Light and balanced with flavour notes of chocolate, orange and bright levels of acidity
Crude Drinks Honduran Single-Origin Cold Brew Coffee, Coarsely Ground, 250g
Last on our list is this great single-origin 100% Arabica coffee that’s ideal for cold brew beverages. It is sourced from Honduras and comes in a high-quality resealable bag, designed with foil and natural Kraft with 3-layers. Again, you may not have heard of the brand, but it is worth considering it. Especially if you want a smooth and sweet beverage.
The grounds have been ground coarsely to ensure extraction of all the important flavours is slow and nothing goes to waste. That in combination with the light-medium roast of the beans gives it a characteristic light and easy to drink flavour featuring bold notes with a minimum level of acidity and a nice balanced body.
- 100% Arabica beans
- Single-origin beans from Honduras
- Light, bold, sweet and smooth cold brew coffee
- Resealable bag built to last and ensure you can enjoy tasty cold brew for a long time
To help you make the right choice of coffee beans for your cold brews, so you have the best-flavoured beverage possible, we have put together this buying guide. In it, we are going to discuss the effects temperature has on taste, the two main methods used to make cold brew coffee, why grind size is important and although roast comes down to personal taste, why you should always use single-origin beans for cold brew coffee.
How Temperature Affects Taste
While tradition, hot coffee is extracted from beans at around 91 to 96-degrees, cold brew coffee is extracted at around 2 to 21-degrees. It’s the lack of heat, as explained earlier, during the process, that gives cold brew its very distinctive and subtle flavour profile and characteristics. However, it is important to note that choosing to make cold brew requires approximately double the number of grounds and some additional hours when it comes to brewing in comparison to making a hot cup of joe. It is very much a labour of love.
One of the problems is that because much of the solubles and acids that create the mild and floral flavour notes in your favourite coffee can only be extracted at specific temperatures. As a result, cold brews may be easier to drink and digest and contain less acid, but also tend to be more subdued and muted in the flavour department. The best way to make sure you have a cold brew coffee full of flavour and with a satisfying smooth texture is by picking the right coffee beans to start with.
Different Methods of Making Cold Brew Coffee – Cold Drip and Immersion
When it comes to cold brewing, there are two main methods used – slow drip and immersion.
With the slow drip cold brew method, as the name suggests, ice-cold water is dripped slowly onto ground coffee and then collected in a carafe underneath. The biggest advantage of the slow drip method is how quick it is. Though it should be noted it can still take anything from 3 to 5 hours to make just one cup of the delicious cold brew. There is also the major downside that the equipment is very expensive.
Flavour-wise, the resulting beverage from this brewing technique is quite a dilute and medium-bodied coffee.
Immersion is more popular with home cold brewers because it is a lot simpler than a slow drip. You basically take ground beans and place them inside cold water for around 12 to 24 hours before filtering it. The flavour from immersion cold brews is a lot stronger and fuller-bodied.
The Importance of Grind Size and Consistency
The grind is really important. It doesn’t matter if you are grinding coffee beans yourself or if you buy pre-ground beans.
Finer grounds will provide more bitter and even harsh flavours, whereas a coarse ground will have a much smoother and enjoyable flavour and is, therefore, more popular.
However, there is one time when the grind size and consistency is especially important when you are making a cold brew with the slow drip. Bigger and coarser grinds are much quicker to get started, whereas finer grinds can be too dense and therefore restrict the water flow.
Light Roast or Dark Roast – It’s All Down to Personal Choice
Although we have covered things that really can have an impact on how your cold brew coffee can turn out and there are right and wrong ways to do it, when it comes to the roast, it is more about personal preference than anything else. The best way to figure out what you prefer is to try and experiment with both dark and light roasts.
You also need to avoid assuming that the type of roast you like for hot coffee will be the same for cold brew coffee.
There is a lot of debate among experts. Some feel darker roasts are best as cold brew suits the earthiness and the dark nutty and chocolate notes. While others prefer lighter and medium roasts as they have a higher acidity, because cold brewing removes the acidity, so it is preserved a little better.
There is also the fact that the brighter acidity than lighter roasts are known for are harder to extract using the cold brew method. Regardless of the roast you choose, you need to keep in mind that the flavours in light roasts take longer to extract because the structure of the bean’s cells is not as damaged by roasting as it is with dark roasts.
Blend or Single-Origin Beans
There may be a huge amount of debate about whether dark or light roasts are best. One thing there is no debate about among coffee experts is that single-origin coffee beans are ideal for cold brewing. This is because you get to taste subtler notes of the coffee beans and can develop a greater appreciation for single-origin products.
Although blends may be sensible when it comes to regular coffee or espresso, as a barista balances bitterness, sweetness and acidity, whereas with the cold brewing process there is little to no acidity and bitterness.
Should You Add Milk To It or Not?
Whether you have milk with a cup of cold brew coffee or not, is again, like the type of bean roast you use, more about personal preference and taste than anything else. However, many coffee experts suggest it is best to drink cold brew black as the flavours are already very subdued and mellow. The thought is that using dairy would only dilute it further.
If coffee with cream or milk is how you would normally drink it, you should still give drinking black cold brew coffee a try, because you could be very surprised. If it still isn’t doing enough for you then, you should have a try at mixing one part of milk and three parts of cold brew coffee.
There you go, folks, if you are looking for something different to the usual hot coffee, whether you enjoy a mocha, espresso or something else. A cold brew coffee can be a great diversion and another great way to enjoy coffee beans. You may even discover that you find flavours and notes you didn’t know you could get from coffee.
As well as the coffee bean grounds, we have picked out above, you have all the information you need to pick out the right cold brew coffee for you. It may take some trial and error, but for many of us, that is what it was first like getting into coffee.