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The Best Coffee Beans for Cold Brew: Everything You Should Know

Finding the right beans for cold brew isn’t a complicated task. Get my best tips on how to do it right here.
Cold brew is everywhere today. I’ll be honest and admit I hadn’t seen it coming. It’s a bit like selfie sticks and Kanye West. There’s just no way you could know it.

So I could be a begrudging old coffee snob telling you to let go, and brew your coffee at a proper temperature to achieve perfect extraction.

However, that’s not what you want to hear, is it my young coffee padawan?

No, I thought so.

So instead I’ll give you my very best advice on how to make the best of this fad, and most importantly find the best beans for cold brew.

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This is a strong and bold coffee roasted by the pioneers of American specialty coffee. Expect notes of dark chocolate as well as hints of pineapple. This blend is an excellent all-rounder that can be used for just about everyhing.
Intelligentsia...

Cold brew: The good, the bad and the ugly

Let’s start out with a swift look at what makes cold brew so unique – and in some people’s opinion, inferior.

Typically, coffee is brewed at around 200 F degrees. This temperature ensures proper extraction. Some flavor compounds of coffee, especially the fruity and acidic ones, only extract with water that’s close to boiling.

These flavors are usually what hardcore coffee geeks are looking for when they are shopping for the best beans possible.

In that sense, it just seems like a waste to brew the same beans around room temperature, where you’ll miss out on all these delicious flavors.

Cold brew tends to be heavy on mouthfeel and body and the flavors we associate with it: Nuts, chocolate, and dried spices.

Toddy Cold Brew...

Enter Japanese Ice Coffee

To fix this issue some serious coffee lovers, including myself, prefer the Japanese style of iced coffee.

The way you do, it is to brew a regular pour over but instead brew directly on ice cubes. ‘

That way you get the fruitiness of the coffee, while still getting a cold and refreshing drink on a summer day.

It’s usually great to go for a 60:40 ratio of water to ice.

So let’s say you’re brewing a regular serving of coffee; 33 grams coffee to half a liter of water. That becomes 300 grams of water and 200 grams of ice. Easy!

Consider the roast

No matter whether you’re going to opt for cold brew or other styles of ice coffee, I think it’s smart to consider the roast of the beans.

Are you going to drink your cold coffee with milk? If so, remember these heuristics:

  • Cold brew with Milk: Dark roast
  • Cold brew without milk: Medium roast
  • Iced Coffee with milk: Dark roast
  • Iced Coffee without milk: Light/medium roast

Iced coffee with milk can be delicious but only when combined with a coffee that has some of the sharper roasty flavors.

On the other hand, lighter roasts of say, Ethiopian coffees, can be very rewarding and complex.

This is also true for modern coffee contraption such as the coffee tonic, where you mix tonic water with coffee or espresso.

Intelligentsia Frequency Blend

Intelligentsia...

This roaster is one of the pioneers of modern American coffee. Intelligentsia is famous for sourcing their beans directly from the best farmers.

This blend is a classic all-rounder. It’s a medium to dark roast with all the lovely, roasty flavors that old school coffee drinkers crave. However, then the roaster has added a bunch of lighter high altitude beans that bring a welcome lime and pineapple fruitiness to the party.

This one would work well for both cold brew and Japanese iced coffee. Both with or without milk.

See more reviews

Stumptown Hairbender

Stumptown Coffee...

Stumptown knows what they are doing. These guys are legit roasters. Their Hairbender blend is their most popular coffee, as it’s incredibly versatile. You can brew it in both a French press, espresso, and yes; a cold brew coffee maker, with excellent results.

It’s a little on the dark side, which is usually the best way to go when it comes to cold coffee.

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Death Wish Coffee

Death Wish Organic...

This brand is all about darkness, destruction, and caffeine overdose. Death Wish claims to be the most potent coffee on the planet. This makes it suitable for cold brew and mixing with milk, as you usually need some strong stuff to kick through the creaminess.

Probably, it’s also good for a quick pick me up cold brew on a lazy sunny day. Drink Responsibly!

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Onyx Coffee Lab Monarch Espresso Blend

Onyx Coffee Lab...

Here’s a little secret that most of the roasters won’t tell you: An espresso blend is often pretty epic for a cold brew – especially if you’re going to add milk to it.

This particular blend is from Onyx – one of the most respected American coffee companies as we speak. The flavor notes of this coffee speak for themselves: Dark Chocolate, Molasses, Dried Berries, Red Wine, Thick & Syrupy. Damn!

If you are a real connoisseur, brew this one hot and pour it on top of frozen milk-cubes.

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Stone Street Coffee Cold Brew Reserve Colombian Single Origin

Stone Street Coffee...

Here’s a blend of Colombian coffees that is pretty dark roasted and pre-ground, so you don’t have to do anything. Regarding flavors, it’s a low acidity concoction with the typical pleasant flavors of dark chocolate and caramelization.

The price seems about right for it is, and it’s suited for cold brew. This particular brand gets excellent reviews on Amazon, and it seems that all customers are satisfied with how freshly roasted it is.

See more reviews

Go deeper: The best coffee beans for cold brew

Grind setting

Many people have the impression that cold brew can only be made with super a super coarse grind setting. I have no idea where this idea comes from, but it’s not speeding up the brewing process.

You have to remember that water is a solvent that tries to pull out flavors from the coffee bean. The coarser the beans are, the more difficult it is for the water to do its job.

This is especially the case when the water is cold. For that reason, I wouldn’t use anything coarser than filter or French press for my cold brew. However, again, this also should be considered in conjunction with other things such as:

  • Total brew time
  • Brew ratio (coffee grounds to water)
  • Brewing device (is it easy to filter the slurry?)

Single origin vs. blend

A common coffee question is whether you should opt for single origin coffee or a blend. Usually, I’d say the former, but in the case of cold coffee, I think that the best beans could easily be a blend.

For me, cold coffee is about mindless summer fun. Not about serious coffee drinking. I’m not going to try to dive in and explore the true essence of the bean when cold brewing coffee.

Since single origin coffee is usually more expensive than blends, it could be considered a bit of a luxury to use in this extravagant way.

Further Reading: No jitters? Here are The Best Decaf Coffee Brands

Top Featured Image: Dennis Tang | Source
about the author

about the author

Hey, I'm Asser Christensen from Denmark – the founder & editor of this site.

I have been crazy about caffeine for almost as long as I can remember. Today, I'm a licensed Q Arabica Grader and full time coffee writer.

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