How to Choose the Best Coffee for Cold Brew: 5 Top Picks of 2021
Whether you're just embarking on the journey to discover the best coffee for cold brew or you're an old pro searching for a new blend, we've got you covered right here.
You'll learn what cold brew coffee is (and is not), the best type of coffee to use for cold brew, a simple guide to help you create the best tasting brew for your personal preferences, and of course, the list of our top recommendations.
How do we come up with our 'best of' list? Honestly, with time, and attention to detail. We scour the internet world, discover what's available, and filter out the beans that don't make the cut. Then, we study those that look promising, comb through the reviews and actually read them, to identify the pros and cons of each brand as identified by real-life users. From there, we identify the top...the best...the most consistently rated higher...and present them to you.
If you happen to click on a link and then make a purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
best Coffee for Cold Brew: The Top 5 Picks of 2021
Here is the short list of the top 5 picks for the best coffee for cold brew. We'll give you all the why's and where fore's below, but if you want to cut right to the chase, here it is!
What is Cold Brew Coffee?
Is cold brew coffee the same as iced coffee? Nope. Cold brew coffee is coffee that never gets exposed to heat. Iced coffee is simply brewed coffee that is served over ice.
So, we got that clarification out of the way.
Generally, cold brew coffee is made with a higher grounds-to-water ratio. The ground are steeped much longer than a traditional brewed coffee, as well as at a much lower temperature. The typical drip or pressed coffee will be brewed at temps between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit. Compare that to cold brew, which is made at room temperature or below, about 70 Fahrenheit or less, and steeped for anywhere from 2 hours to 24 hours.
Because of the cooler brewing temperature, cold brew coffee is considered less acidic, and also more muted in flavor. Why is this? Well, many of the acids and solubles are extracted at the higher brewing temperatures. Remove the high temps and these other results are also removed.
When finished, you have a concentrated coffee that you will cut with water, or possibly with milk.
I like the definition of cold brew coffee as penned by our friends at Policy Genius, explaining the actual difference between it and iced coffee:
There is a chemical difference between the two, so it's not just a marketing ploy. The heat breaks down some of the chemical compounds in the coffee grounds, just as cooking changes the flavor and texture of meat. If you don't like the bitterness of coffee, the cold-brewing method can eliminate some of that, allowing the coffee's subtler nutty and chocolaty characteristics to take center stage.
What Kind of Coffee Should You Use for Cold Brew?
Bottom line, the coffee you choose for the cold brew process is like any other coffee brewing method: it is a matter of taste and preference....for cold brew, that is. The coffee you typically reach for when preparing a pot of drip coffee, or french press, or espresso, is not likely to be the same coffee you'll use to make your cold brew.
There are some general preferences that many cold brew enthusiasts agree will result in a better tasting cup of cold brew coffee. Remember that the coffee grounds are not subjected to high temperatures, and the result will be a smooth, robust flavor that is not acidic.
Dark or Light Roast? A dark roast coffee will give you rich, dark flavors that can be nutty, earthy, chocolatey, etc. Those flavors will come through in the cold brew.
Dark roast coffee is typically affordable for most. Why pay more if you don't have to?
Single Origin or Blend? Single origin coffees can have a bright, fruity or floral flavor and because of their clearer profile, they allow for a full flavor experience.
And, the absence of acidity and bitterness in a cold brew make a single origin coffee a fine choice.
If you are just beginning the journey to discover the best coffee for cold brew, consider our suggestions, as they are comprised of coffees that are specifically roasted for this type of brew. Keep it simple, right?
Should You Buy Pre-Ground Coffee or Grind Your Own for Cold Brew?
Well, if you're opting for convenience, pre-ground coffee will do the trick. Grinding your own coffee beans can be a bit messy (although in my java world it is totally worth the itty bitty mess it makes).
If you find a pre-ground coffee that gives you the cold brew flavor you love, that's great. Just try to purchase enough to last a short period of time, maybe a week or two. Any ground coffee that sits on the shelf for long periods of time will lose it's flavor.
Buying your coffee whole bean and grinding it just before brewing is the way to garner the maximum flavor from your chosen bean. Generally, you'll pay more for whole bean coffee, so keep that in mind as you decide which is the best coffee for cold brew.
If you're going to grind your own coffee beans for cold brew, a coarse grind is what you want. The water can drip easily and won't be trapped above the bed of coffee grounds that are too fine. A coarse grind will be the fastest to begin dripping.
What type of coffee grinder is best? A burr grinder will give you the most even consistency and ultimately the best tasting coffee, cold or hot brewed.
Best Cold Brew Coffee for 2021 - Our Picks
Here are our 'Top 5' cold brew coffee recmmendations for you to consider. Note that we do not rank them in any order. Why is that? Well, we know that coffee drinkers are very particular, and what might be just the perfect sip for me may not be your jam.
So, read through the Highlights and Considerations, take a peek at the bullet points, and decide for yourself which might be the best coffee for cold brew...for you!
dark roasted for a bold, smooth taste
We had to search long and hard to find any negatives about Stone Street Cold Brew Dark Roast Coffee. By far, reviewers love the rich taste of the dark brew, and the flexibility to steep in the refrigerator or at room temperature. This is definitely a cold coffee bean to try!
- COARSE GROUND COFFEE FOR COLD BREWING – We start with gourmet arabica coffee beans from Colombia, then we grind them to the perfect coarse ground size for optimal cold brew extraction. Our grounds are perfect for using in your at-home cold brew coffee maker or system, French press, pitcher, or mason jar.
- DARK ROAST COLOMBIAN SUPREMO – Our beans are classified as ‘supremo’ which are the largest and highest quality beans from Colombia. When these beans are dark roasted, it brings out the nutty/chocolate notes and makes the most delicious tasting cold brew coffee.
- STRONG & SMOOTH BLEND – Our coffee is specially formulated to make a bold, balanced, low-acid, slightly sweet cold brew or iced coffee. You can easily adjust the strength to make it extra strong (more coffee or longer brewing time) or even lighter (more water).
- 1 LB RESEALABLE BAG (16 Ounce) – Our 3-layer natural kraft bag is foil-lined and has a one-way valve for optimal coffee freshness. The wide top opening makes for easy scooping and the seal keeps your one pound of coffee fresh. Our premium packaging makes the perfect gift for the special coffee lover in your life.
- FRESHLY ROASTED IN BROOKLYN, NYC – Stone Street Coffee Company is specialty small-batch roaster, we’ve been making artisanal coffee since 2009.
proprietary roast blend that is perfect for cold brew coffee
Many satisfied reviewers enjoy the smooth taste of Cold Brew Lab, although some felt it was a bit too mild for their taste and preference.
- CUSTOM CRAFTED FOR COLD BREWING: Look no further for the perfect coarse coffee grounds for making cold brew coffee. We source, roast, & blend our beans for optimal cold (slow) brew extraction – creating a strong and bold taste with well-rounded, smooth, low acidic, & full bodied flavor.
- ORGANIC 100% ARABICA COLOMBIAN COFFEE: We only use pesticide free USDA certified organic coffee because we care about the quality of our product. Specialty-grade, 100% Arabica, Colombian Supremo.
- DARK ROAST BLEND: We use a blend of medium & dark roasted coffee beans to create a unique roast level that is perfect for cold brewed coffee flavor. This creates a cup that is extremely smooth, yet bold & flavorful.
- WHOLE BEAN & EXTRA COARSE GRIND OPTIONS: We offer both products to give you the option of grinding yourself at home OR starting with our pre-ground coffee.
- FRESHLY ROASTED IN NYC: Cold Brew Lab is an artisan specialty coffee roaster located in the city that never sleeps – New York City, NY USA. We roast and package our coffee bags right before shipping so it arrives fresh to your doorstep.
ground coffee crafted for the perfect cold brew
The vast majority of reviewers confirm that Bizzy lives up to the smooth, sweet taste of cold brew coffee with no bitterness, a great coffee for the price.
- ENGINEERED FOR COLD BREW - Coarse ground coffee optimized for cold brewing to give you a consistent, extra smooth cold brew
- ENGINEERED FOR COLD BREW - Coarse ground coffee optimized for cold brewing to give you a consistent, extra smooth cold brew
- BREW YOUR WAY - Brew your cold brew how you would like. Add more water for a less strong cold brew or less water for a stronger beverage.
- 100% ORGANIC - USDA Organic, ethically sourced coffee from Guatemala, Peru, and Nicaragua.
- SMOOTH AND SWEET - Arabica beans roasted medium with notes of caramel and hazelnut.
dark, full-bodied, chocolaty
There are no 1-star reviews as of this writing, which is quite amazing for the picky Amazon reviewers out there. Many positive comments about the bold, smooth flavor, and the ability to brew a hot cup of coffee with this coarse grind is a real plus.
- DARK ROAST, COARSE GROUND COFFEE: Make Wandering Bear Extra Strong Cold Brew at home. Dark but not burnt, full-bodied and chocolaty. Coarse grind is perfect for cold brew, French press and works well in drip machines. Makes 20 glasses per pound.
- 100% ORGANIC COFFEE: Carefully ground coarse specifically for cold brewing (also perfect for French press).
- ROASTED IN BROOKLYN, NY: Small-batch roasted and packed fresh in one-way valve bags to preserve freshness until opening.
- OUR NO-LONGER-SECRET COLD BREW RECIPE: We recommend using 3 cups of water to 1 cup of Wandering Bear Coarse Ground Coffee. Steep for 12-24 hours in the fridge. Then, plunge if using a French Press, or filter. Serve over ice with your favorite creamer or sweetener and enjoy!
- THIS JUST IN: Our moms say Wandering Bear Coarse Ground Coffee is also great brewed hot. We offer a 100% guarantee on our products, so if you have any issues, please get in touch!
each batch is hand crafted by artisan coffee roasters
Wonderful aroma, strong, rich taste, and no beans to grind. That is what the majority of reviewers state about Stone Cold Jo.
- STONE COLD JO PROFESSIONAL CUPPING NOTES: SILKY SMOOTH | LOW ACIDITY | DARK ROAST | HINTS OF TOFFEE CARAMEL CHOCOLATE GRAPE | Descriptive flavor terms are naturally occurring undertones in the coffee and no flavors are added.
- Each batch of this fresh roasted organic coffee is hand-crafted, by artisan coffee roasters, in our micro-roastery.
- Available in 12 oz or a 2 lb money-saving package, both packaged with resealable tin-tie for convenient storage. For a cold brew we recommend a 4:1 water to coarse ground coffee ratio in a cold brewing device, French press or Mason jar. Adjust ratio as desired. Stir, cover, refrigerate 12+ hours then press/filter. Enjoy plain or with your favorite flavoring. For a hot brew we recommend using 2 tablespoons of ground coffee to 6 oz of water for optimal extraction with most brewing methods.
- Our organic coffee is specialty grade coffee, which is the top 2% specialty grade of organic Arabica raw coffee. This specialty grade coffee is sourced worldwide through direct sourcing and through a dedicated team of coffee cupping experts. Not all coffee is created equal.
- This coffee is USDA Certified Organic, Fair Trade Certified, and Kosher Certified. Contact us for our 100% Satisfaction Guarantee!
May We Also Suggest:
Always top quality from Peet's Coffee!
Hand roasted medium blend single origin coffee that results in bold, smooth refreshing cold brew. Lower in acidity than coffee that's been brewed hot and then iced.
Purchasing the whole bean will allow you the flexibility to coarse grind for the cold brew process.
How to Make the Best Cold Brew Coffee: A Guide
Quick tips to help you in your quest to learn how to make the best cold brew coffee:
- Grind size is coarse, at least to start with. You might want to experiment a bit and take the grind size down a bit to arrive at your preferred flavor profile
- As with any coffee you're brewing, filtered water will give you the best result in terms of true taste
- Start with a 12-hour steep and adjust according to your result
- Keep in mind that the steeping (brewing) process for cold brew is based on taste preferences as well as whether or not anything (milk/cream/sweetener)is added to the brew.
Put freshly coarse-ground beans, or pre-ground beans, into any kind of container (glass is usually best). You'll have the best result using coffee that has been roasted and ground specifically for cold brew.
Gently pour in cold, filtered water at a ratio of 4-to-1 (for example, 4 cups water for 1 cup grounds).
Stir gently, preferably with a wooden spoon, to make sure all grounds are wet and cover container with plastic wrap.
Let it sit at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. Taste it occasionally and discard the grounds when the coffee tastes the way you want it. A small strainer that's been lined with cheesecloth works well to strain your cold brew.
Or, consider one of the cold coffee brewers found in the section below for some great options that are budget friendly.
Transfer the coffee to a bottle or jar and refrigerate. It can be kept in the frig for up to a week.
Alternatives to Cold Brewing in a Mason Jar:
There is something to be said for using a product that has been created specifically for a purpose. In this instance we're taking a look at some highly rated cold brew makers. Simple, budget friendly, and efficient.
How About A Refreshing Cold Brew Coffee Drink? To Spiff Up a Recipe?
Many java lovers prefer their coffee, cold brew or hot, simply as it is brewed. I get it; I'm one of those people.
But, there are some fun and tasty creations to be made with cold brew coffee, as well as using it to spiff up an ordinary recipe. Our friends at AllRecipes.com have created a simple list of suggestions. Here are the highlights for your cold coffee brewing pleasure!
- Add a shot to hot chocolate, milkshakes, or anything involving chocolate or vanilla. Instant mocha!
- Cold-brewed coffee + sparkling water + a few drops of vanilla extract = a great coffee soda. For a mocha soda, stir in a splash of chocolate extract.
- Swap in cold-brewed coffee for water or milk when making batters for cakes, muffins, pancakes, or crêpes.
- When making custard or ice cream, substitute half the milk with cold-brewed coffee.
- Blend it into your morning smoothie or protein drink.
Discovering the best coffee for cold brew + the most satisfying method to do the brewing is a process, friends. But if you're after a satisfying, chilled, lower acid coffee drink, it is well worth the time spent!
Candi Randolph is a coffee lover, blogger, and content creator who loves to share her knowledge with the coffee-drinking world. You'll often find her tending to her coffee bar at home, deciding which method to use to brew her next cup of java. Life is full of important decisions.