Best Coffee for Cold Brew – Our Top Picks

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best coffee for cold brew

Cold brewing can bring out the best in some beans, and it shouldn’t be a dumping ground for leftovers and inferior quality coffee. When thinking about the best coffee for cold brew you have to balance the flavor profile you’d expect from a particular type of coffee.

Following are some of our current favorite coffees for this delicate method. Also, you will find some of the most important things to consider in choosing your own. Our all-around best in the show has to be this Kenyan Bourbon from Cooper’s Cask, with its deep and mysterious palate. For help with cold brewing coffee, feel free to use our guide.

A Closer Look at Our Favorite Coffees for Cold Brew

With coffees coming from right across the coffee belt, from Tolima in the Colombian Andes, across the heartland of African coffee country, and up to Gayo Mountain at Sumatra’s northernmost tip, there is a massive range of tastes on display in this selection. For a closer look at our top choices, see our reviews below. There are a few top tips to bring out the best from your coffee! 

Cooper’s Cask – Kenya – Best Overall

At A Glance

Roast Profile: Medium/Dark Roast

Origin: Kenya

Flavor Profile: Sweet, malty molasses / Chocolate

Aroma & Flavor

You don’t find the intense floral and tropical fruit flavors that you might expect from Kenyan AA coffee beans at this somewhat darker roast. Instead, the roast profile helps to accentuate the toasty notes of biscuit and wheat. This is a great candidate for cold brewing. It delivers a sweet, malty, almost honey-like molasses taste with a chocolatey finish.

Our Top Tip

To get the most of the darker sweetnesses, we’d recommend you brew this one by cold immersion and let it sit for at least 18 hours. If you keep it at fridge temperature while it brews, you still won’t get any unpleasant bitterness. But, you will allow a bit more of this Kenyan’s complexity to develop.


Ovalware – Jupiter / Colombia Tolima – Best Budget

At A Glance

Roast Profile: Medium Roast

Origin: Tolima, Colombia

Flavor Profile: Floral honey / Tangerine / Nutty chocolate

Aroma & Flavor

In some ways, true to form for the classic Colombian profile, this coffee has the traditional caramel sweetness, underscored with almost floral honey tones. But where this coffee breaks clear from the pack is with its tangerine acidity. Although this doesn’t come out in a cold brew, something special happens here. It’s not one of the strongest notes of this coffee, as you’ll certainly get faintly nutty chocolate first. But, in the background, the careful observer will find something close to a tangerine marmalade.

Our Top Tip 

Consider preparing this one with a cold drip and hot bloom rather than a strict cold brew if you want to make the most of it. It will come out fine either way, but to get a little more intense acidity out for that tangerine marmalade, we advise you to drip here.


Volcanica Coffee – Ethiopian Yirgacheffe – Best Light Roast

At A Glance

Roast Profile: Medium/Light Roast

Origin: Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia

Flavor Profile: Blueberry / Blackberry / Citrus fruits

Aroma & Flavor

Typically of coffees produced in the Yirgacheffe region of Ethiopia, you’d expect funky fruity and wine-like notes. This Yirg is no exception. It packs a fruit-forward punch full of blueberry and blackberry. Some of the sharper citrus flavors and the more ethereal floral tones get left behind when you cold brew these lighter roast beans. This leaves you with an almost jammy sweet berry profile in your cup.

Our Top Tip

Natural processed, patio-dried African coffees like this one are at their best when the fruit is really allowed to shine. Since cold brewing doesn’t always manage a full extraction of these elements, we recommend hot blooming this coffee before you cold brew. This makes sure you extract the best of the fruity acids while still leaving undesirable bitters behind.


Groundwork – Papua New Guinea

At A Glance

Roast Profile: Medium Roast

Origin: Papua New Guinea

Flavor Profile: Tobacco / Spice / Chocolate / Vanilla

Aroma & Flavor

When you first open the bag, you will be hit by a cloud of pipe tobacco and spices. Here we have a full-bodied and earthy coffee, which is quite atypical of a Papua New Guinean. Although unpredictable, they often carry more of a promise of tropical fruits. This works in your favor when cold brewing. A lot of the tobacco and spice bitterness will be left behind in a cold brew, giving you a smooth, almost milky, chocolate and vanilla taste. 

Our Top Tip

One of the key tasting notes on this bag is sour cherries. To get hints of this tart stone-fruit acidity, you will need to let your brew linger in a warmer environment, unrefrigerated, overnight at least. This is another one that could benefit from exposure to hot water before brewing. It’s well worth the trouble to get this chocolate, cherry, and spice combination. Think black forest cake. 


Mt. Comfort Coffee – Peru

At A Glance

Roast Profile: Medium Roast

Origin: Chanchamayo/Chontali, Peru

Flavor Profile: Citrus fruits / Candied lemon peel

Aroma & Flavor

A blend of coffees from farms in Chanchamayo and Chontali, this coffee bean delivers the chocolate and hazelnut you might expect in Peruvian beans. While the citrus acidity alluded to on the bag doesn’t come through in a cold brew, the sweetness has reminders of this in it, being reminiscent of candied lemon peel. 

Our Top Tip

This is a particularly forgiving coffee. However you choose to prepare this one, you will get strong notes of chocolate and hazelnut flavors. With that in mind, our tip would be to take the easiest route and dump your grinds into a Mason jar with your preferred amount of filtered water. You can now sit back and let the magic happen. Sit a while longer to ensure your brew gets enough of the sugars for that candied lemon note.


Volcanica Coffee – El Salvador

At A Glance

Roast Profile: Medium Roast

Origin: Chanchamayo/Chontali, Peru

Flavor Profile: Caramel / Cinnamon / Citrus tartness

Aroma & Flavor

Almost Christmassy, this washed El Salvador is savory and spicy to the nose. The sweetness here is syrupy, similar to caramel, and its body is full of cinnamon. Citrus tartness doesn’t happen in this one unless you prepare it as a hot pour-over. No cold brew method brings the sharp lemon flavor out. However, that’s not necessarily bad as it lets the cinnamon be the star.

Our Top Tip

This type of coffee does best with a long immersion. You need to give the spice a chance to develop to bring the best out of these beans. There is no harm in letting it go for the full 24 hours.


Bean & Bean – Indonesia Sumatra

At A Glance

Roast Profile: Medium Roast

Origin: Sumatra, Indonesia

Flavor Profile: Cherry / Bold nuts / Cinnamon

Aroma & Flavor

Grown in the Sumatran rainforest, this coffee provides the dark and bold flavor profile expected from its origin. The bag says mild cherry, bold nuts, and cinnamon. Cold-brewed, you get an almost sticky cherry and almond Bakewell experience.

Our Top Tip

Another bean that you can’t go too far wrong with, coarse ground coffee in a mason jar with filtered water will work fine here. Letting it go for anywhere from 12 to 24 hours shouldn’t cause any problems.


Grand Paradé – Tanzania Kilamanjaro

At A Glance

Roast Profile: Medium Roast

Origin: Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Flavor Profile: Grapefruit / Hibiscus / Chocolate / Red berries

Aroma & Flavor

The grapefruit and hibiscus top notes advertised on the bag don’t come out when you cold brew this coffee. You get plenty of milk chocolate, and jammy red berries, perhaps with the ghost of a lemon rind twisted over it.

Our Top Tip

If you take milk in your coffee, try this as a cold brew concentrate and dilute it with your milk of choice. Enjoy with a white chocolate blondie. Thank us later.


Mojave Coffee – Sumatra Gayo Mountain

At A Glance

Roast Profile: Medium Roast

Origin: Sumatra, Indonesia

Flavor Profile: Cocoa / Maple / Spice / Berry

Aroma & Flavor

The flavor profile of this coffee lends itself very easily to cold brew, with most of the expected tasting notes transferring readily with this method of extraction. You should get all the cocoa, maple, spice, and berry suggested by the roasters. This is a nicely balanced coffee.

Our Top Tip

This coffee bean prefers a particularly long immersion or a cold drip method to bring out the darker intensity of the cocoa flavors. 


Stumptown Coffee Roasters – Hundred Mile

At A Glance

Roast Profile: Medium Roast

Origin: Africa / South and Central America

Flavor Profile: Jam / Toffee / Caramel

Aroma & Flavor

This blend suits a sweeter palate. With jam and toffee flavor notes, this coffee is another good candidate for cold brewing. Perhaps it wouldn’t be complex enough to make for an exciting hot coffee. However, as a cold brew, this will provide a mellow treat that leaves you with a lingering toffee caramel sweetness. 

Our Top Tip

The only danger with this one is allowing the sweetness to unbalance your cup. To remedy this, we’d recommend serving it black as a must and letting it steep at room temperature for the full 24 hours to give the bitters a chance to come out to play.


What To Look For When Buying Coffee for Cold Brew

Roast Profile

The best roast profile for cold brew coffee is very much a matter of personal taste. Traditionally, medium to dark roast coffees would be recommended as they tend to be bolder in the earthier chocolate and nut flavor notes that carry through well for cold brew.

If you are looking for a more vibrant cup with bright fruit notes, there are ways to bring this out, and your best coffee for cold brew would be a light roast. 

Single Origin vs. Blend

Generally speaking, the advantage of blends is that they provide a more balanced cup of coffee. However, usually, this isn’t what you are going for with a cold brew, as none of the bitters are extracted. Single-origins, on the other hand, often highlight the subtler notes. These more delicate flavors lend themselves to cold brew better than blends do in most cases. 

Tasting Notes

While you will always find your best coffee for cold brew by staying true to your preferences, there are some things to consider about your flavor profile. As mentioned previously, it is the earthy notes that come through strongest with cold brew, so it is these that you should look out for most. Coffees from the Americas are a safe bet for these taste profiles as a rule of thumb.

FAQ

Can You Get Away With Using Pre-Ground Coffee?

While cold brew is a more forgiving method of producing coffee, it is important to remember that you still get out what you put in in terms of quality. You certainly can get away with using ready-ground coffee, but, as with any extraction method, the best coffee for cold brew will always be fresh ground. 

One of the main advantages of grinding your own beans for cold brew is that it gives you control of an extra parameter affecting extraction. This isn’t as critical with immersion methods of cold brewing. However, if you are opting for cold drip, too fine of a grind can lead to restricted flow or channeling (uneven flow through the coffee bed). Similarly, too coarse of a grind will result in under extraction.

Should You Drink Cold Brew With Milk?

Cold brew coffee has a delicate flavor and lacks any of the bitters often found in coffee. As such, you may find that you don’t need to dilute it or sweeten it further with milk. If you are a die-hard white coffee drinker, perhaps try it without first to get a feel for the unadulterated flavor profile. If you aren’t convinced, opt for a bean that will stand up to milk when cold brewed.

What Are the Effects of Temperature on Extraction?

Generally speaking, the hotter the brewing water, the faster the soluble compounds are extracted from the ground coffee. So, the colder the water, the longer the extraction will take. Some of the least volatile compounds in coffee are responsible for the more floral notes and are only extracted at higher temperatures. They do not come out in cold-brewed coffee. 

Cold brew coffee is made at room temperature and below. This leaves a lot of the bitter notes behind and produces sweeter and smoother cups. 

What Is Hot Blooming?

To extract the fruitier acids present in some beans, particularly light roast African coffees, you can employ a technique known as hot blooming. This is when you use hot water to extract some of the acids in the early stage of brewing before continuing with cold water. This hybrid method allows you to access some brighter flavor notes while still leaving the bitters out of your finished cup.

Is Cold Drip Better Than Immersion Cold Brew?

There are advantages and disadvantages to cold drip compared to cold immersion brewing. Cold drip requires more equipment and skill than immersion methods, which can be as simple as a glass jar, some water, and your coffee. On the other hand, it does take less time and can lead to a cleaner and a less full-bodied cup of coffee. Some beans will perform better extracted in one way or the other. But, as with most things, in the end, it is a matter of personal preference.

If you are interested in trying cold drip, we recommend the Bruer cold drip system, while for immersion cold brews, we use a Hario Mizudashi jug with an integrated filter.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, the best extraction method and the best coffee for cold brew will depend on your personal tastes. Hopefully, however, you now feel better equipped to select beans to make the most of your cold brew experience. Contrary to popular belief, cold brewing coffee can produce complex and nuanced cups. As much care should be taken when purchasing and preparing coffee for cold brew as for any other extraction method.

For more guidance, please refer to our post on how to make cold brew. The best way to learn with cold brew is by trial and error. It is a lenient brewing method, and you won’t go too far wrong. One of the keys to the best cold brew is bean selection, and we recommend starting with our favorite Kenyan Bourbon from Cooper’s Cask. Far from being a simple way to use up coffee scraps that aren’t good enough for anything else, you will soon be on the way to a great cup of cold brew with the proper coffee.

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Author
Aidan is a former barista and coffee industry professional, turned writer and passionate home brewer. He never travels anywhere without his emergency coffee kit (hand grinder, scales, and v60).

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