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To make a great cold brew, you have to start with a great bean. However, this is not to say that you can use just about any coffee for cold brews! Some do not have the flavor profile, body, or acidity needed for a delicious batch of cold-brewed coffee.
The level of the roast will affect how a bean tastes in a cold brew. For a more acidic and fruit-forward taste, pick an African roast such as Ethiopian or Kenyan coffees. For something with slightly less acidity, go for a Central American blend. For a mellower flavor profile, opt for a South American roast.
Some beans work better in cold brew than others do. Beans high in acidity will make the best-iced coffee, so look for Jamaican Blue Mountain or Yirgacheffe Ethiopian options.
Here are five of the best types of beans to use when making your cold brew:
Acidic coffee is the key to creating a cold brew rich in flavor but surprisingly smooth on your tongue. “Off” flavors are subdued by the water extraction process, making acidic coffees an excellent choice for creating cold brews.
Popular types of high-acid beans include Kenyan AA, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, and Guatemalan Antigua.
Robustas are often added to coffee blends because of the intense flavor, but this is a double-edged sword when creating cold brews. Many drinkers do not enjoy the coffee’s earthy notes in their iced coffee, so it is best to avoid robusta beans when making your cold brew.
However, if you want a bolder taste for your cold batch, go with it! It will be sure to please most people who prefer more robust flavors than those who prefer lighter ones.
If you like your cold brews to sit right in the middle of the flavor spectrum, then medium-acidic coffee is for you! The beans will still lend a strong flavor profile to your batch, but they won’t be as hard on your mouth as high-acid types are.
Medium-acidity coffees are also great because their subtlety allows them to have less intense taste profiles, meaning they can blend well with more mild flavors too—one example of a popular medium-acidity bean.
Some people have a hard time drinking coffee because it is too acidic, which can cause heartburn or an upset stomach if consumed in excess.
If you would rather not deal with the side effects of drinking acidic coffee, low acidity beans are a better choice for your cold brew!
However, these types of coffee have weaker flavors overall, so they tend to lack the richness that other coffees have. That being said, their mellow taste profiles work well in milk-based drinks such as lattes and cappuccinos.
Sumatran or Sulawesi beans
Like acidic coffee, Sumatra and Sulawesi beans have an incredible depth brought out by the cold-brew process. These beans are popular among brewers because their boldness complements milk-heavy cold brew drinks perfectly.
Be careful not to over-extract your Sumatran or Sulawesi beans, though, as this can cause an unpleasant bitterness to form in your coffee!
Decaf coffee is an excellent option for those who want their cold brew to be gentle on the stomach. It may not taste as rich and flavorful as caffeinated coffees, but it can still add some great subtleties to your caffeine-free cold batch!
When To Use Each Coffee
Use African beans for fall/winter, Central American for spring/summer, and South America all year round.
If you want to use espresso as your coffee (as cold-brewed espresso is delicious), pick a nice bright South American roast! This roast will bring out the acidity in the espresso and enhance its flavor.
If you want a little something more in your cold brew, add a little chocolate or cinnamon! These flavors give a great boost to a regular-tasting cup of coffee when they are added to the recipe.
Try these ingredients in your cold brew:
- Chocolate (try adding a small amount of chocolate to the ground coffee before cold brewing)
- Vanilla extract
- Booze! A little bit of rum or vodka can really take your cold brew to the next level.
Coffee Brands for Cold Brew
High-acidity: It is important to note that these coffees are only acidic when they are brewed hot. When cold-brewed, they lose most of their acidity and give a smooth, mellow taste.
- Ethiopian Yirgacheffe
- Grumpy Mule’s Jinja
Robusta: Lavazza is easier to find in the United States, but Red Dot gives you more bang for your buck! Both provide a full body and low acidity.
- Bird Rock Coffee Roasters (Red Dot Blend) or
- Lavazza’s Gran Crema Robusta Iced Capsules
- Indonesian Coffee Beans Tangkringan Batak Sumatra
- Verso Coffee’s Sulawesi Toraja New Guinea
Drip/Espresso Roast – These are the most popular types of coffee to use for cold brew. They have a smoother, lighter taste than dark roasts and balance exceptionally well with milk for cappuccinos and lattes.
- Stumptown or Blue Bottle both do fantastic drip/espresso roast batches.
Decaf: Some people enjoy the flavor that decaf adds because it is less acidic than other coffees. Stumptown also does an excellent organic decaf!
Now that you have your beans in hand, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty of making iced coffee!
There are two ways to make a cold brew: using a “cold steep” and a “hot steep.”
The cold steep method: involves adding all your ingredients together and letting it sit overnight in the fridge – simple enough!
The Hot Steep Method: For a hot steep, add boiling water to coffee grounds, stir, and let it sit for 24 hours.
Both methods will brew you a great cup of cold brew if done correctly, but keep in mind that the cold steep method will result in less acidity than the hot steep method.
Once you have created your cold brew (or bought some from your local roaster!) drink it on its own or add milk/cream like you would with any regular-brewed cup of coffee!
Cold Brew Recipes
Cold Brew Holiday Recipe Ideas
Cold-brew cappuccinos and lattes are a great way to warm up during the cold winter months. Add milk, cocoa powder/syrup/chocolate chips for a mocha, or cinnamon for a Mexican spiced treat!
For a non-alcoholic drink that is delicious year-round, mix equal parts condensed milk and cold brew coffee with a few ice cubes in a blender.
Spiked: If you want to add alcohol but still retain the same smooth taste of your regular cold brew, add it after you remove the coffee from the refrigerator!
This will ensure that your alcohol doesn’t curdle in the fridge overnight. Cheers!
Cold Brew Keto Recipe Ideas
Make a sweet recipe using cold brew keto coffee, unsweetened almond milk, and stevia.
The creamy almond milk pairs perfectly with the subtle taste of the coffee while the stevia balances out some of that bitter coffee flavor!
If you would like some extra flavor in your cold brew but don’t want to add anything extra, you can always add a scoop of vanilla protein powder!!
What is cold brew?
Cold brewing is when you add your coffee grounds to water and let it steep for an extended period of time (usually overnight) instead of using a hot-brew method. The coffee ends up tasting smoother, lighter in taste, and less acidic!
How does the cold brew process work?
Once you add your beans and water together and let them sit in the fridge overnight, the cold will extract all the coffee’s natural flavors while leaving behind its acidity/bitterness. So you end up with a super tasty drink that is perfect for adding milk or creamers to!