cold brew

Over the past few years, cold brew coffee has become one of the most popular summertime beverages for coffee lovers. When Starbucks launched its first cold brew beverage in 2015, the coffee giant saw a staggering 20% increase in iced drink sales

With higher caffeine levels and a smoother taste than traditional iced coffee, it's little surprise that this tasty coffee drink has taken off. Not only does cold brew provide all-day energy, but it also brings out the complex flavors of your favorite roast while minimizing bitterness and acidity.

Because of its lengthy steeping process, cold brew is often more expensive than regular iced coffee. But thankfully, it's surprisingly easy to make at home! In this quick guide, we'll break down what it is, how it's made, and the best organic coffee for cold brew. 

What is cold brew coffee?

First, it's important to clarify that cold brew refers to the preparation process, not the temperature of the resulting coffee product. Though cold brew is most often served over ice, it can also be served hot.

Though it's seen a spike in popularity over the past few years, the origins of cold brew coffee can be all the way back to 16th century China. While coffee shops now use technology to ensure precision and consistency, the same fundamental cold brewing process is still in use centuries later. 

To make cold brew coffee, ground coffee beans are soaked at room temperature or in cold water for upwards of twelve hours. This lengthy, low-temperature soak extracts the sugars, oils, and caffeine at a slower rate than hot brewing. The result of cold brewing is a highly-concentrated coffee with a smooth, mild flavor, low acidity level, and high caffeine content. 

Is cold brew different from iced coffee? 

Yes. Though cold brew and iced coffee may be served in a similar fashion, they're made using two entirely different brewing processes. Conventional iced coffee is brewed using the traditional hot method like drip coffee, pour-over, or French press and then cooled, while cold brews are never heated at all. Learn how to make a cold brew at home. 

Due to the steeping method used, cold brew is more concentrated than iced coffee. In addition to upping the caffeine content, this higher concentration level ensures your cold-brew has a rich, smooth coffee flavor that won't taste watered-down when poured over ice. It also has half the acidity of traditional coffee, making it easier on your stomach and better for your teeth. 

Do I need special beans for cold brew?

Unlike other coffee beverages, the beauty of cold brewing is that you don't need any fancy machines or special coffee beans for cold brew. All you need to make cold brew is filtered water and the ground coffee beans of your choice, cold brew coffee beans, or cold brew coffee grounds. Most people find medium or dark roast makes the best cold brew.

Coffee roasters recommend sticking to a coarse grind coffee bean for the best cold brew. The larger coffee grounds improve the filtration process and eliminate any bitterness. While you can use pre-ground coffee to create a cold brew, grinding your own from whole beans makes the best coffee. 

Is cold brew coffee stronger than regular coffee? 

Yes! Cold brew is made with a higher coffee-to-water ratio than conventional coffee— typically two and a half times higher. As a result, cold brew coffee has around twice the caffeine of a traditional cup of iced coffee. 

While the cold brew itself may have higher caffeine levels, the final cold brew beverage you purchase from your local coffee shop may not. Cold-brew is typically served over ice with equal parts milk, reducing the caffeine content slightly while highlighting the smooth taste. 

The Best Coffee for Cold Brew 

As we mentioned earlier, cold brew doesn't require special coffee beans, just a coarse grind of your favorite roast. To help you create the perfect cup of Joe, we're rounded up a few of the best organic coffees for cold brew. 

Jo Coffee Stone Cold Jo

Jo Coffee Stone Cold Jo

Jo Coffee's Stone Cold Jo was crafted with cold brew-lovers in mind. The dark roast has a robust flavor, low acidity, and silky smooth finish that's perfect for creating your favorite summer beverage at home. The long, slow steep helps bring out the hints of toffee, chocolate, and grape. Like all of Jo Coffee's products, the Stone Cold Jo roast is made from organic and Fair Trade certified beans. 

Highlights

  • Dark roast
  • Coarse ground coffee
  • USDA organic certified, Fair Trade certified, and Kosher certified
Death Wish Coffee Dark Roast Whole Beans

If you're in need of a serious caffeine hit, a cold brew coffee made with Death Wish Coffee's Dark Roast will do just the trick! The New York-based coffee roaster boasts it has "the world's strongest coffee" thanks to a unique roasting technique that results in twice the caffeine of your average cup. 

Their Dark Roast is made with a blend of USDA-certified organic and fair trade Arabica and Robusta beans with no additives or artificial ingredients. The low acidity level, smooth taste, and subtle hints of cherry make it the perfect choice for cold brew. 

Highlights

  • Dark roast
  • Whole beans
  • USDA organic certified, Fair Trade certified
Peet's Coffee Gaia Organic Blend

San-Francisco-based coffee roaster Peet's Coffee hand roasts each batch of beans to order. Their Organic Gaia Blend is made from a signature blend of beans from around the globe, melding together each unique attribute to create a vibrantly layered final profile. As the season changes, so do the subtleties of its rich flavor. 

The Gaia blend is dark-roasted for a medium body with earthy notes of floral blossoms from East African coffees, light acidity from Central America, and cacao from Columbian beans. The cold-brew ready whole beans are 100% organic, meaning it's produced with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. 

Highlights:

  • Deep roast
  • Ground coffee
  • USDA organic certified 
Cold Brew Lab Coffee Dark Roast Coarse Grind

There's no need to worry if you don't own a coffee grinder; you can still make cold brew coffee using pre-ground beans. Just be sure to use a coarse grind, like this Dark Roast Coarse Grind from New York-based Cold Brew Coffee Lab. The self-proclaimed cold brew experts specially source, roast, and blend their 100% organic Arabica coffee beans with cold brewing in mind. As a result, it has a smooth finish and rich, complex flavor that'll keep you coming back for more. 

Highlights

  • Dark roast
  • Ground coffee
  • USDA organic certified

Grounds for Change Quetzal Guatemalan Organic Coffee

If you're looking for ethical and sustainable coffees you can feel good about drinking, try one of the single-origin roasts from Grounds for Change. The Seattle-based coffee company uses 100% fair trade, organic coffee beans, uses recycled packaging, and composts all of their organic waste. Plus, Grounds for Change is a B-Corp that uses 100% renewable energy, offsets all its carbon emissions, and donates 1% For the Planet. 

Their single-origin Quetzal roast is sourced from a fair trade cooperative in Guatemala's Huehuetenango, home of the blend's namesake Quetzal bird. The light roast brings out the subtle sweetness and creamy finish that Guatemalan coffees are known for. Opting for cold brew allows the soft flavor notes of vanilla, butter, and apricot to shine through. 

Highlights

  • Light roast
  • 4 Types of grinds available
  • USDA organic certified and fair trade certified
Kicking Horse Smart Ass Medium Roast Coffee

Kicking Horse Coffee's humorously named Smart Ass Roast is a lively medium roast that's perfect for cold brew. Its one-of-a-kind blend of African, Central American, and South American beans creates a sweet vanilla aroma and flavor notes of sugar cane, milk chocolate, and honeyed berries. In addition to being organic, Kicking Horse coffee products are also fair trade and kosher. 

Highlights

  • Medium roast
  • Whole beans
  • USDA organic certified, fair trade, shade grown and Kosher
Allegro Coffee Organic Breakfast Blend

As the name suggests, Allegro Coffee's Organic Breakfast Blend is the perfect choice for your morning cup of Joe. The light roast is made from Latin American and Ethiopian beans grown by small-holder organic farmers. It's bright, flavorful, and has a mouthwatering caramelly, chocolatey aroma. 

Highlights

  • Light roast
  • Ground
  • USDA organic certified, Non-GMO verified, Fair trade certified
Caffe Vita Organic Theo Blend

Caffe Vita's Theo Blend is the result of a collaboration with Theo Chocolate, a fellow Seattle-based company focused on high-quality products with ethical and sustainable origins. The blend is designed to complement the flavor of chocolate, making it the ideal coffee for making a cold brew mocha. 

The medium roast blends certified organic Indonesian, Central American, and South American beans grown at high altitudes for a more complex flavor. The aroma and smooth taste feature notes of dark chocolate, baking spices, and local Northwest berries. 

Highlights

  • Medium roast
  • Whole beans
  • Fair trade and organic coffee beans
Seven Coffee Roasters Organic Mexico Santa Fe

Mexico Santa Fe is one of Seven Coffee Roaster's most popular specialty coffees for a reason. The medium roast offers the perfect balance of sweetness, acidity, and robustness for both cold and hot brews. Its rich, velvety consistency and flavor notes of toasted sugar pair perfectly with plant-based milk and ice on a hot summer day. 

Highlights

  • Medium roast
  • 4 Types of grinds available 
  • Organic
Pachamama Coffee Farmers Five Sisters Blend_

Pachamama Coffee is a 100% farmer-owned coffee collective consisting of small farmers that use sustainable growing and harvesting methods. Together with the World Bank, they've created Traceable Coffee, a platform that allows their customers to "tip the farmer" who grew the coffee in their cupboard. 

Pachamama Coffee's certified organic Five Sisters blend is a balanced medium roast with flavor notes of grapefruit and honey. It's made from a blend of Bourbon, Typica, Caturra, and Garnica beans from Mexico, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. Thanks to the high elevation growing conditions, the beans give the Five Sisters blend a more complex flavor profile and a smoother finish.

Available through Farm Fresh To You

Highlights

  • Medium roast
  • Whole beans
  • USDA organic certified and shade grown

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