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We Vetted the Best Coffee for Cold Brew, from Whole Beans to Brew Bags

Whip up a batch better than your fave barista

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best coffee cold brew editors picks
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It doesn’t matter if it’s 40 degrees outside or after 4 p.m. For true cold brew obsessives, there’s never a bad time to indulge in the icy beverage. The only challenge? The effort involved in making this type of coffee at home. Unless you keep your fridge stocked with the canned stuff, you’ve got to plan a day or two in advance—because most cold brew takes at least 12 hours to brew—and you don’t want to spend all that time waiting only to end up with a weak, watery drink.

Whether you're into eye-opening, jolt-you-into-tomorrow-strong brews (like our best overall pick, Counter Culture Hologram) or a robustly woody New Orleans-style java, we've got a firsthand-tested, editor-approved option for you. So, without further ado, let's check out the best coffee for cold brew, so you can get a pitcher going ASAP.

The 10 Best Cold Brew Coffee Makers, According to Caffeine Enthusiasts


The Best Coffee for Cold Brew At a Glance

1

Best Overall

Counter Culture Hologram Medium Roast Coffee Beans

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2

Best Flavored Coffee

Chamberlain Coffee Sweet Otter Cold Brew Singles

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3

Best Classic Espresso Flavor

Illy Classico

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4

Best New Orleans-Style Cold Brew

Grady’s Cold Brew Bean Bags

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5

Smoothest Brew

Bizzy Cold Brew, Smooth & Sweet Blend

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How We Tested the Best Coffee for Cold Brew

We take cold brew seriously, which is why this was a multi-tiered effort: First, we spoke to baristas and editors to get their top recommendations, then researched the top-reviewed brands on the market. From there, we tested 24+ types of coffee—from companies ranging from major chains, like Starbucks and Dunkin', to small businesses, like Speedwell and Bizzy—to bring you our top 11 picks.

Which Coffee Beans Are Best for Cold Brew?

The best type of beans used to make cold brew "really depends on the person's preference and the flavor profile they want out of it," says Michelle Kawahara, Lavazza's West Coast Training Manager, who's spent more than a decade teaching people all about making the perfect cup of joe—hot or cold.

Her sentiment was echoed by just about every barista we spoke to; the big thing, honestly, is the grind of the beans themselves. A medium-to-coarse texture tends to be best, both because it's easier to filter out (who wants little crumbly bits in their cold brew?!) and because it tends to be less bitter-tasting that way.

The Best Coffee for Cold Brew

  • Roast: dark
  • Origin: Colombia, Ethiopia, Kenya

Have you ever rolled your eyes at paying $6 for a cup of cold brew, only to take a sip, lean back and go, “whoa, what was that?” The richness and complexity of the brew makes it seem worth the splurge, and after testing half a dozen renowned hipster brands, Counter Culture is the closest we’ve come to replicating that experience at home. We’ve been fans of its dark roast, known as Forty-Six, but Hologram is a whole different beast: It’s a few different coffees blended together, creating a full-bodied drink with layers of flavor. As you sip, the notes change from fruity to chocolatey.

  • Value: 17/20
  • Ease of Brew: 18/20
  • Quality: 19/20
  • Aroma: 19/20
  • Flavor: 20/20

TOTAL: 93/100

chamberlain coffee singles for cold brew
Candace Davison

Best Flavored Coffee

2. Chamberlain Coffee Sweet Otter Cold Brew Singles

Chamberlain Coffee

  • Roast: medium
  • Origin: multiple regions, roasted in California

If you like a hint of sweetness without having to rely on a ton of syrups, Chamberlain has your back. There's a faint cake batter scent to the cold brew itself, which features subtle vanilla buttercream notes that give way to a hearty, traditional coffee taste. Many of the flavored coffees we tried had a chemical-like, artificial aftertaste; not so with this blend. Since Sweet Otter comes in single bags, we recommend brewing a few at a time in a pitcher, so you've got a couple days' worth ready to go at once.

  • Value: 14/20
  • Ease of Brew: 20/20
  • Quality: 17/20
  • Aroma: 19/20
  • Flavor: 18/20

TOTAL: 90/100

Best Classic Espresso Flavor

3. Illy Classico

illy

  • Roast: medium
  • Origin: multiple regions, roasted in Italy

When you want bold coffee flavor—with the same strength you’d expect from a shot of espresso—search for Illy. Its 100 percent Arabica beans come sealed in a tin container for maximum freshness, and the brand recommends that you use them within 15 days of opening (which, as you’ll realize after the first sip, won’t be a problem). These beans have a rich flavor with a clean aftertaste, and while Classico is readily available ground, it’s very finely ground, making whole beans a better buy for cold brew specifically.

  • Value: 14/20
  • Ease of Brew: 17/20
  • Quality: 17/20
  • Aroma: 19/20
  • Flavor: 18/20

TOTAL: 85/100

grady's cold brew bags
Dara Katz

Best New Orleans-Style Cold Brew

4. Grady’s Cold Brew Bean Bags

Grady's

  • Roast: medium
  • Origin: prepared in New York

You don’t need a French press, cold brew maker or even a trip to NOLA to enjoy a killer cup of New Orleans-style coffee these days. Grady’s cold brew bags are filled with coffee, spices and chicory (the Louisiana must-have for giving the java its slightly nutty flavor). All you have to do is drop the bags in a pitcher, add water and let them steep for 12 to 24 hours to create your concentrate. It doesn’t get easier than that. Oh, and if you’re not sure whether you’d like chicory-laced coffee, consider this: Our discerning reviewer drinks it daily and says it’s the best cold brew he’s ever had.

  • Value: 18/20
  • Ease of Brew: 18/20
  • Quality: 17/20
  • Aroma: 16/20
  • Flavor: 19/20

TOTAL: 88/100

  • Roast: medium
  • Origin: Central and South America

If you’re never without your cold brew, a flavorful-yet-smooth sip is crucial. That’s what we love about Bizzy Brew; it has the rich, roasted flavor we crave, but it isn’t so potent that it’ll give you a stomach ache if you drink a glass (or two) every day. Plus, it’s convenient—not only can you have it regularly delivered to your door via Amazon (and save up to 10 percent by subscribing), but the organic, ethically sourced beans are also already ground to coarse perfection, so you don't need a grinder to whip up a batch.

  • Value: 16/20
  • Ease of Brew: 20/20
  • Quality: 18/20
  • Aroma: 17/20
  • Flavor: 19/20

TOTAL: 90/100

lavazza cold brew and beans
Candace Davison

Boldest Flavor

6. Lavazza Classico Whole Bean Coffee

Lavazza

  • Roast: medium
  • Origin: South America and Africa

This is the affordable, full-bodied blend you've been waiting for. Lavazza Classico immediately fills your kitchen with a dried fruit and coffee bean aroma as soon as you grind the beans (which include a mix of both Arabica and Robusta), and that richness carries through to the flavor of your chilled bev when you sip it the next day.

  • Value: 17/20
  • Ease of Brew: 17/20
  • Quality: 18/20
  • Aroma: 18/20
  • Flavor: 18/20

TOTAL: 88/100

Cleanest Aftertaste

7. Bulletproof French Kick

Bulletproof

  • Roast: dark
  • Origin: Guatemala, Colombia and El Salvador

It only makes sense that the founder of Bulletproof Coffee—i.e., the practice of infusing your coffee with MCT oil and grass-fed butter for a keto-friendly, sustained energy boost—would have his own line of beans. French Kick is a dark roast, and it doesn’t contain MCT oil or butter (you’ll have to add that in yourself), but what impressed our testers was what a clean aftertaste it had. There’s no hint of coffee breath afterward, and the smoky, chocolatey notes are so subtle that they won’t compete with whatever you’re having for breakfast.

  • Value: 12/20
  • Ease of Brew: 17/20
  • Quality: 17/20
  • Aroma: 17/20
  • Flavor: 18/20

TOTAL: 81/100

Most Affordable

8. Trader Joe’s Cold Brew Coffee Bags

Trader Joe's

  • Roast: medium
  • Origin: Kilimanjaro single origin

Trader Joe’s does it again. The supermarket chain is known for selling unexpected dishes and snacks you can’t find anywhere else (hello, dark chocolate-drizzled plantain chips), but you shouldn’t sleep on its more run-of-the-mill fare. Case in point: Its Cold Brew Coffee Bags. Like Grady’s, you simply toss the bags in a pitcher of water and let them steep (TJ’s recommends doing so for eight to 12 hours, BTW) and what you wind up with is a bright, smooth drink with subtle notes of molasses.

Pro tip: Trader Joe’s recommends brewing two bags in seven cups of water, but our reviewer found that brewing one in three cups of water made for a stronger, more satisfying cup of cold brew.

  • Value: 20/20
  • Ease of Brew: 17/20
  • Quality: 18/20
  • Aroma: 20/20
  • Flavor: 18/20

TOTAL: 93/100

Best to Gift

9. Speedwell Cold Brew

Speedwell

  • Roast: dark
  • Origin: Guatemala and Brazil

These small-batch beans are specifically made for cold brew, and it shows. The resulting flavor is bold, a little chocolate-y and not too bitter. Though our reviewer didn’t quite taste the raisin-y finish the company mentions on its packaging, she didn’t miss it either. “Who wants raisin coffee?” she asked. But she did love its quality, and how the aroma reminded her of a cup you’d linger over at a fancy café. Plus, it makes for a great gift: The packaging is sleek, and you can order it as a three- or six-month subscription

  • Value: 13/20
  • Ease of Brew: 18/20
  • Quality: 19/20
  • Aroma: 20/20
  • Flavor: 18/20

TOTAL: 88/100

best coffee for cold brew: laird
Candace Davison

Best Vitamin-Enriched Coffee

10. Laird Superfood Boost Medium Roast Coffee

Laird

  • Roast: medium
  • Origin: Peru

Admittedly, we had our reservations about testing ground coffee with maitake mushroom and olive leaf extracts in it. But it lent a toasty, earthy flavor to the brew that wasn’t overtly mushroom-y (though the scent was a bit intense). What really got us was the fact that each 12-ounce cup boasts 15 percent of your recommended daily value of vitamin D. Sometimes, enriched coffees can have a filmy or chemical-ish taste; not so here. It made for a rich cold brew that made us feel like we were starting off the day on the right foot.

One caveat, though: Like Illy, the ground coffee is a bit fine, so you’ll need to use a spoon to stir it around in the filter a bit to ensure the beans get saturated with water.

  • Value: 11/20
  • Ease of Brew: 17/20
  • Quality: 19/20
  • Aroma: 15/20
  • Flavor: 17/20

TOTAL: 79/100

best coffee cold brew blue bottle decaf
Candace Davison

Best Decaf Cold Brew

11. Blue Bottle Whole Bean Organic Coffee, Decaf

Blue Bottle

  • Roast: medium
  • Origin: Latin and Central America

"Death before decaf" has become a mantra among hardcore coffee drinkers, largely because the flavor always seems a bit off. It's usually code for bitter, watery brews, but that's not the case with Blue Bottle. Their decaf beans are every bit as intense and flavorful as their traditional medium roast, and if you freeze your own coffee ice cubes, you can basically recreate the in-store experience from the comfort of your own kitchen.

  • Value: 15/20
  • Ease of Brew: 17/20
  • Quality: 20/20
  • Aroma: 19/20
  • Flavor: 19/20

TOTAL: 90/100

Additional Cold Brew FAQ's

How Do You Make Cold Brew?

Unlike iced coffee (which is simply hot coffee that’s chilled and poured over ice), cold brew is made by steeped ground beans in cool or room temperature water for 12-plus hours. The grounds are filtered out, and the resulting liquid is actually a coffee concentrate. From there, water is added—often a 50:50 mix, but you can adjust it based on your tastes—so it isn’t too intense. Sure, you can use a French press to make it, but we love the simplicity of these cold brew makers.

Whole Beans Vs. Ground: What’s the Best Coffee for Cold Brew?

Grinding your own whole beans is ideal, since most pre-ground coffee is much finer than the medium-to-coarse grind you're looking for in cold brew. That said, if you don’t have a grinder at home, you’re not doomed to instant mixes and to-go orders. Ground will work (and there are some ground types that are specifically made for cold brew); we’ve just found that you may need to stir the coffee grounds around within the filter, just so they get fully immersed in water. (If you don’t, you may wind up with cold brew that looks and tastes like unsweetened tea the next day.) Once you’ve dumped the grounds, it can be helpful to run the cold brew concentrate through the filter one more time, just to sift out any stray grounds.

Is Cold Brew Stronger Than Brewed Coffee?

That depends on how you make it—and how much you dilute it. (At Starbucks, for example, a 16-ounce hot Americano coffee averages about 225 mg of caffeine, according to the brand, whereas a 16-ounce cold brew has 205 mg.)

In general, cold brew clocks in at 200 milligrams of caffeine per 16-ounce serving, and hot coffee is about 192 milligrams. A 2020 Thomas Jefferson University study backs this up, adding that since cold brew tends to be less acidic, it can taste smoother. You may associate that smoothness with a less strong brew, but based on caffeine levels, it's every bit as potent.

How Long Is Cold Brew Good For?

"Cold brew concentrate can last up to two weeks in the fridge," Kawahara says. "Once it is diluted, I would say about two to three days.

That said, she offers a pro tip for anyone who's trying to make each batch last as long as possible: "I will keep my cold brew concentrate as-is and then I will dilute with water as needed to ensure that my cold brew can last up to two weeks—which it never does."

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candace davison bio

VP of editorial, recipe developer, cookbook author

Candace Davison oversees PureWow's food and home content, as well as its franchises, like the PureWow100 review series and the Happy Kid Awards. She’s covered all things lifestyle...