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It doesn’t matter if it’s 40 degrees outside or after 4 p.m. For true cold brew obsessives, it’s never a bad time to indulge in the icy drink. 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. Life’s too short to waste caffeine, ya know? That’s why we turned to the pros for recommendations, then tasted nearly two dozen brands of coffee beans to bring you what we deem the best coffee for making cold brew. Period.

RELATED: The 9 Best Cold Brew Coffee Makers, According to Caffeine Enthusiasts

Our Picks at a Glance:

First, a Quick Aside for the Newbies: 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 a medium-to-coarse texture is the gold standard for making cold brew, and most pre-ground coffee is much finer than that. 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; 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.

The Best Coffee for Cold Brew

CANDACE DAVISON

1. Illy Classico

Best Classic Espresso Flavor

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

TOTAL: 85/100

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.

$14 AT AMAZON

DARA KATZ

2. Grady’s Cold Brew Bean Bags

Best New Orleans-Style Brew

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

TOTAL: 88/100

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.

$9 AT AMAZON

CANDACE DAVISON

3. Starbucks Honey & Madagascar Vanilla Flavored Coffee

Best Flavored Coffee

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

TOTAL: 86/100

If you always order your cold brew with an extra pump (or three) of your favorite syrup, Starbucks’s newest launch is for you. The grounds alone give off the smell of freshly baked cookies, and you immediately notice rich vanilla and caramel notes the second you take a sip. (Some testers thought there might be cocoa in it too.) The end result is sweet, but not cloying; if you use flavored creamer, you can get away with a bit less.

Brewing tip: Try whipping some heavy cream to serve on top, for your own subtle take on the chain’s cold foam-topped cold brews.

BUY IT ($6)

CANDACE DAVISON

4. Counter Culture Hologram

Boldest Flavor

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

TOTAL: 87/100

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.

BUY IT ($13)

CANDACE DAVISON

5. Ivory Tusk Coffee Frenchie’s Roast

Smoothest Brew

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

TOTAL: 86/100

This medium-dark roast coffee has an earthy, roasted flavor, but it’s not overpowering—nor does it taste bitter. Those two factors alone make this small business’s beans worth snatching up, especially for anyone who has a tendency to sip on an empty stomach. It’s gentle enough that our testers said they didn’t feel that “um, did I just chug gasoline?!” feeling later in the morning, even if they skipped the most important meal of the day.

BUY IT ($8)

CANDACE DAVISON

6. Bulletproof French Kick

Cleanest Aftertaste

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

TOTAL: 81/100

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.

BUY IT ($15)

Dena Silver

7. Trader Joe’s Cold Brew Coffee Bags

Most Affordable

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

TOTAL: 93/100

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.

BUY IT ($6)

Speedwell

8. Speedwell Cold Brew

Best to Gift

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

TOTAL: 88/100

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.

BUY IT ($14)

CANDACE DAVISON

9. Laird Superfood Boost Medium Roast Coffee

Best Vitamin-Enriched Coffee

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

TOTAL: 79/100

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.

BUY IT ($18)

RELATED: THE 12 BEST COFFEE SUBSCRIPTION BOXES AND DELIVERY OPTIONS THAT WILL IMPROVE YOUR MORNINGS

best coffee cold brew erebus

10. Erebus Ground Coffee in Cold Brew Bags

Best Decaf Cold Brew

  • Value: 12/20
  • Ease of Brew: 20/20
  • Quality: 19/20
  • Aroma: 15/20
  • Flavor: 18/20

TOTAL: 84/100

Initially, we didn't declare a winner for the decaf category, simply because the ones we'd tried tended to be...watery. And disappointing. Not so with Erebus's Ground Coffee in Cold Brew Bags. They're incredibly easy to brew (simply pop one in a pitcher, add water and let it steep for 24 hours), then dilute to your liking. We preferred adding half a cup of water for every cup of concentrate, but that's just because we like a strong brew. With its robust flavor and smooth finish, our testers had no idea they were drinking decaf.

BUY IT ($16)

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