When we released our Trade Cold Brew Bags last month, we knew we were onto something pretty special. But a great way to make cold brew coffee is nothing without a great coffee to begin with.
And when it came to finding the perfect coffees for cold brew, we recognized a pretty strong tie between customers who subscribe to The Classics and customers from our coffee subscription service who like traditional-flavored cold brew. So, we spoke to our roasters and asked them which coffees they use for cold brew in their own shops — no surprise, many of them were The Classics coffees! We tried them for ourselves in the office and true to word, they were winners.
When we say "traditional-flavored" and coffees that “taste like coffee,” we mean those with more medium to dark roast profiles. Fortunately for cold brewers, darker roasts are more soluble in water, which means a slightly easier and more even extraction. Darker roasts tend to also have less perceived acidity or brightness to them, which is something many cold brew drinkers value. With all of this in front of us, medium to darker roasts were a no-brainer to kick off cold brew.
Outside of darker, chocolate notes, I like to find coffees that play around with more brown sugar and caramel flavors when brewed hot. When cold brewed, these lighter notes turn into super sweet pastry-like flavors with a bit of sugar and milk. Ideally, with dilution of cold brew by way of water, ice cubes, or milk and sugar, you want coffee with some darker notes that hold up. Lighter flavors in coffees with lots of brightness tend to taste weaker with the dilution, and sometimes the acidity doesn’t pair very well with milk, creamer, or alternative milks.
One thing that can make all these flavors really pop is water temperature. With hot coffee, the temperature of the water causes acids to decay into bitter compounds. If the coffee isn’t quite hot enough, those compounds don’t dissolve and remain sour. The heat of the water will also evaporate aromatic oils within the coffee, which is why hot coffee smells so good. Those aromatics trigger our nose and prime it to taste those flavors when we sip the coffee.
Taste is still overwhelmingly tied to smell though, and the human body can smell in more ways than one. In cold brew, we brew with cold or room temperature water, so those acids don’t decay and those aromatics don’t evaporate. However, when we drink the cold brew, those oils hit you while in your mouth. This is called " retronasal olfaction", which refers to the flavor of cold brew being created from smell molecules in the coffee being pushed up into our nasal passages while drinking.
If you aren’t a cold brew subscriber, you can still search for cold brew on our site by using the filters in the side bar under “shop all coffee” and select cold brew, which includes all coffees from our roasters that are specifically made for cold brewing (or just taste really good cold brewed!). While there, you might even find some more experimental cold brews, made from higher-end green coffees (which in turn make them more expensive), and à la carte options for cold brew purchases.
Which brings us to the final step in making great cold brew: experimentation — see how to perfect your personal cold brew recipe next month!