Don’t think that you’re limited to iced coffee if you don’t want it hot. Cold brew coffee is another excellent alternative for lovers of cool beverages. Some people even find it preferable to iced coffee since cold brew is brewed and chilled in the fridge rather than poured over ice. Whether you want to brew your own cold brew from scratch or are looking for a tasty premade cold brew coffee, here are a few that we recommend.
How We Chose the Best Cold Brew Coffees
We researched several dozen cold brew coffees, reviewing manufacturer claims and considering their reputations. Next, we read over user reviews in order to hear directly from actual consumers. This gave us a good idea of what multiple people did or didn’t like about each product, as well as the drawbacks and benefits of each cold brew.
When we had narrowed our selection down to less than 10 products, we turned to the experts for their input. We read reviews by and picked the brains of several former baristas to see what they had to say about cold brew coffee. With their hands-on experience and insight, we were able to narrow down the product selection to the five best options.
Buying Guide for Cold Brew Coffees
Why buy cold brew coffee?
There’s a lot to love about cold brew coffee, whether you’re a hot or cold coffee drinker. Cold brew is smoother, richer, and has lower acidity than most standard coffees, which makes it ideal for those who need a caffeine boost in the morning but may not enjoy the taste of coffee so much. Some people who prefer cold coffee drinks also find cold brew more palatable than iced coffee. They don’t have to worry about ice cubes melting and further watering down their coffee.
That’s not the only benefit to buying your own cold brew, either. Since cold brew is either made well in advance or bought pre-brewed, it can be an extra quick way to get your morning caffeine fix. Whether you make your own ahead of time or buy it in concentrate form from the store, you don’t have to take time out of your morning routine to make coffee or wait in line at your local coffee shop. All you have to do is pull the cold brew out of the fridge, pour it into a cup, and go.
Cold brew also tends to be one of the more expensive drinks sold at coffee shops, so buying your own, especially if you make your own from coffee grounds, can be a long-term money saver. Cold brew concentrate tends to have higher caffeine content, so you get a better bang for your buck too.
What should you look for in cold brew coffee?
- Concentrate vs. Grounds: Consider whether you’d prefer to make your own cold brew from scratch or buy it in premade in concentrate form. Making your own will certainly take much longer, and you’ll have to brew it well in advance; the cold brewing process alone takes, on average, 12 to 24 hours. But creating your own cold brew from scratch also gives you greater control over the ratio of water to grounds, the size of the grounds, and the strength of the coffee. There are also specialty grounds made specifically with cold brew in mind. Buying premade concentrate is a big time saver since you don’t have to do much besides pouring and serving the coffee.
- Caffeine Level: Cold brew, in general, has a higher caffeine content than regular coffee since it uses more beans/grounds and less water. However, there are a good number of decaffeinated cold brews, both in coffee ground form and in concentrate. So rest easy if you’re a decaf-only coffee drinker; you’ll still be able to enjoy cold brew. There are also cold brews, usually in concentrate form, that are highly concentrated and thus have larger than average amounts of caffeine. On average, cold brew contains about 100 milligrams of caffeine per 8-ounce cup. So if a higher or lower caffeine content is an important factor for you, look for cold brews that have more or less caffeine than that, depending on your preferences.
- Flavors: As with regular coffee, you aren’t limited to plain, black cold brew. You can also find cold brews made from light, medium, and dark roasts or those blended with espresso for those who like something a bit more bitter. Sweeter flavors like vanilla or caramel and nitro cold brews add creaminess and sweetness without extra calories or additives. There are deeper and bolder flavors, too, such as mocha or hazelnut, and even seasonal blends like pumpkin or cinnamon. Cold brew can be spicy, minty, fruity, and more; pretty much any flavor you can find a regular coffee version of, you can find it in a cold brew, too.
What type of coffee grounds are best for making cold brew?
When it comes to making your cold brew, opt for coarser coffee grounds. Since cold brewing is done at room temperature or cold temperatures, it has an overall lower extraction rate than regular coffee making, so you’ll lose flavorful oil with fine grounds. And coarser grounds are easier to filter out during the brewing process, which decreases your chances of finding loose debris in your finished cup of cold brew. This means that your coffee will be less bitter on the whole.
How long does it take to make your own cold brew coffee?
As mentioned, cold brew coffee does take a long time to make, should you choose to create your own cold brew from beans or grounds. Most cold brews take anywhere from 12 to 24 hours to steep properly. Though rare, a few might take even longer, up to 72 hours. This is why coffee shops often charge so much for cold brew and have a finite amount available each day; it has to be made the evening before and then left to brew overnight to be ready for the morning. The barista can’t whip up a fresh batch in a few minutes or hours.
The good news is that cold brew holds up well in the refrigerator, able to last for up to 2 weeks at a time. Thus, if you want to make your own, you can easily brew a large batch—a week or more’s worth—in one sitting.
Are there any other factors to consider in cold brew coffee?
The quantity of cold brew you buy is definitely worth considering. Buy too much, and you might find yourself with coffee grounds or concentrate taking up extra space in your pantry or fridge for an extended period of time. Buy too little, and you’ll find yourself without your morning caffeine fix.
Consider how many cups of coffee you drink a day and how large those cups are. If you plan to steep your own, also consider how often you’ll be making a fresh vat of cold brew. How large is the bag of beans or grounds? Will you receive more than one bag with each purchase? If you plan to buy cold brew concentrate instead, be sure to look at how many cans come in a set and how many ounces each can holds.
Also, read the ingredient label carefully if you have any allergies or other dietary restrictions. Plain coffee grounds or beans alone are usually allergen-free and diet-friendly, but you’ll want to be careful if you opt for a flavored cold brew. These are not always free of dairy or sugar. Fortunately, some dairy-free and allergen-free cold brews are available for those with dietary restrictions.
Our Picks for the Best-Tasting Cold Brew Coffees
Pros: Some people think that nitro cold brew doesn’t come in different flavors, but this set of nitro cold brews is here to bust that myth. There are four possible flavor options, including a variety pack that allows you to enjoy two different flavors in the same set. This coffee is nice and smooth, even by nitro cold brew standards. And since it’s pure nitro cold brew rather than concentrate, you don’t have to worry about diluting each individual can. All you have to do is shake, pour, and enjoy.
Cons: Overall, the nitro flavoring and texture aren’t quite as strong in these canned drinks as other options. While nitro cold brew is already one of the pricier coffees out there, this set of eight cans is more expensive than most.
Bottom Line: Nitro cold brew is deliciously sweet and creamy on its own, and these canned options offer a way to expand its flavor even further. There should be a can for just about every taste. And the variety pack is a great option for couples who prefer different flavors or individuals who want to explore different options.
Pros: If you’re in the market for a higher quantity of cold brew, this boxed product should suit your needs nicely. Your coffee comes packed in a box with a tap built right in, so you can set it on your countertop or in the fridge and start serving immediately. You won’t even have to blend or dilute the cold brew first. The box holds a gallon of cold brew, so you know you get a good bang for your buck. And no need to worry if you’re watching your sugar intake for health or dietary reasons; this cold brew is sugar-free.
Cons: This cold brew and its box are quite large and bulky, so it will take up a lot of space in your fridge. You may find it harder to pour your coffee when it’s running low. You can buy it with espresso or in a Colombian roast, but there aren’t any actual flavored options.
Bottom Line: If you drink multiple cups of coffee a day or live with a lot of family members or roommates, you’re probably no stranger to running out of coffee during the day. This on-tap cold brew can help keep you stocked up. You receive a full gallon of cold brew that comes ready to serve, no diluting or mixing required. And since it comes in a box with a tap, serving is an absolute breeze.
Pros: Whether you’re a fan of dark or medium roast cold brew, this bag of coffee beans has you covered. Both are options available for purchase, in several different sized bags. People who prefer or only drink decaf coffee don’t have to worry, either, as these cold brew beans are available decaffeinated as well. If you ever get tired of grinding your own beans but like the coffee these beans provide, you can buy all three types in coffee grounds form as well.
Cons: Fans of light roast coffee are out of luck, as these beans are only available in dark or medium roast form. These beans are priced just a bit higher per ounce than other coffee beans. You may have to do some experimenting and tinkering before you figure out the perfect water-to-coffee ratio for you.
Bottom Line: These beans are great for those who want to brew their own cold brew from scratch for maximum freshness. Once you’ve got the correct water to coffee ratio figured out, you’ll love the fresh, smooth taste of the cold brew made from these beans.
Pros: Shots of espresso aren’t your only options for an extra boost of caffeine, as these canned nitro cold brews are here to prove. The black coffee is compatible with pretty much all dietary and allergy restrictions, from gluten-free to dairy-free to keto, and the sweeter flavors are made with oat milk in order to be vegan-friendly. And unlike most cold brews, these cans don’t require refrigeration before opening; they taste better cold, but if you don’t have room to stash them in your fridge, they are shelf-stable.
Cons: You will be paying a little more per can for the flavored options as compared to some other nitro cold brews. The three sweeter flavors also may not meet all dietary restrictions, such as keto, though they are still vegan-friendly and don’t have any added sugar.
Bottom Line: If you’re someone who needs a little extra jolt in the morning or to beat the afternoon lull, these cans of nitro cold brew will suit your needs nicely. They have the same caffeine content as two shots of espresso while providing a much smoother and sweeter taste. Those who can’t consume dairy or trying to watch their sugar intake won’t have to miss out on these cold brews, either.
Pros: These coffee grounds come in an impressive seven different flavors, in dark and light roasts, richer blends and sweeter blends, and more. There are also size options for most coffee drinkers’ habits, too. Regardless of quantity and flavor, these coarse grounds were created with cold brew specifically in mind and will make a nice smooth cup or pitcher of java. Don’t feel restricted to cold brew, either. While primarily intended for cold brew coffee, these grounds should work just fine for making other types of hot or cold coffee, too.
Cons: You’ll also want to keep in mind that these ground produce better-tasting cold brew when steeped for longer. If you want a (relatively) faster batch of homemade cold brew—12 hours rather than 24 hours, for instance—these may not be the grounds for you. If you have a nut allergy, especially hazelnuts, be sure to scour the labels of these grounds carefully. Some of the flavors contain traces of nuts to improve their taste, though it’s not always clearly labeled.
Bottom Line: Not everyone has the time or desire to grind their own coffee beans. If you plan to make your own cold brew but want to speed up the process slightly, these specialty grounds are coarsely ground, great for cold brews. They may take longer to make a better-tasting cold brew, but the wait is well worth the results.
What’s the difference between cold brew and iced coffee?
The biggest difference between cold brew and iced coffee is the way they’re made. Though some people use the two terms interchangeably, they aren’t the same thing. Cold brew is made by steeping coffee grounds in room temperature or cold water for 12 to 72 hours, while iced coffee is standard hot coffee that’s been poured over ice, usually after being cooled. The different water temperature actually affects the flavor of the coffees as well; a big reason why cold brew is less acidic and bitter than regular hot or iced coffee is because it doesn’t come into contact with hot water at all. And, as mentioned, cold brew doesn’t come with as high a risk of tasting watered down since it isn’t necessarily poured over ice cubes like iced coffee is.
If you want to make your own cold brew from scratch, do you need a specialty cold brew coffee maker?
While it’s not strictly necessary to buy a cold brew coffee maker for your coffee grounds, it is more cost-efficient and more convenient overall to do so. You can use a mason jar, mesh strainer, and a paper filter or piece of cheesecloth to make your own cold brew at home. However, you’ll still have to invest in a mesh strainer and new cheesecloth or paper filters. And you’ll need a large enough mason jar if you intend to brew a week’s worth or more in one batch.
Most cold brew coffee makers are far less expensive than many types of coffee makers since they don’t require any electricity to function. And, almost all models will come with a built-in mesh filter, so you won’t have to constantly purchase new filters for it. This not only saves you money in the long run but is more eco-friendly as well.
The only exception is if you want to make nitro cold brew at home. Since this type of cold brew has to be infused with nitrogen, it does require a specialty nitro cold brew coffee maker if you want to create your own from scratch.
Cold brew’s smooth, less acidic taste is great for newcomers to the coffee world, while veteran coffee lovers will appreciate the alternative to iced coffee for hot days. And since you can brew your own at home or buy it premade as a concentrate, there’s sure to be a cold brew for you.
Other Cold Brew Coffees We Considered
If you don’t see the flavor you want among the products listed here or you want to explore some other options, here are a few other cold brew coffees we would recommend: