Cold brew coffee is a great drink for a hot day. It’s smooth and bright taste is perfect to serve over ice. But which type of bean is the best for making great cold brew? I did some digging and here’s what I found out.
Cold brewing coffee naturally brings out a bright and acidic taste in your coffee. Those tastes are more present in Arabica beans which means they’re suitable for cold brew. Blending up to 25% Robusta beans into your cold brew grounds will give a little fuller taste and give the cold brew more body.
Using coffee that’s roasted specifically for cold brew will give you better results than a random other coffee in most cases. Try Cooper’s single origin cold brew beans or ground coffee for some great results. You can find them here on Amazon.
There is a bit more to it than the quick answer above. Keep reading to find more details.
What Is Good Cold Brew?
What makes cold brew coffee good? What kind of taste and other characteristics are you looking for?
By far the most important thing in cold brew is the taste. It’s what got it so popular in the first place. The taste is relatively light when you drink it over ice. It usually doesn’t have the really heavy taste that hot brew coffee tends to have. Of course the fact that it’s served cold really helps with the taste as well.
Cold brew usually doesn’t have much bitterness but it does have good acidity without being sour. The acidity creates a really open and bright taste that’s suitable to drink like that or can be mixed with a lot of different tastes. Sometimes cold brew can be almost fruity in flavor.
Cold brew tends to have a lot of caffeine in the concentrate. Because it’s usually served over ice, it’s diluted a bit. But, you still tend to get more caffeine in a serving of cold brew than a serving of drip coffee.
What Is The Difference Between Arabica and Robusta?
Now we know what good cold brew should taste and look like, we still have to look into the differences between Arabica and Robusta beans to see which one is best.
If you’re not aware, Arabica and Robusta are two different types of coffee beans. They are different because they grow on a different type of coffee plant. Robusta is generally seen as less desirable than Arabica because the taste isn’t as good.
The Robusta plant is also less picky so it’s easier to grow, bears fruit faster and produces more beans per hectare. That’s why it’s a cheaper bean than Arabica.
Arabica tends to be more acidic and fruity in taste. This creates a bright and open taste. Arabica has more oils and sugars than Robusta which is probably one of the big reasons why most people prefer it.
Robusta has a little less acidic taste although there isn’t actually less acid in it. The reason it tastes less acidic is likely because other tastes are stronger. It’s also more bitter and earthy notes, sometimes even described as burnt rubber. Robusta is a quite a bit higher in caffeine and caffeine tastes bitter.
Want to try Robusta beans? Vietnam is the biggest producer of Robusta in the world. Nguyen Coffee Supply has Vietnamese Robusta roasted in the USA so it’s always as fresh as possible. Check them out here.
Of course you don’t have to make the choice for 100% one or the other. Blending coffee beans has been around for a long time and you can easily do it yourself. Just weight them out before grinding. Most bags of coffee you buy in the supermarket will be a blend if it doesn’t specifically say 100% Arabica.
Even though Robusta might be seen as lower quality coffee, that doesn’t mean there aren’t different qualities. Some are much better than others. So even if you’re going to buy 100% Robusta beans, you should get high quality beans. That will really diminish the negative tastes in the beans. That way you can easily blend in more Robusta in your cold brew ground without it negatively affecting the taste.
What’s best for cold brew coffee?
So which type of bean is the best choice for good cold brew? Well, it depends. There is not one clear winner since people have different goals for their coffee.
As I see it, there are three considerations for cold brew that change the type of bean which is best for your purpose.
The most important for most people is going to be the taste. This is also the most difficult consideration at the same time because people have different tastes.
Robusta tends to have a bit more bitterness to it. You can go two ways with this. Since cold brew is naturally very low on bitterness, you can either try to balance that out a little bit or you can try to get all the bitterness out of your cold brew.
Since the brightness and lack of bitterness is what most people like about cold brew, 100% Arabica is a good choice. Especially if you go for a high quality bean, you’ll get a wonderful taste. Try to make cold brew with some light roasted, specialty Arabica and you’ll be surprised.
Bitterness isn’t necessarily a bad taste in coffee. I personally enjoy that taste in my hot brew coffee although it shouldn’t go too bitter. Coffee is all about getting the balance right. What the right balance is, is different for everyone.
If you really want the least amount of bitterness, go for 100% Arabica. That way you’ll have the least amount of bitterness and a good acidity that really provides a bright open taste.
If you want to round out the taste a bit more, have some darker notes in your cold brew, adding some Robusta can really do this. If you go for about 25% Robusta in your cold brew blend, you’ll get a bit bolder taste in your cold brew.
If you want to mix it with other tastes, it can be a good idea to create a cold brew with a stronger taste since it’ll stand up to those tastes a bit better. Especially if you’re going to mix it with dairy.
Cold brewing coffee actually takes quite a lot of coffee. Since you’re usually making concentrate, it’s not as dramatic as it seems when you’re brewing it but it’s still quite a bit. Coffee isn’t cheap and maybe you’re looking for some ways to make money.
Robusta beans tend to be cheaper than Arabica beans because of reasons discussed above. Cheaper beans means cheaper cold brew. And I actually like some Robusta beans in my cold brew so I’m personally not giving up anything taste wise by doing this.
If you just want to brew something that makes your teeth rattle with a single sip, go for Robusta. Robusta has almost twice the caffeine of Arabica. That alone will make a huge difference. Usually for cold brew, the roast is very dark. This prevents the coffee from becoming sour. However, a darker roast means lower caffeine.
If you’re willing to give up a little taste wise for a higher caffeine content, you can go for a slightly lighter roast. I’d still stay on the darker side of the roasting options though. This way you maintain more caffeine in the beans which results in stronger cold brew or coffee in general.
If you’re going 100% Robusta, plus a lighter roast, you might start running into problems with the taste. So if you really want a strong brew that’s high in caffeine, I wouldn’t start there. Start with a 50/50 blend. Make a batch and see what you think. Do you want more caffeine and still like the taste? Up the Robusta to 75% etc.
This is only really necessary for people who really, really want a ton of caffeine in their cold brew. Because cold brew is already high in caffeine just because of the long steep time, the first thing you can do is just dilute your cold brew less. The less you dilute it, the more caffeine per sip.
For the best, brightest and fruitiest cold brew, go for 100% good Arabica. There are reasons why you would want to mix in some Robusta though. Price and caffeine content are the best reasons for this but you can also blend up to 25% Robusta in your cold brew mix to create a fuller tasting brew.
Favorite cold brew tools
With these items, you will brew better cold brew
- Fresh coffee: Any coffee you brew will be better when brewed with fresh coffee. Try this cold brew blend from Bizzy (Amazon), you’ll like it!
- Grinder: Fresh beans have to be ground. A hand grinder like the Hario Slim (Amazon) is affordable yet effective hand grinder that will improve your cold brew.
- Scale: The amount of grounds you use makes a big impact on what your cold brew tastes like. A simple set of scales will makes your brews more consistent. I’ve been using this one (Amazon) for over a year wit h great success. Not the most aesthetic but effective.
- Cold brew container: Make brewing cold brew easier and less messy with this cold brew bottle (Amazon) with built in filter.