Finding the Perfect Roast Level for Your Cold Brew Coffee

When it comes to making cold brew coffee, choosing the right roast is essential to achieving a delicious and satisfying brew. The roast level of the coffee beans plays a significant role in determining the flavor, acidity, and overall profile of the final cold brew. In this expert article, we will explore recommendations for roast levels in cold brew coffee, using insights from two reputable sources: Kunjani Craft Coffee and Parachute Coffee.

Understanding Cold Brew Coffee

Before we dive into recommended roast levels, let’s take a moment to review what cold brew coffee is. Cold brew is a brewing method that involves soaking coffee grounds in cold water for an extended period of time, typically 12 to 24 hours. This slow extraction process results in a smooth, low-acid coffee concentrate that can be enjoyed over ice or diluted with water.

Roast Levels for Cold Brew

Different roast levels offer unique flavor profiles for cold brew coffee. Let’s explore the characteristics of each roast and its suitability for cold brew.

  • Dark Roast:
    Dark roast coffee beans are roasted until the sugars in the beans caramelize, resulting in a deep, robust flavor profile. Dark roasts have a dark brown color similar to dark chocolate. Due to the longer roasting process, dark roasts have a lower caffeine content. In cold brew, dark roasts are often preferred for their consistent flavor and low acidity. The rich, smoky notes of dark roasts complement the addition of milk or sweeteners to cold brew coffee.
  • Medium Roast:
    Medium roast coffee beans strike a balance between sweetness and acidity. They are roasted to an internal temperature between the first and second crack. Medium roasts are medium brown in color and offer a well-rounded flavor profile. When used in cold brew, medium roasts allow the natural flavors of the beans to shine through, creating a full-bodied and flavorful cup.
  • Light Roast:
    Light roast coffee beans undergo a shorter roasting process, resulting in a lighter brown or golden color. The beans are roasted to the first crack, but not the second. Light roasts offer a delicate and nuanced flavor profile, with notes of toasted flavors and higher levels of acidity. While light roasts can be used for cold brew, they require more precision during the brewing process due to their higher margin of error. Cold brew enthusiasts who appreciate the complex flavors and brightness of the beans often choose light roasts.

Techniques and Equipment

When it comes to brewing cold brew coffee, there are specific techniques and equipment that can improve the process and result in a smooth and flavorful cup. Here are some recommended cold brew coffee brewing techniques and equipment:

  1. Cold Brew Equipment:
    Cold Brew Maker: Investing in a dedicated cold brew brewer can simplify the brewing process. These machines typically have built-in filters or steeping mechanisms that make it easy to steep coffee grounds in cold water and extract the flavors.
    Mason jars or pitchers: If you don’t have a cold brew maker, you can use mason jars or pitchers with a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth to strain the coffee grounds after steeping.
    Filtration System: For a cleaner, sediment-free cold brew, consider using a filtration system, such as a paper or reusable mesh filter, to effectively strain the coffee grounds.
  2. Water to Coffee Ratio:
    The general guideline for cold brew coffee is to use a higher ratio of coffee to water compared to traditional hot brewing methods. A common ratio is 1 part coffee to 4 parts water (by weight). Adjust the ratio based on personal preference and desired strength.
  3. Coarse Grind Size:
    It is important to use a coarse grind for cold brew coffee. Coarse grounds prevent over-extraction and minimize extraction of bitter compounds, resulting in a smoother and less acidic brew.
  4. Steep Time and Temperature:
    Cold brew requires a longer steep time to gently extract the flavors. Typical brew times range from 12 to 24 hours, depending on the desired strength and flavor profile. Experimenting with brew times can help you find your preferred balance.
    Cold brew is brewed at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Steeping at room temperature tends to produce a more vibrant and full-bodied brew, while refrigeration results in a smoother and lighter cup.
  5. Straining and Storage:
    After steeping, strain the cold brew through a fine-mesh strainer, cheesecloth, or a special cold brew filter. This will remove the coffee grounds and ensure a clean brew.
    Store the strained cold brew in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Cold brew can be stored for several days, allowing you to enjoy multiple servings over time.
  6. Dilution and Serving:
    Cold Brew is typically served over ice or diluted with water or milk to adjust strength to personal preference. Start with equal parts cold brew concentrate and water/milk and adjust to taste.

By utilizing these brewing techniques and equipment, you can elevate your cold brew coffee experience and enjoy a refreshing and smooth cup with the flavor profile you desire. Remember, experimentation is the key to finding your perfect brewing method and achieving the ideal balance of flavors in your cold brew.

The bottom line

The ideal roast for cold brew coffee is a matter of personal preference. Dark roasts provide a consistent, low-acidity experience, while medium roasts offer a balanced and flavorful cup. Light roasts showcase the nuances and brightness of the beans and require a more precise brewing approach. Experimentation is the key to finding your preferred roast for cold brew. Consider trying different roast levels and exploring how they enhance the flavors and characteristics of your cold brew creations. Here’s to a delightful journey of cold brew coffee exploration!


What roast level is recommended for cold brew?

This one’s easy—use your favorite medium or dark roast. You can use your favorite coffee bean for cold brew. It’s the size of the grind that matters more.

Is dark roast best for cold brew?

Generally the dark is the most widely used coffee roast for full immersion cold brew. This roast profile overshadows the intrinsic bean flavors, which results in a consistent robust taste batch after batch. Dark roasts are usually cheaper and a rather safe choice used in many cafès and by a number of consumers at home.

What grind is best for cold brew coffee?

coarse grind

The beauty of Cold Brew is you really don’t need anything fancy, just time. Stick with a coarse grind. Using a coarser grind will make the filtration process easier and your coffee taste far less bitter. Grinding too fine can heat up the grounds, which can negatively affect your cup.

Is medium roast best for cold brew?

Medium roast and dark roast coffee are good for cold brew. Due to its low acidity and robust, chocolatey, hazelnut flavor profiles that are common in these varieties. Light roast is generally not selected.

What roast does Starbucks use for cold brew?

Starbucks Cold Brew Coffees are made using a proprietary blend of 100% Arabica coffee beans. Coffee experts estimate that this is a medium roast blend, containing coffees from Latin America and Africa. Cold brew is less acidic than regular coffee, and has a smooth, full-bodied flavor.

Is espresso roast good for cold brew?

To some extent, the right coffee beans to choose for cold brew will depend on how you plan use it. A typical espresso blend can work ok if you’re planning to add milk to the finished product. However, something roasted lighter, like a filter roast or a light espresso roast, is usually better for serving straight up.

What coffee should I use for iced coffee?

For an iced coffee with a sweet, creamy, and/or chocolate flavor profile, go with a medium roast from Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, or Honduras. Think cream soda on the rocks! For a refreshing tea-like iced coffee with fruit notes, go with an Ethiopian or Kenyan roast. The fruit flavors will pop on ice.

Does grind size matter in cold brew?

Depending on the coffee you are trying to create – french press, cold brew or espresso – the coffee grind size will matter. From coarse to fine, and everything in between, grinding coffee has a lot of significance to the final flavour and texture.

How coarse Should coffee beans be for cold brew?

Cold brew coffee grounds need to be medium to coarse. A fine grind is going to result in too much oil being extracted and that can be a bitter flavor. If the grind is ultra-coarse, your drink is going to be weak and underdeveloped.