Sunshine-filled afternoons have been few and far between this summer but when the humidity begins to rise on the odd warm day, we find our tongues wagging for a coffee fix in a more refreshing format.
While many of us will instantly reach into the fridge for an iced coffee, there is another chilled option we think you should be aware of. Cold brew coffee is completely different from its iced counterpart, and we can assure you this is not just a hot coffee you’ve left on the kitchen side and forgotten about.
Booming in America, this niche style of joe has now made its way to the UK and people are raving about it.
A cold brew coffee is created with an entirely unique technique. The coffee is brewed using cold water and the process is a lot longer than hot brew – sometimes up to 24 hours. Good things come to those who wait, right? The difference in time and temperature creates an individual cup with a distinctive, refreshing and often sweeter flavour. If you’re a coffee drinker who isn’t too keen on the more bitter varieties, you will probably be a fan of cold brew.
How we tested
We tried these brews in a variety of different formats. We tested cans, where all we had to do was crack it open to try, while when it came to the coffee bags, we left them to soak in a cup of cold water for as long as the instructions informed us to, before removing the bag and enjoying.
We also tested ground coffee, where we used a special cold brew coffee cafetiere, waiting for the coffee to drip through before we tried. There was even a concentrate, which we tried straight before adding an ice cube or splash of milk to unravel the flavours.
For most of the cold brews, it is best to keep them refrigerated to keep your beverage fresh. But, they can be served room temperature – it’s the brewing in the cold, not the drinking in the cold, that makes this cuppa so delicious.
The best cold brew coffees for 2021 are:
- Best overall – Illy cold brew ready to drink classico: £2.50, Illy.com
- Best for the environment – Wildland cold brew coffee bags: £5.48, Wildlandcoffee.co
- Best for making expresso martinis – Conker cold brew coffee liqueur: £30, Waitrosecellar.com
- Best for a buzz – Black Insomnia cold brew: £9.99, Blackinsomnia.co.uk
- Best coffee bags – Presto cold brew coffee bags: £9.99, Presto-coffee.com
- Best local champion – Derw cold brew coffee: £6, Discoverdelicious.wales
- Best cold brew coffee concentrate – Solo coffee cold brew concentrate: £11.99, Mighty-small.co.uk
- Best cold brew beans – Mont58 Coffee cold brew blend: £8.35, Mont58coffee.com
- Best coffee in a can – Minor Figures: £1.79, Waitrose.com
- Best aromas – Rave cold brew: £7.50, Ravecoffee.co.uk
Illy cold brew ready to drink classico, per can
On opening a can of illy cold brew, a mouth-watering aroma came flooding out, which we likened to chocolate biscuits. The flavour was light and velvety, retaining those cocoa and caramel hints. It’s Illy’s signature 100 per cent Arabica blend, but the longer extraction time used with cold brew – 12 hours in this case – means it suppresses any unpleasant bitterness and lifts the sweetness. Keep the cans in the fridge or drink at room temperature – either is fine.
Wildland cold brew coffee bags, pack of 5 cans
Best: For the environment
These eco-friendly coffee bags offer a medium roast brew which is usually enjoyed hot. However, Wildland is keen to share the news that with a bit of patience, these are delicious cold brew cuppas. Add this to around 8oz of hot water and leave to cool overnight for around 8-12 hours.
Like most other bags, these contain freshly ground granules rather than instant coffee granules. It’s beans are ethically sourced from Cerrado in Brazil and it packages its compostable bags in recyclable wrappers, so we voted these guys the most environmentally-friendly.
We were a little sceptical about such a long process for a cold brew but in this instance, it was worth the wait, as they had one of the sweetest, most velvety flavours.
Conker cold brew coffee liqueur
Best: For making espresso martinis
You’ll find Conker on the drinks menu of a number of swanky restaurants and bars, usually as an ingredient for delectable cocktails. But it is also now available to buy for your home.
Conker offers bold flavours in every sip of its coffee liquor – now available in decaf if you’re looking for a nightcap without the buzz. Its coffee is grown in Ethiopia or Brazil and cold-brewed with just a spoonful of demerara sugar and distilled British wheat spirit. The taste has hints of liquorice and cocoa, but we particularly enjoyed the velvety vanilla tones – totally moreish. For an Espresso Martini, shake with 70ml of ice and 30ml of water.
Black Insomnia cold brew, pack of 4 cans
Best: For a buzz
Black Insomnia is known for being the biggest boom in a cup. As the maker of the world’s highest caffeinated coffee, it claims to be four times stronger than your average cup, and it has recently launched a cold brew with an equally mind-blowing hit.
It is served in a fridge-friendly can, though the brand claims that it doesn’t necessarily need to be drunk ice-cold. There’s also a sugar free “pure” or sweetened version – we enjoyed both and had a buzz until lunchtime.
Presto cold brew coffee bags, pack of 30 bags
Best: Coffee bags
Presto champions ethical and flavoursome coffee. Its newest release, cold brew coffee bags, are specially developed for optimum cold brewing at home. Made with a single origin Arabica bean from Mogiana in Brazil (which is naturally sweet with low acidity) they are ideal for cold brewing. Presto have also packed in 25 per cent more ground coffee per bag to help speed up the brew time.
They suggest adding 250ml of cold water to the bag or storing a pitcher of cold brew bags and water in the fridge the night before. We loved the biscuit finish of these bags and how easy it was to brew. Its bags are 100 per cent plastic free, compostable and easy to store in your coffee cupboard.
Derw cold brew coffee
Best: Local champion
Derw has a heartwarming story behind its cold brew coffee and if you love a business championing its local roots, this one’s for you.
The brand is based in Wales and its ethically sourced beans are roasted in the heart of Anglesey in the north of the country, before being soaked in fresh Welsh water. “Derw” means “oak” in Welsh, which is a tribute to the producer’s father, Chris, who passed away just before the coffee was created. Oak was Chris’ favourite tree.
This cold brew coffee has a decadently smooth texture and an intense flavour, and there is also an alcoholic liquor version too. To enjoy, simply add water, ice or milk and it can also be added to cocktails and cakes.
Derw are also offering its cold brew coffee in small glass bottles, blended with cinnamon bark or raw turmeric – everything about this brand feels wholesome.
Solo coffee cold brew concentrate
Best: Cold brew coffee concentrate
Solo has a slightly different offering to the rest, producing a cold brew coffee concentrate which you pop into the fridge in a carton. Its smell is light and biscuity but don’t let that fool you – it was one of the strongest flavours we tried. Have this with a couple of cubes of ice or a splash of milk. The coffee used is a blend of Brazilian and Colombian coffee and if you add in a shot of coffee liqueur, this makes for an indulgent and strong Espresso martini.
Mont58 Coffee cold brew blend
Best: Cold brew beans
The aromas straight out of the packet of this ground coffee were mind-blowing. Using 70 per cent Brazilian and 30 per cent Colombian beans with a medium roast, there was clearly a lot of love and work poured into this product. Catford-based, it’s a local company with big ambition.
We used a cold brew coffee pot for Mont58, leaving it to drip through and create the full-bodied and refreshing flavours. The brand suggests a cube of ice or a splash of milk to perfect the cup, but we were quite happy with it black at room temperature.
Best: Coffee in a can
Minor Figures, which produces its very own oat milk, offers a range of different cold brew coffees in a nitro-infused can. It’s a stylish brand which would sit pretty at a picnic and its products are 100 per cent vegan. Available in black, chai, matcha and regular latte, there’s something for every palate.
Our favourite was the latter – a standard latte. When opened, nitrogen is released to create a silky microfoam. Every sip was creamy with a perfect amount of sweetness and a lingering, pleasant aftertaste. This is a perfect early-morning drink to chuck in your bag for the commute.
Rave cold brew
When they say, “wake up and smell the coffee”, we think they must be talking about Rave cold brew coffee. It smells amazing. Again for this one, you’ll need a cafetiere, drip pot or a special cold brew coffee pot, but it doesn’t take long before you can satisfy your coffee cravings.
The grounds are finely roasted and the taste was bold, with hints of hazelnuts and chocolate. Rave also offer a number of different blends and you can even sign up to a subscription to get your coffee fix delivered to your door.
The verdict: Cold brew coffee
We think cold brew coffee is about to take off in the UK and we would happily encourage you to be one of the first to experience these unique flavours. Losing the bitterness and lifting the sweetness of the coffee makes for a refreshing and velvety drink which, with its availability in cans, cartons, or ground and in coffee bags, is so versatile.
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