Before cold brew, there was iced coffee, and hot brewed coffee over ice is still a major favorite among coffee lovers. But when it comes to iced coffee, how do you pick the best beans for the job? There are a few factors to consider, and after all: few things are as disappointing as weak coffee, especially iced coffee.
By knowing what to look for, you can choose the best coffee for iced coffee and get a great, ice-cold cup every time.
Great Iced Coffee Takes More Than Just Coffee And Ice
The prospect of iced coffee sounds simple: brew some coffee and pour it over ice, then drink. But to get the best iced coffee, you have to put a little more thought into it. The best iced coffee is usually brewed at double strength to prevent the ice watering it down, so you need a coffee that still tastes good when brewed at double strength. It’s also essential to start with a coffee that tastes good cold.
Cold food and beverages have an odd effect on the tongue: the cold actually makes it more difficult for your tastebuds to work. This is why most cold food and beverages have powerful flavors–usually so strong that they’re almost unpleasant at room temperature or served hot.
Ice cream tastes too sweet and cloying at room temperature, for example. So for your iced coffee, you want beans that are robust enough to still have sufficient flavor when cold.
Check out these reasons why iced coffee is becoming the coolest drink today.
What Makes Great Coffee For Iced Coffee?
So knowing that we want a coffee that will stand up to brewing double-strength and one that will have an equal depth of flavor, cold as hot, what are the traits to look for specifically? In addition, roast tends to be more important than the region in this case, but region can absolutely play a role.
To get the best flavor from your iced coffee, you want moderate acidity and a medium to dark roast; while you can get decent results from light roast coffee beans, I have found that light roasts tend to result in a weak-tasting coffee, even brewed at double strength. There’s some overlap between the beans that make great cold brew and the beans that make great iced coffee, but you don’t have to go with cold brew blends–there’s definitely room for experimentation.
The Best Coffee For Iced Coffee: My Picks
The best coffee for iced coffee are medium to dark to ensure they hold up to both brewing and drinking cold. I tend to like blends as well as single-origin coffee for iced coffee.
However, I tend to prefer African and Latin American beans–Indonesian beans tend to be a bit heavy and smoky in flavor for a good iced coffee experience. Here are my favorites:
Peet’s Coffee Major Dickason’s Blend: Dark, rich, smooth, and intriguing; this dark roast blend is great for many different purposes, but I find it works especially well for iced coffee. The bold flavors carry over well, even cold.
Even brewed at double strength, it doesn’t taste bitter or burned. The complexities of the blend don’t get muddled up, and it’s surprisingly refreshing, especially with a splash of milk.
San Francisco Bay Coffee French Roast: While french roast is not usually considered a good option for iced coffee, this blend of Central and South American beans is balanced enough to keep its flavor, and depth even poured over ice. It has a somewhat smoky finish, which makes for a more savory iced coffee than some other options–but it’s still a great choice, and the smoky notes aren’t overwhelming. For bold flavor and adding a kick to your iced coffee, this is a great option.
Kicking Horse Three Sisters Blend: While I typically find Indonesian beans overpowering for iced coffee, this blend of Latin American and Indonesian beans by Kicking Horse is an exception. Rich and bold in flavor, the smoky earthiness of the Indonesian beans gets a lift from the Latin American coffees blended in, adding complexities of acidity and sweetness that work beautifully in iced coffee. It’s complex and smooth at the same time, making an iced coffee that’s refreshing but still intriguing, with a pleasant depth of flavor.
- Medium Roast
- Recommended methods: French Press, drip machine, pour over and cold brew.
- Origin Indonesia, Central and South America
- Organic, Fairtrade, Kosher
- Shade Grown, Arabica coffee
- Roasted in the Rocky Mountains