Cold Brew... Genius or Afterthought?

I’m gonna come right out and say it, I don’t like cold brew and I think it tastes like an ashtray (…or how I think an ashtray would taste!).

Instead of highlighting the unique sweetness + fruit-forward flavours of well-roasted coffee, it’s mutes them and makes me think something is missing… From a business standpoint though, cold brew makes sense; it’s easy to make a large quantity at once and it’s popular among the majority of everyday coffee drinkers; plus, by going the nitro route, you’ve got 2 offerings for your menu. From a taste perspective though, compared to a carefully prepared V60 {…or, insert other brewing device here} over ice, there’s no comparison! Am I missing the obvious and that cold brew is amazingly flavourful with a liquor-like complexity or are there others out there who share the same disappointment.

For those that brew cold brew for the masses, I’d love to know what coffees you’re using if you’d like to share (ie. are you using something closer to a rare auction lot or something more akin to a ‘house blend’?). Secondly, I’d love to see some comments + discussion on whether you think that cold brew is actually pushing the boundaries of specialty coffee or not…

Shawn Thacker
IG: @shawnthacker

“…Am I missing the obvious and that cold brew is amazingly flavourful…”


and No.

With various adjustments to the cold brew process, it is very, very close to the “carefully prepared v60”. However, only 1% of coffee shops can make an acceptable cup with a v60. Well… “can” is more of “choose” to for various reasons which some are understandable (practical realities).

Back to topic, there is a separate thread here where those corrections for cold brew are noted. It is questionable that anything over a liter can be prepared to pull out the full flavor profile. The objections that Tim Wendelboe had are eliminated and a simple trick is used to remove any chance of oxidization during the cold brew process. Not sure I mentioned what that was in the other thread, but leave as an exercise for the reader, it is trivial :slight_smile:

This method though, is not practical for a cafe IMO so…

NO is the answer in a cafe context, though, cold brew by Klatch works very hard to include the higher notes that are completely missing in other cafes cold brew. I have a brand new Ethiopia cold brew from Stumptown that I have yet to try, but have hopes. I expect they are continuously innovating to solve the challenge you have mentioned which is magnified for large batch commercial production.

There is no coffee that exists, at least on this planet, that will meet your expectations without those corrections to the brew process (hot bloom, etc.,).

What I have seen more recently, is the “true” iced coffee where one can brew individual servings that are fully flavorful (referred to as Japanese method, dunno if name is true). Major adjustments on grind, brew ratio, math of ice in the carafe, etc., Crema Cafe in Nashville has the definitive method for this, I have great results with it though grind is tricky with variations by varietal and roast level and the low brew ratio.

So, net of it, cold brew is solved for the home. It is not solved outside the home, but Klatch/Stumptown are pushing those boundaries and I am sure others are as well.

Also, here is a little known value statement for cold brew. Marginal cafes for which there are many, that cannot brew pourovers correctly can always provide a consistent consumer experience with cold brew. May not be the best, but generally is never BAD as to be undrinkable.

When I happen to be in a Starbucks on travel, what can I order? Cold brew. Unless Clover machine.



I think cold brew can be used as an alternative income for small scale business. It would help farmers to ‘get rid’ of their defect bean. Of course, this kind cold brew is not fit for specialty coffee. Any thought?

can you give me some information on this? thanks

Using Saran/Plastic wrap, push down to the top of cold brew surface so that it is touching it.

With the plastic wrap covering the surface of the coffee cold brew(just touching), this eliminates all meaningful air contact.

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@gondes …I’m a little confused by your comment here. Are you suggesting that producers could unload an inferior crop with the intent of it being used for cold brew? For me personally, this is counter-productive to our responsibility and mandate to push specialty coffee further. Great coffee typically has few defects, grown + harvested responsibly and ethically, it’s transparent and traceable, and has a unique ‘story’ to tell on it’s own.


I think that blends roasted specifically for cold brew make a lot of sense, but I have had some pretty awesome single origins work out. If I’m remembering correctly, natural and washed Ethiopia both were pretty solid.

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Personally, I find the phrase cold brew about as meaningless as hot brew. People make awful tasting hot brew every day, but no one blames the use of heat for the poor taste, nor questions whether the coffee used is still specialty grade. If you can describe the recipe for the cold brew that you don’t like, look at it and ask yourself what you can do to make it better. If you can’t make it better (doubtful, though you still may not find it as pleasing as chilled hot brew), move on. We can all sit here & criticise aspects of coffee we don’t personally like. I don’t drink milk, but if I suggested a flat white, or cortado couldn’t be specialty, because I wouldn’t drink it, that would be absurd. Coffee is a man-made beverage, we always make it, it does not simply occur - make it & drink it how you like it.

If you don’t want to bother & want to chill hot drip/espresso great, it certainly saves an awful lot of time, but following cold brew recipes, or buying products made by someone else, that you know do not make a beverage that you want to drink & expecting to somehow magically stumble on something different seems illogical.


You can make good cold brew. If it tastes like an ashtray, it’s not good, obviously. Don’t sell bad stuff. And don’t assume either that customers enjoy bad stuff as much as good stuff. There’s a huge market for cold brew, but a lot of it is pretty terrible. That’s a great opportunity to make a really tasty version of a popular product.

We use a single origin Peru for our cold brew, but we do occasionally blend it. The goal is a chocolate profile. We occasionally cold brew other origins/blends for different profiles, but we only offer these at the roastery. We use fresh coffee (usually a week off roast), and we roast the coffee the same as for drip.