While cold brew coffee has long been popular in Japan, the Western world is still embracing the new kid on the coffee block. No, it's not iced coffee, but yes, you can definitely find it on the menu at Starbucks.
When you are new to making cold brews, you may not know which beans to use to get the results you want.
Most of us have tried Starbucks’ cold brew, seeing as it is the most popular coffee chain in North America and maybe you've heard about how you can make it yourself with simple ingredients(ground coffee, water, a French Press).
That's definitely a good start.
You will learn much through trial and error, so it really helps to know a bit about the different roasted coffee beans available to you before you start attempting to make Starbucks cold brew at home. So let’s take a look at what Starbucks uses for cold brew coffee as well as blends the blends you can try yourself.
LEARN FROM STARBUCKS COFFEE FOR COLD BREW
Chances are that you have tried various commercial cold brews and you have fallen in love with drinking your coffee cold… and that coffee was most than likely from Starbucks. Knowing your favorite cold brew will give you an idea of which blends they may use.
While Starbucks doesn’t state the specific blend of coffee beans that they use in their famous cold brew, they do reveal that they’re Arabica beans from Africa and Latin America. The flavor of the cold brew is more in line with that of a medium roast.
If you want to make strong cold brew coffee that could rival that of Starbucks, you may want to try a blend of Guatemalan or Colombian beans with Kenyan or Ethiopian beans to get the Arabica meets African flavor that made them famous. Starbucks' Siren's Blend fits this almost perfectly.
Still, I've personally discovered that single-origin medium-to-dark roasts tend to have the most unique personalities when making cold brew batches, but your preferences may vary. We'll take a look at what makes cold brews better than iced coffee by first discussing bean types.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ARABICA AND ROBUSTA BEANS?
There are two main coffee species that are grown commercially worldwide – Coffea Robusta and Coffea Arabica. Robusta is less vulnerable to diseases and adverse conditions that plague many other coffee species. Arabica produces lower yields and grows at higher altitudes.
With all things being equal, Arabica beans are of much better quality than Robusta beans. Robusta costs less to grow and is mainly used in mass-produced, cheap ground coffees or instant coffees, but that doesn't mean they are not useful otherwise.
Arabica has more aromatic sugars and oils, which leads to less harsh and more complex flavors.
Note: the word “Arabica” isn’t a quality guarantee.
Unfortunately, there are many bad Arabica-centric options available on the market, and there’s also good Robusta coffee that doesn't deserve the bad rap.
For example, I recently made a trip to Dalat, Vietnam, a hotbed for coffee growers in the country.
While exploring the beautiful mountain lands and roadside coffee plantations, I came across a coffee farm called "Chappi."
Aside from the amazing ride up the mountain and warm hospitality, I tried some of the best Robusta/Arabica-blend coffee I have ever tried!
I even made cold brew from it and was pleasantly surprised, but also saddened that I cannot get it here in the states.
The essential point here is that even though the beans were different, they come from a single-origin, albeit with different elevations.
IS STARBUCKS COLD BREW COFFEE A BLEND OR SINGLE ORIGIN?
So what is the difference between blends and single-origin coffee? If you have ever looked at coffee in stores or cafes, you will have noticed that single-origin coffees are normally more expensive than blends. But does this make single-origin better? Why choose a blend over single-origin?
When producing large quantities of something, companies look for predictable, consistent results. Roasters reliably produce specific aromas and flavors by combining coffee beans from at least two different origins. Unfortunately, scale tends to tip the quality to a lower standard in exchange for consistency. You'll find plenty of coffee fanatics that dislike Starbucks for this reason.
They might need to alter and adjust their recipe to account for bean variation caused by changes in water quality, soil, weather, or processing methods. Blended coffees are great if you are looking to yield a consistent, yet original flavor.
Blending beans from multiple regions in order to ensure a consistent cup across the board is precisely why Starbucks Cold Brew Coffee is so popular. While we may not all agree with their practices or politics, Starbucks is largely responsible for promoting this cold brew craze over recent years.
Besides, single-origin is often a misleading term. It can refer to coffee beans that come from one farm or a group of farms, one region, or one country. Normally, single-origin coffee is quite unpredictable and shows variations from one season to the next. If you like unpredictability and variety in your cuppa, you will likely enjoy exploring single-origin coffees.
Ok, this is great and everything, but how do you make cold brew taste like Starbucks, given their tightly closed lid on the recipe?
MAKING COLD BREWED COFFEE LIKE STARBUCKS
Cold brew coffee is very popular thanks to its low acidity, lack of bitterness, rich chocolatey notes, and natural sweetness. When selecting the origin of your beans, work with the above characteristics instead of against them.
It makes little sense to spend huge amounts of money for single-origin coffees that have bright acidity and light, floral flavors if you are ONLY going to use it for cold brew. In the cold brewing process, the characteristic notes of these flavors will be lost. Some coffee experts suggest that you do not use Ethiopian single-origin coffee or most light roasts because of this.
TRY WORKING WITH A COLD BREW BLEND
Many coffee companies offer certain blends made specifically for cold brews. These are normally Central or South American coffee blends. It is my opinion that Starbucks uses a mixture of their Pike Place and Siren's blend with a sprinkling of their Veranda beans to make their classic cold brew recipes, but I have no evidence to support this claim.
Whether you want a single origin or blend coffee, it's best to stick to coffees that have earthy, mellow flavors like Starbucks has if you want it to taste like the chain's offerings. Keep the fruity, light coffee beans for hot brew coffees.
If you love Starbucks cold brew and want to bring that flavor into your home to save money and have cold brew on demand, it is important to find the ideal bean(s). This will require some experimenting to find that perfect flavor that meets your needs.
Knowing how to make your favorite cold brew coffee and the type of beans to use in the cold brewing process will help you give that Starbucks grind a run for its money in no time. No matter what you do, be sure to share your cold brew with others!