A guide to roasting for cold brew coffee

Josephine Walbank
June 22, 2022
A guide to roasting coffee for cold brew

After rising from almost complete obscurity, cold brew has cemented itself as one of the most popular coffee serve styles.

The main driver is younger generations, namely Millennials and Generation Z. Sales of cold brew coffee rose 80% between 2017 and 2018, and market reports show Millennials have been consuming almost 100% more than older generations.

As a result, more brands have started to offer their own cold brew coffee products, including the industry’s biggest players, such as Starbucks and Costa. Furthermore, canned cold brew and ready-to-drink (RTD) options have become common on supermarket shelves.

In order to successfully capture their share of this highly lucrative market, roasters must determine the optimal roast profile to create cold brew coffees. 

This will help them not only stay relevant in a sector increasingly dominated by younger consumers, but avoid unnecessary costs and coffee waste. 

Read on to find out more about the ideal roast profile for cold brew coffee offerings.

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Close up image of cold brew coffee in chemex next to glass double wall coffee cup filled with ice cubes

What is cold brew coffee?

While cold brew may have only risen to fame over the last ten years, it has been enjoyed for over 400 years.

During the 17th century, Dutch sailors introduced cold brew coffee to Japan. The sailors chose cold brew methods as they didn’t require fire, which would have been a safety hazard onboard the wooden ships.

In Japan, roasters developed the Kyoto-style of cold brew, which is made by letting cold water slowly drip, drop by drop, over coffee grounds. Over time, the concept of cold brew coffee spread around the world, and alternative steeping methods were developed. 

Steeping is the most common cold brew method used today. It involves soaking coffee grounds in cold water for up to 24-hours until all the soluble flavour compounds have been extracted. 

The result is a sweet, smooth drink with a full mouthfeel and minimal acidity. The acidity of cold brew is markedly less than hot coffee.

Essentially, it is these qualities that make it highly drinkable and accessible to the mass market.

Close up image of coffee roaster roasting coffee beans

The ideal roast profile for cold brew coffee

Research shows this is the optimal time for roasters to get involved in cold brew coffee. 

Due to its burgeoning popularity, extensive research has been undertaken to improve cold brew techniques and technology. This, in turn, allows roasters to knowledge-share and achieve better quality results. 

It has been noted that cold brew coffee is prized for its sweetness and smooth body. In order to maximise these qualities, many roasters tend to use a coarse grind size, as this is better suited to the low-and-slow brewing process.

Typically, dark roasts are the most common choice for cold brew coffees. This is because of the batch-to-batch consistency they tend to achieve, and the safety that comes with it. 

While many believe a dark roast overshadows the bean’s unique characteristics, this roast style is popular among large coffee corporations such as Starbucks and Costa.

Dark roasts are relatively cheap to make and ensure all of a roaster’s products remain consistent. Another reason dark roasts are used is because of its compatibility with milk and cream.

Therefore, if a roaster plans to add dairy or sweeteners to their cold brew, a dark roast is the best match. This is because it can take on these extra elements without losing the dominant flavour of the coffee. 

Conversely, lighter roast profiles may be preferable for independent roasters. Those who choose to use the drip method to create their cold brew may find light roasts achieve the best results.  

That said, creating successful cold brew coffee with light roasts may require more experimentation. Usually, it is the heat of the water that extracts all the coffee’s flavours. In cold brew, the absence of this heat means the coffee’s more subtle qualities may be lost.

Roasters who are willing to experiment may want to try medium roasts, as it could give cold brew more complex aromas and flavours that specialty coffee enthusiasts look for. Additionally, it strikes a good balance between the subtlety and personality of a lighter roast and the ease of preparation of a darker roast. 

While it is certainly a trendy drink, cold brew remains synonymous with artistry and skill – perceptions which roasters certainly want their brand to be associated with. 

Image of Caucasian male coffee roaster pouring cold brew coffee into glass bottles

Why roasters should offer cold brew coffee

One of the main reasons roasters should consider adding cold brew coffee to their offerings is its evident popularity. 

From 2015 to 2020, the cold brew market experienced a 40% increase, and the trend is yet to reach its peak.

It is predicted the global cold brew coffee market will achieve a compound annual growth rate of 25.1% from 2019 to 2025. By 2025, this will have reached a value of $1.63 billion.

As cold brew coffee is popular among the younger generations, this helps roasters introduce their offerings to a new audience. Additionally, the ready-to-drink (RTD) market ‌has also experienced a pronounced rise in recent years. This is predominantly down to two factors; convenience and trendiness. 

As cold brew is a stable drink, it can be chilled, sealed, and preserved for as long as required. As a result, it is well suited to being sold in external outlets, such as supermarkets. One survey reported that over 50% of Generation Z customers purchased iced RTD coffee from a shop instead of directly from a cafe or roastery.

The retail market presents an opportunity for roasters to not only boost sales and raise brand awareness but expand to new audiences.

Alternatively, the easy storage of cold brew coffee makes it a seamless addition to a roasters product range. It can be prepared in large batches and stored until it sells out. 

Close up image of cold brew coffee in PET recyclable plastic takeaway coffee cup

Additionally, the innovations in sustainable packaging mean roasters can store cold brew in glass bottles and serve it in fully recyclable clear cups made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET). 

PET is fully recyclable and known for its durability and affordability. Furthermore, it is able to retain its structure in the face of condensation, as the material does not absorb water.

PET takeaway coffee cups are also available in a range of ergonomic designs, including clear cups with space for a recyclable straw. This makes it perfectly suited to the trendy and luxurious impression that roasters and baristas may want their cold brew coffee to achieve. 

AT MTPak Coffee, we can provide a wide variety of sustainable takeaway cups, including recyclable plastic coffee cups for cold brew coffee, in three different sizes: 8oz, 16oz, and 24oz.

Our cold brew PET containers are affordable, customisable, and sustainable, making them the perfect choice for eco-conscious companies.

We also offer a range of packaging services, including the design and manufacture of labels for your cold brew bottles. We use sustainable water-based inks and digital printing technology to reduce energy emissions, providing you with a low carbon footprint product.

For more information on sustainable takeaway coffee cups and packaging, contact our team.

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