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Eat & Drink

The top 5 cold brew coffee drinks in Toronto

Posted by Sarah Ratchford / August 7, 2013

Cold Brew CoffeeCold brew coffee beats the hell out of iced coffee in basically every way. When a coffee is iced, it becomes watered down, and therefore, less potent and flavourful. It sort of just tastes like coffee-flavoured water, to be honest. But several coffee shops in the city have started brewing up batches of cold brew as an alternative, and it's available in cafes from Leslieville to Roncesvalles.

To make a cold brew coffee, grounds are steeped in cool or room-temperature water for an extended period, usually about 12 to 16 hours. Then they're filtered out, and the cold brew is more or less ready. Some people add a bit of ice, but no more than you'd add to a proper cocktail on the rocks. The cold brew coffee options below pack as much flavour as a regular espresso, in my view.

Here, in no particular order, five Toronto cafes who are churning out excellent cold brew.

Northwood's recipe is strictly on the D.L. (aside from the fact that it includes chicory root) but I'm fine with that because their cold brew is good stuff. It has a fruity, summery flavour, and comes in either a takeout cup, a small stubby bottle to go ($3.50), or a much larger bottle of coffee that requires mixing with water, milk or bourbon, and makes enough for ten people once mixed ($17.50). That's the other thing: Northwood has designed an eye-opener of a drink called The Night Owl, which is a shot of Jameson chased by the cold brew. It tastes like chocolate. But in case you don't take your coffee with a side of drunk, it's also available in chubby bottles at Likely General in Roncesvalles.

Te Aro
Te Aro soaks their grounds for 16 hours. Cold brew can be done in such a way that the grounds never come into contact with hot water, hence the name. But at Te Aro, they're pre-infused in hot water to lock in the flavour for a fruitier result. I would say Te Aro's is the sweetest, fruitiest option on this list. In case you want to try making it at home, their baristas use the same weight of coffee to water (it's five pounds of coffee, to be exact). After that, they keep it in a pressurized keg, much the same as the way beer is stored, to enhance the notes. The product is served in cups to either enjoy in-house or take out ($4).

Lit Espresso
Lit espresso steeps beans from Pig Iron Roastery for about 16 hours. They ground them up to about five pounds, and the results are a super sweet berry flavour. Josh Tarlo is Lit's resident coffee expert and orchestrator of new caffeinated endeavours, and he says each time they make a batch, they look for ways to make it better. Right now, Lit's cold brew comes in 12-ounce cups for $3.50, but they're brainstorming ways to make it available in bottles, too—stay tuned.

Dark Horse
Dark Horse sells stubby bottles of cold brew made in their Spadina location. They steep the grounds for between 16 and 18 hours, which is one of the longest stretches on this list. Because they steep it for so long, the coffee comes out really strong. The dude I chat with even says he tends to mix it with a bit of water to tone it down a bit. They sell them at all three locations for $5.

Early Bird
Early Bird is a brand new cafe on Queen West, but they're already ahead of the game when it comes to cold brew. They sell 16 oz cups of it for $4, and they come in mason jars or takeout cups. In two weeks' time, they'll also be selling bottles for about $5. Early Bird uses a Bolero cold dripper, and their process takes anywhere from eight to 12 hours. The recipe, in case you want to try it at home, is 2 litres of water, 1,000 grams of ice and 300 grams of beans.

Did we miss your favourite spot to grab a cold brew in the city? Let us know in the comments.



FADZZ / August 7, 2013 at 09:32 am
Cold brew coffee is a fad. Overpriced compost water. Enjoy!
kaitlin / August 7, 2013 at 09:42 am
For sheer variety and price, The Rooster. They sell 4 drinks with their cold brew, which is tasty on its own. They're priced at $3.75, which is on the cheaper end of things.
TBIT / August 7, 2013 at 09:47 am
Apparently, cold brew draws out trolls. I would also add Cafe de Mello Palheta on Yonge north of Eglinton. I know they do takeout cups but I believe they also do bottles.
Piper replying to a comment from FADZZ / August 7, 2013 at 09:50 am
I don't think you know what cold brewed coffee is....
KC / August 7, 2013 at 10:03 am
I agree TBIT. Cold drip at De Mello Palheta is the best! I buy their concentrated bottle for trips to the cottage and camping.
lol / August 7, 2013 at 10:49 am
Yay another stupid fad for Toronto to jump on to. Nobody's ever heard of the gunk before 6 months ago and now it creeps in to 3 different articles and a dozen shops around town.

Wank wank wank.
Me replying to a comment from lol / August 7, 2013 at 11:19 am
Anything faddish turns Robyn/Sarah/Amy on.
Geoff / August 7, 2013 at 11:28 am
"To make a cold brew coffee, grounds are steeped in cool or room-temperature water for an extended period, usually about 12 to 16 hours. Then they're filtered out, and the cold brew is more or less ready."
If the issue is that iced coffee is watery, and this cold brew process takes 12 to 16 hours of steeping, why not just hot brew coffee and refrigerate it to avoid the dilution that comes with adding ice?
the lemur replying to a comment from lol / August 7, 2013 at 11:48 am
It's not gunk, it's been around a lot longer than you realize and people have known of it and had it for ages. And all you can do is bitch about it instead of doing anything better, or anything at all.
anon replying to a comment from Geoff / August 7, 2013 at 12:20 pm
Because hot coffee in the fridge goes stale. Cold brew coffee has a distinctive flavour that is totally different from coffee brewed with hot water.

When it's hot out I simply make my own cold brew at home with a french press. It's much cheaper than the price-gouging you find in these shops for coffee that doesn't take half a brain to make. Just remember to use a coarser grind...
Shawn / August 7, 2013 at 12:46 pm
I agree with Geoff, what is the difference between refrigerating coffee and steeping it in room temperature water?
Wulv / August 7, 2013 at 02:27 pm
I have been making Cold Brew Coffee for my wife for a couple of years now using a Toddy from Amazon. She gets horrid acid reflux from regular hot coffee, since cold brew has a lot less acid in it she is fine drinking it. The concentrate that the toddy makes lasts her about a week (1 pound of coffee). It is a pretty tasty beverage, it is also fun to experiment on bean type used etc.
the lemur replying to a comment from Geoff / August 7, 2013 at 02:35 pm
Because hot brewing changes the flavour, I guess.

If you wanted to use hot-brewed coffee and avoid the wateriness, you could still brew it (stronger than usual) and then make ice cubes out of it to add either to milk and/or previously chilled coffee.
Tim replying to a comment from Shawn / August 7, 2013 at 02:40 pm
There is a difference. If you really care enough to know how/why - enter your question into a search engine.
Yawn / August 7, 2013 at 02:50 pm
Dark horse: "He tends to mix a bit of water to tone it down abit".

Like you order an espresso and add a bit of water

toronto dude / August 7, 2013 at 03:47 pm
a few weeks back there was an article about this so i gave it a try at home....astonishing. i've never had coffee so smooth and full-bodied with no bitterness or acidic tones. i ground my own beans to extra fine espresso and let it brew at room temp for a couple of days. i filtered it once with a permanent-type filter. i put some in a jar in the fridge and the rest poured into ice cube trays. put a couple of those in some cold milk and you'll have the best summer chiller.
Corey / August 7, 2013 at 09:13 pm
Do any of these places sell HOT cold brewed coffee? I'm not sure based on the seems like maybe all of them are sold cold. But I could be wrong.

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