Cold Brew Coffee

The top 5 cold brew coffee drinks in Toronto

Cold 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
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.


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