Trade Coffee Cold Brew Review
So Much Flavor, So Refreshing
It wasn't long ago that I identified more as a vague coffee appreciator than a true coffee lover. I didn't drink coffee every day, and when I did, I usually craved it in the afternoon (I'm a believer in a big glass of water first thing in the morning). Figuring I might as well make my occasional cup a spectacular one, I subscribed to Trade Coffee and was transformed into a ritualistic coffee person. Read about my first 2 matches here and my follow-up ode to Trade's excellence here.
In lieu of being able to hit up my favorite coffee shops regularly, I've been finding comfort in rhythm, feeling very soothed by the process and scent and overall experience of making myself a delicious pour-over in a mug that was handmade by a friend. But I've been curious about Trade's cold brew since they recently added it to their offerings, and in addition to being taught a new skill (how to make cold brew), here's what I found: not only was introducing this newness to my homemade coffee practice rejuvenating, the coffee itself is incredible and really tipped its hat to the rich, quality flavors I used to think I could only enjoy from coffee shop coffee.
Pros & Cons of Making Cold Brew Coffee the Trade Way
- The cold brew coffee you're sent is based on your subscription preferences, so you're guaranteed to love it.
- You can enjoy coffee-shop-quality cold brew at home.
- You have to edit your subscription preferences to receive cold brew (you can't receive hot + cold brew coffee beans in the same shipment).
- Not every roaster is equipped with Trade's cold brew bags, so you may receive your coffee and bags in two separate shipments.
- Cold brew requires 12-18 hours of steeping, so there's no instant gratification.
Is It Worth It?
- If you love cold brew, yes! If you're so-so about cold brew, maybe not.
About Trade Coffee
The Subscription: Trade Coffee
- Varies based on which coffee you’re matched with, but ranges from $15-$25.
- A 15% discount is automatically applied to your total when you place another order within 30 days of your last one.
- Ships within the continental US. They currently do not ship to PO boxes, APO boxes, Puerto Rico, Canada, or internationally.
- Shipping costs $2 per bag. Orders of $30+ are eligible for free shipping.
- Shipping is free for orders placed within 30 days of your last order (in addition to the 15% discount mentioned above).
- Orders ship directly from the roasters to your home.
This box was sent to us at no cost for review. (Check out our review process post to learn more about how we review boxes.)
Trade Coffee offers a few different subscription plans:
- 1 bag of coffee arrives every 1, 2, 3, 4, or 6 weeks—your choice.
- You pay per bag, so each order will be $15-$22.
- It’ll be a different coffee each delivery, but will always apply to your preferences.
- 1-2 bags of coffee arrive every 1, 2, 3, 4, or 6 weeks—your choice.
- Receive 1 bag per delivery for $14.75, or bundle and save 15% with a 2-bag shipment.
- You can expect the same bag(s) with each delivery.
- You choose the coffee and the delivery schedule.
Note that Cold Brew isn't its own subscription, it's just one of the coffee types available as part of the above plans. I explain how to receive cold brew both as a new customer and as a current subscriber below.
You'll also need to purchase cold brew bags separately for this steeping method. Trade sells 20 coffee bags for $7.50 here!
Switching My Subscription to Cold Brew
A Quick Note
Before I begin I want to be fully transparent about my relationship with Trade Coffee. This is my second review of the Trade subscription (see my first review here), and when I write reviews of Trade Coffee I receive complimentary coffee for the purpose of the review. But I am also a Trade subscriber on my own! After I was matched with The Hookup subscription for my first review, I decided to keep my subscription going, and I pay for my recurring shipments. So, this article that calls attention to some stuff you may not know about Trade was written from the perspective of someone (me) who is an actual Trade subscriber using her hard-earned cash to buy high-quality coffee and loving every minute of it.
Back to Coffee
If you're already a Trade subscriber like I am, and you're interested in receiving cold brew coffee, you'll have to go into your account and switch your brewing method to Cold Brew. That's really the only downside I could find about this experience. I would love to have the option to receive both "regular" coffee beans and cold brew beans at the same time through my Hookup subscription. If this were a deal-breaker for you, you could just place a one-time order of cold brew through Trade to try it.
To switch your brewing method to Cold Brew in your Trade account, follow these steps:
- Hover your mouse over the avatar in the upper right-hand corner of Trade's site, and click on Account.
- From the drop-down, click on Manage Subscription.
- Click on the Taste tab.
- Here you'll see your answers to the original quiz you took when you signed up. Go to Brew Method and click on Cold Brew. The following message will appear:
For my personal Trade subscription I receive whole bean coffee, which I grind fresh for each cup. For the sake of this review I was sent ground coffee beans from Onyx, which is one of the most popular coffee roasters among Trade's subscribers, but is also a roaster I discovered through my Hookup subscription and love. Receiving ground coffee instead of whole beans definitely made the cold brew process a lot easier! Since cold brew requires more grounds than my usual 1-cup-at-a-time pour-over method does, I would have been grinding in batches and making a right mess.
Note that you can switch your brewing method at any time—back to your original selection (or any other option, for that matter) following the same steps listed above, and Trade will begin to match you with hot coffee beans again. (There are differences in the antioxidants and acidity in cold brew coffee vs. classic.) You can also change your shipment frequency at any time, so if you don't want to wait another few weeks to receive another bag of hot coffee beans/grounds, you can bump the shipment date up to earlier.
Cold Brew Coffee Pouches
You may see the note at the bottom of the Brew Method update box (in the screenshot above) that says, "Need Cold Brew Pouches?" If you click that link you'll be taken to this page, where you can buy a set of 20 eco-friendly bags for $7.50. I had never made cold brew before so I had no context for that price, but a quick search shows it's a good value.
Most of the other results I'm seeing on the internet show pre-filled cold brew bags, which is limiting in terms of choosing the quality or kind of coffee you want to brew per batch. Otherwise I'm seeing reusable cold brew bags, and while I do like to go the reusable route when possible, I feel comfortable and confident using Trade's single-use bags because they're plastic-free and made from corn-based fiber, which is commercially compostable. Plus, coffee grounds can go in your compost, so if you compost at home, you can just throw the whole dang thing in post-steep. Love that.
For First-Time Trade Subscribers
You'll begin the sign-up process the same as anyone would, with the six-question quiz that's meant to gather your preferences and coffee-making process. When you're met with the Brewing Method question, choose Cold Brew. When you finish the quiz, you'll be matched with a coffee that Trade believes you'll love. (This first match is guaranteed, so if it turns out you don't like it, contact their customer service team within a week and they'll send you another match to try for free.)
If you decide you'd like to receive coffee to use for any brewing method of your choice, you can switch your preferences using the steps listed under the "Back to Coffee" section above, and Trade will begin to match you with regular coffee. (There are differences in the antioxidants and acidity in cold brew coffee vs. hot coffee beans.)
My First Trade Cold Brew Delivery
My Onyx Cold Brew coffee grounds arrived in Trade's new compostable shipping bags, alongside a recyclable set of instructions for proper composting and an order slip. (I give a shout-out to these bags and other eco-friendly efforts in this article!) Unfortunately the cold brew bags arrived in a separate shipment, a couple of days behind. But what I did know right off the bat is that these grounds smelled especially good, and that the handwriting on the side of anything small batch always makes my heart smile. That's how you know something was made (or roasted) with love.
I noticed that the side of the bag gives directions for brewing hot coffee. I think that's just because Onyx uses the same bags for all their coffee, and places a sticker on the front of it to specify which type is in the bag. But it did get me thinking. More on that later.
How to Make Cold Brew Coffee
I'll let the experts do the explaining: here's Trade's how-to guide for making cold brew coffee. That's what I used to learn how to make it, and yep, it was delicious.
One thing I will call out, though, is that making cold brew takes some planning ahead; cold brew coffee needs to steep in cold water, in the fridge or at room temperature, for 12-18 hours. If anyone out there has hopped on the sourdough train recently (*sheepishly raises hand*) you may be warmed up to this concept. You may also find that there's a little wiggle room. While over-steeping may cause bitterness, you could treat an over-stepped batch like a coffee concentrate and add a little water or milk.
You'll see we used a pitcher for the above images, and the result was spectacular. At home, I used a 24 oz. mason jar with the lid tightly closed, and did some experimental sipping every hour between hours 12 and 18 of steeping. I found that I actually prefer my cold brew on the bolder, slightly more bitter end, and light to drink it black over ice. I found myself almost treating it like whiskey—a little goes a long way! I sipped and savored, and felt a real jolt after a small glass! It. was. awesome. It was basically the cold coffee equivalent to the hot coffee I grew to love through Trade.
Turns Out You Can Use Cold Brew Grounds to Make Hot Coffee, Too
Little anecdote: one breezy, dewy morning spent on my front porch needed a classic cup of hot coffee to complete it, and I was out of beans while I waited for my next Trade shipment to arrive. I decided to experiment with using my Onyx Cold Brew grounds in my pour-over cone, and holy smokes was that cup of coffee good. It turned out way bolder and with sharper flavor than I might like for day-to-day enjoyment, but it was perfect in a pinch.
I give Trade cold brew one million thumbs up. For some, maybe making cold brew feels like a natural thing to try at home. For me—perhaps since I only recently became a real-deal coffee drinker—I never imagined I'd be drinking the best cold brew I've ever tasted from my own kitchen, in my own glass, made by me. It is truly a high-quality, happy-making experience. Hands down will make again!
Have you tried making cold brew at home? Head to the comments and let us know how it went.
Find out about other coffee subscriptions worth trying in this list!