Some like it hot, but for the cold brew enthusiast, there really is no substitute. Steeped for a minimum of 12 hours, cold brew coffee is known for its naturally sweet flavor due to a a cold-water seeping process that results in lower acidity. Not to be confused with iced coffee (brewed hot, then cooled), cold brew has a cleaner flavor, can taste chocolaty with a velvet texture and even tames the boldest of beans. That said, it’s not boring — just different. Some have a difficult time swallowing the two-week shelf life and the fact that the bean per brew ratio makes it expensive, but the it’s the flavor that wins them over, every time.
And so, your loyal bean scouts are once again here, reporting for duty. After numerous taste tests, what some might consider cruel and unusual job hazards and sleepless nights in and out of caffeine delirium, we bring you the five best cold brews around. Each is ready-to-drink poured over ice, or can be diluted with water, cream and sugar, or your favorite other social lubricant. Undergoing the rigors of journalism calls for self-sacrifice, occasionally. But, for you fine folks, we did it. No sweat.
La Colombe Pure Black
A ready-to-drink cold brew from la Colombe, Pure Black is steeped for 16 hours in wine tanks, free from oxygen, pressed and filtered twice. They’re pretty proud of this stuff, as well they should be. Pure Black smells nearly like raw grounds with a flavor to match — more bitter, dark, bold and brash. It might come as no surprise with a name like Pure Black, but this is a choice selection for pure, tough black coffee drinkers.
Chameleon Cold Brew
With their Austin, TX roots, Chameleon Cold Brew knows a thing or two about enjoying a refreshingly cool drink. Chameleon is this start-up’s claim to fame in the cold brew world. Each batch is brewed for 16 hours using a proprietary blending method. The result is a bit earthier, with less acidity, rich chocolatey notes and cleaner flavor. Boasting over Fair Trade Arabica beans is great and all, but simply put, this lizard tastes damn good.
Grady’s Cold Brew
This velvety-smooth New Orleans style concentrate is steeped overnight in a special blend of coffee and Grady’s secret ingredient — chicory. That’s the root of endive, which has been used for centuries as a substitute for coffee, and is known for its subtle sweetness. The chicory also gives the flavor some woodiness, anise, and a rich mouth feel (just a little oily). The final step in brewing, a two-part filtration process, leaves a robust concentrate best served over ice or with milk. Have we ever seen an endive? We’re not sure, and we don’t care.
They call ‘em Stumptown Stubbies, and these 12-ounce bottled cold brews are handy to keep around. Born on the West Coast, but setting up shop in NYC and growing strong, these humble brewers make a cold brew coffee that diehards will swear by. Stumptown has a light mouth feel, with chocolatey notes and a little more bitterness and acidity than other brews. It’s only available in stores, so start walking.
Rich, nutty and a lingering smokey flavor, the Birch Coffee brew has made quite a name for itself in its tastiness and a handy delivery service. Their growler delivery allows NYC residents to purchase a “subscription”; you can get a 64-ounce jug delivered right to your door, on any schedule you’d like (one month, two months, six months, etc.). Keep in eye out in your town for a local brew with a similar delivery model, which is trending nationwide.