Some like it hot, some like it not. For the cold brew enthusiast, there is no substitute. Steeped for a minimum of 12 hours, cold-brew coffee is known for its naturally sweet flavor, courtesy of 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; it can taste chocolaty with a velvet texture, and can tame even 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-to-brew ratio makes it expensive, but if you give it time, the flavor will win you over, every time.
Cold-brew coffee is brewed without heating the coffee bean. Because certain flavors in coffee beans are activated by heat, cold brew coffees have different flavor profiles from coffees brewed hot: less acidic and often less caffeinated, but no less complex. While they’re certainly good on a hot day, increased interest from craft brewers, mixologists and a year-round demand from people like us has meant that craft cold brews are more prolific than ever. These are five of our (mostly local) favorites.
Red Thread Good Cold Brew
New York City-based coffee makers Red Thread Good makes a variety of cold brews. We’re partial to their Purist and Dreamy concentrates. They fully embrace the idea of cold-brewed coffees, so there’s no perceptible bitterness in their offerings. Their organic Dreamy concentrate has rich chocolate undertones, while their Purist concentrate is a more traditional coffee-like offering that gives the more subtle flavors in Red Thread’s beans the spotlight.
Grady’s Cold Brew
Grady’s is another New York company, making New Orleans-style cold-brew coffee. Our testers liked the complex mix of bitterness and sweetness, with some picking up notes of chocolate when served black. You can buy Grady’s online, but they’re sadly only deliverable to New York City zip codes.
Stumptown Nitro Cold Brew
Portland-based Stumptown makes a cold brew in a can that’s infused with nitrogen. That means that it goes down with unbeatable smoothness, allowing the notes of chocolate to breathe without sacrificing complexity. All of our testers praised its drinkability. It’s only available at Stumptown locations (including New York City) and a few specialty retailers, and it’s worth the trip.
La Colombe Pure Black
La Colombe’s cold brews are brewed for 16 hours in sealed wine tanks and re-filtered afterwards. Our testers found La Colombe’s the smoothest of the bunch, in terms of both aroma and taste. Their cafes are located on the East Coast and Chicago.
Bear State Cold Coffee Brew
This West-Coast roaster uses single-origin Brazilian beans brewed for 24 hours, taking pride in never exposing their beans to hot water. Our testers found Bear State to be more acidic — but that contributed to the coffee’s more muscular profile, making it a favorite with GP staffers who like their coffee strong. It’s available in select locations on the West Coast or online by subscription.