Coffee is a complex creature.
Whether you’re a casual drinker on the lookout for something to satisfy your sweet tooth, in desperate need of something to make mornings less arduous or are a hardcore fan of the bitter brew, there’s something to be said about expanding your palette and figuring out where your preferences lie.
Since we are still burning through summer, what better place to start than with iced coffee? In particular, I want to discuss cold brewed iced coffee and break down seven consumer favorites you can buy at grocery stores or your local coffee shop.
Cold brew itself is fairly straight forward to understand: whereas your standard iced coffee is brewed in a coffee pot in under five minutes and chilled with ice, cold brew is steeped in room temperature water for 20 hours and then refrigerated.
Nitro cold brew undergoes a similar process, but is also infused with nitrogen gas and served from a tap without ice, mimicking a stout beer.
The products I will be reviewing are Stumptown Cold Brew, PT’s Cold Brew, PT’s Nitro Cold Brew, Califia Nitro Cold Brew Latte, Starbucks Narino 70 Cold Brew and Califia Cold Brew. Save for the Califia Nitro Cold Brew Latte, I tried each of these completely black with a palette cleanser between tastings.
Stumptown Cold Brew: The Stumptown brand has a cult following in the coffee world and not without good reason. This brew is easily the boldest, characterized by its intense smokiness and hints of cocoa and nutty flavors.
Drinking it is like a swift kick to the sinuses. While I personally would highly recommend it for those who enjoy darker roasts, this is probably the last thing I would recommend to the casual coffee drinker.
PT’s Cold Brew: PT’s never disappoints me. Their original cold brew is smooth and soothing. It hits me with a honey-like natural sweetness that begs to be drank black and feels as appropriate a choice in the morning as it does in the late afternoon to unwind with. It has the lightest flavor of those that I tried, and is a great introduction into what cold brew should taste like.
Chameleon Cold Brew: This is easily my favorite cold brew of the seven. Chameleon is a coffee brand known for its unique flavor profiles, and its original cold brew is a prime example of that. For me it is the most full-bodied and satisfying.
In terms of coffee, a brew being full-bodied means that it tastes heavy on the tongue and leaves a bold impression rather than a light one. For me, this is the bittersweet middle ground in coffee I am always jonesing for.
PT’s Nitro Cold Brew: PT’s gets a big gold star from me for being able to pour a decent head. Their nitro cold brew is dark, rich and creamy. Where I anticipated hints of cocoa, this had a note of dark caramel to it that I was neither expecting nor was put off by. The best way to describe nitro cold brew really is to say that if you enjoy a good stout beer, this is right up your alley.
Califia Latte Nitro Cold Brew: Although I was only going to try black cold brews, I tried this one because Califia is a highly recognizable brand known almost exclusively in the coffee world for its wildly popular almond milk infusions rather than its black coffee.
For that very reason, I can see why Califia is so popular in grocery stores. The obvious almond milk taste aside, the coffee itself is unsweetened but has a slight hint of vanilla to it.
This is good for a new coffee drinker, but I can’t see any hardcore coffee lovers buying this by the case either.
Starbucks Narino 70 Cold Brew: Despite its marketing campaigns in recent months boasting numerous syrup and milk combinations, I urge you to order your cold brew black from Starbucks. This brew stood out from the rest to me because it was the only one that struck me as sharply citrusy with a soft vanilla aftertaste.
It almost reminds me of a strong black iced tea if not for the aftertaste.
Califia Cold Brew: The most bitter of the brews I tried, Califia’s original cold brew is a complete 180 from the brand’s almond milk infused products. This cold brew will curl your hair. It’s full-bodied, with strong nutty notes to it. You would be better off sipping it like a good scotch with a cigar in hand. This is one that I can appreciate, but lack the innate masochism to properly enjoy.