In the world of coffee, cold brew is currently king. This unique variety of iced coffee is definitely having a moment, so we decided to try offerings from nine different chains in a blind taste test, from Chick-fil-A to Starbucks. The winners will definitely surprise you.
As the name might imply, cold brew coffee isn’t made like traditional iced coffee. Instead of taking hot coffee and cooling it down, cold brew is produced by soaking coarse-ground coffee beans in cold or room-temperature water for a very long time, often more than 12 hours (Starbucks’ goes for 20). After the coffee grounds are strained out, the resulting coffee is concentrated (so it has to be diluted before consumption) and takes on a different flavor profile from traditionally-brewed coffee; it’s 60 to 75 percent less acidic, which is a big part of the reason why it’s so popular.
We tracked down nine cold brew coffees from popular chains and coffee roasters: Blue Bottle, Dunkin’ Donuts, Chick-fil-A, Starbucks, Stumptown, Peet’s, La Colombe, Pret a Manger, and a new Brooklyn-based roaster canned Nobletree. We focused on ones that can be purchased from the shops themselves (instead of at the supermarket); some are served in bottles and cans, and some are served in plastic cups. They all started out black with no ice in plain unmarked cups, but we allowed our panel of tasters to add ice, milk, and/or sugar to their liking, as long as they kept it consistent across the board. The coffees were judged on acidity, balance, richness, and overall flavor. Click here to see which ones came out on top!