We Tried 10 Brands: These Are the Best Cold Brew Coffee Options
At the grocery store looking for the best cold brew coffee? Our Test Kitchen team found the very best options to kick start your mornings.
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We Want the Very Best Cold Brew Coffee
During the warmer months, so many of us give our drip coffee makers a break and switch over to cold brew. While you can make cold brew right at home, it does take time (at least overnight to steep). For a quick fix without the fuss, grab a bottle of cold brew coffee at the supermarket.
But before you grab whatever’s on sale, check out what our Test Kitchen has to say. Our experts are well versed in coffee and can tell you which bottles are worth waking up for and which ones deserve the snooze button.
What Makes for a Great Glass of Cold Brew?
There are lots of packaged cold brew coffees out there. To find which brands were best, our team sampled 10 of the most popular brands in a blind taste test. Our team takes coffee seriously (the Test Kitchen runs on it!), so everyone sipped enthusiastically and thoughtfully; each cup was judged according to these categories:
- Appearance: Good coffees can range in hue from deep caramel to a rich near-black—all of which are acceptable to us. What our Test Kitchen doesn’t want is a cup that looks muddy or too translucent.
- Aroma: These are pre-made coffees, but they should still smell as fresh as possible. We’re looking for those rich satisfying aromas that fill our homes when we make a fresh pot.
- Flavor: Light roast or dark roast, the flavor of these cold brew coffees should be satisfying and well balanced. We want a good coffee flavor—nothing that’ll be watered down when we top off our cups with ice.
So what did our Test Kitchen think of these 10 brands? Well, check out our top picks to find out.
Best Smooth Cold Brew
Grady’s NOLA Cold Brew Concentrate
Coffee fanatics know that one of the big differences between cold brew and ice coffee is that cold brew tends to be much smoother. And if you pick up Grady’s NOLA Cold Brew Concentrate, you’ll really be able to tell the difference.
Pouring a tall glass of this cold brew, you’ll immediately pick up on the pleasant aromas of fresh coffee. According to Josh Rink in the Test Kitchen, “this brand has one of those happy home smells.” Who doesn’t want that?
Now, when it comes to sipping, Grady’s is smooth, smooth, smooth with a wonderfully bold flavor. This powerful taste—not too acidic or dark—is a welcome way to wake up in the morning. It’s also a great canvas for adding a splash of your favorite creamer.
Overall, this brand is wonderfully balanced. According to the head of our Test Kitchen, Sarah Farmer, “all the cold brew components are nicely balanced; it’s not too bitter, nutty, sweet or chocolaty—it’s just right.”
Best Light Roast Cold Brew
Bizzy Organic Breakfast Blend Cold Brew
This light and bright roast is “great to help wake you up,” according to Maggie Knoebel in our Test Kitchen. (As a former barista and café manager, Maggie knows!) After a few sips, you can really start to feel the caffeine working through your veins.
Because of this paler roast, Bizzy’s Breakfast Blend is a bit more acidic, which is what many people rely upon for extra pep. Though don’t be too concerned about this one being overly bright; you’ll find this cold brew coffee finishes very smoothly.
Best Dark Roast Cold Brew
Starbucks Black Unsweetened Cold Brew Coffee
While there are many light roast fans out there, we know that dark roast is a must for many coffee drinkers. If that’s more your style, sip on Starbucks Black Unsweetened Cold Brew Coffee.
This bottled Starbucks cold brew has the notes you’re looking for with darker roast coffee: a bit more bitter flavor and even notes of chicory. But don’t be thrown by the bitter descriptor here; our Test Kitchen assures you that these bitter notes are overall balanced well and that the brew here isn’t overpowering. Yep, you can sip this Starbucks cold brew without feeling jittery or jumpy thanks to a nice medium-strength brew.
In general, this is a clean, dark roast that’s worthy of topping with a nice flavored creamer.
Best Strong Cold Brew
Wandering Bear Extra Strong Organic Cold Brew Coffee
When you brew coffee at home, do you always select the “bold” or “strong” setting on your machine? Then you’ll want Wandering Bear Extra Strong Organic Cold Brew Coffee.
Wandering Bear really lives up to its extra-strong moniker here: according to the Test Kitchen’s Sarah Fischer, “this one is intense!”
It’s also a unique brew. The aroma of this coffee is very bright with a touch of smoke but when you sip, you’ll find that Wandering Bear cold brew is earthy and smooth. There’s very little bitterness here which is great for folks that like their java to be a bit more mellow in flavor (but packed with the energy they need).
Since this brand has a bolder flavor, it really can stand up to all the extras you may want to add like plenty of ice, sweeteners and creams. This is the perfect vehicle for a bit of sweetened condensed milk—like a cold version of Vietnamese coffee.
Best Big-Batch Cold Brew
La Colombe Dark/Medium Roast Cold Brew
If you’re a serious cold brew devotee (but don’t want to make it yourself), a standard 40-ounce bottle isn’t going to cut it. That’s when you need to grab a box of coffee to satisfy your caffeine cravings. Lucky for you, La Colombe Dark/Medium Roast Cold Brew is an excellent option for when you need a whole lot of coffee ASAP—like for that Sunday brunch you’re hosting.
Much like boxed wine, this gallon-sized box of coffee has a long shelf life. Once opened, La Colombe recommends drinking the cold brew within 30 days. If you love cold brew enough to buy it in big quantities like this, that’ll be no problem!
But quantity and a convenient tap aren’t the only things our Test Kitchen loves about this brand. La Colombe’s medium-dark roast had a wonderfully bright flavor with hints of fruit. Even with this touch of acidity, our testers found this brand to be a great easy-drinking cold brew and one that all your friends would enjoy at brunch.
Best Nitro Cold Brew
Starbucks Nitro Cold Brew
Coffee fanatics likely know all about how great a glass of nitro can be. If you’re new, let’s break it down: Nitro coffee is infused with nitrogen as it’s brewed. This gas helps produce a smoother coffee with a silky, almost creamy mouthfeel. The process of making nitro creates a coffee that has more caffeine as well, so you’ll get an extra jolt of energy.
Sounds good, right? If you want nitro on-demand (and want to skip the line at the coffee shop), our Test Kitchen recommends Starbucks Nitro Cold Brew.
Right off the bat, you know this coffee is different. It has a “striking nutty fragrance,” according to Josh, and a very dark appearance.
Take a sip and you’ll notice that this coffee is stronger than its cold brew cousins. It tastes like a darker, chocolaty roast with “a gentle burst of bitterness” per Josh. But that touch of tartness quickly dissipates to reveal a velvety smooth coffee with a slightly creamy finish. If you normally take your coffee with cream, you may want to skip it with nitro!
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