Cold Brew Coffee Review

cold brew coffee bottles

I love coffee. So when my brother sent me a Whole Foods gift card for my birthday, I lept at the opportunity to try out several cold brew coffees – a purchase I would normally consider to be extravagant.

Cold brew is a different process than normal hot-brew coffee. “Cold” refers to how the coffee grounds steep during a long period of time via pressure and cold water – not using the typical just-below-boiling hot water.

And to be consistent in applying coldness to the whole experience, I drank each of these coffees in a clear glass over ice.

I generally enjoy coffee black with no sugar, please. If I’m at Starbucks, I’ll add half-and-half to my cup, along with one packet of unbleached sugar. Taste is a personal thing, and it varies for everyone depending on your mood. For example, if my drink is dessert, I will choose a different coffee than what I want first thing in the morning (dark with no sugar).

For the sake of this comparison test, I drank each coffee without any additions except for ice. And the order below is in the sequence of my testing. I drank one per morning until they were all gone.

My ratings are based solely on how much I enjoyed the taste. So without further fanfare, here are my ratings…

Chameleon Mexican Coffee: This Austin, Texas-based brew is black with 11 grams of sugar added per serving. It’s sweet and all organic, like most of these coffees. It’s nice as-is with a strong hint of cinnamon adding character. I felt like I was on a beach in Mexico in the morning, enjoying the cool before the sun really kicked in. 3rd

Califia Mocha Noir: This one’s very sweet, even though the label said, “Now with 25% less sugar.” The added almond milk made for a very chemical-like flavor. It was shipped all the way from Los Angeles to Denver, which doesn’t do much for the planet. It’s vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO and direct trade (different than fair trade, in that the focus is on quality and not as much on the farmers). The label doesn’t say anything about organic and also features a very strange marketing phrase: “You have to be good, but you don’t have to behave.” They’re reaching a little too far! Last

Corvus Hopped: Denver-based Corvus is the source of this one. Hops (one of the key ingredients in beer) are combined with cold-brewed coffee. The beans are “steeped for 16 hours.” There is no sugar added, no calories and a bitter pure coffee flavor. The Rwanda single-source beans supposedly are “balanced with notes of citrus.” I don’t really care where the beans come from, as long as they result in a good coffee (excepting that I appreciate fair-trade sourced beans). And I dunno about notes of citrus, but it did taste like pretty good coffee to me. I couldn’t really taste the hops either. I really love Denver-based Corvus, but this one left me cold. 4th

Lucky Jack Nitro Cold Brew Old School features no sugar, very light carbonation, and is super-smooth without any bitterness, fair trade and organic. I loved the really velvety taste. This one’s from Las Vegas and thus “lucky” – at least in this contest! 1st

KonaRed Cold Brew Espresso: Another brew with no sugar, and minimal ingredients: purified water, coffee and Hawaiian Coffee Fruit Extract. Another smooth brew with little bitterness. KonaRed is based in California… I’m hoping that only the beans were from Hawaii, since the carbon footprint of shipping mostly water and glass across the ocean (or through the air) is not very appealing. 2nd – tie

Groundwork Cold Brew: Yet another no sugar brew, with extremely simple ingredients: filtered water and organic coffee. It was very smooth and not bitter. The packaging had the most basic label with very little philosophy and no vegan-friendly icons. Groundwork is based in Los Angeles. 2nd – tie

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Very cool new Schneider pens

Schneider LinkIt! pen set

A new concept in drawing and writing has arrived on the shelves of Walmart – the Schneider LinkIt! pen set.

You can take any two pens and snap them together to make a handy two-sided two-color pen. Mix-and-match is the name of the game – they easily snap apart too.

Another cool thing about these pens is that they are BioBased. Schneider has introduced the first fineliner and felt tip pens on the market made of bio-based materials. The plastic is produced from renewable raw materials – agricultural by-products such as vegetable fats and oils, corn starch, or microbiota. The LinkIt! has 88% bio-based plastics, as certified by DINCERTCO, an independent certification body of DIN German Institute for Standardization.

Like all Schneider pens, they are super-high quality. The tips are very durable and smooth-writing. Colors are bright. Each 16-pen set has 8 thin-tip pens and 8 broad-point pens.

Schneider LinkIt! pen set

Writing a personal letter with multiple colors adds variety and interest. (I wrote my sister and her family in Belgium a few days back – definitely more fun than normal blue or black ink.)


Schneider has a contest that you should enter. If you buy a set of Schneider LinkIt! pens from Walmart and take a photo, you might win $80 worth of Schneider pens!

  • Details on the contest: here
  • First check the list of Walmart stores that carry these pens: here
  • The contest expires June 30th.
  • Note that you may have to look a bit to find the pen set. (Apparently, Walmart has put them high on the shelves.)

If there is not a Walmart near you, you can buy them from Amazon.


My favorite part of buying Schneider pens is that the US distributor is Stride, a New Mexico-based company that employs several people in the special needs spectrum. I love this report that tells some of the story:

Stride Inc., featured on KOB-TV

So when you buy Schneider pens, not only do you get the best pens made on this planet, you will benefit a company that brings new life to many with special needs.


Finally, a secret tip: you can buy Parker- and Cross-compatible Schneider refills for your favorite fancy pens and have much better performance than the factory refills. Passion4Pens is my favorite source.

Disclosure: Stride provided the pen set for my review, and my unbiased opinion is that the pens are great. But I get nothing from the sale of these pens other than the satisfaction of knowing that you have benefited a great company and are writing with excellent pens.

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The best dishwashing gloves

Mamison Korean kitchen gloves

I never knew that the best dishwashing gloves are made in South Korea.

Somehow, I discovered that fact and bought a pair through Amazon Prime.

And they are amazing.

My skin is naturally dry, so if I wash dishes by hand, my hands quickly dry out. So I enjoy protecting them with a second skin of latex.

These gloves fit well and are not impossible to get off when finished using. The outer rubber-ish material is grippy enough that dishes won’t slip out of my hands very easily. (And I have broken a dish or two over the years!) They are much longer than typical gloves, so you can wash pots and pans in a deep sink.

I can’t give an endurance report yet, but they definitely seem to be stronger than the U.S. supermarket varieties that I’ve used in the past.

Shortly after I bought them, some friends visited whose grandparents are from South Korea. They confirmed the superior quality of Korean dishwashing gloves and mentioned that the extra protection provided by these amazing gloves is valuable when preparing spicy kimchi. (The powerful spices in some varieties of kimchi can eat away at skin but are relatively harmless to the stomach.)

A win for South Korea!

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A great computer

If you read my Tesla review, you might think that I desire newer, faster, better everything.

That’s not always true.

The 2011 Macbook ProMy early 2011 Macbook Pro is still humming along gracefully. Five years is a long time in computer years. (According to this website, my computer is 92 human years old.)

But it still works great. I’ve changed its battery once, added more memory (wish I could do that for me!) and swapped out the spinning hard drive for a smaller-capacity flash drive.

It’s running the latest operating system – Apple keeps supporting this old machine.

The strangest thing is that I have no burning desire for a newer Mac. Yes, I do like the newer Macbook Pros (and think the new Macbook is a thing of beauty). But the functionality of a newer Mac isn’t different enough that I’d go through the hassle and expense of upgrading. Plus, my old Mac has a CD/DVD drive – I can add music from that old fossil media source without an external drive. (However, I wouldn’t really miss that capability if mine ever died.)

Also interesting – Apple still sells my same basic computer brand-new (though it has a newer brain).

Finally, if you’re ever in the market for a Mac, I’d recommend buying a factory refurb direct from Apple. Those computers have the same warranty as all-new versions. And often, you can get the latest models as refurbs.

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Review: Better by Nature Coffee

Better by Nature coffeeIf you like smooth, non-bitter coffee, I have found your java nirvana. Better by Nature produces coffee through a unique process that results in a very smooth cup of coffee.

In non-scientific terms, the process uses mushrooms to remove the bitter agents and impurities, while leaving behind what coffee-lovers thrive on – great taste.

The variety I tried was created from Costa Rican beans. I am not a wine-snobbery-terminology kind of person, so I can’t describe the floral notes with undertones of oak. Suffice it to say that if normal coffee is too bitter for you unless you load it down with lots of milk and sugar, check this one out.

If you are interested in giving it a try, visit the Better by Nature website.

Disclosure: I was given this coffee as a free trial. I am thankful.

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Great coffee

cafe-buesteloCafe Bustelo is not great coffee. But it is when you brew it the right way. Read on…

1. Use 1/3 very finely ground espresso coffee, such as Cafe Bustelo. Lavazza makes some better ground espresso coffee, but it costs twice as much.

2. Use 2/3 of your regular coffee.

3. If you like to save money, use 1/3 of your regular coffee and mix it with 1/3 of some ultra-cheap stuff. (I definitely avoid brands like Folgers, but if you go to Big Lots, you can pick up some decent coffee for very little cash.)

4. Mix your dry coffees and put the blend in an air-tight container that you’ll store in your freezer.

5. Use a coffee press. Put one tablespoon of coffee per cup of finished coffee. Pour boiling water over the fresh grounds. This step is important – use a big plastic spoon to stir the coffee and hot water mix. Then let it steep for five minutes before you push the press down.

6. Pour whatever coffee you aren’t going to drink right away into a thermos.

7. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I am lazy. I do not grind my beans unless someone gives them to me that way.

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Review: Lay’s Sriracha

Lay's Sriracha potato chipsIf you like potato chips, live in the USA, appreciate spicy food, and enjoy snacking – go to your local supermarket NOW. These new Lay’s Sriracha flavor potato chips are amazing!

Sriracha is about the hippest hot sauce on the market today. It’s from Thailand, though Lay’s take on the flavor is distinctly American.

This product is available for a limited-time, so unless a lot of people like it, you won’t have long to taste this delight.

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Review: Special K Cracker Chips

Special K Cracker ChipsI love new snack products – particularly when they are made by Pepperidge Farm. This time, I ventured into new territory. Kellogg’s created Special K Cracker Chips to compete with styrofoam cakes, alias rice cakes. They are much better, when that is the comparison. But when compared to Pepperidge Farm’s Baked Naturals, they are a faint shadow of snack goodness.

They are nicely crunchy, but the flavor is a bit weird. I only tried cheddar, but I’m not willing to buy the other flavors. The texture was not outstanding. I thought the price was a bit high: $3.79, which is a lot for just 4 ounces of snacks. Thus my my decision to not explore further flavors.

My wife likes these two aspects – they are low calorie and are pretty much gluten-free.

Verdict? Pass.

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Review: InkJoy Pens

InkJoy penI love writing. As in, taking a pen out and dragging it across a piece of paper. It’s a dying art.

Papermate recently released their InkJoy series of pens. I bought a 6-pack (well, 4) and love the writing pleasure this pen provides. It glides across the page unlike anything else I’ve tried.

It’s a ballpoint, so the ink is maybe more permanent than a gel pen’s. And it just glides more smoothly than a gel pen ever could.

The only problem is a bit of blobbing. The ink is so juicy that it does leave a few blobs, but regular pen-tip cleaning solves that problem. At the end of a few lines of writing, I wipe the tip on a scrap of paper. Problem solved.

Oh – my color of choice is blue. People are more prone to believe your writing is real. (This goes back to the xerox days, when black always meant a copy.)

Disclosure: I bought these with my own money. Office Depot advertized them, and the ad convinced me to give them a try. I’m glad I did.

Disclosure two: If you would like to buy these pens via Amazon, you’ll give my friend Jon a few cents by buying them through this link. Thanks.

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