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