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


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.


You gotta live

I put up a question on Facebook recently about soy. I wondered why it was considered bad. That post received 28 comments! A lot of people care about soy.*

cup I love coffee. How does that relate to soy? Well, I know that coffee has caffeine, which is known to cause problems for people with heart problems. My mother and several uncles died of heart-related problems. So if I were purely logical, I would quit drinking coffee. But I love the taste of a fresh hot cup of fine coffee each morning. I’m willing to lose a few months of my life for the minor thrill of coffee.

Soy is not a great source of pleasure to me, so it’s not hard for me to skip buying soy snacks. But I’m not going to carefully read each label before I buy a product to see if it has soy. I’m willing to take the minor risks associated with eating more liberally to avoid the hassle of reading every label when I go shopping – or insisting that other members of my family who do grocery shopping for my family do the same.

Having said that, I do not condemn those who are careful label readers or non-allergy soy avoiders. I understand that you have to live your life too. and I greatly appreciate that many people care about such things, or we would all be consuming food that is a lot less healthy than what we are.

*If you don’t know about why some people consider soy to be bad, you’ll have to visit my Facebook page. And you’ll have to be a Facebook user to see that post.


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.


The purist vs. the realist

Coffee. I enjoy grinding the beans at the supermarket – or simply buying ground beans. Reason? The difference in taste is very small compared to the hassle of grinding your own beans each morning for every coffee pot.

Many areas of life are like this – if you spend twice the effort, you might get a 10% improvement. I would challenge you to examine your life – small things you do each day – and look at what is not worth the extra expense of time and money.

Having said that, sometimes it’s worth it to go the “long” way. Last weekend, Heather and I spent a nice evening listening to vinyl records. It took several extra minutes to grab each new song from a different album, but that warm sound of clicks and pops, as well as the fact that I don’t have those songs in digital form, gave us a pleasant change of pace.

ps Millstone Coffee provided a free half-pound of coffee with last Sunday’s paper!


Don’t go there

Yes, it’s true – I think Starbucks just made a mistake.

I get their weekly emails, and last week’s featured their new flavored coffees: “Natural Fusions“.

I’m showing my bias here – I don’t like flavored coffees to start with. (Those Frappuccinos and such – well, that’s a different matter. I like those. But they aren’t really coffee.) But my take is that those who like flavored coffee (or flavoured, if you are in the English-speaking part of the world) should add syrup to their freshly-brewed cup. Just like your neighborhood coffee bar would.


Hindi pop and coffee

bollywood-dancerWhy is it that all female Bollywood singers sound the same?

Bear with me – I’m not sure if you’ve heard any East Indian female pop stars sing, but they all seem to have a similar high, thin voice.

Someone who does not drink coffee might think that all coffee tastes the same. As a real coffee drinker, I can tell them that they are wrong. And a real Bollywood fan might tell me that I am wrong.

It’s all a matter of perspective, perception and level of experience.

The photo is from Flikr. Thanks tony4carr!

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Coffee in Kenya, fact 23

decaf-v-regularAs many faithful readers know, some of the finest coffee in the world comes from Kenya.

If you buy coffee there, you will always pay more for a cup of decaf. Why? The beans actually have to be shipped to Europe for the caffeine to be taken out.

Not so here. Wolfgang’s finest Estate-Grown cup costs the same with or without the buzz.