What's not to like about cold brew coffee? It takes no time to prepare (literally, zero), it's flavorful, refreshing, strong and versatile. As I join the growing number of coffee sippers with a preference for an iced beverage over a hot cup of joe, I decided to look at a few of the biggest cold brew producers in the game to figure out once and for all who wears the crown in this modern day civil war.
Grady's was started in Brooklyn but takes its inspiration from the Big Easy with its chicory infused NOLA-style blend. Meanwhile Stumptown grew up in Portland, but recently jumped coasts to coffee mecca Brooklyn, importing its beans from across the word in perhaps the most rigorous selection process on the planet. Chameleon was started in Austin and still brews locally, using certified organic, fair trade beans and Texas Hill County filtered water.
After careful tasting, let's see how they fared.
Though far from the contentious coastal rivalry of the 2pac vs Biggie debate, these brewers have amassed similarly cult-like followings, and you can now find these brands in most states across the country. The players are of course Stumptown Coffee Roasters (Portland, OR), Grady's Cold Brew (Brooklyn, NY) and, newest addition to the big stage, Chameleon Cold Brew (Austin, TX). The brands represent the globalized world we live in; each have distinct claims to various regions of the country, yet incorporate beans from all reaches of the coffee belt.
Based: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Brewed: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Price: $7.99 for 16oz concentrate
Grady's distinction is its use of chicory, the sweet, herbal endive root that imparts the drink's signature flavor. To me, Grady's is the eggnog of cold brews. With such a distinct and unique taste profile, which includes a nutmeggy finish, you'll either love it or hate. To the coffee purist, it may prove too flashy, but for those up for a risk and a boat load of flavor, you'll find this brew to be a great change of pace from the more traditional cold brews; blending just the right amount of chicory sweetness to balance its bold beans. My recommendation is to mix equal parts concentrate and unsweetened almond milk over ice, for a smooth, creamy morning drink that's healthy and light but still packs plenty of flavor and will keep you going all day.
Overall score: 8.5/10
Based: Portland, Ore.
Brewed: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Price: $3.99 per 10.5oz
Often looked upon as the gold standard of cold brew, it's not hard to see why Stumptown has developed such a robust following and is even planning to expand to the European market. I've had their hot stuff before, but this was my first time tasting their cold brew. A bold, clean start up front followed by subtle notes of caramel and toffee, it's a perfect combination of strength and flavor that's as classic and versatile as you'd imagine. I liked it best over a tall glass of ice with a little bit of soy creamer.
Overall score: 9.5/10
Based: Austin, Tex.
Brewed: Austin, Tex.
Price: $3.99 per 10oz
The first word that comes to mind is smooth. You can tell right off the bat this is a well-made, carefully brewed coffee. A slight toffee finish is preceded by a crisp, refreshing start that's flavorful without being overpowering. I found my favorite way to enjoy it was over ice with a punch of soy creamer. This brew is super smooth already, so don't use too much. Overall, Chameleon was a pleasant surprise, and proved well-deserving of a place on the Mount Rushmore of cold brews.