A Quarantined Guide to Single-Serve Cold Brew
Updated: May 4
My boyfriend is a big cold brew drinker, but he's in it more for the temperature and caffeine kick than the flavor, body and everything else it has to offer.
I love cold brew when it's good, but it's really easy to find crappy cold brew. I have a few local places where they make a bomb Kyoto or kickass Toddy, but on the go, and definitely when it's your only option (i.e. during lockdowns), what are the best quick-serve options?
Thus I did the taste-testing research to understand the crowded field of single-serve cold brews, and I believe I've come up with my ranking (with what was found at Whole Foods and Ralph's, mind you, during a quarantine)... I didn't include Starbucks, as I was focusing on the less traditional but still readily available brands.
The first go-around I was cracking em open and taking a few sips, but the second time around, each was given to me randomly via straw, blindfolded. The results below are from the blind tasting, but unsurprisingly, do not differ much from my original ranks.
The Single-Serve Cold Brews, Ranked:
8. Bulletproof ☠
Alright so I don't know why I even tried this one, I just felt it necessary since many people have heard about it back in its trending days. That's right, this is the coffee with BUTTER in it. Needless to say, I gagged immediately and actually technically disqualified it, it was so bad. It's a shame this is even regarded as coffee.
7. High Brew ☕
My initial reaction was "blah." After another taste I noticed how syrupy it felt and checked to make sure it was dairy-free. It says as much, but I could swear there was some expired milk in there.
6. Groundwork ☕
I've always disliked Groundwork coffee, since it's known for roasting the HELL (flavor, texture, love) out of all its coffees. And the blind taste-test solidified that they can't seem to make a decent coffee. Smokey, extra dark and over-roasted.
5. La Colombe ☕☕
La Colombe is a cute brand, with decent coffees. But I tried their "hint of milk and sugar" cold brew and wasn't impressed. It was fine, because of the milk and sugar, but the flavor is completely discarded by that "hint." I think/hope there are better cold brews out there if you're looking for a milk and sugar-added one.
4. Lucky Jack ☕☕☕
An oldie but a goodie (I recently also tried their concentrate). Have a paper towel at the ready, because you need to SHAKE this bad boy and there WILL be a spill once you open. The "Old School" nitro Lucky Jack was pleasantly mild, with lemony notes between the malt-textured body. If you're looking for something you can get for at home or on the go, this is a great choice.
3. Chameleon ☕☕☕
Finally, Chameleon! The one you definitely recognize if you're ever stepped foot in a Whole Foods (or any cold coffee aisle, most likely). These guys are served in large and small servings, so another good at-home daily pick. Chameleon's "espresso" cold brew has a robust aroma with a nutty, chocolatey flavor. It was nowhere near as harsh as I expected, delightfully light on the mouth.
Try this one on ice, it becomes a smoother texture!
2. Califia ☕☕☕
My first adjective when I tried this one, "funky." That's the best way to describe it, like a sour, almost fermented taste. If you like kombucha, you will love this coffee! I however, do not like kombucha, but it made #2 on my list because of it's earthy, slightly vanilla profile. It was a surprise and delight situation I'll look for again.
1. Stumptown ☕☕☕☕
I like Stumptown coffee and espresso, but I had no idea how much I'd like their cold brew! This was by far the most flavorful, especially as a lighter medium roast. Notes include pineapple, grape, hazelnut and malt. This is a tried and true brand, and a cold brew I'll seek out on my next lunch run, shopping trip or even hot summer road trip. Highly recommend, highly dependable.
None of the coffees received "5 cups" because I'm still looking for the eureka moment. I believe there has to be a better cold brew out there, and I'm determined to find it. Until next time...