Cold brew coffee isn't new, but the icy drink has seen a large uptick in popularity in recent years. It might be the delicious, bold flavors of craft brands that have emerged or the speed at which this trend has moved — but no matter why, it's impossible to deny the importance of cold brew on the contemporary coffee scene. Making cold brew is a slow but generally simple process that involves extracting the flavors of the coffee in cold water, usually by steeping it overnight (or otherwise for 16 to 24 hours).
Some coffee chains are instantly recognizable and have stores all over the country, while others are smaller roasters with fewer shops but a bigger presence in the export cold brew world, shipping their products in cans, cartons, or growlers. Almost every chain on this list also has a nitro cold brew option, a process that infuses the coffee with nitrogen to make it a smoother drink. A good cold brew has a daring and unique taste that can be at once sweet, lightly earthy, and rejuvenating. It needs to set itself apart from its iced coffee predecessors in that sense. Price isn't as much of a factor because a good cold brew is always worth it, and oftentimes, higher cost is indicative of the attention given to the brewing process. As such, these brews are ranked by the quality of the beans, roast, and the robust flavors, as well as the variety and quality of the mix-in options.
Read more: The Best Coffee Shop In Every State
Pret A Manger
Pret A Manger is an international coffee chain with around 600 stores all over the world. The company is headquartered in London and is closely related to the European coffee scene, which often prioritizes espresso-based drinks over iced coffee or the classic cup of drip-brewed coffee.
Pret's organic cold brew is highly drinkable but doesn't have the same brash taste as some of its competitors. Pret's menu also sports the least amount of cold brew options, which sets this chain apart from other middle-of-the-pack competitors that offer larger and more customizable menus. There aren't many complex flavors in this cold brew; that is perfectly fine. On the one hand, it's the kind of coffee you would want to drink every day because it's not too expensive and has an easygoing, agreeable flavor. What this cold brew lacks in strength, it makes up for in smoothness. Made with 100% Arabica beans, this cold brew coffee is simple and effective but not quite the greatest.
Dunkin' is a worldwide, instantly recognizable brand that recently cut the "Donut" from its name in order to promote the rest of the menu and its growing coffee selections. Dunkin's cold brew doesn't have as strong of a taste as some of the other cold brews on this list, likely due to its shorter brew time. A longer brew brings out a stronger taste, and Dunkin' steeps its cold brew overnight for 12 hours, with some others (like Starbucks and Dunn Bros) brewing for 20 to 24 hours.
The cold brew at Dunkin' has a slight undercurrent of chocolate in each sip, which makes it easy to pair with one of Dunkin's many donuts or sweet syrup. Outside of that, it's fairly neutral coffee. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the flavor might be more agreeable to the average coffee drinker. Given that Dunkin' is one of the more affordable coffee chains on this list, this is also a huge plus. Overall, it still has a clean taste, and the shorter brew time gives the cold brew a smooth, endearing finish. And, despite the brevity, Dunkin' cold brew still packs around 260 milligrams of caffeine for the medium size.
Tim Horton's is an iconic Canadian coffee chain. It started out as a donut shop and is still just as well known for its food options as it is for coffee. The classic order at Tim's is a hot coffee, but with its increase in popularity worldwide, it has successfully expanded its menu into the world of cold brew.
Tim Horton's cold brew is surprisingly reliable. It has a balanced flavor, so it won't alienate coffee drinkers who iced coffee or nitro. Tim Horton's uses ethically sourced premium Arabica beans steeped for 16 hours. It's serviceable when consumed black, but Tims seems to suggest it most often mixed with a flavor or milk option, such as the vanilla cream cold brew. For cold brew connoisseurs, that might be a red flag. Tim Hortons is your everyday coffee shop in the sense that many people get this coffee on their way to work each day. It's not meant to be an artisanal coffee shop, but that doesn't mean the cold brew won't give you that caffeine kick you're looking for at the start of your day.
Dutch Bros started in the Pacific Northwest in the early 1990's. Since then, it's expanded to 14 states, with most of the stores being drive-thru stands. Despite being a fairly quick-service shop, Dutch Bros has a large menu and a lot of ways to customize your cold brew. On its own, Dutch Bros cold brew has no significant acidity or bitterness, which makes sense given that it's sold as a "canvas for your creativity" rather than a stand-out solo item. You won't want to miss out on adding a few things to your drink; what's rewarding about Dutch Bros' cold brew is the options it comes with.
Along with your normal combination options of milk or sweet syrup, your Bro-ista can change this cold brew's temperature. You can get it blended, or you can have it toasted, which is a cold brew that's been heated into a smoother taste than regular drip coffee. It's a unique option for the Dutch Bros brand. Dutch Bros is similar to Starbucks in a way because customers are encouraged to freely customize their drinks, resulting in a "secret menu" of creative cold brew possibilities.
Dutch Bros cold brew has about 240 milligrams of caffeine in a regular-sized coffee, so if you're looking to have more bang for your buck, order one of these drinks over the espresso-made drinks. Dutch Bros cold brew is consistent despite not being that bold. Fortunately, the quality of coffee is elevated by the mix-in options.
Peet's Coffee is one of the most classic American coffee chains on this list. The company has a rich history that dates back to the early 1960s, making it one of the first modern Second Wave coffee chains to come into existence. In fact, to many, Peet's is known for starting the coffeehouse craze, coming up even before Starbucks (while also helping guide the business in the early years). But how is the cold brew?
You can try Peet's in-house Baridi Blend cold brew, which is steeped for 12 hours. The taste won't be as intense as some of the other longer-brewed ones on this list. However, it is incredibly smooth and will be mild on the bitterness and acidity scale. Order a Black Tie if you're looking for a sweeter cold brew drink that doesn't obscure the flavor of the coffee. It comes with condensed milk, chicory-infused syrup, and some half & half. Or try the cold brew with brown sugar jelly and oat milk if you're feeling experimental. Peet's long history of making good coffee, which has created generations of regulars, is evident in the chain's cold brew push.
Starbucks is perhaps the most successful and widely recognized coffee chain on earth, with more than 35,000 stores worldwide. It's known for a seasonally shifting menu that brings back fan favorites each year, as well as always supplying an endless stream of new and exciting flavors and combinations. Yet, for all of those options, it sits firmly in the middle of the pack.
The predominant flavor associated with Starbucks hot coffee roasts is dark, rich, and potent. Yet, Starbucks' cold brew is often praised for uncomplicated smoothness, which is lighter in taste. With such a large consumer base, it makes sense that the chain's cold brew would focus on a flavor that is agreeable and easy-going rather than aim for something heavy and complex that appeals to a more particular set of coffee drinkers. Brewed in small batches each day in a 20-hour process, this cold brew remains delicious and has a consistency across stores that is fairly unrivaled in the world of coffee chains. If you don't like it black, the Starbucks cold brew is popular in drinks like the vanilla sweet cream cold brew, a drink that adds flavor to the brew without distorting the flavor of the coffee.
Caribou Coffee is another coffee chain that started in the Midwest but soon became a worldwide sensation. Where Caribou's cold brew differs from other chains is in the flavor profile. The Caribou Coffee brewing process for cold brew, which it calls "Cold Press," accentuates sweetness in order to cut down on acidity. Although at first glance bitterness might sound like a bad thing, many coffee drinkers prefer their java to have an earthy and pungent taste, so don't take that phrase at face value. Still, Caribou's unique cold press method brings out sweetness without sacrificing the classic taste that cold brew fanatics crave. It also fits in 190 milligrams of caffeine for a small (12-ounce) serving.
Caribou refers to its cold brew as Cold Press, but the general process is still the same: a long, slow steep that never sees heat as the coffee sits (usually overnight) in cold water. The coffee chain also has other cold brew options available, such as a nitro cold brew and the Crafted Press, which mixes cold press with a creamer and flavor of your choosing. Using a medium roast blend, Caribou offers a decisively concentrated flavor with more pop than competitors.
What sets PJ's Coffee apart from some of the other chains on this list is its enormous and malleable menu. In some ways, this is similar to Starbucks, as the chain offers many different drinks that change with the season. Between seasonal promotions, you can discover your own personal way to customize the coffee.
The cold brew is pretty exceptional on its own and is really elevated by these customizable drink options. Some cold brews are at their absolute best when they're black and unadorned, undiluted by milk and syrups, but PJ's cold brew is also good when it's customized. That versatility is also a strong suit. The smoothness and drinkability of the cold brew make it really quite easy and inviting to experiment with, and it goes just as well with chocolate and oat milk as it does with PJ's protein concentrate. Like other chains, PJ's has a unique name and cold brew process. Called a cold drip, this technique mirrors the percolation of classic drip coffee over an extended period and gives the brew a strong taste with a hint of sweetness at the end. It's a luxuriously smooth taste overall.
Coffee Bean And Tea Leaf
Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf's best cold brew is brewed with coarse ground coffee made specifically for cold brew with a blend of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe and Bali Blue Moon beans and one other key ingredient: chicory. The primary benefit of a course grind for cold brew is that it makes filtering the coffee much easier. This combination of components also makes for a deeper, roasty complement to natural sweetness that is different than any other coffee chain cold brew out there.
Another interesting twist on traditional cold brew options is CBTL's special cardamom cold brew, which is a must-have. The added spice syrup complements the cold brew, bringing out fruity, herbaceous flavors that usually lie dormant when a cold brew is mixed with milk or cream. And though most of the chains on this list serve their best cold brew in-store, CBTL excels over others by offering its exclusive Yirgacheffe and Bali Blue Moon blend for making premium cold brew at home, too.
You've probably seen La Colombe cans available at your local coffee shop or grocery store, which makes this chain a unique addition to this list. La Colombe is a small-batch coffee roaster known for high-end coffee, but it's best known across the country for its take-home cans that serve up cold brew, lattes, and more. With that in mind, if you live close to one of the chain's 32 locations, you're near some of the best café cold brew options around.
La Colombe sports a unique and thorough process for brewing its cold brew. After being brewed and steeped in oxygen-free specialty steel tanks, the cold brew is double-filtered, which can level out and balance the flavors and acidity of the cold brew while still letting the powerful, nuanced taste come through. The cans of cold brew are truly consistent, and you won't find a bad batch or any different and unexpected flavors popping up if you're one of the many customers who drink these cans on a regular basis. This is especially good considering that La Colombe serves the same coffee you know and love in a can as a draft pour in its café locations. The attention to detail given to this overnight brew truly allows it to shine as one of the best coffee chain cold brews.
Stumptown Coffee Roasters
Stumptown is another coffee chain with fewer stores than some of the other major chains on this list, which means a lot of the focus is on take-home coffee options. Out of the take-home cold brews on this list, Stumptown's is the best. It's rare to find such a complex coffee flavor in something you can find on the shelf at a grocery store. Pre-packaged options are naturally a large draw at Stumptown these days, with ready-to-go stubby bottles, cans, and pre-mixed cartons of cold brew and oat milk to make your daily fix a touch more convenient.
Stumptown sells a good portion of its cold brew in cartons that are made completely from recycled materials. Most of those packages come premixed with OATLY and have a rich flavor without being cloying or overtly sugary. The original cold brew style is also sold alongside a chocolate option as well as a horchata-flavored choice. However, when it comes to Stumptown, you can enjoy a nitro or original black cold brew as easily as something that's mixed with mollifying milk or sweeteners; the chain is known for high-quality, dedicated sourcing, and artisinal roasting, which creates a vigorous taste and aroma with chocolate notes. Its original cold brew is made from Arabica beans sourced directly from Brazil. Best of all, you only need to take away your coffee if you prefer to do so — Stumptown cafés serve premium cold brew on draft.
The focus at Blue Bottle, a high-end chain, is on premium, single-sourced coffee, and the stores are usually found in the downtown or business areas of big cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, and Shanghai. Blue Bottle takes pride in using beans that are sourced from single origins, which means that the beans come from just one place rather than a blend of beans from multiple farms or geographic locations. This allows the special characteristics and flavors of the bean to be elevated and highlighted. At Blue Bottle, it's common to taste cold brew that has bright and floral notes designed to be consumed unadorned. In Blue Bottle cafés, the roast used for cold brew may change, which means consistency is not always an option.
Still, Blue Bottle's cold brew matches the expectations set by the company's marketing as a specialty, organic coffee chain. It has a distinct flavor and is slightly tart, a combination that gives you the feeling of truly tasting the coffee as it's meant to be tasted. The most special aspect of Blue Bottle's cold brew is its earthiness: similar to the experience of drinking freshly steeped tea, the cold brew here is invigorating and pure. Blue Bottle isn't necessarily the budget coffee chain you'll want to stop by every single day on your way to work, but the price is always worth it, no matter what kind of coffee you order.
Dunn Brothers Coffee
Dunn Brothers Coffee is a Midwestern coffee chain founded in 1987 in Minnesota. Since then, it's opened stores in Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, North, and South Dakota, and even Texas. Dunn Bros roasts its beans in-store in small batches each day, which provides patrons with an up-close look at the process as well as a wonderful aroma to hang out in. Roasting its cold brew beans to a medium, Dunn Brothers doesn't necessarily offer the deepest level of sourcing as other specialty shops — it uses a blend of beans rather than a single origin — but the trick is in the technique.
Dunn Brothers calls its cold brew Infinite Black, and it's a fitting name for a java steeped at 24 hours. The flavor is deep and well-rounded, never too bitter, and never watered down. It's an exceptionally strong brew and is fantastic on its own (many customers purchase 64-ounce refillable growlers), but is also well-rounded enough to form the base of other popular drinks, such as the Iced Nirvana line. Primarily, this cold brew is number one on this list because it has the perfect balance of boldness and deliciousness that defines the argument for cold brew's supremacy over regular iced coffee. Dunn Bros makes high-quality coffee that remains affordable, so you won't break the bank if you choose to make it your daily coffee.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.