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Who Makes the Best Cold Brew? We Tried Starbucks, Stumptown, and More – InfowayTechnologies

The verdict: Initial sniffs suggested that Califia might have a strong showing—dare I say its aroma made our jaws ache in anticipation—but first sips proved otherwise. There was a strange taste, like a paper cup. “This tastes like the coffee filter,” senior service editor Kelsey Jane Youngman declared. That papery taste is often a result of oxidized coffee beans during the cold-brew production process.

Starbucks Black Unsweetened Cold Brew Coffee

What’s inside: The ingredients list here is just water and coffee, like most other cold brews. Starbucks’ cold brew packaging boasts “ethical sourcing standards,” which, per the label, “positively impact the lives and livelihoods of coffee farmers and their communities.” Despite these claims, a lawsuit alleges that Starbucks sources from farms that have committed human rights and labor violations.

The verdict: Malty flavor, balanced acid, mild bitterness—our tasters thought this coffee’s flavor was “fine.” Some got a sorta-sweet, artificial-vanilla vibe, but it wasn’t altogether unpleasant; there’s a reason Starbucks serves those vanilla lattes across the globe. If you’re a self-proclaimed caffeine fiend like us, you may prefer something stronger.

Photograph by Bre Furlong

Pop and Bottle Classic Coffee Super Concentrate

What’s inside: In addition to steeping time, the ratio of water to ground coffee influences how strong cold brew ends up. Concentrate is a different story; in a concentrate, the amount of water gets reduced, not unlike buying chicken bouillon paste instead of chicken stock. It means you can dilute the coffee to your preference, and you get more cups out of a smaller package.

The verdict: Pop and Bottle is almost as thick as syrup before it’s diluted. Senior cooking editor Emma Laperruque said it smells like unsweetened chocolate, and Kelsey likened it, less charitably, to coffee left at the bottom of the pot. That intense acrid aroma gave way to a chocolaty flavor—the fancy kind that’s so dark it starts to taste a little fruity. It was still more watery than we’d like; next time we’d dilute it less than the label recommends.


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