Cold brew coffee. It’s now a thing.
I first enjoyed (sort of) my first cup of cold brew at Blue Bottle in San Francisco a few years ago upon a recommendation by fellow Fancy Frite, Felix Chen. The caffeine induced spins and cold sweat quickly set in as this elixir began to do it’s thing. What did I just drink?!!!
There are a few different methods to preparing cold brew coffee, but simply speaking they all usually involve the steeping of very course ground coffee with cold or room temp. water for a long period of time (min 12hrs). This concentrated solution is then filtered and diluted further to create what should be a smooth, mellow yet highly caffeinated beverage. Some coffee shops may have their own variations of this method but the basic idea remains the same.
Here in Victoria cold brew has become an overnight sensation with coffee shops all around town brewing up their version of cold brew coffee. Cold brew is this summer’s food fad and there’s no doubt about it (I think it became official when Starbucks introduced theirs just a few weeks ago). So time for a ‘Best in Victoria…’ blog post!!!
I messaged a few barista friends and set out today to 10 coffee shops around Victoria gathering up samples of cold brew for scrutinizing/tasting.
Hey Happy’s nitro cold brew $4.00/12oz
Habit Coffee’s cold brew $2.81/12oz
Café Fantastico’s nitro cold brew $5.00/12oz
Second Crack’s Endorphin cold brew $4.50/12oz
Starbucks’ cold brew $3.10/12oz
Fernwood Coffee’s carbonated cold brew (which comes in a can) $3.35
Shatterbox’s cold brew $3.00/12oz
Bows and Arrows’ cold brew $4.50/12oz? (sorry lost my receipt for this one)
2% Jazz’s cold brew $4.20/12oz
Discovery Coffee’s cold brew $4.26/12oz
Myself — Two years barista experience. I had my brother code each bottle with a letter so I myself didn’t know which was which until reading the key after the tasting.
James — Seven years barista experience.
Shannon — One year barista experience.
Annika — A total of 10 years barista experience.
Leslee — Nurse and therefore needs coffee to survive those long night shifts.
Mark — Sailor and Navy ship coffee connoisseur
I was able to go around and collect a sample from each coffee shop within a few hours. Admittedly the Nitro ones probably taste best when just poured but I did try to seal them all right away in jars and keep them in a cool place until tasting time. For the other places who included ice I drained the ice immediately to prevent the coffee from becoming diluted.
We labeled each jar with a letter so as to make it as close to a blind taste test as possible. We all had small tastes of each coffee, recording our comments as we went. We cleansed our palates after each tasting and rinsed out our glasses. After tasting all we revisited a few of them before making our final choices for most and least favorite.
Here are some of the comments made by our 6 different judges.
Creamy. Sweet. Not offensive. Bland. Too diluted. Subtle coffee taste. No bitterness at all.
Easy to drink. Diluted. Mild coffee taste. Mild acidity. Gentle on the mouth (original Leslee quote). One note. Malty. Mild bourbon taste. Smooth
Slightly bitter taste. Toasted taste. Medium acidity. Well balanced. Slightly drying on the palate. Woody flavored. Nutty. Refreshing. Good acidity level. Good lingering after taste.
Smells fermented? Shocking. Strong. Doesn’t smell like coffee or taste like it either. Tastes like Bourbon (not in a good way). Bitter after taste. Chemical taste. Highly acidic.
Blah. Rubber taste. Rough, not smooth at all. Very bitter. Smokey and acidic. Not bad at first but has a bitter and bad after taste. Smells and tastes like tires.
Has character. Complex flavor. Sweet start, bitter finish. A dream after the previous two. Very acidic, notes of bitter citrus peel. Well balanced. Enjoyable. Full mouth feel.
Watery. Cheese aroma. Bland. Smooth. One note. Grapefruit peel after taste. Diluted coffee flavor. Light. Medium acidity. Mild simple flavor. Has a chemical quality to it. Easy to drink.
Bows and Arrows
Just okay. Sweet, but the sweetness tastes almost artificial. Smells like sunflower flax bread. Strong bark flavor. Sweet, too sweet! Medium acidity. Decent complexity. Oily and grainy taste.
Malty. Gross. Bitter. Little coffee flavor. Not great. Too carbonated. Metallic tasting. No coffee needs to be this carbonated.
It grows on you. A tad bitter. Smells like rubber. Smells bad but tastes good. Strange after taste. Watery. Low coffee flavor. Earthy.
Okay so some of the comments were a little harsh but we speak our minds. There seemed to be a clear divide between the goods and the really not greats. Some coffee companies experimented with different techniques such as nitro injection or carbonation. It was unanimous that the carbonation of Fernwood’s canned cold brew didn’t go over well which is too bad because Fernwood made a great cold brew last year. I wish they would bring that back. I myself enjoy carbonated coffee but this was too carbonated with a mild coffee flavor and bitter taste. The nitro coffees were overall very smooth and creamy in comparison to some others but complex flavors and a prominent coffee flavor seemed to be lacking.
Our overall winner with four votes for ‘best’ and two votes for ‘second best’ was the cold brew from Habit. This one is also the least expensive so thumbs up for good value for money. Discovery coffee received the second most votes for ‘best’ and ‘second best’ with Fantastico right behind. For least favorite five out of six voted Second Crack and one vote for 2% jazz as least favorite.
Cold brew’s refreshing quality, convenient take-home jar container’s, affordable price and high caffeine content are making it a popular beverage choice this summer. With over ten coffee shops brewing it in town it’s pretty easy to get your hands on some. Let us know which cold brew you love or if we missed any.
Other coffee links and posts: