Cold Brew Challenge Ready to Drink Round 1

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A few weeks ago I started posting results for our Cold Brew Challenge–Concentrates.  New cold brew coffees are appearing on the scene faster than we can taste them (but we’re doing our best to keep up).  This post starts the results of the ready to drink challenge. All results are completely subjective and reflect the preferences of myself and my husband. To review the ground rules:

  • All coffees will be tasted black
  • We will try to stick to nationally available products (e.g. available at supermarkets or online)
  • All winners of Round 1 will move on to Round 2 until we reach a winner by elimination.
  1. Secret Squirrel vs. O Organic Sumatran Cold Brew Coffee

These are two newcomers at my local Safeway. We tasted Secret Squirrel in the concentrate tastings, but now they have a ready to drink version on the shelves as well.

O Organics Sumatran Cold Brew Coffee

O Organic Sumatran Cold Brew

O Organic is Safeway’s house organic line of products. Recently they starting stocking three varieties of cold brew in a 32 oz. box. We tried the Sumatran for this challenge.  I could not find any information online about them, so all we know is from the box–they steep their beans for 18 hours.

Cold Brew Challenge Ready to Drink Round 1

Secret Squirrel Cold Brew-Black Coffee

Tasting comparison of Secret Squirrel Black Coffee vs. O Organics Sumatran Cold BrewSecret Squirrel began as a passion project of two California coffee lovers. They began selling their creations at farmer’s markets and quickly developed a name for themselves as well as national distribution. Their ready to drink black coffee is the pre-diluted version of their concentrate. They use organic beans in their coffees and there is only coffee and water in this beverage.

Tasting Results:

Taster 1 preferred Secret Squirrel, noting that it was smooth, strong and had a pure coffee flavor. Taster 1 felt O Organics was thin, with a wheat/barley taste that was disagreeable. The color was noticeably lighter than Secret Squirrels.

Taster 2 preferred Secret Squirrel. They detected a chocolatey scent and hints of burnt caramel. Taster 2  commented that O Organics was bland, not nearly as robust, and not really recognizable as coffee (ouch!).

The winner was Secret Squirrel Black coffee and they move on to Round 2 of the Challenge.


2. Starbucks Cold Brew Coffee vs. Simple Truth Cold Brew Coffee

Cold brew tasting starbucks black coffeeStarbucks Cold Brew Black Coffee

Starbucks really needs no introduction. They offer pitcher packs, ready to drink options at their coffee stands, and this bottled version. This products comes in black, or cocoa and honey flavored. It is widely available in supermarkets and convenience stores.

simple truth colombian dark roast cold brewSimple Truth Cold Brew Colombian Dark Roast Coffee

cold brew challenge starbucks vs simple truthSimple Truth is the organic house brand of Fred Meyer/Kroger. This is a 32 oz bottle of ready to drink coffee. This is available in Colombian Dark roast and Kona flavors. The beans are organic, but they don’t offer any other information about their process.

Tasting Results:

Taster 1 felt that Starbucks had a chocolately aftertaste and was smooth and balanced.By comparison, Simple Truth was smokier and stronger. Taster 1 preferred Starbucks.

Taster 2 also detected chocolate flavors in the Starbucks brew and granted it as having “decent flavor.” Taster 2 did feel it was a little weak though. Taster 2 preferred the strong, smooth flavors of Simple Truth.

This round was a tie between Starbucks and Simple Truth.


3. Califia vs. Kona Red

Tasting comparison of Kona Red Original and Califia Farms Signature Blend Cold Brew CoffeeCalifia Cold Brew Signature Roast

Tasting comparison of Kona Red Original and Califia All Black Signature BlendCalifia is a California based company that is already established in the coffee market for their blended drinks. In 2016 they launched a trio of all black bottled coffees. We tasted the Signature Roast. The beans are sourced from Colombia, Guatemala, and El Salvador and are lightly roasted. Other available flavors include Black Mocha and Single Origin (the latter uses Ethiopian Yirgacheffe beans).

Kona Red Original

Kona cold brews come in a variety of flavors. The original blend uses Kona beans from Hawaii as well as Colombian Beans.  They infuse it all with Hawaiian Coffee Fruit.  They steep the coffee for at least 12 hours.

Tasting Results:

Taster 1 found Califia to be have citrus flavors and an overall astringency. Taster 1 preferred Kona Red, citing a beer like aftertaste.

Taster 2 thought Califia was strong, but not smooth. Taster 2 also noted a strong aftertaste. Taster 2 preferred Kona Red as being smoother, and not as powerful, but in a good way.

This round goes to Kona Red Original



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