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Cold brew coffee may seem like a recent innovation. But, like many food and drink trends, this delicious beverage has roots that are centuries old and span multiple continents. The process of steeping coffee grounds in cold water dates back to 17th-century Japan, where the brewing method was likely passed along by Dutch traders who used it during long oceanic voyages.
Today, cold brew is everywhere, including convenience stores and local coffee shops (possibly even on tap). If you prefer making the beverage at home from scratch, there are multitudes of affordable and simple cold brew coffee makers out there. But for those interested in pre-made convenience, we've researched the best bottled options below.
From single-serving cans to family-sized jugs, here are the best cold brew coffees to buy.
Best Overall: Chameleon Cold-Brew Coffee Concentrate
Founded in 2010, Chameleon Cold-Brew has become one of the most trusted and recognizable names in the field. The Texas-based company sells a variety of tasty products, which are sorted into three categories: Coffee Concentrate, On-The-Go, and Pour & Enjoy. Our favorite is the Coffee Concentrate—an extra flavorful form of cold brew meant to be mixed with water, milk, or creamer. On-The-Go contains single-serving bottles of cold brew and Pour & Enjoy is the brand's 46-ounce jugs made for keeping around the house.
For those who prefer concentrated coffee, Chameleon offers eight flavors, from a steadfast Black Coffee to a striking Cinnamon Vanilla. Each concentrate variety is packed with approximately 65 milligrams of caffeine per ounce and sold in 32-ounce glass bottles. When preparing the concentrate at home, the company recommends a 2-to-1 ratio of two parts coffee and one part mixer of your choice.
Type: Concentrate | Size: 32-ounce bottle, 32-ounce carton, or 250-ounce bag-in-box | Caffeine: 65 milligrams per ounce
Best Large Capacity: Wandering Bear Extra Strong Cold Brew On Tap
Many coffeehouses offer cold brew on tap, and Wandering Bear brings that experience to the kitchen with its long-lasting, large-capacity cold brew boxes. They are available in four sizes, and the brand notes that the ready-to-drink coffee stays fresh for up to 30 days after first use.
The vast majority of customers give the item positive reviews, particularly for its flavor. However, some note a slightly bitter taste. To smooth things out, Wandering Bear recommends mixing the cold brew with milk, sugar, or creamer. One last point to remember is that the cost per serving falls into an average price range. It is by no means an expensive cold brew, but some may be thrown off thinking that the large capacity means big savings.
Type: Ready-to-drink | Size: 32, 72, 96, or 128 ounces | Caffeine: 150 milligrams per 6 ounces
Best Budget: STōK Cold-Brew Coffee
STōK (pronounced “stoke”) is a terrific brand for cold brew beginners, as well as those who want to avoid tossing too many coins down the cold brew well. Easy to find in grocery stores, convenience stores, and dorm rooms, this coffee is as delightful to the wallet as it is to the taste buds. The company's two most popular varieties are Un-Sweet and Not Too Sweet, but there are other flavors to choose from, including options like Vanilla, Mocha, and Pumpkin.
Caffeine levels vary, ranging from 95 to 195 milligrams.
Type: Ready-to-drink | Size: 13.7 or 48 ounces | Caffeine: 95 milligrams per serving (Un-Sweet and Not Too Sweet flavors)
Runner-Up, Best Budget: High Brew Cold Brew Coffee
Tiny palm-sized cans of cold brew are often disappointing. They cost more than a regular cup of coffee and are gone in a couple of sips. That’s where High Brew Coffee comes in handy, offering 8-ounce cold brew cans at a price lower than most competitors. It's excellent for budget-seeking students and those who need a pick-me-up at work every day. Cans are sold individually at nearby grocery and convenience stores, and they are also available online in more cost-effective 4-count and 12-count packs.
Another factor that sets this Austin-born brand apart is its impressive array of flavors. Black & Bold, a dairy-free option with a traditional coffee taste, is a great starting point. Then there are unique varieties such as Dark Chocolate Mocha and Bourbon Vanilla Latte. Most flavors contain between 130 and 150 milligrams of caffeine, and the more daring can try High Brew's Black Triple Shot cold brew.
Type: Ready-to-drink | Size: Cans available in 8 ounces | Caffeine: 130 to 150 milligrams
Best High-End: Jot Ultra Coffee
Every bottle of Jot Ultra Coffee comes in a sleek box with an inscription that reads, "For those who take their coffee easy." The phrase perfectly captures this simple coffee concentrate. All you have to do is mix one tablespoon of Ultra Coffee with water or milk for a glass of delicious cold brew. It can also be used in recipes, blended into smoothies, or poured over ice cream for a decadent affogato.
Our team received a free sample of Jot Ultra Coffee and our reviewer praised its smooth taste and convenience. After mixing the concentrate with water, he found the flavor slightly sweet and devoid of any bitterness. He enjoyed it even more when paired with soy milk, which gave the coffee a richer body and added sweetness. His only caveat is that the brand's recommendation of 8 ounces of water or milk may dilute the flavor too much for some people. He found 6 ounces (plus ice) to be an ideal mix of flavor and cup size, but the ratio may change depending on customer preference.
Another bonus is that the item is travel-friendly, thanks to its small size and the fact it doesn't need to be refrigerated until after you open it. The brand sells its Original and Dark flavors separately or as a packaged duo. Jot Ultra Coffee also offers subscriptions to help save money, and each bottle yields 14 cups.
Type: Concentrate | Size: 6.8 ounces | Caffeine: 140-150 milligrams per tablespoon
"Jot Ultra Coffee isn't technically cold brew, as it's made via a unique extraction process, but it's so similar in taste and caffeine content that you won't notice a difference."
Best Coffee Concentrate: Califia Farms Concentrated Cold Brew Coffee
Many a grocery-store shopper has passed Califia Farms products. The company is quite prolific, selling everything from yogurt to plant-based milk and, of course, cold brew. We chose this coffee concentrate as the best in the category because of its value. Reviews are consistently positive, though, perhaps, not as glowing as some slightly more expensive brands. It has just two ingredients: coffee and water.
Expect to get eight servings out of each 32-ounce carton. Califia Farms recommends a 1-to-1 ratio, equal parts coffee concentrate and mixer of your choice. Pour it, mix it, sip it, and enjoy the smooth taste.
Type: Concentrate | Size: 32 ounces | Caffeine: 180 milligrams per cup
Best Latte: La Colombe Draft Latte
Draft lattes are coffee cousins to cold brew. The two are often cozily stocked side-by-side in grocery stores, and both are brewed without heat. One of the keys to achieving a draft latte's creaminess is the infusion of milk and nitrogen gas. It’s a middle ground for latte lovers and iced coffee drinkers.
The inventor of this milk-based beverage? None other than La Colombe Coffee Roasters. The beloved third-wave specialty roaster makes over ten different types of draft lattes. Some flavors are classics, like caramel and vanilla, while others, like Honeysuckle and Peppermint Mocha, are more adventurous. They also offer Oatmilk Draft Latte. The item is easy to find, often sold as individual cans in grocery stores or online in packs of 4, 12, 16, and 24.
Type: Draft latte | Size: 9 ounces | Caffeine: 120 milligrams (Double Shot flavor)
Best New Orleans-Style: Grady's Cold Brew New Orleans-Style Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate
Scan the cold brew aisles, and you'll quickly notice several cans, bottles, and jugs labeled "New Orleans-Style." This popular spin on the drink is surprisingly simple. The key ingredient is chicory root, a perennial plant with a nutty, somewhat bitter coffee taste. In fact, chicory has been used in coffee or as a coffee substitute for many years.
Grady’s Cold Brew specializes in this NOLA-style brewing method, steeping coffee grounds with chicory and a special blend of spices for 20 hours. Initially, the New York-based company only sold coffee concentrate. It has since expanded its line to include ready-to-drink bottles, as well as kits for making New Orleans-style cold brew at home.
These bottles of coffee concentrate can be purchased individually or as a six-pack case, with each bottle yielding eight servings of cold brew.
Type: Concentrate | Size: 32 ounces | Caffeine: 83 milligrams per 4-ounce serving
Best High Caffeine: Death Wish Coffee Cold Brew
Based in Saratoga Springs, New York, Death Wish Coffee is known for its line of highly caffeinated products, from coffee beans and K-cups to, now, cold brew. These 8-ounce cans contain 300 milligrams of caffeine each which is nearly triple the average cup of coffee.
There are two varieties to choose from: Slightly Sweetened Black and Unsweetened Black. Most customers give both high marks for flavor and, of course, the subsequent energy boost; however, its cost may also cause some jitters. Sold in packs of 12 and 24 cans, this cold brew is in a higher price range, similar to other boutique roasters, such as Stumptown and La Colombe. It won’t break the bank, but it may not be a cold brew to drink every single day if you're on a budget.
Type: Ready-to-drink | Size: 8 ounces | Caffeine: 300 milligrams per can
Best Nitro: Stumptown Nitro Cold Brew Coffee
It may sound like a laboratory concoction, but nitro cold brew is a unique experience that's worth trying for all coffee lovers. The brewing process is surprisingly simple and offers delicious results. Infuse cold brew coffee with nitrogen gas, and you get a beverage with a decadent body and a foamy head, similar to a pint of Guinness. Think iced coffee but creamy.
Stumptown, along with Cuvée Coffee, was an early pioneer of this tasty trend. The brand’s nitro cold brew remains one of the best around. Sold in 10.3-ounce pop-top cans, the coffee boasts a rich, chocolate finish. Prepare for a hearty buzz, as each can contains a whopping 330 milligrams of caffeine—more than three times the amount of a regular cup of coffee. Unfortunately, it’s more difficult to find this item than other cold brews on our list, but rest assured that the hunt is worth it in the end.
Type: Nitro | Size: 10.3 ounces | Caffeine: 330 milligrams per can
Best Spiked Cold Brew: Cafe Agave Spiked Cold Brew Coffee
Coffee and alcohol have long been partners in crime—just take a look at our favorite coffee cocktails. You can add one more delicious duo to the list with these spiked cold brews from Cafe Agave. Each of the four varieties pairs dark-roasted Arabica beans with agave wine, resulting in a drink that contains 42 milligrams of caffeine and an ABV of 12.5 percent. Flavors include Caffe Mocha, Salted Caramel, Vanilla Cinnamon, and Espresso Shot. Typically sold in packs of four, these canned cocktails aren't the easiest to track down, but they make for a wonderful summer drink or day drink.
Type: Ready-to-drink | Size: 6.3 ounces | Caffeine: 42 milligrams per can
Our top pick for a straight-up delicious bottled cold brew is Chameleon Cold-Brew Coffee Concentrate. The brand is already a go-to for many coffee lovers, and the concentrate allows buyers to personalize it with their favorite mixer. If you're looking for a large-capacity option you can drink over a few weeks, Wandering Bear offers cold brew boxes in various bulk sizes.
What to Look for in a Cold Brew Coffee
Early in the rise of cold brew, the term had a straightforward meaning: simple, cold-brewed black coffee. Today, there are endless flavors and many types to choose from, including Nitro, Concentrate, Triple-shot, and New Orleans-style. Knowing the types of cold brew you like or are interested in trying helps narrow down the selection process.
Cold brew coffee varies widely in price because it's packaged in many different forms. Multi-serving jugs are typically the most cost-effective form (unless you buy high-count packs of single cans), so those are the best bet for cold brew lovers on a budget.
What is cold brew coffee?
Cold brew is a type of coffee that's made without hot water. To produce the beverage, coffee grounds are either steeped in cold water for 12 to 24 hours—this method is known as immersion brewing—or cold water is slowly dripped through the grounds. This contrasts with regular iced coffee, which is brewed with hot water then refrigerated before serving.
What does cold brew taste like?
Cold brew differs in taste depending on the type of beans used and how it's prepared, but it's generally known for being sweeter, less bitter, and fuller in body than regular iced coffee. Cold brew often has subtle notes of milk chocolate. All of this makes it easier to drink without a sweetener or creamer compared to normal iced coffee.
Does cold brew have more caffeine than iced coffee?
Yes, on average an 8-ounce glass of cold brew has more caffeine than iced coffee. However, there's a common misconception that the brewing method itself makes cold brew more caffeinated. In fact, hot water extracts caffeine faster than cold water. The main reason cold brew provides a stronger jolt of caffeine is because it's brewed with a higher proportion of coffee grounds to water than other types of coffee. Caffeine levels in cold brew also vary because the concentrated form can be diluted with very different amounts of water. Think of cocktails: some bartenders use more liquor and less mixer than others, and vice versa.
What is nitro cold brew?
This is cold brew that's been infused with nitrogen gas. Why on earth would anyone do such a thing? Well, adding nitrogen gas to cold brew makes the beverage smoother and creamier. Nitro cold brew is frequently compared to a pint of Guinness because of its lushness and the easily identifiable the foamy head of crema on top. It often has a higher caffeine content than regular cold brew and other types of coffee because there's less water in it to dilute the cold brew.
What is cold brew concentrate?
When we buy cold brew at the coffee shop, it's ready to drink right away. Cold brew concentrate, on the other hand, is meant to be diluted with milk or water before drinking. It gives you more control and flexibility, as you can adjust the strength to your taste. The difference depends on the ratio of coffee grounds to water used when brewing. A mixture of one part coffee grounds to four parts water (1:4) is commonly used for cold brew concentrate, while a 1:8 ratio should produce cold brew that's ready to drink as soon as it's finished steeping.
Can you heat up cold brew?
Absolutely! Cold brew is of course prepared without heat, but after that it can be enjoyed hot or iced. Heating cold brew doesn't change the delicious, low-acid experience. The easiest way to heat it is by simply popping it in the microwave. Another idea is to mix cold brew concentrate with hot water.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Derek Rose is the coffee and tea expert for The Spruce Eats. He researches a variety of coffee products, from measuring scoops to commercial espresso machines, and interviews field experts for their insight. To inform these picks, he read customer reviews and third-party articles, as well as the brewing process for a variety of brands.