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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 from convenience stores to your local coffee shop (possibly even on tap). If you prefer making the beverage at home from scratch, there is a multitude of affordable and easy-to-use cold brew coffee makers out there. But for those interested in pre-made convenience, we've researched the best options for bottled cold brew 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 Austin, Texas-based company sells a variety of tasty products, which it sorts into three categories. Our favorite is the Coffee Concentrate—an extra flavorful form of cold brew, meant to be mixed with water, milk, or creamer. The other options are On-The-Go, which contains single-serving bottles of cold brew, and Pour & Enjoy, the brand's 46-ounce jugs made for keeping around the house.
For those who do go the coffee concentrate route, Chameleon offers seven flavors, ranging from a steadfast Black Coffee to a striking Cinnamon Vanilla. Every variety is sugar free, packed with 200 milligrams of caffeine, and sold in 32-ounce glass jars. 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.
Best Budget: STōK Cold-Brew Coffee
Anyone new to cold brew will be happy to hear that the drink is less acidic than normal coffee and, usually, smoother and more flavorful than iced coffee. All this comes from its unique brewing process. As the name implies, hot water is never used to make cold brew; the grounds are simply steeped in cold water anywhere from 12 to 24 hours.
STōK (pronounced “stoke”) is a terrific brand for cold brew beginners, as well as those trying not to toss too much coin 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 the taste buds. The company's two most popular varieties are Un-Sweet and Not Too Sweet, but there many more to choose from, including flavored options like Vanilla, Mocha, and Pumpkin to drinks packed with protein for an extra boost.
One detail to keep in mind, however, is that, depending on the variety, STōK products often contain a lot of sugar, especially for cold brew coffee. A 13.7-ounce bottle of Not Too Sweet, for example, has 16 grams of sugar—a figure that catches many customers off guard. Caffeine levels also vary, ranging from 95 to 195 milligrams, which is typical for bottled cold brew.
Runner-Up, Best Budget: High Brew Cold Brew Coffee
Those 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 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 may be 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 Texas-born brand apart is its impressive array of flavors. Black & Bold, a sugar-free option with a traditional coffee taste, is a great starting point. Then there are unique varieties like Salted Caramel and Bourbon Vanilla Latte. Most flavors contain between 130 and 150 milligrams of caffeine, and the more daring can try High Brew's triple-shot coffees.
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 to, of course, cold brew. We chose this coffee concentrate as the best in the category because of its all-around value. Reviews are consistently positive—though, perhaps, not as glowing as some slightly more expensive brands—and the nutrition facts are in line with what cold brew fanatics like to see: 10 calories per serving, no sugar, and no extra ingredients (just coffee and water here).
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 180-milligram punch of caffeine.
Best Latte: La Colombe Draft Latte
Draft lattes are coffee cousins with 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 that the milk is often infused with 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. The beloved third-wave roaster makes 10 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 oat milk lattes for those who are dairy free. The item is easy to find, often sold as individual cans in grocery stores or online in packs of 4, 12, 16, and 24.
Best Large Capacity: Wandering Bear Extra Strong Organic 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—32, 72, 96, and 128 ounces—and the brand says 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, especially for flavor, but some note a slightly bitter taste; if need be, the cold brew can be mixed with milk or creamer to smooth things out. One last point to keep in mind is that the cost per serving falls into an average price range. It is by no means an expensive cold brew, but some might be thrown off thinking that the large capacity means big savings.
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 a number of 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 taste, naturally similar to coffee. 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. The company, based in the Bronx, New York, initially only sold coffee concentrate but has expanded its line to include ready-to-drink bottles, as well as kits for making New Orleans-style cold brew at home.
The cold brew concentrate is sugar free and sold in 16 and 32-ounce glass bottles. Customers generally describe the flavor as rich and bold, adding that it’s not bitter in the slightest. Grady’s recommends a 1-1 ratio, even parts coffee and your choice of water, milk, or creamer.
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 to K-cups to, now, cold brew. These 8-ounce cans contain 300 milligrams of caffeine each, roughly double a regular cup of coffee. Several online reviewers use the same succinct phrase to describe the drink: "rocket fuel."
There are two varieties to choose from: Slightly Sweetened Black, which is 35 calories and has 5 grams of sugar, and Unsweetened Black, a sugar-free, 15-calorie alternative. The majority of customers give both varieties high marks for flavor and, of course, the subsequent energy boost; however, the item’s price may also cause some jitters. Sold in packs of 4, 12, and 24 cans, this cold brew is in a higher price range, similar to other boutique roasters, like Stumptown and La Colombe. It won’t break the bank, but it may not be a cold brew to drink every single day.
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 the results are delicious: Infuse cold-brewed 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, and the brand’s nitro cold brew remains one of the best around. Sold in 10.3-ounce pop-top cans, the coffee is steeped for 12 hours and boasts a rich, chocolate finish. It's sugar free and has only 5 calories, but prepare for a hearty buzz, as each can contains a whopping 330 milligrams of caffeine—two to three times more than a normal 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.
Best Hard 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 40 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 tipsy cans aren't the easiest to track down, but they make for a wonderful summer drink or day drink.
Our top pick for a straight-up delicious bottled cold brew is Chameleon Cold-Brew Coffee Concentrate (view at Amazon). The brand is already a go-to for many coffee lovers, and the concentrate allows buyers to personalize it with their favorite mixer. Those looking for a less expensive option will enjoy the many varieties offered by STōK Cold Brew Coffee (view at Amazon).
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. Now there are many types to choose from. Nitro. Concentrate. Triple-shot. Protein-packed. New Orleans-style. Not to mention the endless array of flavors. Knowing the types of cold brew you like or are interested in trying helps narrow down the selection process.
The majority of cold brews contain just two tried-and-true ingredients: coffee and water. If a cold brew has multiple ingredients, however, make sure it has a good reason to. For example, a New Orleans-Style cold brew includes chicory and, often, other spices, so it passes our buying tip. Other examples might lead to a sugary, less healthy form of the drink.
Cold brew 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.
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 and nutrition facts of a variety of brands.