Cold Brew Coffee Showdown Updated* 7.14.14

Sarah and I have become obsessed with cold brew coffee over the past year and a half. It started with having it for the first time at

Hummingbird Cafe / OB Business Center in Ocean Beach, San Diego. We quickly got a Toddy device to make our own at home and started experimenting.

If you are not familiar with the magical science that is cold brewing, brought to Japan by the Dutch in the early 17th century, it never heats up the ground beans creating a different flavor profile with much lower acidity. To me this makes it sweeter, but also softer, less nuanced, easier to enjoy cold on a super hot day. Really a different process than taking the same beans and adding hot water, releasing loads of acidity but also fruit, caramel and spice flavors that will not be found in a cold brew.

Also because of the method it is quite a bit stronger than regular coffee and should usually be diluted with water, coconut milk, etc. Usually.

Making it yourself is not that hard but it takes up a ton of fridge space and well c'mon. How much stuff am I going to make from scratch? Plus, I found there is a ton of companies making cold brew right now and Sarah and I have been sampling them over the past few months. Really getting them on a whim when at the store, but they're not cheap and thought it was time to figure out which one was the best bang for the buck.

I will preface by saying that the brands featured are available at my local Whole Foods in San Diego, CA so more or less in  a broad market. My personal favorite is Dark Horse Coffee from Normal Heights, San Diego. You probably have a similar shop, doing similarly wonderful things in your area.

All the coffees were blind tasted by the panel consisting of Pete, Sarah and our brother and sister in law Jenny and Mitch. An esteemed group I'm sure.

With that said, here were our contenders:

1.Seaworth Single Fin Sludge - Costa Mesa, CA Price Per Oz .29 cents (concentrate)

A surprising burst of tomatoes and stewed peaches when you give this one a swirl. Very complex for a cold brew coffee.  Very smooth and refreshing, the palate is equally complex, with roasted nuts and stewed fruit on the finish. The top pick running away.

2. Chameleon Cold Brew - Austin, TX Price per oz .37 cents (concentrate)

Nose was sweet with dried apricot and toast.  It had a clear flat coca cola appearance. The palate was smooth, and roasty but could have been a bit stronger. Overall, these guys have been around for longer than most in a young game and make a great product. It is sold as a concentrate so can be made stronger or lighter depending on preference.

3. Secret Squirrel - Los Angeles, CA Price per oz .29 cents

Well the last one looked like flat cola and this one smells like it. Caramel aromas and colors, bit of aged tobacco as well on the nose. Unfortunately this one was just really astringent. The palate was very thin, and acidic. Not what you expect from cold brew. I have had their concentrate as well and it was weightier for sure, but still had a motor oil astringency.

4. Stumptown Coffee Roasters - Portland, OR Price Per Oz .38 cents

The nose on this one is beautiful with nutmeg, allspice and chocolate. The flavor though was again lacking. I thought it had a "last cup of the carafe" kind of taste. But Sarah has dubbed this one "stone cold,neutral smooth." So not good, not bad, definitely not great, and definitely not cheap.

5. Groundwork - Los Angeles, CA Price Per Oz .29 cents

Ok this one was just not good from start to finish. First, I'm pretty sure to positive it's French Press coffee, chilled. It is cloudy and has all the same burnt flavors and tastes of cold french press coffee. Anyone with a press knows exactly what I'm talking about because you have put leftover in the fridge for "iced" coffee later only to be disappointed by the bitter cloudy mess  we would taste later. Groundwork has bottled that up for sale.

Ok, we are going to be up for awhile over hear at Pete's Paleo HQ, thanks for reading.


After reading our post, Trevor from Secret Squirrel reached out and couldn't have been more concerned. He expressed some issues they were having and that he was sorry to hear that it had turned into some less than stellar product in our opinion. I picked up another bottle of Secret Squirrel concentrate today, it was in a new bottle, with a drink by date on the top and overall tasted much fresher and more like the original Secret Squirrel we had tried.

Kudos to Trevor for A. fixing the issue but more importantly B. reaching out to try and make it right. We have been in similar circumstances more often than we try to let happen at Pete's Paleo, and know it can be tough to swallow your pride, but not when all you care about is the customer. Thanks for reading. Cheers,


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