A Taste of Specialty Bottled Iced Coffees

A Taste of Specialty Bottled Iced Coffees

In our previous posts we looked at take-out style iced coffee and nationally branded iced coffee in bottles and cans. Now let’s take a peek at what we consider “Specialty” (indicating a higher quality standard) bottled iced coffee.

The ready-to-drink coffee trend has been growing over the past few years, with more and more brands finding avenues to get their versions to the masses. While companies like Starbucks have been doing canned and bottled coffee drinks for years, one of the more notable recent products was the Stumptown “Stubby” cold brew. Along with Stumptown’s (a Portland, OR coffee roaster) recent growth and expansion, their bottled cold brew distribution has spread across most of the country in select stores such as Whole Foods.

You might ask “Why this is a big deal?” which can simply be answered by thinking of the raw product. Specialty coffee is indicating a high quality raw product, which should in turn indicate a high quality finished product (if the roasting and production follow suit). With the introduction of the “Stubby” cold brew, and subsequent offerings from similar companies, a new type of ready to drink coffee has been introduced to the masses. In theory at least, it is giving more of the identity of the coffee. Sounds pretty awesome, right?

Now for the bad news…

Coffee is a rather volatile product. When brewed with hot water it is commonly considered that the integrity will degrade within an hour or two at maximum. Even coffee brewed with cold water has a longevity of a week or two depending on its storage.


We didn’t drink this, FYI…

Specialty has specifically focused on freshness and maximizing quality aspects of coffee, and the ability to preserve those things has only advanced so far. Therefore, our recommendation is to buy these products fresh and local whenever possible. Mail ordering fresh cold brew with the right packaging works as well, but adds a bit of cost.

In the following reviews, we have a few localized brews and a few widely available retail options. As this trend continues we will see more and more specialty bottled options gain footing.

This tasting is just the first of many that we plan on doing, especially with many of the best options being available in local markets. When you get a great cold brew you are in for a real treat. It is tasty, cost effective, and simple. So without further ado, let’s look at what we tasted!




Chameleon Espresso Coffee Cold-Brew

Available at Whole Foods Markets

Chameleon Espresso Coffee


Comes in an easy to open twist cap bottle. This is a ready to drink option, which we tasted straight with no ice or dilution

The aroma is intense and a little sharp. Though it is called “espresso” the body is fairly light, almost thin at points, but overall chocolatey and smooth. Some hints of grain and fruit lingered in the aftertaste. This is a sugary quality that is pleasant, countered by roast coffee bitterness in the background. Overall it is a subtle coffee that doesn’t stand out in a good or bad way. It just is.

Would Pete chug it?

“I mean I could… But it’s going to take some convincing.”

PT’s Coffee Sulawesi Tana Toraja AA Kyoto-style brew

Currently available only at PT’s Coffee locations around Kansas City

PTs Bottled Sulawesi

Comes in a pop cap bottle (so make sure you have a bottle opener). This is a ready to drink option, which we tasted straight with no ice or dilution

The aroma is a little intense and earthy. This coffee has a serious body, coating the tongue. There is a lot of baker’s chocolate and cocoa in the aftertaste, sticking with you for quite a while. There is a punch of acidity up front, like tart grapefruit and cranberry, though it evens out as you drink more. In the end this is an intense coffee experience, with a shift of flavor going from tart to dark chocolate. Was better drinking from the bottle than pouring into a glass.

Would Pete chug it?

“I’m pretty sure my brain would explode from the intensity. Much more of a sipping drink.”

Stumptown Cold Brew – Original “Stubby”

Available from Whole Foods Markets

Stumptown Stubby

Comes in a twist cap bottle. A little tight to open by hand, but doable. This is a ready to drink option, which we tasted straight with no ice or dilution.

There was little to no aroma in this one, so let’s move on. The body was quite full and rich, getting just a little flat on the center of the tongue. Tannic dryness followed, lingering on the palate. A very bright cold brew! It was tart and citric up front, getting more sour as it sat. Not overly sweet, but a medium intensity fruit and malt were present. Very low bitterness overall, mostly showing as tannins and cacao.

Would Pete chug it?

“It’s fine. I guess… Do I have to?”

PT’s Coffee Cold Brew – Cold Front

Currently available only at PT’s Coffee locations around Kansas City

PTs Bottled Cold Front

Comes in a pop cap bottle (so make sure you have a bottle opener). This is a ready to drink option, which we tasted straight with no ice or dilution.

The aroma is sweet and nutty, which encourages a drink. The body is nicely smooth, adding a pleasing texture to the experience. There is some “zingy” brightness, like complex citrus fruit. That citrus is backed up by a moderate milk chocolate sweetness and countered by tingly pine and hop-like bitters. The flavor shifts often, staying complex and interesting. Was better drinking from a glass rather than straight from the bottle.

Would Pete chug it?

“Yeah… I could get into this. Like after mowing the lawn on a hot day.”

Grady’s Cold Brew – New Orleans Style*

Find a retail location at http://www.gradyscoldbrew.com/locations

Grady's Bottled Cold Brew

Comes as concentrate in a large medicine bottle. We tasted it diluted 1:1 with cold water over ice, as per directions on bottle. *This brew contains chicory and “spices”.

The aroma is sweet and pleasing, though not terribly descript. The body is full and heavy, though it may depend on how much you dilute it. In the aftertaste we found nutmeg and chicory, with warming spices lingering lightly, which is probably from ingredients rather than the coffee itself. Soft hints of acidity and herbs are up front, with sweet coconut coming through rich and heavy. The bitterness is low, the chicory and spices add loads of complexity without creating a major bitter element. This is a very smooth and easy drinking coffee.

Would Pete chug it?

“Yes. In fact, I’m feeling like an addict right now. Is there a cold-brew rehab?”

Coffee Hound – Cold Brew

Currently available only at Coffee Hound locations in Illinois

Coffee Hound Bottled Cold Brew

Comes as concentrate in a 32oz growler bottle. We tasted it diluted 1:1 with cold water over ice, as per directions on bottle.

Right away this brew smelled like fresh roasted coffee and brownies. Quite strong aromatically. The body was full, smooth, and quite satisfying. It lingered sweet, delicate, and lightly on the palate. A clear acidity shows with restraint at the very front of the palate, and quickly rolls into sweet chocolate. Semisweet chocolate and graham cracker are prevalent throughout the drinking experience. Overall this was a very clean, sweet, and nuanced cold brew. Very drinkable.

Would Pete chug it?

“I might have just chugged this glass… Don’t judge me!”

In conclusion, we had varying experiences with the ready to drink cold brews that we tasted. There are a lot of ready to drink options out there, and we will keep tasting them for new posts in the future! If you have a favorite bottled coffee you would like us to try, please let us know!

1 Comment

  1. Check out Secret Squirrel…one of my favorites from those that I’ve tried!


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