As the wilting summer heat finally arrives in Chicago many of us will be seeking liquid strength in a glass of iced coffee. In fact, last year marked the first time U.S. restaurants cranked out more than 1 billion servings of the stuff in a year, according to the market researcher NPD Group.
In recent years cafes and even fast food joints have upped their game on the cool jolty beverage. And so have home brewers and bottlers. But how do you know which iced coffee is right for you? A few years ago I buzzed around the city trying and rating the city’s chain iced coffees and here’s how that panned out.
But some high-profile, high-end cold brews have also recently rolled into town. The WBEZ newsroom staff recently taste-tested a group of them (then worked at twice our normal speed) to help you make the best choice. Here’s how they ranked:
1. Metropolis Kyoto style cold brew $2.95-$3.75 (comments: super strong but delicious, rich with molasses notes, straight to my head, so good, too sharp) *
2. Stumptown Cold Brew $3.25 (comments: soy flavored, delicious, like coffee iced cream with cream)
3. Monica Eng’s home brewed cold brew (comments: mild, best one, tastes fine, chocolatey smooth, weak but OK, drinkable) (I use the Toddy/jar method described here)
4. Stumptown Nitro Cold Brew $3.95 (comments: mild, nice milky foam top, molasses, tasty with nice bitterness)
5. Dark Matter Chocolate City $3.25 (comments: pickled, never again, rough aftertaste, too acid, tastes like Asian sauce, taste is green ).
6. Zingerman’s Coffee Company $3.75 (comments: smooth unremarkable, weak and watery, weak medium roast, like old vegetables).
Stay cool and happy sipping.
*The Metropolis Kyoto cold brew we tried was made from a home brewed Kyoto concentrate that Metropolis barrista trainer, Justin Doggett, makes on his own machine and does not sell yet. Sorry. Until he does, Doggett says the closest you can get is the Kyoto style cold brew coffee currently at Metropolis.
Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at @monicaeng or write to her at email@example.com