It’s nearly impossible to ignore the increasing popularity of cold brew coffee. What was once a niche specialty among hipster baristas and coffee connoisseurs is now a growing trend sweeping our nation’s biggest coffee chains. Recently, Dunkin Donuts announced that they’ve added cold brew to their menu, and Starbucks added it in the last few years. Now that these two coffee giants carry cold brew (while supplies last daily), we thought we’d see how their drinks compare.
Before we get into what we thought of each drink, it’s important to distinguish the difference between cold brew and other coffees. Cold brew coffee means that the coffee grounds have been steeped (usually overnight) to produce a concentrate that is then diluted with water or milk. This is different from traditional iced coffee, which is coffee that is brewed hot, and then poured over ice to be served chilled. The process of cold brew never allows the coffee grounds to come in contact with high temperatures, thus affecting the chemical composition of the final product. Typically, this means lower acidity and less caffeine.
After the staff sampled both cold brew options, the favorite was hands-down Starbucks. We don't consider ourselves to be caffeine snobs or experts on the subject, but it didn’t take a refined palate to pick one brew over the other. The Starbucks cold brew has that signature flavor profile that marries bitter and sweet notes, but still carries a strong kick. The Dunkin Donuts drink had a blander, flatter flavor. It reminded us more of coffee that had been brewed, left out overnight, and chilled rather than a true glass of cold brew. No matter the method, there was a unanimous preference to the Starbucks cold brew.
One of cold brew coffee’s biggest criticisms though is how expensive it is. After our Starbucks and Dunkin tastings, we think you’re better off saving your money by making it at home. While the process seems a bit intimidating for beginners, and you’ll need to prepare it the night before, it will save you a pretty penny without sacrificing that great cold brew flavor. Plus, it’s way less complicated than you think. Stick to your regular order next time you're at Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts—the cold brew just isn't worth it.