Update! Big news, cold brew lovers: After a highly successful regional launch in the spring, Starbucks’ Cold Brew will now be a permanent menu item in all its stores nationwide.
WHAT IS IT: Starbucks’ new Cold Brew Iced Coffee
WHO TRIED IT: Rennie Dyball, PEOPLE.com senior editor, @renniedyball
WHY WE DID IT: Iced coffee doesn’t need a reason.
“Hi! Can I write about how much I LOOOOOOOVVVVVVE Starbucks’ new small batch cold brew?”
That’s the email I wrote to my Great Ideas colleagues last week—clearly caffeinated and eager to share the joy of this new coffee with our readers.
I’ve been drinking it for a couple weeks now and I’m even more convinced that Starbucks Cold Brew is the best iced coffee out there—even better than other cold brews. What makes it so special?
Two things you should know first: One, I’m not just falling for good marketing here. The poster featuring iced coffee being poured into a sweaty mason jar at the front of my local store is certainly appealing, but this isn’t another Flat White situation (sorry, Starbucks, but personally, I think it’s just a latte with good p.r.).
Two, I am a former barista and a year-round iced coffee drinker. I have it on good authority that Anderson Cooper is too, by the way.
But this particular brew is easily the best I’ve ever tried, and luckily, it’s landed on the permanent menu in 2,800 stores. It’s got everything I love about iced coffee, intensified: it’s colder, smoother and creamier than your typical cup.
You may be asking how one iced coffee can be colder than another. I am actually wondering the same thing, but I operate in words, not science. Drinking regular iced coffee vs. this cold brew is like the difference between drinking a cold beer and an ice-cold beer. You take a sip and it feels like your tongue and the inside of your mouth stay chilled for longer — like a cool breeze that ripples through you. I can’t wait to have it on a really hot summer day.
It’s also decidedly smoother than typical iced coffees. This particular Starbucks blend is designed to be served cold. Baristas grind and scoop small batches into delicate filters where the grounds are saturated with cool water instead of the traditional hot and then left to steep for 20 hours. Michelle Sundquist, a longtime member of the brand’s research and development team (she helped create my new obsession), tells PEOPLE, “Unlike traditional iced coffee, time replaces heat to extract the coffee, which allows it to develop a naturally sweeter taste and a smooth finish.”
A typical Starbucks iced coffee and plenty of other brands are made by double-brewing hot coffee and placing it in a refrigerator for many hours, bringing the temperature down and then pouring over ice. (Some other establishments simply pour hot coffee over ice and call it iced coffee. I don’t have enough room in this article to explain all that’s wrong with that method.) Due to the more labor-intensive process of making cold brew — and the fact that twice as much coffee is used to make it — it will run you about 60 cents more than regular Starbucks iced coffee.
Finally, there is a chocolate-y, creamy finish to this coffee that I haven’t found anywhere else — not even in other cold-brewed iced coffees. And if you add a little milk and sugar like I do, the coffee takes on almost a milkshake-like taste, but without the guilt (just 5 calories unsweetened). Starbucks, you nailed it this time.
Have you tried Starbucks’ new Cold Brew? Do you think it’s the best around? Tell us in the comments below.