Prized for its ability to both cool and caffeinate, iced coffee is a warm-weather ritual. Ready-to-drink single-serving versions are perfect for when you’re on the go, but which will you choose—traditional iced coffee or the increasingly popular cold brew? I teamed up with sommelier and beverage director of B&B Hospitality Group Las Vegas, Kirk Peterson, a fellow coffee addict and Vegas Seven contributing wine writer, to taste (and smell) a sampling of both styles to help you filter through the choices.
But first, a little coffee clarification: Cold Brew (CB) is created by steeping ground coffee in room-temperature water for 12-plus hours. The result is typified by unadulterated coffee flavors and aromas, and less acidity. Iced Coffee (IC) is hot, brewed coffee that is cooled instantly cooled to retain its acidity and is sometimes blended with flavor enhancers, resulting in a tasty, often sweet and milky beverage.
If you’re more of a frappuccino fan and prefer your coffee softened with sweetness, go more for the traditional iced-coffee. Drink cold brew if you enjoy a well-crafted coffee-flavored coffee, tend to enjoy your coffee unadulterated by cream and sugar, or are worried about your hipster street cred.
Chameleon Espresso Coffee (CB)
A medium-bodied black coffee, Chameleon is round, supple and smooth, with Swiss Miss cocoa-like qualities and a mellow finish.
$4, 10 oz., Whole Foods.
Illy Issimo Caffè No Sugar (IC)
From Italian coffee company Illy comes an outstanding, bold taste with all the qualities of freshly brewed espresso: velvety texture, measured earthiness, balanced bitterness and a smidge of caramel. $2.70,
6.8 oz., Whole Foods.
Stumptown Original (CB)
This Portland, Oregon-based coffee roasters’ original brew is ever so slightly reminiscent of instant coffee crystals. Quite angular and with high acidity for cold brew, the lightly roasted style brew offers aromas of bell pepper and oversteeped tea. $4, 10.5 oz., Fresh & Easy.
Bob Marley’s One Drop Coffee (IC)
Made from Jamaican beans, the taste is creamy, sweet and smooth, with subtle vanilla and cane sugar flavors. $2.30, 11 oz., Sprouts.
Kohana Sweet Black (CB)
Delicate and faintly sweetened (with monk fruit), this coffee has aromas of caramel, walnut and banana. A seemingly complete lack of tannins makes it soft and easy to drink. $2.80, 11 oz., Whole Foods.
UCC Original With Milk (IC)
Japan’s original coffee in a can is light, sweet, milky, slightly bitter and charming in its simplicity. $3, 11 oz., Greenland Supermarket.
High Brew Double Espresso (CB)
Boldly flavored with medium acidity and a touch of condensed milk, making for a creamy and generous coffee reminiscent of chocolate milk and butterscotch. $2.50, 8 oz., Glaziers.
Lucky Jack Old School (CB)
The Las Vegas-based coffee company delivers a lightly effervescent brew that recalls the aroma of a fresh-brewed pot of classic diner Joe with good body, mild acidity and minimal bitterness. $2.30, 10.5 oz., Glaziers.