4 Tasty Grab-and-Go Iced Coffees

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Looking for the best portable cold brew coffee? [Photos: Liz Clayton]

We don't know about you, but it's getting awfully hot in here. And while we're all for brewing up your own iced coffee at home, there's good news in the ready-to-drink iced coffee world as well. Cold brew methods for bottled coffee are getting more innovative—and delicious. Here are a few of the season's best new contenders.

Blue Bottle Coffee Roasters New Orleans Style Cold Brew

Taste: Sweet treat
Ingredients: Coffee, milk, chicory, cane syrup.

As cold-brew news goes, this one may be the biggest. The introduction of a packaged version of Blue Bottle's long-loved New Orleans Cold Brew—a chicory-tweaked, served-sweet, milk-softened version of one of the cafe chain's two cold brew offerings—will likely be a game changer for both its fans and the Oakland-based international company. The organic beverage, served in an adorably simple kid-style milk carton, was introduced earlier this year in West Coast Blue Bottle shops, and, recently, Whole Foods Market. While it creeps slowly eastward, get ready for the company's continued world domination.

It tastes a little less intense than the in-cafe version to me, but ultimately, the flavor is as sweet as the packaging: none-too-coffee-heavy, but way easy to drink. I'm guessing we're going to see this in the lunchboxes of precocious kids named Brooklyn and Sebastian nationwide soon, because it's basically a way cooler bottled Frappuccino. And unlike other packaged cold brews from small roasters, there's no added step of attenuating your drink with milk and sugar. Just yank this little treat off the shelf and drink.

Available for about $4 for a 10.66-ounce carton from Blue Bottle cafes and Whole Foods Market stores on the West coast, with more regions to come soon.

Black Medicine Iced Coffee

Taste: Rich, intense, chocolaty, smooth
Ingredients: Coffee, vitamin C

Another entry from the Bay area is Black Medicine, a recent-to-market iced coffee served in 11-ounce aluminum bottles that boasts "pressure brewing"—not cold brew—technology. As with most iced coffees, the type of coffee used is not specified (they tend to be blends, managed through the season to maintain an ice-friendly flavor profile), but the target here is clearly a rich, intense chocolaty flavor that would pair well with the dairy of your choice.

What's pressure brewing? The company won't say exactly, but they laud the benefits of hot-brewed extraction (more fullness of flavor without bitterness or flatness from some cold brew methods) along with, they claim, an increase in caffeine content. That said, it's not a concentrate, just an intensely flavored cold coffee with its own inherent sweetness and clean finish. And....vitamin C, for some reason. As iced coffees go, this is more bold than nuanced in flavor, but we applaud them for their ingenuity and beach-ready bottling.

Available for $3.50 for a single 12-ounce bottle, or $80 for a 24-pack.

Coffer Cold Brew Coffee

Taste: Refreshing and slightly sweet
Ingredients: Coffee, raw cane sugar, yeast

Another new entry in the refrigerator case is Austin, Texas-based brewer Coffer, the self-proclaimed "world's first naturally carbonated cold brew coffee". Coffer's inventors have jumped onto the fermentation craze to deliver this highly-decorative 12 ounce glass bottle (looks like beer, and they made coozies for it, too!) of fizzy, refreshing cold brew.

It's a fine example of coffee soda: the mix of sugar and yeast that carbonate Coffer elicit a subtle, gentle drink. It's harder to identify the inherent notes in the original coffee, but you chose this because it's delightfully fizzy coffee—which stays, by the way, just as delightful with a splash of milk. Still available only regionally, we're looking forward to seeing how Coffer perfects their flavor profiles as well as their fermentation technique before taking the nation by effervescent storm.

See website for availability.

Slingshot Ready-to-Drink Cold Brew

Taste: Just like actual coffee, naturally sweet with a good body
Ingredients: Coffee

Of this year's picks, Slingshot's not the newest on the block. Since 2012, the Durham, NC-based company's been serving up fine bottled cold brew versions of locally roasted Counter Culture Coffee, in both ready-to-drink and concentrate varieties. No doubt fueled by both a close relationship with Counter Culture and a thriving local food-maker community, Slingshot's been able to gain a strong foothold with its carefully chosen coffees that lend themselves towards good flavor expression and soft, easy sweetness when brewed cold. We tried a Colombian-based brew, which was full of flavor, but a little short on the body and dimension of a hot-brewed coffee—such is the uphill climb of cold brewing, though many prefer the tempered acidity and mildness of this method. That said, it's delicious over ice, and with or without the dairy of your choice.

Available online for $12 for a pack of two 16-ounce bottles.

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