I’m a cold brew iced coffee nut. I make it at home and drink it year round, even on the chilliest of winter days, when my hands will go numb from clutching it on a walk to the train. I’m not a cold brew snob, per se, but I don’t really want to mess with iced coffee if it isn’t prepared that way. (For those unfamiliar, the cold brew method consists of steeping coffee grounds in water for roughly 12 hours and then filtering it out.)
I’m accustomed to the smooth, less acidic taste resulting from the cold brew, having grown up drinking it in New Orleans, where iced coffee has always been cold brewed — and back then, it wasn’t even designated “cold brew,” because there wasn’t a need to differentiate it.
In the past few years, in New York and other major cities, cold brew iced coffee has become much more ubiquitous. Once only available at boutique coffee shops, it’s now bottled and canned and stocked at grocery stores, and national chains like Starbucks have begun adding it to their menus. Just this month, Dunkin’ Donuts, jumped on the cold brew caravan, offering it nationwide.
I don’t feel precious about cold brew’s New Orleans origins; I’m happy that it’s becoming more and more available elsewhere, because that means more opportunities for me to drink it.
There are some who feel precious about Dunkin’ Donuts, however, which I did not grow up with. I think the first time I even learned it existed was when I saw Ben Affleck drinking (hot coffee) from its signature styrofoam cups in Good Will Hunting. As a 12 year old, I felt very sentimental about that movie (“It’s not your fault!”), but next to nothing about the Dunkin’ product placement.
In general, DD’s offerings don’t really do it for me; iced coffee-wise, I have drunk the watery swill on a handful of occasions, usually on a road trip when I need to wake up and that’s the nearest available roadside caffeine. I find it mediocre, but not completely undrinkable.
When I heard that Dunkin’ had added cold brew to their menu, I was casually curious about it: mainly, I wondered if it would actually taste better than their standard iced, if it would cost significantly less than it does at BK coffee shops, and if it would take off in popularity. I didn’t have any other feelings about it, unlike Eater writer Lindsey Weber, who thinks that cold brew at Dunkin’ is sociological sacrilege:
“Dunkin’ iced coffee, the milk and sugar kind, is iced coffee for the people,” she writes. “Like craft beer is to Bud Light, cold brew is a whole different breed of coffee; it is to Dunkin’ what skinny jeans were to Old Navy fifteen years ago.”
Last Thursday, at around 3pm, when I was in need of an afternoon pick me up, I decided to walk on over to my neighborhood location at Fulton and Franklin and try it out. Here’s what I learned:
Taste: Not bad! It’s definitely smoother and more flavorful than DD’s iced coffee. It lacked the bitter bite and stale aftertaste that characterizes the hot poured over ice. As far as the spectrum of cold brews go, I’d say it’s average. (I have not tried Starbucks’; for a comparison, see this taste test from writers at Mic.) But, about half way through drinking, it did become watered down. Dunkin’ could go a little easier on the ice.
Pricing: It’s not much cheaper than your boutique coffee shop prices. A small, 16 oz comes to $3.36 after tax, only $.14 less than the cold brew at Daily Press Coffee Shop, which tastes better and is located just a couple doors down on Franklin Ave.
What do customers and counter-workers have to say? Not much. When I attempted to get a quote from the guy behind me in line, who had also ordered the cold brew, he deflected my question by asking me on a date. The baristas weren’t interested in talking to me; they said that they were very busy, as was the manager.
Will I order it again? Eh. In NYC, there are better choices at roughly the same price. But if I find myself on the road again and in need of a pick me up, and my only options are a DD cold brew or gas station hot coffee, it’ll be Dunkin’ all the way.
Cold brew iced coffee enthusiasts: have you tried Dunkin’ Donuts’ cold brew? Let us know your cold takes in the comments.
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