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Taste Test Thursday: Cold Brews

All the cold brews under one roof. (photography by Carol Shih)
All the cold brews under one roof. (photography by Carol Shih)

There’s nothing worse in life than ordering an iced coffee and watching the barista pour hot coffee over ice.

Nothing. Worse.

The coffee just becomes watery and, basically, you’ve spent $3-$4 on bittery cold water. Your wallet hates you for it. In fact, it wants to break up with you.

That’s why cold brews are the bombshell. The coffee beans are soaked in [room temp or chilled] water for a long time, steeped, and then transforms into a perfect summer drink. For this week’s fun, we’ve chosen six different cold brews from local coffee shops in Dallas: Weekend Coffee; Mudsmith; Ascension; Pearl Cup; Hospitality Sweet; and the newest one, Sip Stir Cafe.

We ordered all our cold brews without ice, and then we let them settle inside our office fridge so we could drink them all at the same temperature. Jump if you want to find out the results of our taste test.

The set up
The set up

THE ICED COFFEES

A. Weekend Coffee
B. Mudsmith
C. Ascension
D. The Pearl Cup (Henderson location)
E. The Hospitality Sweet (downtown location)
F. Sip Stir Cafe

THE TASTE TESTERS

Zac Crain, Tim Rogers, Bradford Pearson, Christine Perez, Todd Johnson, Ricky Ferrer, and Ryan Conner. All of them are hotshots.

WHAT THEY SAID

A. Weekend Coffee

Taster 1 – nutty and a little sweet; soft finish
Taster 2 – Bittersweet. Actually tasted like coffee I’d drink.
Taster 3 – Chocolate tones, a litterl bitter but in a good way
Taster 4 – Acidic with a little flavor reward at the end
Taster 5 – metallic
Taster 6 – strongest
Taster 7 – too bitter

B. Mudsmith

Taster 1 – citrus on the palate; clean and easy to drink
Taster 2 – Tastes like old tea
Taster 3 – Smooth, but I like a littler more bite
Taster 4 – Smoother than A
Taster 5 – Acceptable
Taster 6 – Thin, fruity
Taster 7 – Smooth, but a little weak

C. Ascension

Taster 1 – Tight and bitter; overroasted finish
Taster 2 – Tastes like sweeter old tea
Taster 3 – Okay, not THAT much bite.
Taster 4 – Fruity
Taster 5 – I like. More, please
Taster 6 – good flavor
Taster 7 – good flavor

D. The Pearl Cup (Henderson location)

Taster 1 – Makes my face hurt; burnt butterscotch; too harsh
Taster 2 – Ugh
Taster 3 – Ew. Tastes like my morning Folgers the day after
Taster 4 – Very sour in flavor, thinner
Taster 5 – Bad!!!
Taster 6 – Metallic
Taster 7 – Do not enjoy the taste

E. The Hospitality Sweet (downtown location)

Taster 1 – Like swamp water – turgid and dirty – but not even as interesting as swamp water (1st place for best comment)
Taster 2 – Tastes like feet. (2nd place for best comment)
Taster 3 – Okay, can’t drink that.
Taster 4 – Ever more sour than D
Taster 5 – Horrible
Taster 6 – Bitter
Taster 7 – UGH

F. Sip Stir Cafe

Taster 1 – Flat and one note; and that note is burnt beans.
Taster 2 – Tastes like pencil shavings
Taster 3 – No.
Taster 4 – Very thin in flavor
Taster 5 – Bitter
Taster 6 – Licorice, strong
Taster 7 – Yum, interesting flavor

Ascension's cold brew.
Ascension’s cold brew.

THE RESULTS

A. Weekend Coffee– 2 votes
B. Mudsmith – 1 vote
C. Ascension – 3 votes
D. The Pearl Cup  – 0 votes
E. The Hospitality Sweet – 0 votes
F. Sip Stir Cafe – 1 vote

CONCLUSION

Ascension’s cold brew won the majority. Everyone generally agreed that Hospitality Sweet’s cold brew was the funkiest-tasting, but that may have been because it also tasted the most concentrated. The downtown coffee spot usually fills up their cold brews with five parts water and ice + 1 part coffee, but we just had the coffee straight-up. No ice.

We wanted to keep everything on equal ground, but, of course… not everything can be perfectly equal. (If we’d diluted the Hospitality Sweet’s cold brew, we’d have to dilute the others, too.)

So we kept it simple. No dilutions, no extra ice. Just coffee. Pearl Cup’s cold brew from the Henderson location was also just as bad, but definitely more naturally diluted than Hospitality Sweet’s.

Most of the voters favored Weekend, Mudsmith, and Ascension, but Ascension took the cake this time. No wonder Matt Shelley likes to buy Ascension’s six-pack cold brews by the bottle. He says it’s worth it.

  • kindallas

    Where do you find the Ascension six-pack of bottled cold brew?

  • EspressoKiller

    Suck it (through a straw because its really tasty)

  • Kuffie

    Thank god you didn’t have that dump Oddfellows in the running. What a pile of, well… Take one ADD hipster and add others follow him while he litters blocks with crapped out wooden pallets, all the time donning silly a silly hat and you have Oddfellows.

  • Kevin Friemel

    Hi there!

    I manage the coffee bar at The Hospitality Sweet and would like to apologize first for what I’m certain was a terrible experience with our cold brew. I’m sorry that it was not served to you diluted, but I’m hoping that it was served with instruction on how to enjoy it. However, being the manager and the person who brewed it, I insist on making right the mistake which you consumed. So please, come in at any time tomorrow or next week and I would be happy to serve you and any of your tasters a cold brew on the house so that you can experience it the way all of our customers do. I am in the shop everyday from 7 am to 1:30 pm as well as Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.

    Thank you for your reconsideration!

    Kevin Friemel
    Coffee@thehospitalitysweet.com

  • Sarah Kane

    Creme de la Cookie in snider plaza and preston royal makes an awesome cold brew with a secret following. High quality beans and low acidity – heaven in this hellish heat

  • Ned

    Another example of these “foodies” not having any idea what they’re doing and no clue what they’re talking about. This is not a science project where you control for outside stimulii or influences. You serve the dang coffee how it’s served to the customers. I agree that Ascension has a fine cold brew, but you’ve sullied the names of other fine establishments in the process. Instead of showing people how a few places are great and others are horrible, perhaps someone with a finer palate who hasn’t simultaneously bastardized the way the coffee is supposed to be served, would simply describe to people how these six are different based on their contrasting nuances and so on. Very amateurish!

  • Ned

    By the way, this list is entirely incomplete without including Cultivar near Casa Linda and Oddfellows in the Bishop Arts. Both are superior coffee houses that would certainly give Ascension a run for it’s money…if someone who knew what he was doing were running this taste test. It’s just a shame D Mag’s “foodies” and “writers” are this irresponsible.

  • Andres Aguilar

    Why didn’t you include Crooked Tree Coffeehouse? They use a Toddy for their cold brew and it is comparable to Ascension’s. Also, as an engineer who has done plenty of experiments where variables must be controlled, the dilution ratio would have to be included in setting a standard of how the restaurants serve it vs. how the testers thought it could be controlled. Most shops factor in the dilution of the ice when creating a drink.

  • mateoshelley

    You can buy single bottles at Ascension. Each bottle is two servings, unless you’re just that hardcore. They ain’t cheap, but they’s good.

  • kindallas

    Thank you!

  • Amy

    This is not only completely unfair to the shops considered (not to mention that it leaves out several shops in the srea making excellent iced coffee), but also clearly carried out by testers who have no clue how to taste or brew coffee, considering the wildly varied opinions of the samples and complete disregard for how coffee is prepared. In your effort to even the playing field by keeping everything equal, you have given Hospitality Sweet a bad name when, in fact, they have some of the most consistent, highest quality cold brew in the city. All coffee shops worth mentioning consider dilution when they brew cold brew–some brew it at a coarser grind with more water, some at a finer grind with less water and choose to add the rest of the water when it’s finished brewing. You’ve penalized Hospitality Sweet for making their cold brew in a perfectly acceptable way, despite the fact that they gave you specific instructions on how to drink it, and if you go in and ordered iced coffee on Monday, not only with Kevin be really nice to you, but he’ll serve you excellent, delicious, diluted cold brew.

    Here is Intelligentsia’s guide for making cold brew (note the dilution ratio):
    http://www.intelligentsiacoffee.com/sites/default/files/brew_guides/toddy.pdf

  • Amy

    Forgive me the typos–was on an ipad and was pretty peeved.

  • Ned

    You have every right to be peeved, Amy. Not only did this group attempt to give Hospitality Sweet a bad name, but they effectively give D Magazine a bad name to long time readers and people who actually do know what’s going on. I don’t know about you, but I hardly ever read D Mag to determine places to eat or drink any longer. It’s good for fodder and perhaps to learn about a place I didn’t yet know existed.

  • Ned

    So sorry you had to deal with these dopes, Mr. Friemel. They wield more power than they ever should have been granted. The good news is that among plenty of circles, people do talk about how they don’t trust D Mag for reviews any longer

  • Ned

    Totally spaced on Crooked Tree. I agree with you Andres. Crooked Tree has an outstanding cold brew that many agree doesn’t even require any sweetener or cream where those same people would usually add both to an iced coffee. Good call!