When it’s cold outside, you probably head to Starbucks to grab a hot beverage to help warm you up before braving the cold again. However, once the temperature starts to rise, the last thing you want is to have to lug around a burning hot cup of coffee. The warmer months of the year are the perfect time to take advantage of the selection of cold brew and nitro cold brew drinks available at Starbucks. If you ask us, these drinks are really where the brand’s cold coffee shines. And though you’ve probably tried the originals and many other cold popular drinks, you may not have gotten the chance to try the new cold brew items on the menu.
That’s why we did some taste testing to bring you the 411 on what to expect when you order one of these drinks. Honestly, they’re all great, and you’re probably not going to regret ordering any of them. However, some on the list are better than others, so keep reading if you want to make sure you snag the best drink. Here are the absolute best Starbucks cold brew and nitro cold brew drinks (not including any secret menu items, though, FYI).
Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew
Now, we hate to put this one at the worst spot in our ranking, because we still consider it to be one of the better items on Starbucks’ menu. Therefore, you should know that the Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew only landed at this spot on our list because all of the cold brew offerings are just that good. This drink takes the brand’s iconic cold brew and transforms it into a sweet sipper that even the most bitter-averse coffee drinker is guaranteed to enjoy. There really is a lovely creaminess to the drink, and it offers a sugary rush that’s hard not to love.
We don’t love super-sweet coffee drinks, which is why this one comes in last place for us. But even despite our disdain for extra-sugary drinks, we have to admit that this one is delectable. The subtle vanilla flavoring adds a layer of complexity to the drink, and the creaminess of the topping brings it all together. If you have a serious sweet tooth, this one is bound to be a winner in your book (and for an even sweeter twist, add two pumps of peppermint syrup to this menu staple; you won’t regret it).
Vanilla Sweet Cream Nitro Cold Brew
What if you love the flavor profile of the Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew but are looking for an extra punch of flavor and caffeine? If that’s the case, you can’t go wrong with the Vanilla Sweet Cream Nitro Cold Brew. Nitro cold brew is stronger than normal cold brew, so the caffeine levels in this coffee are stronger than its regular cold brew cousin. There’s also that additional lovely layer of foam on top that only adds to the creaminess of the drink. We thought that this one would taste a lot different from its cold brew counterpart, but, apart from a slightly stronger coffee flavor, these taste very similar.
The Vanilla Sweet Cream Nitro Cold Brew ranks higher on our list for the ever-so-slight reduction in sweetness, and, of course, the added caffeine. When you order a cold brew, you’re probably looking for a decent dose of the stuff, and trust us when we say that this drink will help you wake up no matter what time of day it is. With its sweet flavor profile and creamy texture, you can’t go wrong with this strong nitro cold brew.
Why overcomplicate things when you can just stick to the tried-and-true classics? That’s why you’ll find us ordering a plain cold brew from Starbucks every once in a while. Now, keep in mind that when you’re ordering a cold brew, you’re not just getting an iced coffee. According to Starbucks, cold brew and iced coffee are brewed with completely different methods. Iced coffee is simply double-strength coffee brewed hot and then left to cool. Ice is then added to the cup. But, Starbucks notes that cold brew is made without any heat at all. This leads to a sweeter, richer taste that many find smoother than traditionally brewed coffee.
Therefore, if you already know you love iced coffee, but you’re looking for a more interesting flavor, cold brew is probably exactly what you’re looking for. Since it does have that natural sweetness to it, you don’t have to add anything to make it delicious — it’s smooth, rich, and sweet all on its own.
Cold Brew with milk
Of course, not everyone likes to drink their coffee black, even when the drink in question is cold brew. That’s why we have to get on board with Starbucks’ cold brew coffee with milk. It adds a layer of creaminess to the equation that makes every sip that much more approachable. And since cold brew coffee is quite strong on its own, we find that the addition of milk makes it easier to take several sips of your coffee in a row without getting too jittery (shaky hands no more).
When you’re at Starbucks, you can choose what kind of milk to opt for. If you just order the standard drink, you’ll get 2% milk, which isn’t our favorite option. In our opinion, if you’re going to order cow’s milk, whole milk is the way to go. Sure, it has a few extra calories, but the richness and creaminess of the dairy make it totally worth it. On the other hand, you may not be much of a cow’s milk drinker. In that case, oat milk and coconut milk both work quite well here — choose your favorite milk along with a sweetener (if you’re into that kind of thing) and get sipping.
Chocolate Cream Cold Brew
It’s time to take a sip of something different. If you keep abreast of all the latest Starbucks news, then you’ll know that the Chocolate Cream Cold Brew recently made its debut. It’s a new flavor that adds an interesting element to the Starbucks cold brew lineup. And, just as the name suggests, it’s a chocolate treat in a cup. We’d recommend this one for chocolate lovers, but we were surprised to discover that the chocolate flavor isn’t that strong. It’s just got a touch of cocoa that makes every sip taste a little bit richer. There’s definitely some sweetness there as well, but we didn’t think it was overpowering in the slightest.
For some reason, the coffee flavor in this particular drink didn’t taste super strong, but that wasn’t a problem for us. Perhaps the cocoa flavor and sugar balanced everything out. Regardless, this combination of flavors works brilliantly together, so we’re delighted that Starbucks expanded its menu to offer this unique cold brew drink.
Nitro Cold Brew
If you haven’t caught our drift, we like to keep things simple. But what if you want to keep it simple while adding a bit more caffeine — and a delicious layer of foam — to your drink? In that case, you have to opt for the nitro cold brew at Starbucks. Are you wondering what sets this drink apart from your average, everyday cold brew? Well, it all comes down to the addition of nitrogen. With the infusion of tiny nitrogen bubbles, a layer of creamy foam forms on the surface of the drink (kind of like a beer). This adds a lovely textural element to the drink, but it also adds sweetness to the coffee without the addition of sugar. Therefore, you get a much mellower sip despite the high caffeine content.
If you’re going to try nitro cold brew anywhere, Starbucks is a reliable place to start. The sweet, velvety coffee is the perfect way to get any hot day jumpstarted. Of course, we enjoy all the extra additions that make a nitro cold brew taste even better, but, honestly, this beverage is perfect all on its own. Before you snag the vanilla sweet cream version, try a classic nitro cold brew by itself. You may just be converted into a black coffee drinker.
Salted Caramel Cream Cold Brew
Vanilla sweet cream? We could take it or leave it. But when it comes to salted caramel cream, all bets are off. That’s why the Salted Caramel Cream Cold Brew comes in at the top spot in our ranking. This is a delicious coffee drink that’s worth every single sip. You may think that this drink would be too sweet considering the addition of caramel, but we don’t find that to be true. Rather, the salt nicely balances out that sweetness. Surprisingly, you can actually taste the salt on your tongue, which is an experience we covet. It adds almost a savory note to the otherwise sweet drink, and we’re here for balanced flavors.
As much as the flavors pop, texture has a lot to do with our love for this drink, as well. The cream is quite rich, which gives the cold brew a velvety texture that makes you want to take another sip as soon as you’re finished with the first. With such a lovely combination of complex flavors and textures, it’s no wonder the Salted Caramel Cream Cold Brew snags the top spot. If you’re wondering where to start your cold brew journey at Starbucks and you’re already a fan of salted caramel, now you know just what to order.