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Iced coffee is the vehicle for rich, juicy flavor. These local cafes are brewing it bold and beautifully. Plus, see the results of our cold brew bracket "tourney"!

Milwaukee’s Best Cold Brew Coffee

Cold-brew coffee has moved from niche to obligatory at cafes. Unlike “icing” brewed joe, ground coffee is steeped for hours in cold water, making it stronger (yum!) and less acidic. Which local cold brew rules?

Round 1

ALDERAAN

1560 N. Water St.
Alderaan’s rich Mocha Java brew leaves a delectable, lingering spice flavor.

VALENTINE

The Costa Rican-Peruvian blend is nicely fruity but lacks the body and depth of other roasts.

COLECTIVO

Sweet and roasty Toro espresso beans are a little too bitter.

STONE CREEK

The full-body Black Sheep roast is creamy liquid chocolate – almost. A treat!

HAWTHORNE

4177 S. Howell Ave.
Creamy nitro tap coffee, steeped, infused with nitrogen gas, keg-chilled – like dark beer!

KICKAPOO

232 E. Erie St., Third Ward
Molasses, butter, nectarines, even black tea leaves. All-around deliciously smooth.

ANODYNE

Strong, thick and foamy from the nitro. Atomic Blend lends buttery-caramel goodness.

PILCROW

1739 N. Martin Luther King Dr.
Full-bodied, rich, thick, with off-the-charts roastiness. No ice in this baby!

Round 2

ALDERAAN

The perfect wake-up sipper – intensity coursing through your veins!

STONE CREEK

The dark-roast burn takes your tastebuds by bean storm, crushing the first-round competition!

KICKAPOO

A big Kick! Each sip of this complex brew (using the roaster’s icebreaker beans) offers a different nuance.

PILCROW

Newbie Pilcrow unexpectedly won America’s Best Cold Brew Competition in March. It’s clear why.

Round 3

And the winner is…

Pilcrow! With a strong, foamy head courtesy of the nitro, this is a substantial cold brew. Could have sworn the barista was pouring a Guinness! 


Milwaukee’s Best Iced Coffee

Valentine’s cold brew. Photo by Adam Ryan Morris.

Valentine’s cold brew. Photo by Adam Ryan Morris. Click to enlarge.

Valentine Coffee Roasters
→ Hand-pour or “pour-over” arguably makes a better cup of coffee. The same method works for iced coffee, but with ice added to the dripping container. Hot water ensures that “more of the lively solubles in coffee make it into the brew,” explains Valentine’s Joe Gilsdorf. To aficionados, this made-to-order technique eliminates the funky flavor-causing oxidation that happens when cold coffee sits in the fridge.

Valentine also offers iced Americano and cold brew, a common technique that employs overnight steeping in cold water that adds richness and lowers acidity. Valentine uses coffee from a Guatemalan Chimaltenango microlot to make a creamy cold brew with notes of caramel and chocolate. It’s like drinking dessert. (5918 W. Vliet St.)

Anodyne Coffee Roasting Co.
→ Draft coffee – prepared in the same way as tap beer, only the system uses nitrogen instead of carbon dioxide – produces a bright, smooth product. Anodyne’s cold brew uses its Atomic Blend beans. It’s a treat on ice with a little cream, or topped off with cream and hazelnut syrup to make the Nutty Pedestrian. (224 W. Bruce St.; 2920 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.; Milwaukee Public Market, 400 N. Water St.)

Roast Coffee Company
→ Owner Ryan Mason favors the full-immersion cold-brewed method, which he compares to Sun Tea. The combined coffee (Roast’s Raging Bull blend) and water sit for 12 hours, at which point it’s filtered to produce a concentrate. This coffee pushes rich texture and notes of cocoa, and a kind of nuttiness. (2132 E. Locust St.)

Stone Creek Coffee
→ This roaster has a serious regimen for choosing the coffee for its cold brew. The 2015 cold brew beans balance the sweet, floral notes with appreciable body and roastiness. Rich and succulent, it’s pure refreshment. (10 locations)

Alderaan Coffee
→ This north-of-Downtown café carries beans from multiple roasters (local ones, too, such as Anodyne). Its cold brew uses their own Mocha Java, a blend of dark-roasted Sumatra and washed heirloom Arabica. Thick and sweet. (1560 N. Water St.)

Bonus: Thai Iced Coffee
In Thailand, iced coffee is drunk very sweet. A common way to make it is to brew powdered Thai coffee with sugar. EE-Sane’s is incredibly sweet, but not too rich. Here, the creamy element comes from half-and-half, but another option, which raises the cloying level, is sweetened condensed milk. (1806 N. Farwell Ave.)


‘Cold Case’ appears in the July 2017 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.
‘Cool Beans’ appears in the June 2015 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

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