Consumer Reports: Choosing the healthiest cold brew coffee

For many coffee lovers, summer signals the switch to cold brew. Sales of the ready-to-drink coffee have exploded over the past few years.

It claims to be smoother and less acidic, but is it healthier than your regular buzz? Consumer Reports investigates.

Cold brew used to be one of those specialty coffee drinks made by a barista.

"In the past five years, it's been more and more and more popular. It's nuttier, sweeter, it's less acid," says barista, Luis Corena.

It also typically has a higher caffeine content than regular brewed coffee - and coffee in general has a pretty healthy reputation.

Studies have associated drinking coffee with health benefits like lower risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and increased longevity. But Consumer Reports says some ready-to-drink cold brews aren't always a smart choice for your health.

"Bottled versions are much more convenient for people to drink. However, if you're looking at the bottled coffee, sometimes they have milk, they have cream, they have added sugars. Some can have sodium or other additives," says Consumer Reports Health and Food Editor, Patricia Calvo.

Consumer Reports looked at more than 40 ready-to-drink cold brews from seven brands and found that the key to picking a healthier ready-to-drink brew is to pay attention to labels.

"Black cold brew coffee has few calories because the only thing that's in it is coffee. But when you start looking at the bottled versions that have added sugars and cream and milk and even plant milks, the calorie count can start to climb," says Calvo.

Even ones that say "Not Too Sweet" can have a fair amount of added sugars per bottle. More than half of the bottles Consumer Reports looked at had sodium-containing ingredients, some with as much as potato chips.

So which cold brew bottles are worth all the buzz?

To minimize added sugars, choose a black cold brew or one with regular or plant milk that has no or very little added sugars.

Consumer Reports says Califia Farms Black & White Unsweetened Cold Brew Coffee with Almond Milk, and Chameleon Cold-Brew Black Coffee are worth a try.

If you do make a big batch of your own cold brew, it'll keep in your fridge for up to two weeks!

The same can't be said of regularly brewed coffee, which starts to go stale shortly after it cools.
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