Wandering Bear Coffee Review: Delicious Cold Brew
Cold brew coffee is a great remedy for those long, dog days of summer. And with a cute black bear on the packaging, how can you go wrong with Wandering Bear Coffee? But as we’ve all been told: Don’t judge a book by its cover.
So is this Wandering Bear cold brew coffee worth it? Read our review to find out.
Summary: Wandering Bear Coffee
- Offers organic cold brew coffee that come in different flavors
- Compact boxes with pour spout made from fully recyclable materials
- Easy-to-use tap for dispensing coffee
- Shelf-stable, unsweetened, and dairy-free cold brew coffee
The aroma…is very bright with a touch of smoke but…Wandering Bear cold brew is earthy and smooth. There’s very little bitterness…– Sarah Fischer, Culinary Assistant at Taste of Home
Wandering Bear Coffee Review
In 2014, two caffeine-fuelled graduate students, Matt and Ben, started a competition to see who could make the tastiest cold brew (1). Since then, their collective obsession with making strong, smooth cold brew coffee led to the founding of Wandering Bear Coffee.
So is this cold brew on tap worth the hype? Keep reading to find out.
Packaging – 4/5
Except for the 11-ounce single-serve bottles and 32-ounce cartons, the coffee on tap comes in a fully recyclable box, making it one of our most recommended sustainable coffee brands. Even the tap itself is made from sugarcane.
When you’re done with the cold brew, recycling the components is as simple as separating the plastic liner and the cardboard box.
In addition to the traditional nutrition facts, a QR code, and a short blurb about Matt and Ben—Wandering Bear’s co-founders—the packaging prominently features a silhouette of a black bear spread across the top and side of the box.
The color scheme is unassuming—featuring a black bear with a blue shadow and black-and-blue font. But the straightforward, informative copy and the cute bear are more than enough to entice any cold brew connoisseur.
Ease of Use – 4/5
Wandering Bear couldn’t have made untapping their coffee any easier. But you must muster a little courage of your own.
You’ll have to approach the black bear head-on to find the tap and break the seal. Turn the box over so that the bear is facing you. Find the perforated cutout, and pull the sugarcane tap out from inside the box.
To ensure the tap doesn’t slide around, Wandering Bear has placed a few notches on the body of the tap. Moreover, the flap of the box adjacent to the circular cutout fits neatly into those notches, keeping the tap at the proper angle for decanting. Once you break the seal, just press the button and decant it into your glass.
We did notice that the cold brew comes out quite slowly, so it does take a little patience to fill a standard 16-ounce glass. Moreover, once you’re more than three-quarters of the way through the cold brew, you’ll have to balance the tap—via one of those notches—on the edge of the glass, tilt the box with one hand, and press the button with the other.
Unfortunately, this makes for a rather precarious pour. We created a non-slip surface using a dampened paper towel to keep our glass from sliding around our countertop. Once the glass was stable, it took a bit of maneuvering to find just the right angle for the coffee to decant.
Finally, when we were pouring those last drops from the bottom of the bag, we had to take the plastic liner out and coax the coffee into our glass.
Value for Money – 5/5
Wandering Bear’s cold brew coffee drinks come in various flavors and sizes. For this review, we chose the 96-ounce box.
The copy on the side panel says there are 16 six-ounce servings per box. Each six-ounce glass is as strong as two shots of espresso, and at $2.25 per glass, this is an excellent deal. If you drink just one glass of cold brew a day, the 96-ounce box will last you two weeks.
Flavor – 5/5
While having a cold brew on tap is great, it’s what’s inside that counts. And Wandering Bear does not disappoint. Keep reading for some general notes on Wandering Bear’s cold brew, followed by a few notes on the specific types we chose.
First, this cold brew is strong and smooth; across all three varieties, it is bold without any bitterness. So whether you’re a cold brew connoisseur or just starting your journey, Wandering Bear has struck the perfect balance between a bold, aromatic cup and a smooth one.
Secondly, Wandering Bear uses only 100% organic arabica beans. In line with their commitment to sustainability, they only use beans from sustainable coffee farms and cooperatives throughout Nicaragua, Mexico, Colombia, and Peru.
What’s more, despite having noticeable hints of flavor, all of Wandering Bear’s coffees are sugar-free. And because all their cold brew coffee is dairy-free, you can add any dairy substitute you prefer.
Finally, while each of the three flavors we tried was excellent, if you’re looking for the pure, Wandering Bear experience, we’d suggest going with the Straight Black cold brew.
The first variant we untapped was vanilla. To our surprise, the ingredients list was very straightforward: filtered water, organic coffee beans from Peru, and natural organic flavor. Unfortunately, because there was a small tear in the corner of the plastic liner, we had to transfer it to another container.
But despite that minor hiccup, this flavor was genuinely delightful. Wandering Bear describes this variety as “Coffee forward with subtle hints of vanilla,” which was very accurate in our experience.
The aroma was very reminiscent of a fresh-baked vanilla cupcake. As you sip, hints of cream and marshmallows are very apparent.
As with the previous flavor, this flavor was “coffee forward with subtle hints of mocha.” The ingredients list was the same as the vanilla variety.
This time, everything went as expected. After pulling the spout out of the circular cutout and moving the other flap out of the way, we could decant as per Wandering Bear’s instructions.
Unlike the vanilla variety above, the cold mocha brew was bolder in aroma and flavor. The aroma reminded us of baker’s chocolate and caramel, while a pecan-like nuttiness and a slight hint of brightness came through in the taste.
Overall, we enjoyed the mocha more than the vanilla flavor because the slight nuttiness and the chocolate aroma were a much more natural pairing for Wandering Bear’s base Peruvian cold brew.
Straight Black Cold Brew
Finally, we’ve saved the best for last. Wandering Bear notes that this cold brew is “Coffee forward, extra strong, and surprisingly smooth.” And this time, the ingredients list is even simpler: filtered water and 100% organic Peruvian arabica coffee.
Though we love mocha and vanilla, we were looking forward to tasting Wandering Bear’s Straight Black because it’d give us the best gauge of their coffee quality. And honestly, it was, hands-down, our favorite.
Many cold brew coffees have a muddled flavor profile with very few subtle notes. But Wandering Bear’s Straight Black cold brew coffee has an aroma that is sweet and buttery, like a pie crust, with a subtle note of plum. As with the other cold brews, the Straight Black was smooth with no lingering smoky or bitter notes.
There was a subtle caramelized sweetness—somewhere between honey, caramel, and molasses.
While there weren’t too many citrus or stone fruit notes, there was still a subtle hint of brightness to keep the cup from becoming too heavy. To our palates, it lay somewhere between green apple and fresh strawberry, which made this a very well-balanced, smooth cup.
While you could add in milk, flavored syrups, or use it to make a nice pumpkin spice latte, this cold brew is smooth enough to drink on its own.
Do not Buy Wandering Bear’s Cold Brew Coffee If…
- You’re on a tight budget: While Wandering Bear’s coffees are a great value for the money, they’re still more expensive than making your own cold brew. In making cold brew from scratch, you’re in full control of the types of coffee beans you use and can stick to the single-origins or high-quality blends you prefer.
If you need some great options for cold brew coffee beans, why not check out our review of Lifeboost Coffee? Lifeboost is certified organic, shade-grown in the mountains of Nicaragua, and hand-picked at the peak of ripeness to ensure the best and highest-antioxidant coffee beans. What’s more, Lifeboost claims to be low-acid, so it’s a great choice for anyone whose stomach doesn’t always play well with coffee (2).
- You have limited storage space in the fridge: While the cold brew boxes aren’t that large and measure in at 6.75″ by 4″ by 7.875 inches, they still take up some room. Wandering Bear’s smaller 32-ounce or 11-ounce cold brew coffees might be a better fit for tight spaces and small fridges if you have a larger family or do a lot of prep-cooking. What’s more, these smaller containers allow you to try all of Wandering Bear’s flavored cold brews without committing to a boxed cold brew on tap.
- If you like a brighter, more nuanced cup: Because cold brew is steeped cold, many of the more nuanced flavors you’d traditionally expect in the final cup—such as floral and spice notes, which often require heat—don’t come out in the final cup.
- If you are sensitive to caffeine: Wandering bear often describes its cold brew as “strong and smooth.” And admittedly, it does pack quite a punch. Each six-ounce glass is equivalent to two shots of espresso, and if you consume coffee like water, then these caffeinated cold brews might not be the best choice. And because Wandering Bear’s coffees are so smooth, that’s very easy. Trust us; we’ve been there and have the T-shirt. Instead, we recommend Wandering Bear’s, Decaf Black. Whether you enjoy it straight or with a splash of cream, their decaf cold brew lets you enjoy as much cold brew as you like without the jitters (3).
If you’re looking for a smooth, strong, organic, sugar-free, and dairy-free cold brew, then any of Wandering Bear’s great selections are well worth the money.
This Wandering Bear cold brew coffee also comes with recyclable packaging, a convenient tap, and a form factor that fits well in almost any fridge. You can use this cold brew as a base for any iced coffee drinks on Home Grounds or mix it in a cold brew milkshake.
- WanderingBear Coffee. (2022). WanderingBear Coffee. https://wanderingbearcoffee.com/pages/about/
- Lifeboost coffee. Our Story. (2022). Lifeboost Coffee. https://lifeboostcoffee.com/pages/our-story/
- Wandering Bear Coffee. (n.d.). Cold Brew on Tap (96 oz)-Straight Black. WanderingBear Coffee. https://wanderingbearcoffee.com/products/cold-brew-on-tap-96-oz-decaf-black/