How Trader Joe's Instant Cold Brew Works

Coffee aficionados have latched onto cold brew as their new favorite drink for a few reasons: It's sweeter, cheaper to make at home, and less acidic than iced coffee, according to Blackout Coffee. Popular coffee shops have even made their own fancy cold brew concoctions — Starbucks sells the fall favorite Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew, and Dunkin' added cinnamon and brown sugar flavors. Additionally, cold brew is beloved because it often has more caffeine than iced coffee, depending on how much water is used in the brewing process. Boss Barista founder Ashley Rodriguez told Food & Wine, "At this point in time, we've gotten so used to rocket fuel-like cold brew that I think it's kind of hard to go backwards."

While you can get excellent results making cold brew at home for a minimal expense, the process can be a bit time-consuming. It's easy enough, as you only need coffee grounds and water. Mix the two ingredients in a large pitcher, let it sit in the fridge for at least 12 hours, strain the grounds out, and voilà! You should end up with a cup of bold cold brew coffee. The part that trips many people up, however, is the waiting — you can't drink a cup of cold brew the same morning you make it like you can with most other types of coffee. To solve this frustrating dilemma, Trader Joe's devised an ingenious solution: instant cold brew.

Stir in a teaspoon of the freeze-fried coffee

If you think instant cold brew sounds like an oxymoron, you're not alone, but Trader Joe's has figured out a way to make it happen. First, a little on how regular instant coffee is made: According to Healthline, brewed coffee grounds can either be spray-dried or freeze-dried, but both methods remove water to make a powder, which can be dissolved in hot water to produce instant coffee. Making instant coffee usually only takes a few minutes, as it involves simply heating up water and stirring in the powder.

Trader Joe's instant cold brew, it turns out, is made in a very similar fashion. On an episode of the Inside Trader Joe's podcast, an employee said that it's brewed "like normal cold brew. So it's brewed cold, freeze-dried. And that's how it's made instant." According to Trader Joe's, all you have to do is stir a teaspoon of the freeze-dried product into water, although you can use cold or hot water (It is cold brew, after all). And while a grande Starbucks cold brew is $3.95, per Fast Food Price, Kitchn notes that one jar of Trader Joe's instant cold brew yields 22 servings, with each cup of cold brew coming out to about 18 cents. Cost-effective and time-saving, instant cold brew sounds like a win-win.