After McDonald's bungled an attempt at cold brew in 2018 with the Cold Brew Frozen Coffee and Cold Brew Frappe, which were pulled as customers griped about too much sweetness and an artificial taste, the burger behemoth is trying again. The Marble Cold Brew is only at select McDonald's locations for now, but one of those happened to be near me, so how could I not try it?
While the price — $4.49 near me — is more than a buck higher than the regular iced coffee at $3.29, it's only slightly pricier than a grande Cold Brew with Milk at Starbucks ($4.45). Where it differs most dramatically is in the sugar content. One medium Marbled Cold Brew has a whopping 30 grams of sugar, while the Starbucks drink has 3 grams.
But we aren't worrying about sugar content and health stuff at McDonald's, are we? If it tastes good, we're getting it without shame or, hopefully, insulin shock. As a frequent McDonald's iced coffee drinker (once I realized I could get it without sugar or flavor, I was down), I needed to know not only if the marble version is good, but if it deserves a higher price.
If ever there was a "your mileage may vary" moment, it might be this one. My first sip was a blast of icy sweetness. Was there coffee? Maybe? While I'm sure the cold brew resulted in a less bitter brew, it also revealed that the brew itself wasn't a very good one. That said, as Starbucks and other coffee shops keep adding sweet drinks to menus, it's pretty clear that actually liking the taste of coffee is not the goal for most people. The closer to a shake, the better. Even after I mixed up the cold brew, a layer of white cream sat at the bottom of the cup, refusing to join the party.
While I got a subtle taste of coffee as I took more sips of the drink, it still predominantly left me with the impression of tooth-shattering sweetness. I could have ordered straight cold brew for 30 cents less, but I suspect that would have just tasted like ice water that happened to walk by an actual cup of coffee.
There are some people who will think this stuff is great, because the latest cold brew attempt by McDonald's eliminates everything they dislike about iced coffee, which is ... coffee. This is not to say I'm heading back to Starbucks. I don't like what that chain does to a cup of joe, either, because it seems to involve burning the crap out of the coffee beans.
Bottom line? As long as McDonald's has any size of coffee for 99 cents special in the app, I'm skipping the cold brew.