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Many canned coffees
Many canned coffees

KaiDecember 1, 2023

The canned coffees of New Zealand, reviewed and ranked

Many canned coffees
Many canned coffees

They’re cold, they’re caffeinated and they’re classier than an energy drink – iced coffee in a can has gone from novelty to normal in Aotearoa in record time. We tasted 25 to sort the morning must-haves from the mediocre mud water.

Just a few short years ago, coffee in a can was a novelty in Aotearoa. How things change. We gathered 25 different varieties from eight different brands for this tasting, which is not quite every one sold here – we couldn’t find any Minor Figures, Mojo seemed to be out of stock of theirs, Starbucks claimed theirs was no longer available despite Countdown still selling some, and the new Nescafe offerings passed us by entirely. Apologies to those cans, and to any others we missed.

It’s probably for the best, though, because after sampling 25 coffees, members of our panel of seven reported heart palpitations, stabbing head pain, general wooziness, the overwhelming urge to go for a brisk walk and the newfound ability to see through time. Who knows what 28 would’ve done. 

Before we get into the ranking, some caveats:

  • We didn’t conduct a blind tasting, deciding that can vibes were an important factor to consider in our scores, but this does of course mean prior brand loyalty or prejudice may have had some sway. 
  • These coffees are designed to be drunk straight from the can, but for waste-avoidance reasons (we didn’t want to open seven of each coffee when we were only drinking a sip or two), only one or two tasters sampled them this way, the rest from glasses. 
  • We admit that comparing a heavily flavoured coffee with an unadorned black one is like comparing apples with oranges, but we gave it a go. 
  • Each taster gave each coffee a score out of 10, which we then averaged out to get the final scores. Canned coffee is a highly subjective product, and there were a range of palates on our panel (including two people who revealed part way through the tasting that they “didn’t really like coffee”, but as many of the beverages sampled didn’t really taste like coffee, that’s not as big of a problem as it may first appear). Suffice to say, many of the coffees that were loved by one taster were hated by another. For this reason, the scores averaged out pretty middling, with the highest being 6.99 and the lowest 4.24.
  • Where the caffeine and sugar content have been specified on the can, we’ve included it. (A note on Boss: its NZ website says “caffeine levels are variable”, but its American website says the caffeine levels range from 110-140mg.)

So without further ado, here are the canned coffees of New Zealand, ranked from worst to best.

25) Inner Bloom Elixir Cold Brew Coffee

4.24/10 

240ml, $5.69 at selected retailers including New World (12 packs at innerbloomandco.nz), 140g caffeine, 0.1g sugar

Inner Bloom is a New Zealand brand that makes canned cold brew coffee with all sorts of “performance-enhancing superfoods” added. Their four varieties were polarising, and some did a lot better than others. Elixir includes collagen sourced from fish in its ingredients list – a strange concept, it must be said – and it had a savoury aspect that divided the tasters. “I hated it,” said Sam Brooks. “It’s a bit shocking, but not good,” said Gabi Lardies. Calum Henderson and Alice Neville were most complimentary. “I don’t mind it, it’s kinda savoury,” said Alice. Calum found it “moreish”, likening the flavour to how he imagined a 0% stout might taste. “This feels like something I might drink overseas while feeling particularly receptive to new experiences,” he mused.

24) Inner Bloom Maca Mocha Cold Brew Coffee

4.29/10

240ml, $5.69 at selected retailers including New World (12 packs at innerbloomandco.nz), 140mg caffeine, 4.9g sugar

This oat milk-based mocha contains powdered maca root and MCT powder, which the internet suggests comes from coconut oil. Another savoury number, it had a visible oiliness on the surface, which Mad Chapman did not appreciate. She was “pleasantly surprised” to find it tasted “a lot better than it looks”, however. Both Mad and Charlotte Muru-Lanning found it watery, while Alice detected “something weird about it” and Sam was simply “not a fan”. Gabi, however, said the taste improved the more of it you consumed.

The Inner Bloom range

23) Coffee Supreme Iced Oat Flat White 

4.32/10

240ml, $22/4-pack at coffeesupreme.com

Supreme has tweaked its canned coffee range at least once since it was first released at the beginning of the year, and apparently there are more changes coming. That’s good news, because we did not care for this iced oat flat white. We grouped all four of the unflavoured oat milk coffees together to taste and this was the least popular, with the general consensus being that it was too oaty, with not enough coffee flavour coming through. “It’s not creamy, just oaty,” said Gabi. “It almost has a texture.”

22) Flight Oat Milk Strawberry Mocha

4.64/10

240ml, $6 at flightcoffee.co.nz, 195mg caffeine, 12.9g sugar

This flavoured number from Wellington roastery Flight divided the panel. For Shanti, it brought back bad memories of her grandma putting strawberry yoghurt in the salad dressing because she didn’t have any plain. Charlotte loved that it smelled like Roses Strawberry Creme, chirping, “I think it’s fun”. Alice mumbled that it was better than she thought it would be, and was pleasantly surprised by the lack of sickliness. “It’s like Nesquik with a bit of instant coffee stirred in,” said Calum, which apparently is not a good thing. All the panellists agreed that the can felt “extremely flimsy”.

21) Havana Five Star Oat Flat White

4.69/10

240ml, $20/4-pack at havana.co.nz or $4.50 at supermarkets, 220mg caffeine, 7g sugar

As with Supreme’s oat flat white, we found this one oat-verpoweringly oaty, and despite the 220mg of caffeine (much more than most energy drinks, including the banned Prime Energy, but fairly comparable to a double shot espresso), we struggled to detect much coffee. Oat milk drinker Mad liked it, Shanti Mathias found it “a bit metallic”, and Sam Brooks said “poison, I hate it”.

20) Allpress Espresso Mocha Iced Specialty Coffee 

4.74/10

240ml, $30/6-pack at allpressespresso.com or $3.99 at New World, 130mg caffeine, 13.7g sugar

The consistency of this mocha was remarked upon, with Charlotte saying “it’s so thick, but has no flavour”. Alice found the thickness “unpleasant”, while Sam said “it tastes weaker than it feels”. Gabi enjoyed it, however, comparing it to a dark chocolate milkshake, while Mad thought it would be nice poured over ice. Calum, giving it a score of 6.66 and flashing the sign of the devil, described the taste as “maximal” and “hardcore”.

Behind the scenes

19) Java Monster Mean Bean

4.79/10

305ml, $3.69 at supermarkets etc, 140mg caffeine, 9.15g sugar

A coffee product from energy drink monster Monster, this and its mocha sibling (see 16) were the cheapest coffees we tasted (on special for two for $6 at New World too). The panel found it overwhelmingly sweet, no doubt due to the presence of artificial sweeteners (acesulphame potassium and sucralose) on top of 9.15g sugar. “It’s like sugar mud,” said Sam, while Calum was reminded of Kopiko coffee lollies. “I just can’t get over the syrupiness of it,” uttered Charlotte, shaking her head, while Mad admitted that if she was handed an unlabelled can of this on a hot day, “I’d be like ‘delicious, I love it’.”

18) Boss Iced Double Espresso with a Dash of Milk

4.93/10

237ml, $4 at supermarkets, 14.6g sugar

While the majority of Boss products (arguably the pinnacle of canned coffee) are loved for being strong and sweet, the Japanese brand’s iced double espresso arguably takes it too far, with every gram of its whopping sugar content making itself heard. While the name evokes adult sophistication, Calum dismissed the taste as “a bit juvenile”, and everyone agreed it was “too sweet” and “too syrupy” – except Sam, who scored it a 10/10 and rather contradictorily said “this is exactly what I want from an iced coffee, tastes more like a milky sweet tea”.

17) Havana Super Deluxe Long Black

5.07/10

240ml, $20/4-pack at havana.co.nz or $4.50 at supermarkets, 220mg caffeine, 0g sugar

This one elicited a real nature-focused response. Gabi said it tasted “a bit muddy, dirty” while Shanti went to another place entirely – “metaphorically like being rained on for three minutes with a light drizzle on a cold day.” Alice, arguably the most coffee-minded of the testers, noted she often found Havana to be a “harsh brew” and said this offering was “fine but lacking in nuance”.

16) Java Monster Loca Mocha

5.21/10

305ml, $3.69 at supermarkets etc, 140mg caffeine, 9.15g sugar

All tasters were pleasantly surprised to discover the Monster-branded iced coffee didn’t taste like pure energy drink, though it certainly had an essence of guarana and B vitamins. “Surprisingly soft… I’m almost detecting a botanical layer,” slurped Calum. Sam stated that the drink was “causing evil inside me but I like it” and Shanti suggested drinking this one was reminiscent of being “out camping, someone killed a chicken the night before and you’re eating the leftovers for breakfast”.

15) Allpress Black Iced Specialty Coffee

5.29/10

240ml, $30/6-pack at allpressespresso.com or $3.99 at New World, 163mg caffeine, 0g sugar

Another divisive offering. Some tasters (Alice and Mad) thought it tasted “like an ashtray” and “quite burnt”. Calum didn’t disagree but considered those to be endearing qualities: “Tastes gothic… I feel like I’m back in the 90s,” he signed wistfully. Sam compared it to the dregs of a filter coffee pot “but in a good way”.

14) Havana Mocha with Oat Milk 

5.36/10

240ml, $20/4-pack at havana.co.nz or $4.50 at supermarkets, 12.7g sugar

The first impression of Havana’s mocha was its smell, and it wasn’t good. “Don’t like,” said Gabi. “Smells alcoholic… like a Bailey’s,” offered Calum. “Tastes a bit funny, like something fermented inside the can,” suggested Gabi, coming back for another hit. But Shanti and Alice enjoyed it, describing it as “really nice” and “kinda yum” respectively. Mad thought it tasted like chocolate oat milk and Charlotte agreed it could do with more coffee taste.

13) Flight Straight Up Cold Brew

5.43/10

240ml, $6 at flightcoffee.co.nz, 194mg caffeine, 0.1g sugar

Another brew that brought out the nature metaphors as it divided the tasters. To Shanti, Flight’s Straight Up tasted like leaf litter, and to Sam, “like rocks or charcoal”. Mad found it “inoffensive”, however, while Alice reckoned it was “pretty good” and Calum reached for the descriptors “funky, nutty, moreishly umami…”

12) Allpress Espresso Latte Iced Specialty Coffee

5.61/10 

240ml, $30/6-pack at allpressespresso.com or $3.99 at New World, 139mg caffeine, 10.6g sugar

Alice detected burnt flavours in Allpress’s latte, while Mad and Gabi had issues with the mouthfeel. Calum complained it was too milky, with the coffee coming through thin. Sam, unsurprisingly, wanted more sweetness, while Shanti, curiously, mused that it tasted “like being late for the train when you thought you had plenty of time”.

10=) Boss Iced Latte

5.71/10

237ml, $4 at supermarkets etc, 6.3g sugar

Another one that bumped up its modest sugar content with artificial sweeteners, Boss’s iced latte was “way too sweet” for Alice, while Mad simply muttered “oh no”. And yet, the Boss Iced Latte scraped into the top 10 by winning over Gabi – “I think if you’re buying a coffee in a can you want a bit of sweetness” – and Charlotte, who did an about face, changing her initial assessment (tastes like apple juice) to “I really like it when you give it a good sip”. Calum was also a fan, comparing it to a Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk, while sugar-fiend Sam needed no convincing. 

The Flight range

10=) Flight Oat Milk Flat White 

5.71/10

240ml, $6 at flightcoffee.co.nz

The best of the oat flat whites we tried, though it still could’ve done with less oat and more coffee. Calum mused that it tasted “smooth and neutral”, but Shanti reckoned it tasted oily.

9) Coffee Supreme Iced Long Black 

5.86/10 

240ml, $22/4-pack at coffeesupreme.com

“The median canned black coffee, does everything a black coffee should do in moderation,” reflected Calum of Supreme’s black number. The acidic notes pleased Alice, but Charlotte wasn’t a fan, complaining that “it’s not fun”. “Tastes like being very jet-lagged in a city with very tall buildings,” opined Shanti. Mad summed it up: “As long as they’re nice and cold, they’re fine.”

8) Flight Sparkling Cold Brew 

5.93/10 

240ml, $6 at flightcoffee.co.nz

This fizzy number sent shockwaves rippling through the panel. “It looks like a delicious beer,” squealed Alice, her eyes lighting up. “Ooh, that’s very fizzy,” spluttered Mad. “I can’t even taste it, all I can taste is the fizz.” We initially thought the “mānuka honey and mandarin” elements boasted of on the can were standard wanky coffee talk, but turns out they’re actual ingredients. “It’s refreshing and citrusy,” approved Alice, while Sam and Charlotte compared it to kombucha and Berocca respectively (in a good way). Shanti this brew would be good with fruit salad, Charlotte with chips (what isn’t?). Calum was the biggest dissenter, labelling the drink “an affront” and grumbling that it “strayed too far from the brief”.

7) Boss Iced Caramel Latte

6.14/10 

237ml, $4 at supermarkets etc, 11.8g sugar

Confusingly containing less sugar than Boss’s “double espresso with a dash of milk”, the caramel latte was generally well received, even by Alice, who reckoned it tasted like sweetened condensed milk and was “kinda nice but kinda gross”. It reminded Mad of a diner, and Calum labelled it “sugary yet sophisticated” – which could also be said of a diner, when you think about it. Charlotte, Shanti and Gabi found it a bit on the watery side and lacking in coffee flavour, while Sam said “pure sugar, pure energy, feels a bit classier than a V”.

6) Boss Iced Vanilla Latte 

6.45/10 

237ml, $4 at supermarkets etc, 11.8g sugar

No one could detect any coffee in this one, which was more problematic for some panellists than others. “Tastes like sugar and milk, which is what I want in a drink like this,” said Sam, with Calum calling it “smooth and sleek, but more of a fancy flavoured milk than a coffee”. While Gabi dismissed it as “iced coffee for a baby”, Shanti reckoned she could down a whole can and Charlotte approved: “It’s like a Nippy’s, but fancier.”

5) Boss Iced Long Black 

6.5/10

237ml, $4 at supermarkets etc, 0g sugar

We all murmured approvingly of Boss’s superior Japanese can technology throughout the tasting, but their non-flimsy nature and magical cold-insulating properties were particularly pleasing with the long black. “Nice brown-tasting water,” said Gabi, summing up the less in-your-face characteristics and traditional roasty notes of the Boss compared to the more acidic New Zealand long black cans. “I’m getting notes of gunpowder,” mused Calum. “It’s serious and functional – coffee for people who view coffee as fuel rather than a yummy drink.”

Boss Rainbow Mountain Blend: cute

3 = Inner Bloom Oat Milk Cold Brewed Coffee

6.69/10

240ml, $5.59 at New World etc (12 packs at innerbloomandco.nz), 195mg caffeine, 6.5g sugar

Unlike the other oat coffees we tried, Inner Bloom’s wasn’t so oat-ver the top with oat flavour. “I’m getting a little bit of health food, but in a good way,” said Shanti, reading about the adaptogens that have apparently been jammed into the can to help you focus. “That’s delicious,” said Gabi, focusedly. “But there could still be more coffee flavour.” Habitual oat drinker Mad labelled it the pick of the oat offerings, while Calum nodded approvingly while noting a complexity the other oat coffees lacked.

3 = Eighthirty Cold Brew

6.69/10 

240ml, $5 at eighthirty.com, 0g sugar

Eighthirty does just the one canned coffee, and it’s just coffee – which seems like a winning formula. Despite a disconcertingly flimsy can, we enjoyed this drink. “Classic single origin filter vibes,” noted Alice, meaning it tasted like one of those lightly acidic pour-over coffees, while Calum waxed lyrical about the drinker being “invited to appreciate the coffee’s complexities”. “I quite like it,” chimed Shanti and Charlotte in unison, while Mad piped up with “nice and refreshing”. “It’s so acidic I might get a stomach ulcer if I drank it all the time,” worried Gabi. Sam said he didn’t like it, but then came to the realisation that maybe he just didn’t really like coffee.

2) Boss Rainbow Mountain Blend 

6.86/10 

179ml, $4 at supermarkets etc, 11.3g sugar

The can won us over with this one – pleasingly dinky, covered in rainbow colours and with that Boss structural reliability (no dents here). The eponymous blend references seven different beans from seven different Guatemalan regions, each of which represents a different colour of the rainbow, according to Sam, who read about it on the internet. “Nice and punchy,” said Calum on tasting the liquid within, a latte which he reckoned was “more balanced than the other milky ones.” Charlotte enjoyed drinking out of the tiny can, with Sam noting it was the perfect size for the morning commute. Wet blanket Alice acknowledged it had slightly more coffee flavour than the other milky Bosses, but whined that it was still “extremely sweet”.

1) Inner Bloom Straight Up

6.99/10

240ml, $5 from New World etc (12 packs at innerbloomandco.nz), 140mg caffeine, 0.1g sugar

The only Inner Bloom offering sans wellnessy bits and bobs added to it topped our tasting, scraping in at just under 7/10. An unembellished black coffee, its floral notes were pleasantly surprising, with Charlotte detecting hints of elderflower. “Smooth,” whispered Mad. “Floral,” murmured Calum. “A joyful drink.” Alice wanted “more oomph”, but noted approvingly that it was “a bit different”. “Lovely for a picnic,” sang Gabi, packing her basket. Shanti was so overcome she burst into poetry: “Like a gravelly glacial stream running through a field of wildflowers.” 

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