In 1969, Japan’s UCC Ueshima Coffee Co. created the first canned coffee drink. The creation made canned coffee trendy in Japan; now, grocery stores across the world carry UCC canned coffees from the original to a newer Kona blend.
Not to knock UCC, but let’s knock UCC: its canned coffees were (and are) sweet, packed with sugar and contain milk powder and gnarly emulsifiers. Nowadays, coffee drinkers have better options. We found six canned black coffees that are almost as good as freshly brewed coffee. And why cans? Compared to glass-bottled coffees, you can throw around a can without risk of it cracking and plastic-bottled coffees are, well, plastic.
We named Elemental Beverage Co’s snap-chilled coffees one of the best new products of 2019. Elemental’s canned coffees are brewed hot and immediately chilled, and the canning process happens quickly, locking in the flavors. Elemental is one of the few coffee brands that utilizes single-origin beans in its drinks, too, a fact that’s spurred independent coffee roasters to collab up with Elemental to can their own brews.
Ceremony teamed up with the company BKON to use its Reverse Atmospheric Infusion, or RAIN, brewing process. RAIN technology is meant to extend the shelf life and retains the flavors of Ceremony’s cold brew coffee so the Maryland-based coffee roaster can share their coffee beyond their café.
Two-time Finnish Barista Champion Kal Freese co-founded Taika, a line of adaptogenic-infused coffee beverages, which includes black coffee and two milk-alternative latte drinks. Each drink contains a “Taika Blend” of adaptogens to offset caffeine jitters. James Hoffmann, coffee Youtuber, World Barista Champion and author of The World Atlas of Coffee, is one of the brand’s investors. He told coffee blog Sprudge: “Most of the time I drink coffee because I either enjoy the taste or because I want focus and productivity, so that Taika does both without compromise or making me choose makes it incredibly compelling.”
Blue Bottle Coffee is one of the biggest names in the specialty coffee movement. Earlier on in the canned coffee craze, the brand’s milky sweet New Orleans-style iced coffee dominated. The drink was packaged in a milk carton-style container adding to its appeal. Now, Blue Bottle sells a range of canned black coffees. Its Bold brew is full-bodied and chocolatey; the Bright variety is fruit-forward; and the newest Single Origin coffee is a Colombian cold brew with a nutty, caramel-like flavor.
You can teach an old dog new tricks. The country that started the canned coffee craze is still pumping out brands that are adapting the original UCC coffee into something a third-wave coffee drinker might like. Suntory’s Boss Coffee (yes, that Suntory) is a flash-brewed coffee, so it’s brewed hot and chilled immediately. Boss sources its beans from Brazil and Colombia, but it’s not specific about the region. It’s fairly new to the American market, but it’s been lining Japanese vending machines and 7-Eleven shelves since 1992.
A lot of independent coffee shops use La Colombe’s beans in their cafés. Like Blue Bottle, La Colombe is one of the bigger third-wave coffee roasters around. The brand’s single-origin cold brew is sourced from Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Mountains and these brews are light and refreshing with floral notes and hints of toffee and citrus.
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