Trader Joe’s Canned Coffee Doesn’t Suck

Trader Joe's Ready-to-Drink Coffee Beverages

Trader Joe's Ready-to-Drink Coffee Beverages

I Paid: $3.99 for four 6.5-ounce cans (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 4 stars

Marketing: 3 stars

It seems like such an easy prospect: Package cold, sweetened, flavored coffee in cans and sell it. Ingredient cost is relatively low (rising coffee prices notwithstanding), profit margin is high, and how difficult can it be to execute on the flavor end of things?

Fairly difficult, as it turns out. Canned coffees typically suffer from one of the following problems: syrupy texture, aggressive sweetness, and nasty lingering aftertastes, including tinny or artificial flavors. The coffee itself often registers as acrid or, worse, not at all.

Trader Joe's does a good job of sidestepping all of these problems with its Ready-to-Drink Coffee Beverages. The vanilla Caffè Latte version has a clean flavor and pleasant coffee aftertaste; its mere six ingredients may have something to do with that. The Caffè Mocha has only one more ingredient (Dutch cocoa), and it imparts a little more of a Dutch cocoa flavor than you might want; something a little less powdery and literal would be nice. But it's really not at all bad, and is better than the artificial chocolate syrup that sometimes crops up in competing versions of this drink.

As an added bonus, these suckers are small. At a mere 6.5 ounces, they pack enough flavor to satisfy and deliver the caffeine equivalent of roughly one cup of coffee (80 milligrams), with only 120 calories.

James Norton edits the Upper Midwestern food journal Heavy Table. He's also the coauthor of a book on Wisconsin's master cheesemakers. Follow CHOW on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook.