Canned coffee has a bad reputation and it shouldn’t. Admittedly it doesn’t feel as satisfying as making a pourover in the morning nor does drinking one give you an excuse to go out to a local cafe to order a latte. But before you write it off as the stuff you’d grab in desperation while on a painfully long road trip, it’s time to rethink the beverage. Plenty of upscale coffee brands are making canned lattes, cappuccinos, and more. They’re smooth, flavorful, and have that same caffeine jolt you’re seeking. Added bonus: it’s easy and convenient to pop one open if you’re trapped on back to back calls or if you’re running around all day. I’m also a fan of bringing them on a casual hike or a picnic, to enjoy with a cookie.
Read on for my current favorites, from the silkiest oat milk-based latte to a perfectly sweet Japanese cult classic to one that’ll please the most particular coffee lover.
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If You Prefer To Only Drink Black Coffee
While canned coffee isn’t as popular here, in Asia it’s huge. You’ll find them in vending machines as well as convenience stores. Some are flavored while others are milk-free, like this one. You’ll taste cocoa but it’s only a touch sweet. And while technically this isn’t a “can”, it’s made from lightweight metal and features a bottle top, for ultimate convenience and portability.
The Japanese Vending Machine Favorite
You can find this canned coffee hot or cold in vending machines or Combinis (convenience stores) all over Japan. The little can has two espresso shots worth of caffeine but the flavor isn’t bitter at all -- it’s pretty light, on the sweeter side (without being cloying), and great at waking you up. I found myself drinking multiple ones per day while on vacation, as a way to stave off jetlag.
If You Want More Than A Caffeine Boost
Whether you’re into adding collagen or herbal stress relievers like ashwagandha or maca, these oat milk coffees offer more than just caffeine. They also feature a bit of pink Himalayan salt, to emphasize their perfectly sweet blend of milk and coffee.
The Super Strong Option
With a name like Death Wish, you’re probably like oh hell no I don’t want to drink that. But it’s actually not that terrifying. Reviewers on Amazon love how smooth it tastes. Yes, it has a lot of caffeine but if you’re the type to hit snooze for an hour in the morning, you’ll probably want to drink this.
If You Want A Good Oat Milk Option
We’re big fans of Rise’s oat milk and their canned lattes are just as good. It’s silky and rich, but if you’re not into sweet drinks, it might skew a little too sugary for your taste. That said, at 3pm when your brain is lagging, the combo of caffeine and sugar might be what you need to power through.
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The Coffee Snob Option
Equator Coffee is known for selling its beans to top, award-winning restaurants and once you try it, you’ll see why: it’s smooth and easy to drink. Unfortunately their lattes are sold out but the black coffee is also a solid choice. And if you’re curious about the brand, they’re LGBTQ owned, fair trade, and certified B Corp. in California, meaning their business demonstrates they’re a force for good.
The Chinese Supermarket Staple
Go to any Chinese supermarket and you’ll find an entire section devoted to Mr. Brown and all of the brand’s associated flavors. I’m a purist and go for the one my parents love, which is this cappuccino version. It’s creamy, sweet, and tastes like dessert.
The One With The Best Texture
Can a canned latte recreate that same silky, fluffy texture as a freshly made one from a coffeeshop? Not quite, but this draft version comes pretty close. By using nitrous oxide for its bubbles, La Colombe has the same foamy mouthfeel that you get from a frothy coffee drink. They also have a plastic lip that creates separation between your mouth and the can -- it’s meant to reduce any metallic taste in the milk.
The Low Acid Option
Reviewers praise this option for being smooth and easy to drink. It has plenty of caffeine and no sugar, so if you’re looking for the next best thing to freshly made cold brew, this is fairly close. And if you’re into making a quick iced coffee, it’s pretty good with some oat milk.
If You’re Dying For A Trip to Italy
Are you standing in a tiny cafe in Rome, grabbing the perfect cup of cappuccino before setting off for your next meal? Not quite, but being that travel to Europe is still a few months (if not more) away, this can be your afternoon compromise, especially if you tack on a biscotti.
The Bodega Classic, In Canned Form
Chances are your favorite bodega coffee was made with Bustelo. The iconic yellow, blue, and red packaged can is a classic among the Latin American community and it’s the crucial ingredient if you’re making cafe con leche. While reviewers say that this will never replace a cup from a South Florida coffee stand, it’s a delicious, creamy, and sweet drink that comes close.
If You Like Really Big Iced Coffees
Most of the cans on this list are on the petite side, which makes sense since a lot of them are espresso based. But if you’re the type who prefers to slowly enjoy an extra large iced coffee, you’ll like this 12 oz. can. The award-winning brand flash chills its beverages in seconds, in order to better retain its flavors and aroma. Of the two, Woke Up In New York is my favorite as it’s smooth, fragrant, with just a hint of sourness and bite.