How did I end up grabbing cold brew after cold brew season has been long over? I know not how or why. Call it hypnotism. Call it brand loyalty. Call it whatever you want. It was the packaging and the fact that there were two of them. I gotta stop that. Maybe after the holidays. :P
Stop and admire the shininess. It could pass for an energy drink. I did come to my senses after the allure of the shininess wore off.
1) Cold brew in a CAN?? When have I ever had pre-packaged coffee that has turned out good? NEVER.
2) COLD BREW in a can?? I mean cold brew isn't THAT complicated but there is a science to it. And you're claiming to have replicated that into a canned form?
For the record, I was all ready to go into this product review with a perfectly open mind. That is until the cashier commented on my purchase, recommended the vanilla one, and told me how she takes her coffee (loaded with cream and sugar). I am no coffee connoisseur. And there is nothing wrong with taking your coffee with cream and sugar. If you do that, more power to you. But isn't black the proper way to drink real coffee? I went home with suspicions raised.
Also suspect - the packaging says to refrigerate AFTER opening. Shouldn't you refrigerate it BEFORE opening? I mean..cold brew is supposed to be cold. The only thing worse than terrible cold brew is lukewarm terrible cold brew.
First ingredient: WATER. Which is proper, technically speaking. During cold coffee season, I brew my cold brew with 1 part ground coffee to 4 parts water.
The first sip was terrible. Just terrible. Definitely not cold brew. Definitely not coffee. No smoothness at all. No depth of flavor. It was black water. It tasted like the coffee that I had at American Tire while waiting for my oil change, only left out for a day and then refrigerated and canned. It was difficult to finish this 8 oz can. Not to mention - the caffeine content was abysmal. Usually 8 oz of cold brew has me wired to boot, but this didn't even touch me.
So I found myself reaching for the French Vanilla can a few hours later, despite the subpar taste left in my mouth. It was better but not by much.
The vanilla flavor masks most of the deficiencies with the black cold brew. It's sweeter, obviously, which makes it moderately more palatable. In fact, the taste is basically how I doctor bad coffee so that it becomes drinkable. I can see why the cashier lady liked this with milk/cream, because adding that would make it taste like a Starbucks drink. But that's a Starbuck coffee DRINK, not COFFEE.
Maybe I had left it unrefrigerated for too long or maybe you're supposed to shake up the can before drinking and the packaging neglects to mention that, but there was also this chalky sediment at the bottom of the can. Absolutely disgusting. Maybe they forgot to strain this through a cheese cloth. At the end of the day, cold brew is cold brew. Vanilla does not belong in cold brew. It belongs in vanilla iced coffee. Vanilla ice cream. Vanilla wafers. But vanilla cold brew? Please do not desecrate my cold brew with your vanilla.
I haven't tried the cold brew concentrate that comes in the plastic bottle, mostly because cold brew is so darn easy and cheap to DIY. But I'd certainly buy that before I buy this again. In fact, I'd rather fast from coffee than have this again. You're not saving any money with this either. $1.69 per can, which puts you at $3.38 for 16 oz. If you're going to pay that, you might as well fork over the money for coffee shop cold brew.
I'm just going to move on and pretend this never happened...
TL;DR: Trader Joe's Black Cold Brew Coffee. On par with Dunkin Donuts cold brew? Maybe worse? 2 out of 10.
TL;DR: Trader Joe's French Vanilla Cold Brew Coffee. 'Nilla can mask it but it sure don't fix it. 3 out of 10.