Review: Starbucks Cold Brew Canned Flavors Can't Compete With Their In-Store Counterparts

Any devout Starbucks fan knows that there are many drinks to be found beyond the coffee chain's storefronts and cafes. In fact, a meander down a grocery store aisle will have you face-to-face with a plethora of canned and bottled Starbucks drinks, most of which are coffee-based. There are the iconic Starbucks bottled Frappuccinos, of course, but there's also a whole line of canned coffees; these include everything from mini espresso-based sips to modest-sized nitro cold brews to large DoubleShot and TripleShot cans that offer copious amounts of caffeine. 

A more neutral cold brew offering has been notably missing from Starbucks' canned lineup. The closest thing we've had so far are the canned nitro cold brews, but even those feature a gimmick that perhaps not everyone is looking for. There are bottled Starbucks cold brews on the market, but even so, non-nitro, flavored, canned versions of Starbucks cold brew favorites seem like the logical next step — and, as it turns out, we weren't the only ones who thought so.

Starbucks has rolled out three familiar flavors — Vanilla Sweet Cream, Chocolate Cream, and Salted Caramel Cream — of canned cold brews, but are they worth checking out? We've put all three to the test to find out if these will become Starbucks' next big hit or if you're better off sticking with the real deal at one of the chain's storefronts instead.

Some recommendations are based on first-hand impressions of promotional materials and products provided by the manufacturer/distributor/etc.

What are the new Starbucks Canned Cold Brew flavors?

The new Starbucks canned cold brew flavors might sound quite familiar if you're a regular cold brew drinker — that's because they all directly mimic "fan-favorite" flavors that Starbucks offers in actual storefronts. Vanilla Sweet Cream, Chocolate Cream, and Salted Caramel Cream are in the canned cold brew lineup, though they are notably much different than what you might purchase at a cafe. For starters, the chocolate and caramel cold brews at Starbucks stores feature a plain cold brew base, a few pumps of vanilla, and an infused cold foam on top. The vanilla one, meanwhile, features the same cold brew base and vanilla flavoring but gets a splash of vanilla sweet cream instead of a cold foam.

As for the canned versions, you won't be finding any cold foam or even a layered beverage at all. Instead, everything — the coffee, milk, and flavor — is all combined into one cohesive drink, canned and ready for sipping. The calorie breakdown for the canned cold brews is pretty similar across the board, with the vanilla and caramel ones boasting 120 calories and the chocolate coming in at 130. Sugar-wise, the trio also have similar breakdowns, with caramel and chocolate containing 20 grams per can and vanilla containing 17 grams. 

Where can you find Starbucks Canned Cold Brew and how much do they cost?

Much like the bottled and canned varieties of Starbucks drinks that came before them, the new cold brew flavors can be found at most grocery stores — think places like Walmart, Target, Meijer, Jewel, Publix, and other big chains. Keep in mind that since these are a new rollout, it may take time before these cans hit the shelves of your local store, so check often and consider hitting big box chains like Walmart for the best chance at finding them.

As for pricing, Starbucks has suggested a retail price of $3.59, but once again, the price may ultimately vary depending on your location and where you're buying from. At the time of this writing, Target is offering the canned coffees for $3.49 a pop, while Walmart has them priced at $3.28. If you aren't looking to leave your house to be able to try these drinks, you can order them in 12-packs on Amazon; the variety pack, which features all three flavors, will set you back $41.15. For those who are confident that they'll prefer one flavor over another, you can order a 12-pack of each flavor for a slightly lower price of $37.42. 

Taste test: Starbucks Canned Chocolate Cream Cold Brew

Unlike other chocolate-forward drinks on Starbucks' menu, like a mocha, the chocolate cream cold brew is less of a sweet, syrupy flavor and more of a rich, deep, cocoa-forward flavor. I assumed the same would be true for the drink's canned counterpart, and for the most part, I was correct. There are hints of chocolate throughout this cold brew, but it is more like a dark cocoa flavor than a chocolate one; for some, this might be a plus, especially if you don't like syrupy, super-chocolatey drinks. For me, and perhaps others out there, this drink left me disappointed, as I was looking for something a little more chocolatey all around.

The plus side to this cold brew (and all of the cold brews on this list, I'd come to find out) is that it is nice and smooth, and what hints of chocolate do come through are tasty for what it's worth. However, when you're directly mimicking a flavor off of a popular drink that exists in a different form, the comparisons are naturally going to sprout up, and in terms of this canned cold brew and Starbucks' in-house chocolate cream cold brew, there's really no comparison at all. Ultimately, comparisons aside, I wanted more chocolate, I wanted more creaminess, and I wanted a stronger cold brew flavor as opposed to just a coffee one; the drink left me hanging on all three counts.

Taste test: Starbucks Canned Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew

Of all three flavors of cold brew on this list, I'd argue that the vanilla sweet cream version is the most worth your time and money. Starbucks already has a canned nitro cold brew that's vanilla sweet cream flavored, and this non-nitro version tastes similar (which is a good thing). Unlike the chocolate flavor, the vanilla shines through in this cold brew, making itself apparent with every sip and ultimately offering a pretty tasty experience from start to finish.

Now, compared to the vanilla sweet cream cold brew that you could get in a Starbucks cafe, this canned version is lacking. Something particularly tasty about the in-store version is how rich and creamy it is, but this one (like the chocolate one) really wasn't all that creamy. Also, again, the coffee doesn't necessarily taste like cold brew but instead like regular coffee that's been hit with a little bit of milk and a little bit of vanilla. There's nothing glaringly offensive about the canned vanilla sweet cream cold brew, but at the same time, nothing about it particularly stuck out or made me want to revisit it after one can.

Taste test: Starbucks Canned Salted Caramel Cream Cold Brew

Finally, we have the salted caramel cream canned cold brew, which I went into expecting the most distinct flavor out of the three. After all, there were essentially three flavor notes to look out for, with caramel being the strongest, creaminess to follow it up, and a touch of salty goodness as the aftertaste. Well, perhaps I dreamed a little too broadly because this cold brew didn't deliver on any front. Sure, it tastes a little bit like caramel, but there's no saltiness to be found (not that I wanted an overtly salty drink, but I wanted to taste a little salt), and like the others, the creaminess is lacking.

There was also a palpable aftertaste that wasn't salty, sweet, or creamy; it was a bit sharp, almost chemical-like, and completely off-putting. I've noticed that Starbucks canned and bottled caramel flavors can be hit or miss, and for me, this one was a miss. I think people who like caramel and have relatively low expectations can find something to enjoy about this salted caramel cold brew, but I struggled to get through the can.

And, of course, when compared to Starbucks' in-store version, this canned version falls short. Anything caramel at an actual Starbucks storefront is almost always a winner, but the canned beverages just struggle to compare nearly across the board.

How do the new Starbucks Canned Cold Brews compare to the canned Nitro Cold Brews?

Before these new cold brew flavors hit grocery store shelves, Starbucks' nitro cold brew cans gave many fans their convenient cold brew fix — so, how do the new options stack up to the nitro ones? In terms of flavor, we see a direct overlap as both the nitro and regular cold brew lineups feature a vanilla sweet cream flavor. As someone who enjoys the vanilla nitro flavor and has sipped on countless cans of it, I like the nitro version better than the new version. The nitro aspect added an extra creamy layer to the coffee that the new vanilla flavor simply can't compete with. Meanwhile, the closest comparison for the new chocolate one isn't a direct overlap; while the new one is chocolate cream, the nitro one boasts a dark cocoa chocolate flavor, and I'd say they're pretty even in terms of flavor (which is to say that neither is particularly great).

In terms of variety, the nitro ones technically have the new ones edged out, as they come in black, vanilla, dark cocoa, and regular sweet cream varieties. The new ones win in sweetness; they're not overly sweet by any means, but they lean on the sweeter side more so than their nitro counterparts, which may be a good or bad thing, depending on your preference.

Are the new Starbucks Canned Cold Brew flavors worth it?

After sipping on each of Starbucks' new cold brew flavors, I've determined that they aren't worth it, solely because there are so many better options out there. One of my biggest qualms with the new cold brews is that they don't have that rich, smooth flavor that I look for in cold brew; so, naturally, you'd be better off going to a Starbucks storefront and ordering an actual cold brew instead. Also, the flavors just don't stack up against their in-store counterparts, which is yet another reason why I think it's worth the trip to Starbucks than the convenience of reaching for one of these cans.

If hitting up a Starbucks storefront just isn't an option for you, I'd still argue that Starbucks' canned nitro cold brews are a tastier option than the new ones — or at least the vanilla sweet cream nitro over the regular vanilla cold brew if you're looking for a direct flavor swap. While I don't find the new cold brews to be terrible by any means, it's hard for them to compete when Starbucks has such a stacked cold brew lineup both in cafes and already existing on grocery store shelves.