Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ruckpack nutrition Shot

Ruckpack is one of those energy drinks with a real mission.   It is created by veterans and they give at least 10 percent of profits to several charities, including the Wounded Warrior Project and the MARSOC Foundation.  More than just an energy shot, this was designed as a core wellness nutrition shot. Yes, they put energy all over the bottle, but that is a misnomer. Ruckpack gives you energy the same way a protein bar gives you energy - by supplying the body with a good dose of what it needs to function well, except the sweet sweet caffeine.

Packaging:9
Ruckpack is one of the few energy shots that have decided not to use the standard 5 hour energy bottle, and it is much better for it.  The unique shape gives this character, and it makes the whole product look more... ballistic. You can tell from the colors and logo that this is a serious energy shot made for serious American people - especially when enhanced by the army men and US flag and big callout for the US Special Operations Forces.

Functionally the bottle works too.  It is easy to read, great printing job, packaged neatly in the 5 Hour fashion of having the tear-off label and sealed lid.  It stores well, stacks well, and is all around appealing.  They do advertise in big yellow letters that there is no caffeine in the shot too - just in case you got confused and wanted a rush of energy from it.

Taste:3
I understand that this is loaded with vitamins and minerals and all this other good stuff, so they did not want to weigh this down with sweeteners and such, but they really could have worked on making this taste better. The closest way to describe the flavor is like a Centrum tablet crushed into powder and mixed with prune juice. It really is not pleasant.

The best way to drink this is ice cold.  I don't know if that really improved the flavor or it just makes it faster to get down past your tongue, but either way I would definitely suggest icing this for an hour before slugging down.  They also recommend mixing with cold water - but that is a really bad idea.  Unless you like watered down vitamin crushed prune juice, which in that case go for it.

The absolute best way to drink this is after strenuous exercise - like a big cardio workout or a run.  It still might taste bad, but the minerals and aminos and electrolytes taste to good going down that it does not matter how the flavor is, because it is like Manna from heaven.

Buzz:8
Ruckpack is the highest rated non-caffeinated energy supplement I have tried, and I have to say I am surprised. It does not even give you a burst of energy, but I still found the sustained power that you can get out of a bottle very interesting.

The ingredients list is interesting too. THere is A-GPC, Theobromine, MSM and a bunch of amino acids, which is a combo I have not seen before. On top of that there is a crapload of vitamins, including B complex, C, K and D. All of this with under 20 calories and sweetened with stevia.

It's like this: Sometimes when driving you need a big burst of speed to get you where you need to go - and you need to be able to maneuver past obstacles and have that immediate power. But there is a special kind of feeling when you drive a car that just had it's fluid changed and has a tank of ultra-premium gas - like your car is in peak optimal driving conditions. Ruckpack is like that premium gas. It wont get you moving in the morning or past that afternoon slump or do any of the awesome things we love with caffeine. However, once you are up and moving it can help restore you to optimal conditions.

Because of the lack of caffeine, I tried Ruckpack out in two other conditions, and both worked admirably. My son and I were needing something as a post-workout drink. I am in a grueling cardio routine in the mornings, and find that by the end I am wiped out and dehydrated. Ruckpack is amazing at almost immediately refueling me with electrolytes and good stuff to bring me right out of it (although a bit more caffeine in it would have accelerated the process). Ruckpack wins over all those sports drinks and recovery smoothies - hands down. I also found that on heavy coding days when my brain wants to turn off but I need to finish a bit of development I am working on, this gives me the focus to go further than if I just tried to muscle my way through.  Chasing this down with a Diet Mountain Dew provided a great way to both give me the caffeine charge, plus helps get the taste out of my mouth as well.

While I definitely would not recommend this as a replacement for your morning coffee or energy drink, Ruckpack surprised me by just how potent and beneficial a non-caffeine energy drink can be.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Casa Del Sol Iced Coffee

Casa Del Sol Iced Coffee is possibly one of the worst canned coffee drinks I have ever had the displeasure of drinking, or at least the worst in the past 3 or 4 years.  From the expensive price for the little badly illustrated can to the taste of burned hell and chemicals, this is the worst way to get your caffeine fix in a liquor store I have seen.

I mention the liquor store because that is just about the only place you will see this - either as a freebie attached to a  Rumchata gift pack, or hidden away next to the sodas and mixers.   It is put out by a liquor import company in the midwest  ( the people behind the Chata line of drinks), and is about has about as close a connection to Spain as Vultaggio &Sons of Brooklyn have to do with Arizona Tea.

Packaging:3
Its a cheap illustration printed badly and cheaply on a thin 8 ounce can.  The design is muddled because of the crappy printing job, so you can not quite make out that it is supposed to be printed on a distressed yellow wall, cutting to a blue bottom for no apparent reason.   The only thing that makes this look even remotely spanish is the top of the can's cutaway Spanish-style roof and ridiculous stock illustration drawings of a town and a sun.  It is hard to make out exactly what is going on because of the cheap printing job, but you can read that this coffee has no sugar, only 10 calories and 100% arabica.

Besides the printing quality and the bad art, there are functional problems too.  They did not double face the can, the lid isn't fitted for the drink to face a certain way or is any way special to the drink, and the art flakes off easily from the can.   The only good thing is that they do print the caffeine content right in the ingredients list so it is easy to find.

Taste:1
The person who thought this drink was OK to be sold to the public for a price should be fired and find a different industry.   I can not believe there is not someone who had a hand in bringing this drink to market who tasted this and found it acceptable.  At what point is something like this OK?

By sugar free, they meant just that - a bunch of cold burned drip coffee served black.  I don't think there is much more to say about this other than its the worst canned coffee I have ever had in my entire life - and I have had some really scary bad coffee things in my past.  I guess this is mostly a throwaway attached to their rum drinks, or mixed so heavily that it is OK that it tastes so bad - because no one will ever taste it through all the alcohol.

If you are going to be brave and try this one out - I do advise you get Casa del Sol ice cold - it helps mask the acrid burned non-sweet baking soda flavored taste.

Buzz:5
Yes, for a small 8 ounce drink, the 120mg of caffeine is  nice thing.   Other than that,the only other ingredients in here are burned coffee and baking soda.   I am sure the baking soda was to add some shelf life, which on the one hand is good - because these are going to be going rotten on liquor store shelves, but also makes a bad tasting coffee even worse ( Arm & Hammer Lattes - don't recommend it).  Being just coffee and chemicals also keeps your calories to a minimum, but you would be better off getting a black coffee from a fresh pot of Folgers Crystals than you would opening a can of Casa del Sol.  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Rockstar Vanilla Light Latte

Rockstar makes about as many different kinds of drinks as there are drink to be made.  They have had a Relax formula, a super sour one, punches and workout waters and about everything else you can think of - and almost all of them are fantastic hits or complete flops.

That is why it is no surprise that they also have their line of energy coffees, right there next to the Starbucks and Monster canned varieties.   The difference between this and the others you can find on the shelf is that


  1. This is half the calories of other canned coffees
  2. It is not nearly as overpoweringly sweet as the usual vanilla flavored coffees out there.
  3. The caffeine is substantial, coming in at around 240 per can - plus other nutrients

This is a very good thing - if you are into drinking your coffee out of a can rather than a paper cup.   While I am not so very fond of their heavily caloric regular line (although they are also very tasty if a bit  syrupy) The light one is worth a try.

Packaging:7
The can is designed well enough - although it reminds me a whole lot of design schemes from the 80s   If you were looking for something to color coordinate with your Mac SE, this would totally be the thing.   I guess it is hard to come up with a good color combo that speaks of light vanilla, but overall it is still fine.  The lettering is easy to read and they remembered to print the caffeine on the can, as well as double face the name to make it easier for stockers to face the cans in convenience and grocery stores.

Taste:5
Of all the Rockstar coffee flavors, this one is definitely the one to get.  The other flavors are a bit too over the top in fake coffee flavoring and sugars - making it far too sweet and..glacky.   That isn't the case with the Vanilla Light, with jut enough sweetness and flavor to make it yummy without turning into a milkshake

But now I would not go thinking this tastes like real coffee - it still tastes as close to a good real cup of joe as one of those powdered espresso drink machines at convenience stores compared to a real cup of cappucino.   You know full well that when you get into this you are getting  coffee flavored beverage and not even close to a yummy big cup of fresh roasted coffee.   It's a hack, but a yummy one.  The stevia leaves a little bitterness and there is a little chalky aftertaste to it, but overall it ain't half bad.

Buzz:8
This is where things get interesting.  Usually coffee drinks are on the light side of nutrients, seeing as coffee doesn't have that much in the way of taurine and vitamin B and all that.   But, this is not a real coffee drink but one put out by Rockstar, so of course there is going to be a boatload of good stuff packed in here.

The sugar/sucralose/ace-k blend of sweeteners get this to only 70 calories per serving, compared to the 140 these drinks usually have. When you add in the 3g protein, all your vitamin Bs, sodium and potassium, 1000mg taurine, ginkgo, inositol, l-carritine, and Site pantrax ginseng extract, 20mg milk thistle extract - all good stuff.  My favorite part of the whole thing is the whopping 240mg of caffiene this drink has!   This one will definitely get you moving with a purpose and not feel like you just ate a pankake breakfast while you did it - as long as you don't mind your coffee drinks to not taste a whole lot like coffee.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Super Bull Coffee with Milk

Every once in a while I find myself wandering the aisles of an Asian food market, and end up with cans and cans of strange coffee drinks in my cart.  While there are the occasional cool energy drinks to be found, the amount of canned coffee drinks that come out of Asia are staggering.  Some can be quite good - although most range from the ridiculous to the ridiculously bad.

In the case of Super Bull Extra - Coffee with Milk, this little 6 ounce can was one of the worst coffee drinks I have ever had.  This awful rancid piece of garbage was so bad I am surprised it even made it past customs.  I have a hard enough time someone would spend the time producing it, let alone cart it all the way here from Thailand.  But, thanks to the Anhing Corporation in Los Angeles, It made its way into the US.   You would think that somewhere along the way, from the bottling plant to my cart, someone would have drank a can of this and decided it was not worth the bother.

Packaging:3
This small 6.08 o can is what happens when you stick to only one color for your printing job - and goes the range from reddish brown to brown to yellowish brown - all in one hard to read mess.  First - you gotta love the name Super Bull, which is most likely a play off Red Bull, even though other than both being liquid have nothing to do with another.   Secondly, by printing brown on top of yellowish brown, you miss such things as their illustrated stamp on top of their bad picture of what I am guessing is coffee on ice.  IF you look closely, you can read that they are excited that this was made "FROM ROASTED COFFEE BEANS" which is much better than using them raw or microwaved.  They do have an easy to read nutritional label, and thats about it.   You could tell before opening the sturdy aluminum can that this drink is going to be pretty sketchy.

Taste:1
Have you ever left coffee in the pot so long that it got that nasty sludge on bottom from cooing all day?   Well, take that sludge, add a little bit of sugar and reconstitute it with some water and powdered coffee creamer and thats about what you have here.  Basically a slightly sweet canned burned mess.  If you like coffee, or your tastebuds I would pass this one up.
No reason to continue ranting, just no.  Big bad no.  

Buzz:2

If you manage to finish the can of slightly sweet reconstituted burned coffee sludge, it is only 6 ounces, and not even enough caffeine to register even a hint of energy.   I like canned coffee.  I like Asian canned coffee - I have even had some great Thai canned coffee, but this is barely drinkable.  Please Anhing Corp, taste your products before you end up bringing crap like this to my awesome Asian food market.