5/3 – Added Eliya Organic King Coconut Water. Updated Pure Squeeze. Added photos.
What are the best coconut waters?
Judging by the amount of shelf space devoted to them in grocery stores, coconut water is a popular item. Not being a huge fan of the fruit, I had never tried it until it was recommended to me by several doctors. They extolled the virtues: low in calories (the average is 55 per serving), lots of electrolytes, more potassium than a banana, no fat, no cholesterol, and an easy way to hydrate. I decided to give it a try and picked up a carton at Trader Joe’s. It was terrible; I nearly spit it out. It was weeks until I gave another brand a try. The second, Amy & Brian’s was much more pleasant and easy to drink, which led me to investigate the wide variety of brands available.
Some of their websites promise all kinds of miracles. For example, CocoFresh claims to “help with rashes, kill intestinal worms, check urinary infections, is a tonic for senior citizens & sick people, cure malnourishment, treat kidney & urethral stones and eliminate poisons”. Another “increases semen, promotes digestion, and is a “proven pitta-pacifier” with a pranaropana-life-restoring-capacity”. Huh?
Many commonly available coconut waters are no longer made; clearly, the boom is over and I remove a few every time I update this list.
Over the last four years, we have tried many brands and found a huge variation in taste. Some were too sweet, some bitingly acidic, others tasted like a chemical brew, and a few had little flavor at all. Some tasted good on one purchase, and lousy on the next. It occurred to me that it would be worth the time to do a taste test: What are the best coconut waters?
Note: because of supply chain issues, some waters have skyrocketed in price. Case in point, Taste Nirvana- now $4.80 a can! I expect this to be a temporary issue, so have not adjusted prices here.
One issue that gave us fits was inconsistency. At first, I thought I was losing my mind when I did tastings with the second and third groups – ratings were very different than the first group. After buying samples of the same water over three months, it became clear that aside from the big-name brands such as O.N.E or Naked, the overall taste varied considerably from batch to batch. The smallest, least processed waters such as Harmless Harvest had a wide variation in taste, with two groups calling it the best, and two groups the worst. This is the reason you’ll see divergent comments in the ratings, but in the end, enough people participated in the tasting with samples from different sources so that the averages worked out. I discussed the issue with a couple of juice company representatives, and was told that “much like wine, the flavor of each coconut varies, especially from season to season and the age of the coconut”. Apparently, young coconuts are best for water whereas older ones are best for industrial uses. In addition, some brands add “natural flavors” or sugar to ensure consistency between batches. Therefore, these ratings are subjective, based on the taster’s preferences, and the particular batch of water. I did go out of my way to buy one of each brand from three different stores.
In the listings, the “Not Recommended and “Fair” are no longer ranked by order of preference; there are so many similarly bad waters it is tedious to rank them.
7-11 Select – A reader recommended an upscale version of 7-11 store water, but the only one near me was their standard brand. Let’s examine the ingredients: coconut water, sugar, coconut pulp, coconut flavorings, and sulfites.
- Comments: “This is in the worst top 5.” “So sweet,” “undrinkable,” “just awful.”
Need I say more?
Pure Squeeze: This seems to have been discontinued for good reason; we thought it was terrible.
On a June 2019 trip to the bay area, I picked up a new version in a fancy blue bottle. It had a good toasted coconut flavor but was overly sweet. Between the bottle and the French writing on it, It feels like a gimmick. The rating remains the same as the canned.
- Comments: “Lingering chemical aftertaste”. “Overpowering chemical aroma”, “Heavy”, “Dull”, “Way too sweet!”, “Metallic”.
CocoCoast: Metal can, organic, 100% “green coconuts”. We found this at Providore Fine Foods, a local, upscale grocery store. They usually carry top-notch products, and even though it was $3.39 a can, we bought two based on Providore’s reputation.
- Comments: “Sugar, sugar, sugar!”, “OMG, this is one of the worst ones you’ve made us taste”, “has a metallic finish”, “I grew up in the Philipines and this is nothing like I grew up with”, “Too sweet!”.
Coco Joy: Metal can. From Vietnam. $0.20/Fl Oz. They claim no added sugar/preservatives and that it is not from concentrate. I find that hard to believe. Another terrible coconut water, it tastes like sugar with a hint of coconut. For the limited Covid panel, we couldn’t get it down. This stuff is just wrong.
- Comments: “This is awful!”, “Why do you keep doing this to us?”, “Undrinkable”. “Throw the rest away”, “It’s like drinking glucose”.
Coco Libre: Paper container, water, organic coconut concentrate, and “natural flavors,” flash pasteurized. $0.22/Fl Oz.
- Comments: “Salty”, “Awful x 3”, “Heavy”, “tastes like something dairy”, “You need a spit cup”.
Coco Roots: Paper container. Non-organic. 100% coconut water. Vietnam. Initial impressions? Do not buy. It’s awful. A few of us spit it out. We’ll have more notes soon if I can convince myself to buy more.
Eliya Organic King Coconut Water: Glass bottle. 10.1 Fl Oz. Sri Lanka. No additives. It weighs over a pound when the bottle is included – it may be organic, but with shipping, it certainly is not eco-friendly. “King Coconut, indigenous to Sri Lanka, contains 35% less sugar with 2x the electrolytes compared to the standard green coconut water used by all other coconut water brands in the US.”
We think they spent all of their budget on the very pretty bottle and the water was an afterthought. It clearly belongs in the Not Recommended category. Then there is the cost: a 12-pack costs $60, but hey, they have financing!
Festival Coconut Water: this brand recently appeared in most major stores as well as online. The price is right – $0.15/Fl Oz. 100% organic. Metal can. Thailand. We just retested this with the full panel. The cost per can has jumped 49 cents since 2019. (Retested 8.27 with the same results – we both spit it out.)
- Comments: “Cardboard taste”, “Nasty!”, “Terrible aftertaste”, “Nutty, but a bit too sweet”, slight chemical aftertaste”, “If you’ve got any more of this, throw it away!”. This is truly one of the worst we’ve tasted.
Nature Factor: Metal can, organic, no additives, high-temp pasteurized. $0.20/Fl Oz.
- Comments: “If this was representative of the others, coconut water would have no future”. “Smells like a pond”. “Woody”, “Too sweet”
O.N.E.: Paper container, non-organic, contains water, sugar, coconut concentrate, “natural flavors”, flash pasteurized, $0.13/Fl Oz. Owned by Pepsi
- Comments: “Oddly salty”, “Bland x 5”, “Simple”, “Not too sweet”, “Off taste”, “Foul”, “Oh hell no!”, “Chemical taste”.
Refreshe: Paper container, non-organic, vitamin C added, flash pasteurized., $0.13/Fl Oz.
- Comments: “Could hardly get down”, “Caramel”, “Too sweet – x 12”, “Tastes like cherry Koolaid”, “Awful”, “Unpleasant smell” – Safeway brand.
Tasco Young Coconut Juice – Metal can, includes sugar, and preservatives. Flash Pasteurized.
- Comments: “Ugh – tastes like chemicals” “Too damn sweet”. This water cost us only $1.19 at an Asian market, making it one of the lowest-priced, but I would never buy it again.
C20 : Metal can, non-organic, no additives, high-temp pasteurized, $0.18/Fl Oz.
- Comments: “Bland x 3”, “Smooth”, “Average”. “Awful!”, “Sugary”. Re-tasted 4.19 – “Nasty!”, “Even worse than before”, “Plastic taste”, “Foul”.
Cadia All Natural: Metal can, no added ingredients. Flash Pasteurized. Thailand. Updated 2.19
- Comments: “Ugh… nasty”, “Astringent”, “No-body”, “Lousy aftertaste”, “Off taste”. “Not refreshing”. “Way down my list”, “Throw the rest out”.
CoCo Fresh: Metal container, non-organic, no additives, $0.22/Fl Oz.
- Comments: “not a hint of taste”, “Not much fragrance”, “Icky”, “Unremarkable”, “Smooth, but so is water”, “Bland”.
Foco: Cardboard container. From Thailand. Not listed as organic. No added sugar/preservatives. Various sizes. $0.07/Fl Oz.
- Comments: “Bland”, ” Watery”, “Not offensive but not particularly good”, It lacks something to make it stand out from the pack”, “Ok for the price, but not particularly enjoyable”.
Full Circle Market: Cardboard container. Contains ascorbic acid. Not organic. The origin is not clear. $0.10/Fl Oz.
- Comments: The vitamin C which is added as a preservative is not nearly as overwhelming as other brands that use it. “Light, easy-drinking”, “fairly refreshing beverage”, “Innocuous”, “Middle of the road”, “nothing to write home about, but okay”.
Harvest Bay: an 8.45 oz. cardboard container with a “sippy straw”. Thailand. $0.21/Fl Oz.
- Comments: “Tastes off.”, “Chemical tones”, “Flat”, “No, I wouldn’t buy this”, “Near the bottom of my list”, “Doesn’t taste much like anything”.
Kirkland (Costco): The cardboard container, not the one that is refrigerated. Sold in packs of 12. This is the non-refrigerated version. Product of the Philippines. Cardboard container. 11.1 oz. Organic coconut water, organic sugar, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C). Advertised as “99% juice”. The tasting panel argued over this one and ended up being split 50/50. Vitamin C usually gives a nasty aftertaste and this followed that trend. The biggest critics are from those on the panel who grew up in Thailand and the Philippines”.
- Comments: “It smells like piss”, “Slightly soapy”, “Tastes like old coconuts”, “Smooth”.
Kroger brand – Simple Truth: cardboard container, organic, no additives. Philipines. This was so similar to Thirsty Buddha (below) that we think it may be the same company. In our 2019 tasting, it was $.89. In 2020, $1.50, and the taste has gone downhill. $0.24/Fl Oz.
- Comments: “Tastes watered down”, “Not much flavor”, Easy drinking”, “Another bland one”, “Slightly astringent”, “Smooth”, “Not too sweet”, “Oily aftertaste”.
Naked: Paper container, non-organic, added fruit sugar, flash pasteurized, $0.13/Fl Oz. Flash Pasteurized. Added sugar. Owned by Pepsi. USDA Certified Organic. According to news reports, they have had a class action lawsuit for using GMOs and deceptive labeling.
- Comments: “Bland”. “Tastes like plastic”, “Nothing special”, “Tastes off”.
Thrive Market: Paper container stating “organic, premium, ethically sourced.” From the Philippines from mature coconuts. No added preservatives, 100% coconut water. $0.12/Fl Oz.
Middle-of-the-pack coconut water. It has a slightly dusty finish, no natural sweet notes. It’s pretty innocuous, i.e. boring.
- Comments: “Bland”, “Flavors are slightly off”, “Not much sweetness at all”, “This is boring – it does the job, but is not particularly enjoyable.”
Vita Coco: Paper container, non-organic, <1% fruit sugar, ultra-high temp pasteurized, vitamin C added. $0.14/Fl Oz. Some versions use carrageenan
- Comments: “Not bad”, “Just ok”, “Bland”, “Better on 2nd pass”, “Better warm”, “Fruity”, Citric acid taste”, “Average”, “Boring”, “Smooth”.
Vita Coco Pressed: Plastic container, non-organic, added <1% sugar, ascorbic acid, gellan gum. From Thailand. Milky color.
Slightly odd texture from the gellan gum. You can taste the ascorbic acid (Vitamin C.)
- Comments: “The milk color is odd”, “Water from real/green coconuts don’t look milky like this”, “I can taste the preservative”, “Boring”, “Nothing to make it memorable”, “Slight coconut oil taste on the finish.”
Wild Harvest: 100% coconut water, no artificial colors/flavors, no preservatives. “Micro filtered”. 8oz can. $0.10/Fl Oz. This is a recent entry that is showing up everywhere. Don’t confuse this with Harmless Harvest which is in our top 10.
- Comments: “Innocuous”, “Bland”, “Not unpleasant”, “Would do in a pinch”, “Price is right”, “Slight off taste”.
365 Whole Foods: Metal can, non-organic, no additives, flash pasteurized. Product of Thailand. $0.13/Fl Oz. This is the 2021 version with the new label. It seems the same as the old version.
- Comments: “Not great”, “Artificial taste”, “Easy drinking”, “Drinkable”, “Pleasant”, “This tastes slightly metallic on the back of the tongue.”
Zico: Plastic container, non-organic, not from concentrate. Non-GMO. 100% coconut water, ultra-high temp pasteurized. $0.14/Fl Oz. Owned by Coca-Cola (this review updated for new formula 7/17 ). Ultra-high temperature pasteurization.
- Comments: “Ok”, “Unremarkable”, “Bland”, “Middle of the pack”, “Grassy”, “Simple”, “Tastes like plastic”. [The comments above have been updated since they reformulated the product and it moved up the listings.]
15. Amy & Brian’s: Metal container, organic, no additives, flash pasteurized. $0.18/Fl Oz. No GMOs, no preservatives. When Re-tasted 2.19 the tasters weren’t as impressed because of the high sweetness – interesting as there are no added ingredients.
- Comments: “Watery”, “Bland”, “Too sweet”, “Wow – too sweet!”, “Mellow”, “Brown sugar”, “Better than most”, “Could do in a pinch”.
14. H2C: Cardboard container, not organic, Vietnam. 100% coconut. No preservatives. Found this in an Asian market.
- Our first impressions – best very cold. Unremarkable, but nothing to set it further back in the pack. It’s “just fine.” My impression – at $2.39 per 16.9/Fl Oz box, I’d expect better.
13. Thirsty Buddha: Cardboard container, organic, no GMOs, Philippines. See note on Kroger above. We picked this up at T.J. Max for $.89.
- Comments: “A bit watery”, “Bland but refreshing”, “light”, “Smooth”, “Not much body”, “Not much character”, “Slightly astringent”.
- Comments: “A bit Flat”, “Not much flavor”, “This does the job, but nothing special”, Slightly acrid (possibly an off batch, so we’ll recheck soon), “Rounded flavor”, “Slight dirt taste.”
11. Obrigado: cardboard container. No additives/sugar. Water is processed without exposure to light or air, which is supposed to make it better.
- Comments: We were surprised it didn’t place higher on this list, but the two samples we bought had a slightly off taste, with hard edges. Comments were all over the place: “Tastes more like home than most”, “a bit one dimensional but still good”, “doesn’t taste very coconutty”.
10. Maui & Sons: Cardboard container. Product of Vietnam (seems a bit deceptive to have Maui prominently in the name). 100% coconut water – not organic, but no preservatives. $0.08/Fl Oz. I’m getting some surprising waters as friends have started sending them to me. This, from Home Goods, was a surprise for all of us.
- Comments: “Very easy drinking”, “Not a lot of character and no toasty notes, but refreshing nonetheless”. “Not too sweet”, “I could drink this on a regular basis – especially as coconut water cost keeps rising”, “I’m surprised how easy this goes down”.
9. Vita Coco Pressed: 16.9/FL Oz. plastic container. Non-GMO, BPA free, but not organic. $0.31/Fl Oz. Ingredients: Coconut water from concentrate, coconut puree, less than 1% sugar, vitamin C, and gellan gum. Thailand. We were surprised when we tasted this coconut water. Usually, these ingredients result in water that is less than stellar. However, despite the addition of Vitamin C, in this case, used as a preservative, it was pretty good, with just a slight chemical taste. The body was smooth, with almost a creamy feel, like a bit of coconut milk had been added. Unlike many of the coconut waters in this list, we finished our bottles.
- Comments: “Smooth; tastes oddly creamy. is that the gellan gum?” “Easily drinkable, but you can tell it’s not pure.” “I could drink this without complaints in a pinch.” “Not sure it’s worth the $3.00 a bottle price, but it’s a big bottle.”
8. Zola: Metal container, non-organic, <1% sugar, $0.24/Fl Oz.
- Comments: “Too sweet”, “Very toasty”, “Good coconut flavor”, “I actually could drink this daily”, “Complex”, “Layered”, “Like toasted almonds”, “Refreshing”, “Best of the bunch”
7. Real Coco Organic: Cardboard container. Organic. From the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam. 100% coconut water, no additives. $0.15/Fl Oz. I’ve seen this frequently at Costco in the California Bay area.
- Comments: The jury is still out on this one; only two of the tasting panel have tried it because of Covid-19. When cold, it’s quite refreshing with a light rounded flavor and a good body. It easily belongs in the top 10, however, when it warmed up a bit as it might if you were drinking it through a meal, it takes on the slight aroma of a damp rag. The other taster said I was crazy, but, after I pointed it out, he said it was all he could think about. Unfortunately, I’ve got a crazy good nose for picking up subtle odors. We’ll get back to this when we can get 10 people in a room again, but for now, I’m putting it at #7.
- Comments to come.
6. Taste Nirvana – We used to list this as a best buy, but no more! It is nowhere near worth what many retailers are charging – $4.72 a can! I’m looking at you, New Seasons Markets! This has varied in the ratings from #1 to #6 over the years.
Available in metal or glass containers, non-organic. When we first tasted this it was pressed and had no added ingredients. As of 2020, the ingredients list has changed and now contains “coconut essence” and less than 1% added fruit sugar. It’s still good coconut water, and I didn’t even notice the change until it was pointed out by a reader, so we retested it. No GMOs. $0.16/Fl Oz.
This coconut water uses Thai coconut. Prices are steadily climbing on this brand (lately up to almost $5 a can from as low as $1 a can in 2021 – it’s not worth that price.) Re-tasted 2.22.
- Comments: “Would be great over ice”, “Toasty coconut”, “Nutty”, “Pleasant, smooth and balanced”, “Smooth”, “Nice mouthfeel and body”, “Smooth coconut without the oily aftertaste”, “younger coconuts for a change.”
5: Coco Goods: Carboard container, from Vietnam, 100% coconut water, no additives, no GMO’s.16.9oz. $.0.15 Fl/Oz. Sold cold.
Coco Goods is one of the more interesting waters we have tried in some time. It’s a bit expensive – $4.00 where we picked them up, but the surprise is in the taste. I took a sip and felt very confused, then everyone else tried their samples and our opinion was unanimous – it has distinct roasted marshmallow notes. We’ve never tasted anything like it since we started this project. I’m not saying it isn’t good; the taste is pleasant and quenching and not particularly sweet. Note: this test was based on a single batch of cans from the same store. We will wait a while and pick up more to make sure this is not an aberration.
- Comments are short and sweet: “Wow, this is really different!”, “Is it just me or does this have an odd flavor?” “It tastes like marshmallows.” “It’s nice to taste something truly different for a change.”
4. Harmless Harvest Coconut Water: sold in a cold case. Plastic container, organic, no additives, cold high-pressure processed. $0.31/Fl Oz., the most expensive on our list. From Thailand. This water varies from an almost clear color to very pink, which they claim is from the antioxidants interacting with light. Over many tastings, we realized it varies widely from batch to batch.
Though the company used to call its product “raw”, they have discontinued the phrase due to issues with the FDA. In 2016 the company was sued by a group claiming they were not really using organic coconuts, which they settled but denied any wrongdoing, however, the ingredients no longer claim to be organic.
- Comments: This coconut water has been on our list since 2015, but has been all over the place since with comments across the range from: “Excellent”, “bright”, “toasty flavor” – to “Unpleasant aftertaste”, “No! No!”, “Horrible.” “Too sweet!” “Toasty coconut, but a bit much.” Our comments from 2021 are: “This is much more similar from bottle to bottle than it used to be”. “Somewhat heavy/filling, which gets old”, “Still somewhat sweet”, Fresh and refreshing.” For late 2022, we’ve retested and dropped it by 3 places as it tastes like it’s been sitting somewhere for a long time, and the prices have skyrocketed to as much as $5.00 a can! It’s still better than most, but it’s not going in a good direction.
Because of these differences from year to year, we feel this brand varies greatly between batches and is difficult to rate, so we re-taste every year. Your experience may vary. Tip: you can get this at Costco in boxes of six (larger size) for <$13. It hides in the refrigerated foods area.
3. Kirkland (Costco) (cold case): clear plastic container, from Thailand, pink color, USDA organic, no additives. Sold in a pack of six 14oz containers for $.143 per ounce.
The Kirkland is so similar to Harmless Harvest and Trader Joe’s (next,) it’s hard to differentiate them. The color, mouthfeel, taste, etc. all are about the same. I suspect they are from the same wholesaler. For the price, it’s a bargain. Read the comments under Harmless Harvest below. This does not seem to be available from Costco anymore, or at least not in Oregon, but I noticed it on Walmart.com where you can get 9.51 quarts in bulk for $52.00.
2. Trader Joe’s 100% Pure (cold case): Plastic container, organic, no additives, pasteurized, sold cold. $0.25/Fl Oz. Re-tasted 1/22 and moved up 4 places. Who knew? This is so close to the Harmless Harvest below, we aren’t sure it isn’t a product of the same company. Refreshing, quenching, clean – It’s a bargain. You’ll find it for about $2.39 each in TJ’s cold case.
A few markets in our area recently started carrying several brands of whole refrigerated coconuts. Both have the husk removed and one has been stripped back enough that you can puncture it with a little straw that is attached. It’s like a natural juice box. The other one was like a bank vault and I pulled out the power drill to get into it. They both tasted the same. Keep in mind they don’t hold very much water.
- Comments: “This reminds me of home, but not quite as good”, “Much better than all of the others”, Expensive for what you get, I’m not sure it’s worth it”, “Tastes like real coconut”, “Oily, but in a good way”, “Wow, I could drink a ton of this”.
Updated 5.23 – Removed Taste Nirvana Coconut Juice & C20 Farmers Reserve – discontinued.
Updated 9.22 – added Coco Goods to the top 10. Demoted Harmless Harvest and reordered our recommended list.
7.13 – Updating Obrigado shortly. Coming soon, “Pure Squeeze” coconut water. I’ll tell you right now, you don’t want the latter. I could barely get it past my nose.
Updated 2.22 – added Walmart. Retested – Vita Coco Pressed, Whole Foods Organic, Whole Foods canned, Costco store brand. Removed 2 Trader Joe’s versions and Columbia Gorge which are no longer available.
Updated 1.26 – retested Vita Coco Pressed, Whole Foods Organic, retested Whole Foods canned. Removed: Original Villager Natural Coconut Water (discontinued.) CocoCommunity – bought by Vita Coco which is lousy.
Updated 1/22 – Updated Taste Nirvana… WTH? 10/21 – add Trader Joe’s Fresh.
Updated 6/21 – H2C, and Thrive Market Coconut water.
Updated 3/21 – added H2C preliminary results. Added Whole Foods Organic full results.
Updated 2/21 – Added Coco Roots. Whole Foods is back with two new versions an organic version in cardboard and another non-organic in a can. Added Vita Coco Pressed – it did pretty well. Re-tasted Harmless Harvest.
Updated 1/21 – 2 new coconut waters: 7-11 store and C20 Farmers Reserve. Updated prices with a few new impressions.
Updated 1.2021 – many prices, a few new comments.
Updated 8/2020 – First impressions: CoCo Joy coconut water – only two tasters due to issues getting the full panel together during Covid-19. Updated Festival. Updated Taste Nirvana.
Updated 8/20 – First impressions: CoCo Joy.
Updated 7/20 – added first impressions of Real Coco Organic
Updated 5/20 – re-tasted Festival, Taste Nirvana (canned), Simple Truth. Added Kirkland, and added water from real coconuts. Coco Community discontinued in the USA.
Updated 5/20- added Kirkland, added “real coconut water”, re-tasted Simple Truth, Taste Nirvana, Festival. Full change list at the bottom.
Updated 9/19 – added Full Circle Market, Foco, Blue Monkey bottled, CocoCoast, Maui & Sons. Revamped listings format.
Updated 5/19 – Added Festival Coconut Water
Updated 4/19 – added Wild Harvest, Thirsty Buddha, Kroger Simple Truth. Re-tasted Amy & Brian’s, Taste Nirvana, C20 and Cadia waters.
Updated 12/18 – prices and a few comments
Updated 2/18 – added Original Villager, Trader Joe’s King Coconut Water, updated prices.
Updated 11/17 – added Columbia Gorge, Harvest Bay, restest Harmless Harvest, Coco Community, Obrigado]
Updated 7/17 – Zico has a new formula. Updated 4/17 – Taste Nirvana changed the label, so we retested and found it the same. Also retested Harmless Harvest and found it better – it moved from #16 to #2, but it proves our point that it tends to vary widely from bottle to bottle. We moved it up with a comment.
Updated 9/16 – added Tasco. Updated 2/16 – added Cadia. Updated 10/15 – downgraded Zola due to a noticeable slip in quality]