Energy Drink Tier List

Table of Contents

Energy Drink Tier List

Last Updated 02-05-22

Over the last several months I have been drinking a lot of energy drinks as a slightly more fun way of consuming caffeine before workouts / focus sessions, and I thought I would assemble a list of my thoughts on each one.

Given that my ability to obtain random single flavors has been significantly hampered by the global pandemic happening right now, I've decided I'm just going to upload what I have right now and then add to it slowly as I accrue more and more flavors. So far I've tried about 30, so expect this list to grow as I go on this journey.

Some up-front disclaimers

Energy Drinks are Expensive!

Energy drinks are not an efficient means of doing anything. If you want caffeine in the cheapest way possible, purchase caffeine tablets off of amazon. They are like $0.04 per 100mg serving, meaning you can just take one or two with some tap water and immediately have 90%+ of the same effect of monster or whatever. If you want preworkout, add on some beta alanine and citrulline, which provide some muscular endurance and fatigue/soreness reduction, respectively. If you want to shell out the money for a fun can of almost soda which has some useful things in it, feel free to drink energy drinks.

Energy Drinks are Not Good Preworkouts

This is correct, usually they're not as good as actual preworkouts for use as preworkouts. But caffeine really gets you 90% of the way there, and it's more fun to try 30 flavors of energy drink over the course of a few weeks rather than try 30 different tubs of preworkout over the course of probably years. If your energy drink doesn't have citrulline or whatever, just take some with it.

Energy Drinks are Bad For You

Of course they are bad for you. That said, the badness of energy drinks is, I find, vastly overstated especially when explicitly paired with stuff like resistance training, for which their active ingredients frequently help out with strength and anaerobic capability. You obviously don't want to go nuts with these things but as long as you stay under the FDA's safe zone of 400mg per day from all sources it's really not going to be the worst thing in the world (probably).

Just Drink Water!

Water doesn't have caffeine in it. Mixing caffeine with water tastes awful. I drink plenty of water, and generally speaking don't drink more than one energy drink on any given day. Please, I beg you, go away.

Tier List

TODO: Add more notes about the flavors of each of these.

Some keys:

\(^c\) - has a flavor a lot like candy; potentially overly sweet, which is a turnoff to some people

\(^m\) - contains milk, which I have a hard time drinking and usually docks points for me off of otherwise good drinks

\(^\uparrow\) - Has a lot of caffeine, usually labeled

S

  • Monster Zero Ultra (white) Perhaps sort of a meme to have this in S tier but my relatively informed opinion on this is that it is still quite good
  • Monster Green Tea Not very common but amazing whenever I find it
  • Mountain Dew energy Baja Blast it tastes like baja blast and doesn't have calories; what more can you ask for?
  • Monster Rehab Lemonade + Ice Tea Moved this up because I drink it all the time and it doesn't ever get old

A

  • Monster Ultra Sunrise (Orange) Pretty much orange soda
  • Monster Ultra Blue Possible S tier, need to try again
  • Reign Sour Apple \(^{c \uparrow 300mg}\) You will probably like it if you think "caffeinated green jolly rancher" sounds appealing to you
  • Reign Blue Razz \(^{\uparrow 300mg}\)
  • Monster Ultra Red \(^c\)
  • Mtn Dew Rise Tropical Sunrise These all taste different but similar to monster they all land in about the same spot, very consistent
  • Mtn Dew Rise Berry Blitz
  • Mtn Dew Rise Pomegranate Blue Burst
  • Mtn Dew Rise Orange Breeze
  • Ghost Blue Raspberry Sour Patch Kids epic gamer branding but unfortunately very tasty
  • Reign Lychee \(^{c \uparrow 300mg}\) probably more like A- but nothing else has a lychee flavor so it gets points for that
  • Reign Mango \(^{\uparrow 300mg}\) Would probably like this more if I liked mango in general more, but it is a good flavor
  • Monster Ultra Paradise (Green) \(^c\) see reign sour apple, but more sickly sweet
  • 3D Strawberry (Chrome) \(^{\uparrow 200mg}\)
  • Mtn Dew Rise Strawberry Melon Spark

A-

  • Reign Gummy Bear \(^{c \uparrow 300mg}\) could be argued for A, fruit roll up vibes, a little too sweet but I mean it's called gummy bear flavor
  • Reign Orange Dreamsicle \(^{c \uparrow 300mg}\) orange cream flavor definitely very well captured imo
  • Ghost Orange Cream
  • Ultra Energy Serbian energy drink I encountered at a Chinese grocery store. Couldn’t really read the label well but I think it had about 80ish mg caffeine and it tasted like Red Bull but slightly fruitier
  • Reign Strawberry Sublime \(^{c \uparrow 300mg}\)
  • C4 Starburst Cherry very faithful to the starburst flavor
  • 3D Pina Colada \(^{\uparrow 200mg}\)
  • Red Bull Crisp Pear
  • Bucked Up Liberty Pop
  • Monster Rehab Strawberry Lemonade
  • Rockstar Juiced Pineapple Orange Guava
  • Raze Voodoo was surprised this was as good as it was given that the label makes it look like toxic waste
  • Monster Hydro Sugar Free
  • Monster Ultra Fiesta Mango
  • Rip It TRIBUTE Active Mandarin Lime These are apparently popular on military bases according to my friend that works in the energy drink industry. It feels a bit weird since it's got camo and a little drawing of a soldier on it, but I got it at the dollar store with low expectations and it was not bad at all.
  • Monster Hydro Blue Streak
  • Ghost Red Berry
  • Celsius Peach Vibe Good muted flavor, good if you're not a big energy drink person but like sparkling water
  • ALANI Trippy Hippie

B+

  • Monster Energy Iced Tea \(^c\)
  • Monster Rehab Lemonade + Tea
  • Reign Melon Mania \(^{\uparrow 300mg}\)
  • Adrenaline Shoc Frozen Ice \(^{c \uparrow 300mg}\)
  • C4 Orange Slice \(^{\uparrow 200mg}\) This has beta alenine in it so it might make you itchy
  • Monster Ultra Fiesta
  • Monster Ultra Rose
  • Ignite Blue Raspberry good, but with a weird aftertaste
  • 3D Citrus Mist \(^{\uparrow 200mg}\) nice mild taste, brand is pretty underrated in general I think
  • Bang Wylin Watermelon \(^{\uparrow 300mg}\) Wow! It's bang but it doesn't taste so bad! A first for me
  • Monster White Tea
  • Monster Watermelon
  • Gfuel Sonic Rings
  • 3D Berry Blue \(^{\uparrow 200mg}\)
  • 3D Liberty Pop \(^{\uparrow 200mg}\)
  • Celsius Live Fit Sparkling Orange Tastes similar to uptime but more yuppie and less nerdy; also has l-theanine
  • Bang Sour Heads \(^{c \uparrow 300mg}\)
  • Bang Blue Razz \(^{\uparrow 300mg}\)
  • Sugar Free Red Bull Low caffeine content + high price hurts this, but it tastes good
  • ALANI Breeze Berry
  • Red Bull Zero Tastes pretty much exactly the same as sugar free red bull
  • Adrenaline Shoc Watermelon \(^{c \uparrow 300mg}\)
  • Monster Reserve White Pineapple a sugar drink, but tastes like monster with pineapple juice in it so it being a sugar drink kind of makes sense, at least

B

  • Kafeen water this one requires some elaboration. It's marketed as "water with caffeine" and it almost delivers on that, it tastes sort of like spa water which was left out too long (my fiancee liked it though). But I put this in B tier despite it tasting a little weird because "water"'s neutral taste means you can mix it with things reasonably well. I put some Mio lemonade flavoring in this and it tasted great; A-/A level enjoyment. I felt weird about rewarding this for how it did not taste initially but it has enough of the properties of actual water to not be ranked in C tier or whatever.
  • Monster Java Mean Bean Just shy of 200mg caffeine, tastes pretty good if you like coffee with milk but an unfortunate one if you are lactose intolerant.
  • Red Bull (Regular)
  • Sting Energy Vietnamese energy drink, tastes a bit like twizzlers. Docked for calorie content.
  • Ghost Sour Watermelon Warheads good at first, but a bit too sweet afterwards
  • Triton Mango Fruit Punch
  • GFuel FaZe Berry
  • C4 Starburst Pink Not as faithful to the taste as starburst cherry
  • Rockstar Lime Cucumber It sounds like it would be awful but it was okay, cucumber taste is not very noticable
  • Rip It Citrus X
  • Kill Cliff Fruit Punch Knockout Probably more like C+ but the insanely psycho branding pushes it up here from novelty alone
  • Celsius Kiwi Guava My SO liked this one, though; I just thought it was okay
  • Uptime, Sugarfree notably has L-Theanine in it
  • Rockstar Juiced Island Mango
  • Triton Blood Orange Yuzu
  • Celsius Raspberry Acai Green Tea

B-

B tier and below is where I start deciding I mostly would rather not be drinking these

  • Rip It Power (Blue)
  • Quake Berry Blast Tastes like bang but less awful
  • Adrenaline Shoc Fruit Punch \(^{\uparrow 300mg}\) Tastes like overly sweet fruit punch
  • ALANI NV Electic Tye Dye Cherry Limeade This brand is mostly okay but there are some iffy ones
  • Bang Berry Bangster \(^{c \uparrow 300mg}\)
  • Adrenaline Shoc Mango Peach \(^{\uparrow 300mg}\)
  • Beyond Raw Burn MF Gummy Worm really thought this would taste awful from the branding but no lie it was pretty good
  • Gfuel Red Licorice
  • Monster Ultra Peach tastes like peach rings, pretty good but a clear worst among monster ultra flavors imo
  • Reign Thermogenic Watermelon Warlord
  • Rockstar Super Sour Green Apple As it says on the label, it is super sour
  • Reign Inferno Red Dragon \(^{\uparrow 300mg}\)
  • Rockstar Recovery Orange
  • Triton Strawberry Kiwi
  • Rockstar Pure Zero Silver Ice
  • Adrenaline Shoc Sour Candy \(^{\uparrow 300mg}\) it's very, very sour
  • Adrenaline Shoc Acai Berry \(^{\uparrow 300mg}\)
  • Monster Rehab Orangeade
  • C4 Bombsicle \(^{\uparrow 200mg}\)
  • C4 Grape \(^{\uparrow 200mg}\)
  • Bucked Up Pump n' Grind
  • C4 Liquid Ice \(^{\uparrow 200mg}\)
  • Quake (normal? green?) Tastes a bit off
  • Bing Blu tastes good with alcohol but you didn't hear it from me
  • Uptime, Original Citrus think "capri sun for adults", also has L-theanine in it
  • Monster Rehab Raspberry Tea
  • NOS Turbo \(^{\uparrow 300mg}\) a friend of mine described this as "pond water" which I think is pretty reasonable

C+

  • Monster Ultra Gold
  • C4 Grape \(^{\uparrow 200mg}\)
  • Reign Inferno True Blu \(^{\uparrow 300mg}\)
  • Raze Sour Gummy Worm \(^{c \uparrow 300mg}\) really thought this would be better than the voodoo flavor but was unfortunately mistaken
  • Rockstar Thermo Neon Blast \(^{\uparrow 300mg}\) tastes okay but avant garde, weird waxy aftertaste
  • Aspire Cranberry
  • Breinfuel Mixed Berry \(^{\uparrow 360mg}\) not a typo, actually has 360mg caffeine. I am pretty sure this makes it illegal to sell as a beverage so I actually found this in a CVS vitamin aisle away from all the energy drinks. It tasted pretty terrible but I put it in C+ just for the guts it takes to put a borderline dangerous amount of caffeine in a single bottle.
  • Arenaline Shoc Cotton Candy \(^{\uparrow 300mg}\)
  • Bang Lemon Drop \(^{\uparrow 300mg}\) weirdly think this one is different per can, first time I had this I was surprised how decent it was for Bang, the second time I had this it tasted like pine sol
  • Bang Whole Lotta Chocolatta

C

  • Bang Star Blast \(^{c \uparrow 300mg}\)
  • Breinfuel Tangy Citrus \(^{\uparrow 360mg}\)
  • Low Carb Blue Monster
  • Aspire Apple + Acai ginger root in this really not doing it any favors
  • C4 Strawberry Watermelon
  • Gfuel Cool Ice
  • Ghost Swedish Fish Tastes just like swedish fish! I don't like swedish fish. Why did I buy this.
  • Bang Rainbow Unicorn \(^{c \uparrow 300mg}\)
  • Reign Lemon \(^{\uparrow 300mg}\) as my SO put it: "it tastes like danger"
  • Big Game Energy Cotton Candy
  • Rockstar Peach Iced Tea \(^{\uparrow 300mg}\)
  • Bang Cotton Candy \(^{\uparrow 300mg}\)
  • Rowdy Cherry Limeade Not a fan of this brand

C-

  • Standard Monster
  • Rowdy Cotton Candy This tastes pretty bad but I will say relative to the other cotton candy flavors this tastes the most like cotton candy liquid
  • Rockstar Thermo Tropical Fire \(^{\uparrow 300mg}\)
  • Bucked Up Wild Orchard
  • Bucked Up Grape Gainz
  • Rockstar Zero Watermelon Kiwi \(^{\uparrow 240mg}\) This actually did not scan properly when I bought it at the grocery store despite me seeing it on the shelves for a few weeks - I am convinced I am the first person to buy one from that grocery store, and it shows
  • Gfuel Crash Wumpa Fruit a shame this is so bad, I always wanted to know what Wumpa fruit tasted like. Now I know - bad.
  • Bing Black Cherry Somehow not better than Bang or Bing (the search engine)
  • Rockstar Xdurance Kiwi Strawberry
  • Rockstar Sugar Free White Can
  • FitAid Citrus Medley probably doesn't belong here at all given it's just 45mg
  • Monster Zero Sugar minimal difference from normal flavor
  • Monster Absolute Zero I'm not even sure this is a different flavor from zero sugar or if the cans just come in pairs
  • Hi-Ball Blood Orange
  • Bang Frose Rose \(^{\uparrow 300mg}\)
  • Adrenaline Shoc, Black \(^{c \uparrow 300mg}\)
  • Zest Tea Passionfruit
  • M-150 considering it's the same brand as Carabao I was shocked this wasn't worse. Still not worth purchasing for high calorie count / low caffeine / small can

D

Everything below D tier I would call "atrocious"

  • Breinfuel Peach Mango Cerebral Nectar \(^{\uparrow 360mg}\)
  • Cocaine Mixed Berry \(^{\uparrow 280mg}\) This was very funny and I enjoyed the branding; it's sort of like if you tooked gummy vitamins and made them into liquid, which sounds okay in theory until you realize there is liquid wax taste in it and then you just get confused.
  • Rockstar, in general
  • Rockstar Pure Zero Punched
  • Rockstar Zero Carb
  • Gfuel Tetris
  • Gfuel PewDiePie Edition was hoping this would be catastrophically bad but unfortunately it was just normal bad
  • Monster Ultra Violet
  • Jocko Go Mango Mayhem Something in this makes it extremely bitter, I'm guessing it's the bacopa which is randomly in it. Makes it uncomfortable to keep in your mouth for any amount of time.
  • C4 Midnight Cherry Nyquil with caffeine
  • Coke Energy
  • Big Game Energy Green Not as much caffeine as bucked up, and also worse
  • Breinfuel Fruit Punch \(^{\uparrow 360mg}\) How do you screw up fruit punch? It even hides the taste of alcohol most of the time.
  • Bing Cherry
  • Bang Mango Bango \(^{\uparrow 300mg}\)
  • Cherry Coke Energy
  • Reign Cotton Candy \(^{\uparrow 300mg}\)
  • Bing Crisp Awful
  • FocusAid Melon Mate Eww dude

D-

  • Bang Miami Cola \(^{\uparrow 300mg}\) imagine the unpleasantness of giving budget cola at a restaurant instead of coke, which you asked for, but multiply that unpleasantness by ten thousand times.
  • Zest Tea Pomegranate Mint I love tea but I had to throw this out halfway through, which I almost never have to do even with very bad energy drinks; the novelty wasn't even enough to keep me around
  • Rowdy Strawberry Lemonade
  • Rowdy Peach Mango It's been a bit since I actually drank this but in my notes it just says "gross, D-" which makes it the only D- with a specific note beyond being in D-
  • 5 Hour Energy Probably as bad as it is possible to be without being amusing. Doesn't deserve F tier.

F

  • Reign Thermogenic Jalapeno Strawberry \(^{\uparrow 300mg}\) I am baffled they sell this, and am convinced it is a novelty flavor. I was talked into buying this explicitly so I could put it in this list, and even so I regret having to drink this.
  • Carabao Might be okay if at least two of the following three conditions were met: it was diluted in equal parts water, it was sugar-free instead of 160 calories, if a 200mg caffeine tablet were swished in to bump it up from 50mg. Otherwise this just tastes like when the soda machine at a mcdonalds is broken and it gives you syrupy water instead.
  • Cocaine Spicy Flavor \(^{\uparrow 280mg}\) I'm putting this above birthday cake bash because it is a very funny gag but holy christ does it taste bad
  • Bang Birthday Cake Bash \(^{c \uparrow 300mg}\) tastes like cake made with expired milk
  • Jocko Go Sour Apple Sniper It smells very nice when you open the can, which really makes you feel like you're drinking the liquid inside those fabreeze wall plug-in air fresheners
  • Hint caffeine kick apple pear what in the ever loving christ is this? This is the only one so far which literally was so bad that I could not take a second sip from the bottle. It only has 60mg of caffeine! The ingredients are "purified water, natural flavors, and caffeine from coffee beans" and somehow it manages to taste like concentrated military-grade cough syrup. I would believe you if you told me in a blind test that this was a covid-destroying medicine.

Overarching Thoughts on the Institution of Energy Drinks

Caffeine Content

I really can't stress how mind-bending it is to me that so many of these drinks contain 300 milligrams of caffeine in them. For scale, that's something like 3-5 cups of coffee, all at once in one beverage. A number of the below drinks contain that amount and I certainly cannot recommend them unless you are explicitly going to exert yourself in some way immediately after (e.g. lifting weights).

Sugar Content / Calories

I have a very strong preference against drinks with sugar / caloric content in general. You might think this is because I think they add empty calories in exchange for no actual nutritional benefits. You would be half right, but I also think generally speaking non-diet soda just tastes pretty terrible (see: diet coke vs regular coke). As such please keep in mind that I have this relatively extreme bias, and that most of the sugary energy drinks are ranked fairly low as a consequence.

I Wish There Were More Samplers

Generally speaking, I don't know how you could arrive at opinions about this sort of thing unless you get to try tons and tons of flavors. I know wine people have wine tasting parties where you drink a sip or two of many different kinds of wines, and I am a bit frustrated that I'm doing the caffeine equivalent of buying many bottles of wine, even if I end up hating the bottle. Likewise preworkout doesn't usually come in single serving packets (and even if they did, they would be all the same flavor), so I wish there was a generally more efficient way of doing this compared to just purchasing tons of things and then finishing them.

Remaining To-Do items

  • Some interesting visualizations would be fun probably
    • Caffeine content vs score
    • Subjective candy-ness vs score
  • Drink more energy drinks
    • Misc stragglers of the brands I've tried

Updates

  • 4/12/20: added six drinks, moved a few things around based on new criteria
  • 4/26/20: added 10ish drinks
  • 5/11/21: added some large number of drinks idk
  • 6/15/21: moved "probably wont drink this" down to B- because I thought a few drinks in B were drinkable but clearly worse than the drinks in B+
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