Instant coffee has its place even for committed coffee lovers.
Our aim today is simple: to show you which instants stand out in a sea of bland, insipid drinks that give coffee a bad name.
If you have even a passing interest in coffee, you’ll understand why instant so seldom hits the mark.
To start with, you’re far away from grinding the beans before brewing. They have been ground some time ago and already significantly degraded before they reach your cup.
Many instants make use of questionable beans so you need to carefully assess what you’ll be drinking before committing to purchase.
On the flipside, though, instant coffee is cheap and couldn’t be easier to make. As long as you have access to boiling water, you’ll need nothing more than a few seconds, a quick stir and then you’ll be supping away on a piping hot coffee…
Or cold coffee. We appreciate many of you are partial to iced coffee so a couple of the instants we highlight today work equally well cold.
Before we get down to business and showcase the leading instant coffees that actually taste good, a word of warning…
Drinking instant coffee is all about compromise. As long as you’re aware that the trade-off for value and convenience is a dip in overall quality, you can attack the world of instant coffee with the right attitude and that attitude is this…
You should always take the time and trouble to embrace different brewing methods and to pursue that perfect golden cup of coffee. That said, there’s always a time and a place for instant, so don’t be a coffee snob or purist and open your mind to the possibility that some instant really does taste good!
I. 9 Best Tasting Instant Coffee Reviews
1. Our #1 Pick: Waka Quality Instant Coffee
If you want an instant coffee that delivers a smooth taste and aroma without any of the hassle of more convoluted brewing methods, Waka hits a home run.
Medium roast Colombian, this coffee might not offer the flamboyance of pour-over but you’ll appreciate the understated balance and the ease of use.
Here at La Mano, we understand that there’s sometimes a place for instant. The single-serve sachets are ideal when time is of the essence so make sure you always have some Waka on hand. Choose from 8 to 80 servings.
From Forbes to Business Insider, Waka coffee is heralded far and wide as the next best thing to freshly brewed coffee.
- The 11 Best Cold Brew Coffee Makers
- The 10 Best Pour Over Coffee Makers
- The 17 Best Single Serve Coffee Makers
2. Best Instant Iced Coffee: Starbucks VIA Instant Iced Coffee
When the warm weather comes round, there’s little to beat a soothing iced coffee. If you want to enjoy your drink without heading to the coffee shop, why not bring the coffee shop home to you? Starbucks rolls out this instant iced coffee as part of its single-serve VIA line. Is it any good, though?
Absolutely. You’ll get the sweet taste associated with Starbucks coffee thanks to the cane sugar this recipe is laced with.
While we champion taking the time and effort to rack up some cold brew coffee, you simply can’t compete with the speed of delivery this VIA iced coffee provides.
3. Best Organic Instant Coffee: Mount Hagen Instant Coffee
Good instant is hard to find. While not perfect, this value-packed jar from Mount Hagen serves up a full-bodied drink in seconds flat.
Although you shouldn’t notice any acidity, there’s a definite bitterness to this coffee so avoid if you prefer a sweeter and less punchy brew.
While single-serve sachets might be convenient, they aren’t great for your wallet or the environment. The granules in this jar give you the makings of fully 60 cups of joe so value is uppermost.
You’ll be free to take this coffee hot or cold. As always, if you’re pouring hot coffee over ice, you can expect a bitterness and also the drink is typically diluted. Use this Mount Hagen instant to brew up with cold water avoiding the pitfalls of regular iced coffee.
4. Best Decaf Instant Coffee: Nescafe Taster’s Choice Decaf House Blend
If you typically turn your nose up at instant coffee, you might rethink that after tasting Nescafe Taster’s Choice.
Decaf gets a bad rep with just cause. It’s often nothing but a pale imitation of the real deal. This light-medium roast might not have the kick of a straight espresso, but you’ll enjoy a robust and lip-smacking drink that will have you questioning whether it really is decaffeinated.
5. Budget Pick: Folgers Classic Roast Instant Coffee Crystals
As with all instant coffee, you need to keep your expectations reasonable to avoid disappointment. If you judge these granules compared to other instants, Folgers stands up well. Set this instant against a carefully prepared pour-over, and you’ll come up short.
If you can get past that trademark aftertaste, this medium roast is balanced and pretty full-bodied while also offering you all the convenience you’d expect from instant.
While we’re not here to encourage you to ditch the grinder and espresso machine in favor of coffee from the kettle, when it’s time for instant, Folgers delivers.
6. Alpine Start Premium Instant Coffee
Marketed with the tagline, “Instant coffee that actually tastes good”, does Alpine Start live up to that bold claim?
Choose from the original blend or one cut with coconut creamer or the decadent dirty chai. Whichever variant you opt for, you’ll get great Arabica beans grown at high altitude in Colombia.
The convenience of having an all-in-one coffee means you won’t need to lug milk or creamer to work and it also comes into its own in an emergency with no milk at home.
While this is not going to pack the same punch as a short, strong shot, it’s not designed to. If you’re looking for a mellow, all-day drink, try Alpine Start.
7. Starbucks VIA Instant Colombian Coffee
Another entry from Starbucks’s VIA line, this instant Colombian is ideal when you don’t have time to break out the grinder and roll up your sleeves.
Medium roasted beans come in single-serve packets so all you need is some off-boiling water to get a serviceable coffee in seconds flat.
Made from Arabica beans, this instant won’t win any awards at a coffee tasting but for a daily drink when time is tight, keep some Starbucks to hand.
8. Maxwell House International Swiss Mocha
Not everyone wants a bland and regular instant so Maxwell House International serves up a wide array of flavorings from Swiss mocha to French vanilla and cinnamon-infused blends.
Despite this awesome taste, you’ll get a low-fat coffee containing just 2g of fat and 30 calories per serving. This is at stark variance to much of the single-serve coffee produced in this fashion.
Do your wallet and your waistline a favor and invest in some Maxwell House International.
9. Kava Acid-Neutralized Instant Coffee
A great deal of coffee, instant in particular, has that bitter aftertaste that mars the experience somewhat. Kava tackle this head-on and the result is a coffee that’s low in acid and a cinch to make.
Despite taking away that taint, the taste is surprisingly full-bodied and you’ll enjoy a coffee that might have you questioning whether it’s instant.
Our advice is to stock up on this coffee while it’s still around. It flies off the shelves and can be notoriously tricky to find.
Right then, with our reviews of the best tasting instant coffee put to bed, it’s time to round out with the usual handy hints.
While instant coffee might seem idiot-proof, there are a few things you can do to improve your overall experience with coffee granules.
Read on to discover how to make the best cup of instant…
II. How To Make The Perfect Cup Of Instant Coffee
Reconstituted instant coffee will always lack the subtlety and the complexity of freshly ground coffee beans and a more immersive brewing method.
That said, you don’t need to settle for lame instant that puts you off taking a second sip.
How can you improve the otherwise underwhelming taste of instant coffee, then?
Use Filtered or Bottled Water
With so much of the contents of your finished drink consisting of water, it’s amazing so many coffee lovers underestimate the importance of H20.
It might be that the drinking water in your home is neither too hard nor too soft and tastes pretty good directly from the faucet. This is likely not the case, though.
Use bottled water for your instant coffee or at minimum filter the tap water so you get things off to a crisper and cleaner start.
Add Some Cold Water First
Rather than cascading boiling water all over the coffee granules, add a teaspoon or two of cold water to the instant grounds and mix well.
Taking this small but important step before brewing helps promote a gentler brew with a superior taste when your drink is finished.
Get The Temperature Right
In case you’re not already aware, you should not use boiling water to make coffee. While boiling water brings out the best in tea, you should use water between 195F and 205F when you’re making coffee.
Unless you have a kettle with a thermometer baked in, you’ll need a handy benchmark to guesstimate this temperature band.
All you need to do is boil your kettle and then wait 30 seconds. This should yield water at the right temperature to get your coffee started in style.
With those basics in mind, here’s what you need to improve the taste of instant coffee further:
- Bottled or filtered water
- Flavorings (cocoa powder, vanilla powder)
- Flavored syrups
- Vanilla extract
- Sugar, milk or creamer
To avoid repetition, all of the above are optional and should be used to taste or not at all. There’s no fixed route to instant that tastes great so make it personal.
Here are some general pointers to use these ingredients and jazz up otherwise underwhelming instant…
- Look for freeze-dried coffee rather than spray-dried coffee
- Never leave water sitting in your kettle. Use some bottle or filtered water, fill up your kettle and wait 30 seconds
- As above, stirring in some cold water is advisable and brings about the best-tasting instant
- Although the flavor of instant coffee is set and the temperature of the water less important than with other brewing methods, it still pays to aim for 195F to 205F if you’re looking to optimize the taste of your instant
- Even if you normally take your coffee black, instant typically benefits from at least a little milk or creamer
- Be creative with additives and syrups to add a new level of flavor and aroma to your instant coffee
- Consider using warm milk instead of water to get a gentler and smoother approach to instant coffee
- Throw in some sweetener. Again, this can transform an otherwise bland and fairly tasteless instant into something a great deal more robust
- Think about using some coconut oil to alter the taste. This might not be to your liking but what have you got to lose by trying?
With those simple pointers in mind, you should now be placed to get the very best result from the reasonable poor starting point of instant coffee granules.
To wrap up today, we’ve gathered together answers to the most frequently asked questions about instant coffee.
1) Which beans are best for instant coffee?
As with all coffee, arabica beans are the superior option. Robusta beans are often used for instant coffee bit the resulting coffee doesn’t taste as good.
2) Do I really need to bother about temperature with instant coffee?
We would say it’s always advisable to use water for coffee heated within the recommended band of 195F to 205F. That said, with instant coffee, the flavor is practically set in already. Even if you injudiciously use boiling water, you won’t end up impacting the flavor to the same extent as you would with another brewing method like pour-over.
3) How much caffeine is normally found in instant coffee?
This varies considerably. The brand and roast of coffee come into play along, of course, with how many granules you use in your drink. As a general guideline, instant coffee tends to contain 26mg of caffeine for every 100g of granules. As you would fully expect, you won’t be getting a drink with the same eye-opening effect of a strong shot of espresso from a machine.
4) What’s the point of bothering with instant if the quality is not great?
In a word, convenience. Many people drink instant coffee from those who have absolutely no interest in learning how to use the pour-over method to baristas appreciative of the absolute ease afforded by instant coffee. There’s no doubt at all that you won’t get a drink capable of running off with any prizes. What you will get is coffee ready in seconds flat and at an almost unbelievably low cost.
5) Does instant coffee come with any health benefits or dangers?
Instant coffee contains slightly less caffeine than brewed coffee but a little more acrylamide. In general, most of the same antioxidants are present in both instant and brewed coffee. Overall, most instant is quite low in calories and comes with the normal potential health benefits you’d find in brewed coffee. As long as you drink instant coffee in moderation, you shouldn’t run into any serious health issues as a result.
6) What’s the best instant coffee?
We can’t answer that for you in the sense that taste is largely subjective. What we can say is that any of the blends we highlight today are worth trying out. Most instant is pretty cheap so try several options then settle on the one that works best for you.
7) Which roast works most effectively for instant coffee?
Again, there’s no boilerplate answer here. In general, light and medium roasts are the best option if you’re settling for instant.
8) Is it possible to get decaffeinated instant coffee?
Absolutely. We’ve included a decaf option for you today. Whether you need to cut back on caffeine under doctor’s orders or you simply fancy drinking coffee later in the day without disturbing your sleep patterns, decaf instant is convenient and ideal for everyone in the family.
9) What’s the problem with single-serve instant?
You’ll end up paying proportionally more for the packaging and this also leaves a worse environmental footprint.
10) Why is all instant coffee so tasteless?
If you’ve read this far, you should be aware it isn’t all bad! Add some flavored syrup and a little creamer to the best instant coffee and you might rethink this question.
If so, you’ll now be well placed to determine which of the instants we reviewed today might take you’re your fancy and which you’ll give a swerve.
Keep the above tips in mind for making the best out of what instant provides. If you get started with filtered water and keep temperature in mind, you should find yourself racking up a more than serviceable coffee.
As long as you’re not expecting the same level of taste you’ll get from a barista-prepared macchiato, you might be pleasantly surprised at how instant coffee has evolved over the years.
In closing, please bookmark our blog if you want more of the best buying advice and helpful hints about brewing coffee the best way. As we’ve showed today, we love coffee in all its form even instant! See you soon and goodbye from the La Mano Coffee team for today. Now pop that kettle on and enjoy some instant.