Best Instant Coffee

November 12, 2019

Do you ever find yourself spending way too long in the morning making a coffee?

Or worse, you don’t have time and end up shelling out on store bought coffee?

Sometimes you get so frustrated when you just want to get your day started, minimum of fuss.

If you have these problems, instant coffee can be a game changer.

Throw some instant in a cup. Add water. Bam! Coffee.

A little cream and you’ve got yourself a sweet morning treat that’ll supercharge the rest of your day.

Now instant doesn’t have the best reputation… A lot of people will tell you the taste isn’t up to scratch.

Well, these days, you can buy instant coffees that retain the freshness and aroma of coffee much better than they used to. The very best instants aren’t too far off a cup of brewed stuff.

How to find the best instants?

That’s where I come in…

This article has been heavily researched by someone who spends waaayyyy too much time thinking about, making and drinking coffee (that’s me).

Best of all? You can order (most of) these directly from Amazon and have them shipped out to you within a day.

Let’s get started!

1. Starbucks Via – Best Variety Of Roasts/Flavours

starbucks, best range of instant coffee flavors

I’m sure I don’t need to give an introduction to Starbuck’s – I have written a 3000-word essay on some of the “issues” I have – but perhaps I do need to give one to their range of instant coffee, Starbuck’s Via.

This is a surprisingly excellent tasting instant given Starbucks’ average reputation for coffee in general. You can choose from a massive range of roasts and flavors that include instant lattes, iced coffee or flavored coffee.

The Via selection was introduced ten years ago. Starbucks claimed they had invented a way to create instant that tastes as good as the real thing. Placing more importance on the quality of the brew prior to the drying process was one factor, adding real ground coffee to the instant mixture was another.

Like all instants, the most noticeable difference to freshly brewed coffee is the lack of texture and body. This is something that’s keenly noticeable at first but you get used to.

Once you’re past that then they have a pleasing taste to them. I have thought once or twice that their instant coffee is better than the stuff you get from the store!

The breadth of flavors and roasts is the best thing about Via. My favorites are the Italian Roast, French Roast and Pike Place Roast – the first two are dark roasts which suit the flavor profile of instant and the second is a solid if unspectacular blend.

They also have options like Sweetened Iced Coffee, Caramel Latte and Mocha Latte. You won’t get bored of coffee with this sort of choice!

If you like the sound of this then here’s a link to one seller on Amazon who stocks lots of the different flavors, you can browse between them by clicking around on the related links.

P.S. The name ‘Via’ comes from the Italian word for ‘Road’, which I think is a clever touch.

Decaf option? Yes.

starbucks via flavor
starbucks via flavor
starbucks via flavor
starbucks via flavor

2. Douwe Egberts – Best Jar Of Instant

douwe egberts coffee, best decaf instant coffee

You know how in the states cheap coffee is brown swill that comes from a machine and has been sitting in a big pot all day? Well across the pond, cheap coffee is instant coffee. It actually makes up around 90% of the coffee drank in the UK. It’s a big thing over there.

So you’d expect the UK to either be a bunch of tasteless philistines or have a few pretty decent instant coffees. I’d rather not insult an entire country of people and luckily I won’t have to because of this coffee.

Douwe Egberts is considered a high-end instant coffee over there and it’s easy to see why when you taste it. There’s a few options. A very bold dark roast so you’ll get a dark and burnt or charry taste. You could opt for a medium roast which is a more solid all-round choice.

Just below I’ve linked the Pure Gold Douwe Egberts which is their premium brand. A lot of the instant coffees in the UK have this ‘Gold’ option or ‘Gold Roast’ for their coffees and to put it simply, it’s the better tasting one.

You can buy it from Amazon in jars of the stuff and it works out to be very cheap compared to some of the others on this list.

Decaf option? Yes, Douwe Egberts is known for doing an excellent decaf option but it’s difficult to get in the States. I can’t find it on Amazon.

3. Sudden Coffee – Best Premium Instant

a sudden coffee tube being poured - best instant coffee full stop

Update: As of time of updated (November 2019), it seems that Sudden Coffee is experiencing big shortages in supply. Their website frequently lists the coffee as “sold out” and is currently stating that orders will take at least 60 days to ship.

A recent addition to the instant coffee fold, and one I was excited about trying after hearing the buzz about it. Their tagline of Tastes like Pour-over. Works like instant. is catchy and promising.

The price is $19 per 8 sachets where each sachet equals one cup. Pretty expensive compared to the others I mention here.

It used to work only on a subscription model where you pay an amount each month and get a regular delivery. This makes it suitable for the frequent traveler but less so for someone who wants instant on a “just-in-case” type basis.

You might be happy to hear that they have begun offering single buy purchases of a number of sachets/tubes or even a large pouch that contains a larger amount of mixed coffee.

It actually was a major effort to get my hands on some. I won’t bore you with the details except to mention I was very happy I made the effort.

I tried a blend called Helvetica, like the font. It’s a very pleasing taste. It was lacking the body that all instant coffee is missing but I won’t hold that against it. Overall for taste, I give it 5 stars. Along with Starbuck’s Via, as good as you’re going to get from instant coffee.

The Sudden Coffee marketing implies that their coffee is better than others due to some revolutionary techniques. Details of which are sorely missing from their webpage. I suspect the process is similar to Starbucks Via – they have a similar theme of good taste and aroma with a thinner, watery body.

Does it compete with fresh coffee? Of course not. But put it up against some cheap freshly brewed and you might have a contest. Put it this way, I’d rather of cup of this than the rubbish my mom likes to drink.

(Sorry mom!)

It’s only sold through their website at present so go here to check it out in more detail.

Decaf option? No.

You might like to check out these user taste tests pitting Sudden Coffee against freshly made Starbuck’s. Bear in mind the video was made by the manufacturer so it’s likely these particular reviews are handpicked. You know what those marketing people are like!

4. Mount Hagen – Best Organic/Fairtrade

mount hagen, best fair trade coffee

The Mount Hagen is a similar style to the Douwe Egberts. Instant coffee served in a large jar where you use a spoon to choose the amount you want. The quality is decent but not as good as the more expensive Starbucks Via and Sudden Coffee. Aronud the same level as the Douwe Egberts in my opinion.

The Mount Hagen is a medium roast. This stands it apart from the many Dark Roast instant coffees and makes it particularly good for those who don’t like that burnt dark roast taste.

Also, this instant advertises itself as USDA-Organic and Fair Trade. Ideal for the ethically minded.

Anyway, here’s a current seller on Amazon but this brand goes in and out of stock all the time so maybe a search will help you find one.

Decaf option? Yes, you can find it on Amazon here.

How Instant Coffee Is Made

Instant coffee is made from real coffee beans that have been roasted and brewed just like a regular cup of coffee. After the brew is complete, all the water is removed (using science) which leaves dry fragments or powder.

This can be mixed with hot water to recreate the original coffee. Of course, you lose a lot of flavor, texture, and aroma in the process.

You can see these flakes of instant coffee on the left in the picture below. On the right are whole bean coffee beans which are ground up to make coffee grounds, the middle.

With instant coffee, those flakes vanish into the drink which makes it a super easy process! When you brew with coffee grounds you have to find a way to get those grounds out before you can drink it!

comparison of instant coffee and grounds and whole coffee beans

Is It Better To Buy Instant In Pouches Or A Jar?

You’ve got two main options to choose from when you buy instant coffee. You can purchase it in small, single-serve pouches or you can buy a larger amount in a jar or some other container.

Buying your instant coffee in pouches is super convenient and portable. They’re small and soft and will fit anywhere. Rip off the top and throw the powder in your cup and you’re done. Best for traveling. They tend to cost more though.

The jar of instant coffee is larger, holds more and is harder to carry around. You will need to measure your own servings with a spoon or something similar. Useful if you like a stronger or weaker coffee but is a bit of a pain if you’re on the move. Buying instant coffee in a jar is usually much cheaper though.

Why Is Instant Coffee Good?

The stars gaze down on you, stumbling your way around in the predawn light. You sigh, then wipe the sleep from your eyes. You’re really here. The place you’ve been dreaming about since you were old enough to dream about things. Your number one travel destination. You’re here, it’s beautiful and it’s everything you ever hoped it would be.

And also you’ve got a coffee on the brew about 10 seconds away. Score!

This is an idealized version of events where you need a 10-second coffee, mostly because I like thinking about my own dream camping trip. Glacier national park, anyone? But there are loads of situations where a 10-second coffee is just what you need.

  • When you don’t have time in your morning routine for the 5-10 minutes to use your French Press.
  • When you’re on the road working and not sure if the hotel will serve coffee.
  • When you just like the option of having a coffee without the work.
  • If you’re going camping and need something light and easy to make.
  • If you’re travelling and have no space in your luggage.

Wherever you are in life, sometimes you just need easy access to a decent cup of coffee. But the thing is… instant coffee tastes BAD! I mean it’s just freeze dried garbage that goes against the entire ethos of drinking freshly brewed coffee.

I mean, you could use pods but then you’d have to buy a machine and that costs money and there’s no way you could take it on the road…

You could get something portable like an Aeropress and a small but solid grinder but it’s a lot of hassle and cleaning and that’s not what you want when you’re away from home.

So what do you do?

Well, I’m not going to argue that instant coffee tastes great. Certainly not most of the rubbish sold in grocery stores like in my photo just above. But what I will say is there are a few options that are a lot better than most people realize.

Read above for a few examples of reasonable quality coffee that can be made with just a splash of hot water. And the best instant coffee ain’t half bad!

But first, let’s imagine again for a second that you’re in one of our most beautiful natural areas with some damn good coffee ready to brew… (Yes this is my own photo. Yes I am pretty proud of it! Do you know where it is?)

yosemite falls

How Do You Brew Instant Coffee?

Steps 1,2,3 – Open Packet, Put in Cup, Add Hot Water

No great surprises here. Instant is bar none the most simple way to make coffee. You might be interested to learn that a gooseneck kettle is in no way required for the correct preparation of instant coffee!

That’s it. It’s finished. You don’t need to worry about filtering out the coffee grounds or anything else, it’s ready to drink. You can add milk or sugar to taste.

If you’re using cheap stuff, you probably should add milk or sugar to taste and lots of it.

How The Taste Of Instant Coffee Compares To Normal Brewed Coffee

Instant coffee is inherently worse tasting than freshly brewed coffee. The drying process kills the beautiful taste and aroma that you can expect from freshly made coffee.

Instant coffee also tends to lack body. The drink will feel like it is thin and watered down. Imagine the difference between full-fat and no-fat milk. And the aroma does not stay in the hollow, dried out coffee.

It tastes worse. You’ll never be able to recreate a really good fresh coffee. Bear that in mind before you jump in excitement at my glowing recommendations.

So what’s different with these?

Instant has come on leaps and bounds in the last few years to come closer and closer to the taste of freshly brewed coffee. Whereas before, Instant was mass produced for a quick and easy caffeine hit whose bitter and acrid taste could be masked with dairy and sweeteners.

In recent times certain companies have started using high-quality products and processes for the original brew before the freeze-drying.

This makes a marked impact on the taste when the dry flakes are rehydrated. It might surprise you to learn that the best stuff can rival and often beat some freshly brewed coffees.

Enjoy this article? Absolutely hate it? Let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Russell Volz June 9, 2021 at 7:48 pm

    Instant coffee in a jar or packet, the question is how do you keep it relatively fresh. The enemy of freshness is oxygen. Get rid of the oxygen and food, especially coffee will last 10 times longer. The good news is, that getting rid of the oxygen is so easy. Just pick up some 100cc packets of Oxygen Absorbers. They cost about 2-4 cents apiece. And you can get them on thousands of websites or your local backpacking store. Just open your jar or container holding your packets and drop in a fresh Oxygen Absorber and Bingo! You’re done. Next time you open the jar, just pull out your coffee quickly and quickly close the lid.

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