Don’t let anyone tell you that instant coffee always tastes bad. They’ve probably been buying the cheapest thing they could get their hands on and discouraging every other coffee lover they find.
While instant coffee can’t replicate the exact taste and aroma of fresh-grounded coffee, it can certainly come close to it if you manage to find some of the best brands out there. You don’t need to go through the hassle of grounding roasted beans yourself. All you have to do is know what the best instant coffee products are in the market.
The 10 Best Instant Coffee Products in 2018
And that’s where we come in. We’ve compiled a list of the 10 best instant coffees you can buy based on flavor, aroma, packaging, convenience, and overall experience.
To help you with your purchase, we’ve also created a buyer’s guide after the reviews that lists the essential factors you should consider when buying instant coffee.
Want to use a coffee machine to brew you some amazing espressos? Be sure to check out our Best Espresso Machines article to know which one suits your needs.
Our Top Pick
Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Colombia
Incredible Flavor and Aroma
Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Colombia offers great tasting instant coffee that can even rival the original drink. This instant coffee comes at a reasonable price, is conveniently packed, and has a full, rich taste with an incredible aroma.
If you’re looking for instant coffee that provides the closest experience to drinking fresh-grounded coffee, then the Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Colombia is the best option out there.
Mount Hagen Organic
1005 Organic Instant Coffee
Mount Hagen Organic prides itself for creating instant coffee made in a safe and 100% organic method. It has a smooth, mild, yet high quality flavor that competes very well with the Starbucks VIA.
When in doubt, buy Mount Hagen Organic. This coffee is certified to be a 100% organic product by EcoCert, and its taste is ideal for those who want a light-roasted, delicious kick.
Whatever your opinion about Starbucks the café might be, in a blind tasting it’s hard to deny that their VIA Ready Brew instant coffee is perhaps one of the best (in our opinion, the best) instant coffees you can get.
This is one of those instant coffees that most accurately replicates the aroma and taste of freshly grounded and brewed coffee. It will treat you to a cup of perhaps some of the best coffee you will ever have, and that’s saying something considering it is instant coffee.
This coffee has a rich, full taste and an aroma that could be mistaken for fresh coffee you’d buy from a Starbucks outlet. The Starbucks instant coffee does have an unusual mix of soluble and ground coffee which gives a slightly different texture to others, but that by no means deters the incredible, signature nutty flavor.
- Rich flavor that is almost unmatched
- Easy to brew
- Great packaging
- Reasonably priced
- Blend gives a slightly unusual texture
Smooth, mild, and of very high quality – that’s the way to describe Mount Hagen’s Organic instant coffee. This coffee rids itself of the bitter taste that many tend to neutralize with cream or other flavors, giving a powerful yet smooth taste that is both fulfilling and addictive.
One of the biggest selling points of the Mount Hagen is that it is a fair trade and certified to be a 100% organic product by EcoCert. The coffee is free-dried without any kind of additives, making it ideal for both you and the environment.
Mount Hagen Organic can’t replace freshly brewed coffee (no instant coffee can), but it is right up there with the best in replicating that same aroma and taste. The flavor is rich and fulfilling, and you can be assured that it was made in the safest way possible.
- Rich flavor that isn’t acidic
- 100% organic
- Great price
- More than usual is needed to make a single cup
If you love coffee but don’t want the potential gastric problems that may come with it, then you should definitely try Four Sigmatic’s Mushroom instant coffee. Yeah, this is a bit of a weird blend, but it actually works well and provides a unique, milder, yet delicious flavor.
Four Sigmatic Mushroom, despite the mushroom blend, tastes like coffee. It has a slightly different texture though and a smoother flavor. It also removes the bitterness of coffee that many normally dilute with cream. You might consider it a bastardized form of coffee, but it’s a great option for vegans and those looking to go easy on their sensitive stomachs, and it’s hard to ignore just how good the flavor is.
- Healthy and produced in a pure way
- Unique, delicious taste
- Great quality
Maxwell House is one of the biggest names in the coffee industry. They make some incredible set of flavored coffees. A lot of their coffees are flavored, and we personally love the French Vanilla the most. There are also many flavors that are sugar free, for those who are diabetic and/or health conscious.
With a maximum of 17 servings, each canister is resealable, coming in a bucket instead of your regular jar or sachet design. What truly sets the Maxwell House instant coffees apart from the rest is the incredible frothiness that you get, building an illusion of a latte yet tasting like the contemporary coffee we all know and love (with a hint of vanilla, in this case).
- Delicious and flavorful
- Available in many flavors
- Great storage design
Folgers has been around for a long time – longer than you and I have ever been, unless you’re over 160 years old. These folks know their coffee, since they’ve been at it since 1850. They’re committed to sustainability, and they’re certainly showing so with the Folgers Instant Coffee.
This is a medium-roasted coffee, but it has a distinct, strong bitterness to it that makes it an instant hit with anyone who likes a good kick. What everyone loves about this coffee is how “instant” it is. This coffee takes little time to dissolve in hot water, making it ideal for trips and camping in cold weather.
Oh, did we mention it comes at a great price too?
- Strong, bitter flavor
- Quick to brew
- Great value
- Jar is small
Coming in from Germany is the flavorful Jacobs Kronung. This 100% ground instant coffee is freeze dried, giving it a long shelf life. The beans used to make this coffee are grown and harvested in Germany, and we all know a thing or two about German efficiency.
With this instant coffee, you’ll get a strong, bold flavor that packs a real punch. It’s a massive delight for those who love a slightly stronger flavor, but not as strong as some of the pure dark roasted coffees out there.
- High quality coffee
- Rich flavor that is not over-the-top
- Good shelf life
The bread and butter instant coffee, widely available at an affordable price. That’s what Nescafe Clasico is. Its wide availability and the ever-familiarity with the brand makes this perhaps the most well-known instant coffee on the planet.
The clasico is great because of how cost-effective it can be without compromising much on flavor. It often requires as little as one spoon of coffee powder to make a cup. It has the signature Nescafe aroma that translates to a great coffee so long as the right amount of water is added to it.
- Great value
- Long shelf life
- Convenient to use
- Jar is bulky
Nescafe makes it on our list again with another product: the Taster’s Choice. This instant coffee is made from responsibility sourced coffee beans. The beans have been ground and freeze-dried after harvesting, then sealed in the glass jar.
The taste of this coffee is quite balanced, not too strong and indicative of mildly or lightly roasted beans. It is easy to brew like most Nescafe instant coffees and comes in at a reasonable price.
- Easy to brew
- Great for those who prefer a balanced flavor
- Jar is bulky
There’s no harm in investing in some luxurious coffee once in a while. When you do plan to, keep Treeline Coffee in mind. These folks make single-use pour-overs or brew-in-bag systems that can be ordered separately or in bulks from their own website.
They use ground beans, giving you a fine drinking experience that can match the coffee you’d make for him. This is particularly great when you’re traveling or camping and need an instant hit. The sachets are small and compact, and the taste is unmatched when it comes to single-use pour-overs.
- Fantastic taste
- Compact sachets
- Includes filters
- Great for travelers
- Takes time to brew
You can expect a lot of things from Koreans, K-Pop, cars, K-drama, great food, and more. What you probably didn’t expect is them making great instant coffee. The Maxim Mocha Gold has the kick and flavor that rivals many of the best western brands.
This coffee comes in individual packets that can easily be stuffed in a bag, ideal for taking on travels when the bland coffee on the airplane just doesn’t cut it. It tastes almost as good as freshly brewed light coffee. It is smooth and generally targets audiences that prefer lighter coffee over dark-roasted coffee beans.
- Balanced taste
- Convenient packing
- Works well for espressos and cold coffee
- Packets are small
Not all coffee beans make the same tasting coffee. In fact, the origin of the beans makes a considerable difference to the taste of coffee. This applies to instant coffee as well. If you’re accustomed to coffee made from beans indigenous to a certain region, then that’s what you should go for. Popular countries include Colombia, Korea, Netherlands, and Italy.
When coffee beans are extracted from coffee cherries, they are roasted to give them their strong flavor. The amount of roast directly correlates to the bitterness and strength of the coffee. Dark roasted beans give a strong taste; medium give a mild, balanced taste; and light almost have now bitterness but retain the smooth flavor of coffee that we know and love.
You’ll stumble upon all these variations when shopping for instant coffee, and it’s up to your taste buds to decide which one suits you best.
The primary ingredient that most people look out for in instant coffee is caffeine. Caffeine levels vary with every coffee brand and product due to the difference in the manufacturing process. It is important to check the caffeine levels of the coffee you’re buying for yourself, especially if you are pregnant, have children who will consume coffee, or have hypertension that is known to exacerbate with caffeine.
Some brands like Maxwell also add additional flavors and additives like milk and/or sugar. Be sure to check the ingredients of the instant coffee you buy so you have an idea of what exactly is in the product.
Packaging may seem like an unimportant factor in your purchase, but when traveling or storing coffee it can make a huge difference. Individual packets are perhaps the best form of packaging as they are ideal for both travel and brewing instant coffee at home.
Jars are ideal if you have high consumption, but they are difficult to carry around, making traveling with them inconvenient. Coffee has the tendency to go bad after a prolonged period, and jarred instant coffee is susceptible to it. Avoid jars if you’re not a frequent consumer of coffee.
What is the best instant coffee?
The best instant coffee is one that can not only match the flavor of real, freshly brewed coffee, but also accurately replicate its aroma. There is a direct correlation between the smell of coffee and how we perceive its taste.
What’s the best way to make instant coffee?
Instant coffee is often considered bad, and while that’s true for most types because of poor quality, it’s also true for how it’s made. Instant coffee is best when it is dissolved in cold water first, then hot water is added to it.
How strictly should I follow the instructions?
The instructions on any instant coffee sachet or jar is just there to give you a rough idea of how it works. In reality, you should let your taste buds decide. Following the instructions will likely result in bland, awful coffee that will make you regret your purchase. The right proportions and instructions are the ones dictated by your taste buds and your nose (aroma matters!).
Many instant coffee is too dilute. How can I improve it?
One great trick to improve the concentration of instant coffee without making it too bitter and “burnt” is to double the amount of instant coffee you use and increase the amount of water by half again.