Don’t know why instant coffee has a bad reputation.
It’s very quick, convenient, and it also can be delicious.
But you have to find the right product for that.
The list is long, so I’ve been through it during hours of research and testing.
But don’t worry. I’ve managed to shorten it down to a handful of the best instant coffee brands on the market today.
So let’s dive straight in!
Top 11 Instant Coffees You Have To Try
- Lifeboost Go Bags (Best Overall)
- Death Wish Dark Roast Instant Coffee (Most Caffeinated)
- Waka Quality Instant Coffee — Pumpkin Spice Flavored (Best Flavored)
- Starbucks VIA Instant Coffee — Pike Place Roast (Best on the Go)
- Douwe Egberts Pure Indulgence Instant Coffee in Jar (Best Diner Coffee)
- Joe Coffee Specialty Instant Coffee Packets (Premium Pick)
- Nescafe Taster’s Choice Decaf Instant Coffee (Best Decaf)
- Cafe Bustelo Instant Espresso Coffee Single Serve Packets (Budget Pick)
- Folgers Classic Instant Coffee (Most Versatile)
- Nescafe Gold Espresso Instant Coffee (Best Espresso)
- Slow Ride Coffee Instant Coffee Packets (Best Robusta)
Lifeboost Go Bags
How do you know you’re buying high-quality instant coffee?
You can trace the product back to the bean.
Well, that’s the case with Lifeboost. You know exactly what you’re drinking. The coffee is single-origin and grown in the shade at high elevations. In such perfect conditions, the beans slowly develop an intense flavor over time.
And you can really taste that in your cup.
Plus, the coffee is certified organic. The certification ensures that growing, harvesting, and producing are subjected to rigorous standards.
Now, this isn’t your typical instant coffee. It’s packed in bags, just like tea, and you let it steep in hot water for a few minutes. What you get is pretty similar to drip coffee. So if you prefer a more full-bodied instant coffee, this might not be for you.
But the coffee you get is very clean yet concentrated. You can choose between a medium and dark roast, depending on the flavor profile you prefer.
The only thing I don’t like about this product is that you get just 10 bags in your pack. If you drink instant coffee more often, you’ll need to stock up on the boxes.
- Low in acidity, so it’s gentle on your palate
- Packed in porous sachets, making it practical for travels
- Certified organic, meaning it’s made under strict standards
- The bags are recyclable, so it’s environmentally friendly
- A packaging contains just 10 bags
- Somewhat pricy compared to most picks on this list
Death Wish Dark Roast Instant Coffee
Death Wish has a reputation for making super-strong coffee. And the instant version is not lacking in that area by no means.
Now, this product contains 8 single-serve packaging of instant coffee. And each of them has about 300 milligrams of caffeine.
If you’re sensitive to caffeine – too bad. This product is packed! Its caffeine content is close to the daily recommended amount in just a single instant coffee packet.
That means you shouldn’t drink more than a single pack per day, which is a pity because the coffee is delicious. But while the pack contains just 8 single-servings, it can last you more than a week.
Did you know that this product was formulated for NASA astronauts to drink at the International Space Station? But of course, you can definitely enjoy coffee outside the spaceship as well. The practical packaging makes it suitable for use on the go.
Death Wish coffee is USDA Organic and Fair Trade certified. That means it’s subjected to rigorous standards throughout the entire process, from growing to processing. At the same time, the product is made ethically and sustainably, with both nature and workers in mind.
- Very caffeinated, giving you enough energy boost for the whole day
- Dark-roasted, so it has a flavor profile with prominent chocolate notes
- Organic and Fair Trade certified, meaning it’s ethical and sustainable from bean to cup
- Comes in a pack of 8, which should last you more than a week
- Not suitable for people sensitive to caffeine
Waka Quality Instant Coffee — Pumpkin Spice Flavored
Waka has a large range of flavored instant coffee, and each of them is delicious. But there’s something about this pumpkin spice flavor that really makes it stand out from the crowd.
To make this coffee, the brand adds natural flavoring to the medium-roasted Arabica coffee bean. And what you get is a very smooth and full-bodied cup of coffee with subtle notes of cinnamon and nutmeg.
This Waka coffee tastes great, be it hot or iced. It has a rich mouthfeel, so you can enjoy it on its own. But it’s even more velvety when you add milk or creamer to your cup.
The bag is 3.5 ounces, and there are about 35 servings in it. So even though it appears small, the bag will cover you for a few weeks for sure.
I like that natural flavoring is used in this product. It’s not that artificial flavoring is unhealthy, but with natural flavors, you know exactly what you’re consuming. This is especially important for people with food intolerances or allergies.
I also like that the packaging is made with post-consumer recycled content, thus reducing waste. The outer part is made of kraft paper, while the interior is lined with foil to keep the coffee fresh.
- Smooth and full-bodied, this coffee is great on its own or with a creamer
- Naturally sweet, so there’s no sugar added
- Packed in recycled bags, meaning it’s environmentally friendly
- A bag contains 35 servings, which should last you a couple of weeks
- Slightly more expensive compared to most picks on this list
Starbucks VIA Instant Coffee — Pike Place Roast
Surely anyone that ever grabbed a coffee at Starbucks has heard about their popular Pike Place roast. It’s a medium-roasted blend of Arabica beans grown in Latin America, known for its smooth flavor profile.
Starbucks offers this blend as whole bean, ground coffee, capsules… And now, finally, we have instant single-servings of Starbucks coffee as well! And surprisingly, the product is pretty good for instant coffee.
The coffee you get is smooth, well-rounded, and with subtly rich notes of chocolate and toasted nuts. It’s a classic flavor that pretty much anyone can enjoy, regardless of their coffee preference. If I were to serve a non-coffee-drinker a cup, this is what I’d make them.
Each stick of instant coffee contains about 105 mg of caffeine, roughly the same amount your regular black coffee has. Still, that’s ⅓ less than the original Pike Place roast. So don’t expect the same energy kick from this instant coffee.
The product contains 50 servings packed into a paper box, which is great. I hate when you get only a few servings in a pack, and you have to buy a bunch of them at once. This way, even though you pay more, you’re set for a while.
- Very balanced and palatable, suitable even for casual drinkers
- Medium-roasted, so it’s low in acidity
- Shipped fresh, so it can last you for months in the pantry
- Contains 50 servings in a pack, which can last you a month
- Slightly weaker in caffeine compared to the original product
Douwe Egberts Pure Indulgence Instant Coffee in Jar
I’m fairly sure that the packaging is the main thing that draws people to this coffee. But the rich, fresh coffee flavor is what keeps them repurchasing.
Pure Indulgence is the brand’s dark roast, with a strength level ranked 4 out of 5. And that’s actually a pretty good classification. The coffee you get is rich and full-bodied, with strong flavor and velvety mouthfeel.
Now, don’t underestimate the strength of this coffee. Even if you add creamer or milk, you’ll definitely feel the flavor profile cutting through. This is really that classic “diner coffee” that’s bold and ever so slightly bitter.
As for the packaging, I love it. The jar is made of thick glass, and the lid features a silicone ring that keeps it airtight. It does a great job of keeping your coffee fresh for a long time.
The jar also looks really nice. But if you want to store your coffee properly, no one will ever see it. You see, you don’t want to put a transparent jar directly exposed to light because it will cause coffee to go stale faster. Therefore, it needs to stay inside the cabinet.
- Bold and slightly bitter, it’s perfect for those who like diner-style coffee
- The strong flavor profile is prominent, even if you add milk or creamer
- The glass jar is reusable and recyclable, so you’re not making more waste
- Rather affordable compared to most picks on this list
- The packaging is transparent, so you need to keep it away from the light
Joe Coffee Specialty Instant Coffee Packets
Instant coffee will never be just as good as a cup made with freshly ground beans. But it can come pretty close, like this one by Joe Coffee.
And the quality of this coffee is definitely implied in its high price tag. It can be pretty expensive to enjoy this instant coffee every single day. But this is a great pack to have for occasions when you want the convenience of instant coffee.
The box contains 6 single-serving sachets of coffee. Both are made of paper, meaning the packaging is environmentally friendly, which is always a plus. But given that brand pays extra attention to sustainability, this is no surprise.
This blend consists of beans from South and Central America. Grown at altitudes above 3,900 feet, the coffee beans develop a delicate yet complex flavor profile.
The coffee you make has a medium body and slight crispness. It’s easy to drink, with warm notes of chocolate and caramel and undertones of cider and cola.
I’m really impressed that this product is sent fresh weekly. Even though instant coffee has a long shelf life, you get to enjoy it right away for optimal flavor.
- Grown at high altitudes, the coffee is very complex but delicate
- Sweet and warm undernotes pair well with milk or creamer
- The packaging is fully recyclable, meaning it’s environmentally friendly
- Sent fresh weekly, so you get the best-tasting product
- Rather expensive compared to other products on this list
Nescafe Taster’s Choice Decaf Instant Coffee
Instant and decaf? Isn’t that too much processing?
I get why you may think so. But once you try this instant decaf by Nescafe, you’ll realize that a few extra steps in production don’t mean anything when it comes to flavor.
This particular blend is roasted to a light-to-medium level. But even so, it has a smooth, well-balanced flavor and rich body. It’s delicious on its own, but you can definitely spike it up a bit by adding creamer or syrup.
But while they blend wonderfully in hot water, these instant coffee granules don’t dissolve that well in cold water. So if you plan on making iced coffee, this might not be the best option for you.
This product comes in an elegant, 7-ounce glass jar. In terms of size, that’s enough coffee for more than 100 servings.
As for the jar itself, since it’s transparent, you don’t want it to be on the counter, exposed to light. Also, I don’t like the plastic lid on this thing. But given the price of the product, I can’t really complain.
- Rainforest Alliance-certified, meaning it’s made ethically and sustainably
- Smooth and rich, it’s drinkable on its own or with creamer
- Affordable compared to most picks on this list
- Comes in a 7-ounce jar, meaning it contains months’ worth of coffee
- Doesn’t dissolve well in cold water, so it’s only suitable for hot drinks
Cafe Bustelo Instant Espresso Coffee Single-Serve Packets
Single-serving instant coffee typically costs a lot more than jars and cans. But that’s not the case with this product by Café Bustelo. But even though it’s so affordable, that doesn’t mean the product is any worse in quality.
In fact, this instant coffee makes a very rich and flavorful cup of coffee. This is a dark-roasted espresso-style coffee, so you get a strong, full-bodied cup with a nice layer of crema.
You get 4 boxes in the packaging, each with 6 single-serving packets of coffee. That means the whole packaging should cover you for a few weeks at least.
These little packets are great for enjoying coffee on the go. The material is rather thick, so the packet won’t get damaged inside your bag, leaving you with coffee particles spilled all over.
The brand suggests using either hot water or milk to make this instant coffee. This does sound a bit weird, but by using milk instead of water, you actually get something tasting similar to a cappuccino. So both methods are good, depending on your preference.
On the downside, you shouldn’t expect a high-energy kick from this coffee. A 6-ounce cup has just 75 milligrams of caffeine.
- Very affordable, so it won’t hurt your wallet
- Can be made with either milk or water, depending on your preference
- Compact and well-sealed packets are suitable on the go
- With 24 packets in packaging, you’re set for several weeks
- Not very caffeinated for espresso-like instant coffee
Folgers Classic Instant Coffee
Folgers has been making instant coffee for about 70 years, so the brand really mastered the trade. Folgers instant coffee is extremely versatile, which makes it even more enjoyable.
That’s quite noticeable in the flavor profile. This coffee is medium-bodied and smooth, with a slight acidity to it. You can taste the prominent notes of chocolate and feel the aroma of dried fruit.
Now, this flavor profile is very versatile. By that, I mean you can make this coffee with either water or milk, depending on your preference. You can also prepare it hot, cold, or iced. Folgers makes a great cup of Dalgona coffee!
The jar is 8 ounces large, so you get more than 100 servings with it. I’m not the biggest fan of the packaging, though. It’s plastic, and that material is known for retaining flavor.
Well, at least it’s not transparent, so you can keep it on the counter without coffee getting stale faster. But I’d still recommend transferring coffee to a better container.
- It can be prepared hot, cold, or iced, depending on your preference
- It has a balanced flavor profile, so it pairs well with milk or creamer
- Very affordable compared to most picks on this list
- Large packaging, so you get more than 100 cups from it
- The packaging is low quality, meaning it’s better to transfer the coffee to a glass container
Nescafe Gold Espresso Instant Coffee
You can’t make true espresso at home without an espresso machine and the right grounds. But you can definitely make coffee that’s similar in consistency and flavor with just instant coffee and water.
This coffee is from the Nescafe Gold line, which uses 100% Arabica beans and roasts them to a medium level. The final result is very rich and aromatic, with a velvety mouthfeel. By changing the amount of water, you can make it concentrated like espresso or diluted like Americano.
The coffee is also slightly acidic without a hint of bitterness. This medium roast has a natural sweetness to it without the addition of sugar or another type of sweetener. It has a nice layer of crema on top, which is quite impressive for instant coffee.
Just keep in mind that while it performs great with hot water, this instant coffee powder doesn’t blend well in cold water.
Now, I really like the jar. It’s made of sturdy glass, and it’s sleek, so it doesn’t take up much space in the cabinet. After you go through instant coffee, you can reuse it for storing other things in your pantry.
- Rich and with a layer of crema, meaning it’s pretty similar to espresso
- Made of Arabica beans, so it’s not bitter
- Naturally sweet, so you don’t have to use sweeteners
- Has a bold flavor, meaning you can make it more or less concentrated without losing flavor
- Doesn’t blend well in cold water, so it’s not suitable for iced coffee
Slow Ride Coffee Instant Coffee Packets
Robusta bean has a bad reputation for being too bitter and rubbery. But that’s not always the case. Certain regions make excellent Robusta coffee, and Vietnam is one of them. This is where this coffee by Slow Ride is grown.
The volcanic soil and tropical climate of Vietnam create perfect coffee growing conditions. These regions are also used for growing cacao, which is why you can taste mocha notes in your cup.
Like real Robusta, this coffee is strong but without the acidity. You can definitely feel caffeine kicking in after drinking a cup. This is a great coffee on the go when you’re late to work, for instance.
It’s always great to know that a product is produced ethically, with both workers and the environment in mind.
The packaging – both sticks and the box – is made of 100% compostable and recyclable packaging. That means you can enjoy the convenience of instant coffee without making any waste. A win-win situation!
The only thing that’s a bit annoying about the packaging is the fact that sticks don’t have easy tear opening. So it can be somewhat difficult to open the stick without scissors.
- Not acidic at all, meaning it’s gentle on your palate
- Very strong, so you can use milk without overwhelming the flavor
- Highly caffeinated, meaning you get the energy kick from it
- The packaging is recyclable and compostable, so it’s zero-waste
- No easy tear opening, so it can be hard to open without scissors
Buying Instant Coffee: Things to Consider
There are a million instant coffee products on the market. And a good portion of them is not worth your time and effort. So how do you find the ones that are? Well, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Single-serve vs jar – which is better?
As you probably noticed, some products come in single-serving sticks and bags. Others come in large jars.
So, which option is better?
Well, that depends on your needs.
If you drink a lot of instant coffee on a regular basis, or if you have household members that do, go with a jar. Most jars contain between 7 and 12 ounces of coffee, which should have you set for a few weeks at least.
Also, you can play around with the size and consistency of your drink by changing the ratios and amounts of the ingredients.
With single-servings, the product is already pre-dosed. And a single bag (stick, pack, whatever the brand names it) is intended for making a cup that’s 6 to 8 ounces large.
Now, if you want a slightly more intense drink, you’ll have to open another bag, which isn’t practical.
But in most cases, the dosage is practically perfect. Anything more or less than that, and your drink would not be as good tasting.
Plus, single-servings are practical when you’re on the go. Whether you’re traveling or simply rushing to work, you can just grab a few packs and make them later when you get the chance.
What flavor notes to look for?
I’m sure you already have a preference when it comes to making brewed coffee.
First, what kind of roast do you prefer?
Instant coffee can also be light, medium, or dark-roasted. And here’s what their most common flavors are:
- Light – acidic, mild, delicate flavor
- Medium – balanced, subtle, slightly sweet
- Dark – bold, smoky, low acidity
Of course, these are just general flavor profiles of each roast. Each product will have more or less authentic notes depending on the coffee variety and growing region.
Oh, and we can’t forget about flavored coffee, either.
With flavored coffee, you know exactly how the product tastes.
But in most cases, the packaging should state the prominent flavors in the case of non-flavored coffee as well.
When it comes to flavored coffees, there are either naturally or artificially flavored. Don’t be afraid of artificial flavors, as they are safe to consume and can give the coffee a more consistent taste compared to natural flavors.
How to determine the quality of instant coffee?
Don’t just pick the most popular brand you see. Often, these aren’t the best products out there, especially given that small roasters are also making instant coffee these days.
Instead, check the label.
Look for certifications that ensure the production process is subjected to rigorous standards. This ensures you get a high-quality product in your cup.
Some of the certifications are:
- USDA Organic
- Rainforest Alliance
- Fair Trade Certified
- Bird Friendly
Also, check if you can trace the coffee back to the bean.
You see, many products simply state they’re using “100% Arabica.”
But there’s a 100 different varieties of the Arabica bean, grown all over the world. So this means little when you try to figure out the origin of the coffee.
And, of course, that’s an easy way for brands to sneak in low-quality and heavily-processed products as premium.
However, even knowing the country of origin tells you more about the potential quality of the coffee. And if the brand also states the region, even better.
Still unsure about instant coffee? Here’s a short FAQ that could change your mind.
Is drinking instant coffee healthy?
Instant coffee is healthy as long as you drink it in moderation. In fact, instant coffee has less caffeine and more antioxidants than regular coffee, so it might be even better for you.
Is instant coffee full of chemicals?
In most cases, no. However, the main chemical people are worried about is acrylamide, which can be cancerogenic. But the thing is, every food exposed to high heat has it, including chips and cereals.
Does more instant coffee mean more caffeine?
Not typically. Most instant coffee products have less caffeine per ounce compared to brewed coffee. In case the product contains more, it’s typically added during the production process.
To Sum Things Up
When it comes to instant coffee, there are good and bad products.
And then there are great ones, like Lifeboost Go Bags.
The reason why these bags are so great is that you know exactly what you’re drinking. You can trace the product all the way back to the coffee farm.
Of course, the taste is also worth the hype. It’s bright and delicate, just like Chemex coffee. In fact, you’d never guess this is instant coffee just from sipping it.
All in all, delicious!
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