Every dedicated home barista loves to start the day with a steaming, aromatic cup of coffee. And chances are, they all have a preferred method of brewing it. Some favor the traditional French press, while others like the more modern and portable AeroPress.
You’re a serious coffee lover, so you probably have a brewing preference of your own. Maybe you rely on an espresso machine with all the bells and whistles.
You might even be a siphon coffee-making expert, a pour-over pro, or one who’s so desperate for a quick, hassle-free brew that you resort to using a pod coffee machine. (And that’s fine — nobody is perfect, after all.)
No matter which brewing method is your go-to, we think it’s pretty safe to assume none of us are reaching for instant coffee packets when it’s time for morning java. Those are pretty much off the table. Or are they?
Not necessarily. Here at Roasty, there’s no discrimination against instant coffee. That’s why we’ve reviewed some of the better-quality instant blends available in this typically taboo coffee marketplace.
Before we dive into product recommendations, though, let’s examine the art of making instant coffee. And who knows? You might become the newest instant coffee convert.
At a Glance: Best Instant Coffee
What is instant coffee?
You may know instant coffee by one of its other names, like soluble coffee, coffee crystals, or coffee powder. Whatever you call it, the stuff is all the same: coffee that brews when stirred into water.
The start of something new
Did you know modern instant coffee was first patented by a Frenchman, Alphonse Allais, in 1881?
Following a world glut of coffee beans in 1930, Nestlé began tinkering around with the process of making dried, reconstituted coffee. In 1938, the company launched its first instant coffee, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Since then, Nescafé has pretty much cornered the instant coffee market, holding around 70 percent of its total sales!
How does instant coffee work?
Now, there’s quite a bit of science involved in the instant coffee-making process, but hang with us; we promise it’s fascinating stuff.
Instant coffee’s journey begins the same way your favorite non-instant joe does. After being harvested, green coffee beans are roasted and ground as usual. Once browned and broken down, these fresh coffee grounds are brewed in an industrial caffeinating kit that draws out as much of their flavor as possible.
When brewing is complete, the water is removed from the beans, leaving a pure coffee extract behind. This dehydration leaves a pure coffee extract behind that is then dried, usually through a freeze- or spray-drying method, before being packaged and shipped to your door.
You only have to add a few ounces of water to turn the result into a drinkable brew — that’s what makes it instant.
The freeze-drying process sees coffee extract chilled down to a temperature of around 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, the frozen coffee is placed onto belts, where it cools down to about -40 degrees.
The coffee is transformed into ice, then shattered into smaller particles, and dried again to remove any remaining moisture.
This action takes place at the top of a massive tower, where the coffee extract is sprayed into a stream of hot air. As the coffee “mist” falls, it dries, turning into a powder by the time it reaches the bottom.
Powder or crystals?
When shopping around for an instant brew, you might notice some of these products are powders while others are granules or crystals. Is there a difference between the two, and if so, which is the better choice?
The distinction lies in how the two are processed. Powdered coffee results from spray-drying, while coffee crystals have been freeze-dried.
Of the two, most instant coffee enthusiasts prefer coffee crystals because the freeze-drying process allows the coffee to retain more of the delicious flavors and aromas java drinkers love so much.
A Tip for Taste
We know what you’re thinking: no instant brew matches the rich taste of regular brewed coffee. And you’re right. Like anything reconstituted, instant coffee cannot offer the subtle notes or intensity of bouquet that, say, a well-made Moka pot brew or fine espresso shot can. This is doubly true if you purchase instant mixes from subpar companies.
Compare your regular brewing process to the way this convenient option is made, and it’s easy to see how the fragile aromatics of the coffee bean can be damaged during the instant coffee production process.
That’s why many serious joe drinkers think instant coffee tastes flat, bitter, and uninspiring, especially when the granules are doused with boiling water!
You don’t have to suffer through less-than-spectacular coffee, however. The best way to get the most flavor from your cup of instant brew is to place a teaspoon or two of coffee into your cup and mix it with a dash of warm water.
Let the coffee rest for half a minute, then top off your brew with hot — not boiling! — water. This technique helps brew the coffee granules more gently and doesn’t destroy their flavor by scalding them with too much heat.
For more tips on improving the taste of your morning cup, check out Roasty’s guide to improving instant coffee flavor here. Once you’ve mastered your instant brewing skills, use a few ounces of the stuff to make one of the drinks in this instant coffee recipe roundup.
Why choose instant coffee?
Perhaps the biggest reasons people opt for instant are speed and convenience. However, it’s also a popular pick because it allows you to easily adjust the coffee-to-water ratio and brew-strength to best suit your preferences. This is especially handy if you’re entertaining a crowd of coffee drinkers with varying palates.
Here’s another instant coffee perk: if you’re into baking, most of these products can be used to flavor cakes, frostings, and more — pretty cool, huh?
Quick Summary: Best Instant Coffee
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|ANTHONY’S ORGANIC INSTANT COFFEE
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|Cafe Altura Freeze Dried Instant Organic Coffee
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|Beanies 100 Coffee Sticks
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|Nescafe Taster's Choice Instant Coffee
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|DEATH WISH COFFEE Instant Coffee
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|FOUR SIGMATIC MUSHROOM COFFEE MIX
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|Douwe Egberts Pure Indulgence Instant Coffee
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|MEDAGLIA D’ORO INSTANT ESPRESSO COFFEE
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|República Organic Decaf Instant Coffee
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Roasty Rankings: Our Picks for Best Instant Coffee
Ready to give your coffee maker a rest? Try a packet of one of these instant coffee blends!
Best Arabica Instant Coffee
Full disclosure: the good folks at Waka Coffee sent us a sample box with the promise that it would be unlike any traditional brand we had ever tried.
We were a little skeptical, but we have to admit the single-serve packets of Waka Coffee Quality Instant Coffee brewed some darn good cups of coffee. The Indian option was our favorite, but the Colombian has the most classic coffee feel.
The brand’s product roster includes a few instant decaf options, too, just in case you aren’t in it for the caffeine.
Waka Coffee is also a business with a purpose: providing clean water to those who need it. Four percent of Waka’s profits go to clean water projects that aid 26 countries in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. You can read our full review of the brand here.
Anthony’s Organic Instant Coffee
If you’re exclusively an organic coffee drinker and hope to venture into the instant world, Los Angeles-based company Anthony’s Goods has just the thing for you. The 100-percent Arabica beans used to make the brand’s organic instant java hail from Latin America.
Once they make their way to the company headquarters in California, the beans are ground into a fine powder that easily dissolves in hot water.
Each cup of this stuff is gluten-free and non-GMO. That takes care of what’s not in this coffee, but, of course, it’s just as crucial for you to know what is — and that’s antioxidants.
That means this strong coffee gives you the caffeine-driven energy boost necessary to make it through the day while providing good-for-you compounds that protect your cells against free radicals that contribute to ailments like cancer.
Café Altura Instant Organic Coffee
Maybe you want something that works well for baking sweet treats in the kitchen, or perhaps you need a jar of beans that makes a good cup. Either way, Cafe Altura’s freeze-dried coffee is a solid choice.
Cafe Altura uses a blend of organically-grown Arabica beans from Fair Trade farmers in Indonesia, South America, and Africa. The result is a brew that tastes great hot and cold.
Fantastic coffee flavor isn’t the best thing about this instant blend, though; it’s the way this product is manufactured that’s truly impressive. The grounds are freeze-dried with an exclusive organic process that keeps all the quality coffee aroma and tasting notes intact.
Best Flavored Instant Coffee
Beanies Flavored Coffee Sticks
This box has 100 single-serving packets of flavored instant beans. Sip something new every day — try almond on Monday, vanilla on Tuesday, Irish cream on Wednesday, and so on until you’ve brewed them all. Enjoy these medium roasts black or with a splash of your favorite creamer.
Nescafé Taster’s Choice Hazelnut Instant Coffee
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The Nescafé Taster’s Choice House Blend is a popular pick among instant coffee lovers, so it shouldn’t surprise you that the brand’s hazelnut instant beans are a high-quality pick, too.
This medium-dark roast is made from premium, responsibly sourced coffee beans, and each packet of the stuff makes eight ounces of rich joe. Black coffee purists will appreciate that the resulting brew’s nutty flavor and aroma are strong enough to be enjoyed alone.
But even if you prefer an add-in or two, you’ll find this offering is a worthy contender if you hope to add something flavored to your morning routine.
Best Dark Roast Instant Coffee
Death Wish Instant Coffee
Fair Trade and USDA-certified organic Death Wish instant coffee comes in a box of eight single-serve packets to brew at home or take on the road wherever you roam.
To brew this coffee — which packs a pretty solid punch of caffeine, by the way — all you need is eight ounces of hot water or milk. Note that this is a dark roast coffee, so if you’re looking for something intense in terms of flavor, Death Wish is worth your time.
Interested in Death Wish’s other options? Check out our full review of the brand here.
Douwe Egberts Pure Indulgence Instant Coffee
Since Douwe Egberts first stepped onto the coffee scene over 200 years ago, the brand has made enhancing life’s little pleasures its mission, starting with your morning cup of joe.
That’s where Pure Indulgence comes in. This coffee, made from a blend of Arabica and Robusta beans, is the darkest in the company’s instant coffee lineup. Each jar of these granules makes about 115 cups, and each cup will be strong, rich, velvety, and smooth.
Best Decaf Instant Coffee
Some coffee lovers want their morning cup without a side of caffeine jitters. That’s why decaffeinated instant coffee exists!
Republica Organic Decaf Instant Coffee
Luckily for you, Republica Coffee Roasters has an instant coffee blend that’s sure to please even the most devoted decaf drinker.
These organic and Fair Trade beans are sourced from South America, and each serving (one to two teaspoons of crystallized java) makes a smooth cup of coffee.
The company seals its product in a glass jar made of recycled materials, guaranteeing the medium-roasted Arabica beans’ fresh taste and aroma are locked in.
Mount Hagen Organic Decaf Coffee
Among the instant coffee brands, Mount Hagen is quite a popular one. So, if you’re looking for something tried-and-true, these organic freeze-dried beans might be a good fit for you.
Mount Hagen’s coffee is made from single-origin beans sourced from Fair Trade plantations in Papua New Guinea, Peru, and Honduras. The resulting brew is velvety and mild, but it still manages to boast the depth you expect from your morning cup.
Ninety-nine percent of the caffeine is removed from the coffee via the CR3 Natural Liquid Carbon Dioxide Coffee Decaffeination Process. No worries, though — none of the coffee’s flavor or aroma is lost.
Best Adaptogen Instant Coffee
What’s adaptogen coffee, you ask? Great question. That means this brew is designed to help the body resist or adapt to stressors.
Four Sigmatic Adaptogen Coffee Mix
Since you’ve ventured into the “dark side” or caffeinating, you might as well try something off-the-wall, like Four Sigmatic Adaptogen Coffee. This mixture of Colombian beans, tulsi, ashwagandha, and eleuthero provides a solid 50 milligrams of caffeine to propel you through your day.
Plus, the healing properties from each herb keep you calm when things get particularly stressful.
If you find yourself impressed by the brand’s adaptogen mix, you may also enjoy the Four Sigmatic Instant Mushroom Coffee Mix. Organic lion’s mane and chaga mushrooms are added to the joe to promote focus and immune health, respectively.
Don’t let the idea of fungi in your cup turn you off to the idea of trying something new; this stuff doesn’t taste like ‘shrooms.
The Reserve Instant Coffee
Health and superfood retailer, The Reserve, offers another option for adaptogen coffee seekers. The brand’s instant “glow latte” packets promote wellness from the inside out, doing everything from boosting your energy to strengthening your hair, skin, and nails.
If you’re looking for something quick and convenient, health-conscious coffee drinkers, this one’s for you.
The Reserve combines the energy-boosting properties of organic coffee, the stress and fatigue-fighting abilities of ashwagandha powder, and the immune-, digestive-, and central nervous system-strengthening powers of collagen powder with hints of coconut milk and monk fruit powders.
This mixture creates a drink that doesn’t just taste good but is good for you, too.
Best Colombian Instant Coffee
Some coffee connoisseurs swear up and down the rich flavor of Colombian coffee can’t be beaten. Pour a single-serve stick of instant Colombian beans into your cup and enjoy the signature taste and aroma of these beloved beans.
Juan Valdez Premium Colombian Coffee
Every knowledgeable coffee snob knows what a treat Colombian coffee can be. This java tends to have fruitier notes, usually littered with faint hints of things like apple and red berry.
When you need your fix of this mild, well-balanced coffee quickly, Juan Valdez instant coffee crystals get the job done.
Add a spoonful or two of the stuff to a few ounces of water and stir until it’s dissolved, and voila! You’re ready to experience the classic taste and smell of Colombian brew, and you didn’t even have to pull out the drip coffee maker to get it.
Nescafé Taster’s Choice Colombian Coffee
Enjoy the unmistakable taste and smell of Colombian coffee in a matter of minutes by scooping a few spoonsful of Nescafé Taster’s Choice into your cup.
Just like everything else in Nescafé’s product line, this stuff is made only from respectfully grown, high-quality beans — no wonder Nescafé beans consistently stay on the best-selling instant coffee list!
Use this rich, medium-colored Colombian roast to whip up a batch of creamy Dalgona coffee or enjoy its fruity flavors with a splash of milk or creamer.
Best Vietnamese Instant Coffee
Vietnam might not be on your list when you think of coffee-producing countries. However, it certainly should be! Vietnamese coffee is known for its earthy flavor, complete with notes of chocolate and spice — so good.
Trung Nguyen G7 3-in-1 Instant Premium Vietnamese Coffee
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Trung Nguyen’s G7 instant coffee is created via a secret “patented dry-roasting process” rather than the usual spray- or freeze-drying methods mentioned above. The resulting joe receives lots of excellent reviews and sells very well, so the secret process undoubtedly works, whatever it entails.
This coffee — a combination of Jamaican, Brazilian, Ethiopian, and Vietnamese beans — earned a spot on the best instant coffee list because it’s perfect for anyone who needs a quick brew; from a frequent traveler to someone who doesn’t want to deal with the unreliable coffee maker at work.
Each serving of coffee is already blended with creamer and sugar, so all you need to do is add hot water, stir, and enjoy!
Vinacafe Instant Coffee Mix
Help the java lover in your life take their instant coffee game to the next level by gifting them a box of Vinacafe’s premium instant coffee mix.
These instant coffee kits include everything necessary for an instantaneous — and downright delicious — caffeine boost: a bit of creamer, a few pinches of sugar, and a single serving of coffee, of course!
This Vietnamese brew tastes great hot or over ice, so you can quickly enjoy your beverage exactly how you like it, no matter where you are.
Best Instant Latte Mix
The next category highlights the best instant coffee for people who are more likely to sip a latte in the morning than a plain Jane cup of drip. And the best part is there’s no fancy latte machine or a long line at the local coffee shop required.
Starbucks VIA Instant Vanilla Latte
It’s tempting to trek down to Starbucks for a vanilla latte every morning, but unfortunately, those four, five, or even six-dollar drinks start to add up pretty quickly in your monthly budget. Before you know it, you’re supporting a pretty pricey habit. You don’t have to cut them out cold turkey to save money, though; just make them at home. And no, you don’t have to go out and buy an espresso machine of your own, either (though we highly recommend it; read all about some of our favorites here).
Satisfy your latte cravings quickly by tearing open a Starbucks VIA Instant vanilla latte packet, adding its contents to hot water, and stirring. It’s that easy, and the 100-percent Arabica beans will help start your day off on the right foot. It may not be as foamy as the beverage your barista makes, but this instant joe is an easy way to curb your vanilla-flavored coffee cravings in a pinch.
Nescafé Gold Latte
Since Nescafé kicked off the world’s instant coffee production, you shouldn’t be surprised to find yet another offering from the brand included in this roundup.
Nescafé Gold instant latte packets produce creamy coffee goodness in just a few short minutes — no espresso machine or milk steamer required.
Responsibly-grown Arabica and Robusta coffee beans join forces with milk powder and sugar to create a fast-brewing pick-me-up you can enjoy almost anywhere.
If you’re someone who needs an extra boost of sweetness in their morning cup, try a Nescafé Gold Latte mix flavor like caramel, mocha, or vanilla.
Medaglia D’Oro Instant Espresso Coffee
Medaglia D’Oro coffee is an instant option with class. The brand uses blended, double-roasted coffee beans to produce an instant espresso/coffee with rich, bold flavor and a thick crema on top of the brew.
And since the coffee is so well-balanced and smooth, it makes a decent base for drinks like cappuccinos and lattes; just pull out the handheld frother and get to work.
The only real downside to Medaglia D’Oro’s product is that it’s a tad pricey as far as instant coffees go, but since it can also be used for cooking recipes that call for a bit of espresso powder, it’s worth the extra pennies.
Instant vs. Regular Coffee
Many coffee aficionados are hesitant to branch out from their fresh, home-ground coffee. Honestly, we don’t blame you; it’s hard to beat the flavor and complexity of freshly ground and brewed coffee.
However, instant coffee may be the best option for those of you reaching for pre-ground coffee or just looking to improve their on-the-go options.
The convenience factor of a coffee that can be brewed with hot or cold water and on the go is hard to challenge. Thus, people often go for alternative criticism: coffee taste. But we’re going to let you in on a little secret: the ingredients matter more than the form.
While you may not be able to achieve the same freshness with instant, the strength and flavor of regular coffee can be rivaled if you are buying the right beans.
Many of your standard instants use Robusta beans to make up for the lower caffeine content. But if you search and seek out specialty brews (hint: we’ve taken care of that work for you), you can achieve a strong, tasty brew nonetheless.
Best Instant Coffee Brands
Waka Coffee was founded in 2018 with the idea that “everyone should enjoy coffee effortlessly.” The brand sources only 100-percent Arabica coffee beans for its instant joe, guaranteeing the consumer is drinking only the best-tasting brew possible.
All of Waka’s beans are freeze-dried, too, which means both the coffee’s unique aroma and deep flavor profile make it to your cup.
Canyon Coffee was born in a Los Angeles apartment in 2016 when Ally Walsh and Casey Wojtalewicz decided to take their love of joe to the next level. The business began with a few pop-up shops on weekends before retailing beans in local boutique shops, cafés, and hotels.
Today, Canyon Coffee’s inventory includes beans from places like Colombia, Ethiopia, and Brazil, and joe lovers can choose to brew these beans via instant coffee packets or an old-school drip machine.
Johann Jacobs and Egbert Douwes believed everyone deserved to sip coffee they enjoyed. This belief led to the foundation of Jacobs Douwe Egberts (JDE), a pure-play coffee company, in 1753.
Now, the company owns well-known instant coffee brands like Douwe Egberts, Maxwell House, Piazza D’Oro, and more.
Swift Cup Coffee
Swift Cup Coffee is known for producing specialty instant coffee. All of the high-quality beans are ethically sourced before being freeze-dried to preserve their flavor.
The brand, founded in 2016, gets java from only the most exceptional coffee roasters. The list includes a few of our favorites, including Sightglass Coffee, Verve Coffee Roasters, and Intelligentsia.
In 1938, a Nestlé coffee specialist set out with the goal of creating a mouthwatering, delicious cup of joe just by adding water. He was successful, and Nescafé was born. Since then, the brand has been known for producing quality instant coffee.
Nescafé boasts serving up a “cup of respect,” which means the brand uses only sustainably-grown crops and low-waste packaging.
Starbucks VIA Instant
Though Starbucks Coffee has been a leader in the java industry since its foundation in 1971, the company’s line of instant coffee, Starbucks VIA, didn’t come onto the scene until 2009.
The 100 percent arabica coffee beans sourced for this instant brew produce coffee that’s rich, full-bodied, and strong, just like the regularly brewed stuff.
How does instant coffee work?
Seriously? Just add a spoonful or two of coffee granules to water, and you’ve got a grit-free cup of joe? The only explanation is magic, right?
Magic would be cool, but unfortunately, it’s not quite the answer here.
Since instant coffee is made by removing all the moisture from already-brewed coffee grounds, it only makes sense that adding water back into the granules is the key to transforming them from solid to liquid form.
Can you make instant iced coffee or cold brew?
Absolutely! The process is pretty simple, too. To brew iced coffee with any of the products we’ve listed, dissolve the granules with cold water. After that, add any sweeteners you’d like and serve over ice. Voila! The perfect iced instant coffee.
Some instant coffee brands even have products specifically designed to be dissolved in cold water, like Cusa Coffee, for example. Pour an individual packet of this coffee into any temperature water and enjoy a cold brew or hot java, whichever you prefer, in just a matter of seconds.
For those of you with a sweet tooth or looking for something both cold and delightfully creamy, you can try Folgers’ recipe for creamy instant iced coffee.
Combine a can of chilled evaporated milk with your instant coffee of choice and blend with 1/3 cup of sugar in a blender until everything dissolves and is well incorporated. Pour over ice and enjoy!
Bonus: Throw some whipped cream on top or add extra flavorings to spice things up.
Is instant coffee bad for you?
Instant coffee, much like regular brewed coffee, boasts many health benefits due to its antioxidants. A serving of these convenient brews not only tastes like a decent cup of joe, but it also boasts potential health benefits such as enhanced brain function and boosted metabolism.
Furthermore, instant coffee tends to have less caffeine than regular joe. That’s a bit of a bummer for some but cue the sigh of relief from those sensitive to the stimulant.
The only potential downfall of this type of coffee is the presence of acrylamide. Regular coffee has about half as much acrylamide as its pre-brewed companion.
However, this chemical is only harmful in high amounts, and the levels in instant coffee aren’t going to hurt you (even if you’re drinking it every day).
So the bottom line is, no. It isn’t bad for you, and it may even have a few health benefits!
Is instant coffee good?
The answer to this question depends on who you ask. Many instant coffee powders don’t taste as flavorful as their non-instant counterparts, and they tend to boast a hint of bitterness that some folks enjoy but others could go without.
There are plenty of ways to dress up a cup of instant joe, however. If you’re not a fan of its bitterness, try adding milk, creamer, sugar, or condensed milk. If that doesn’t help, consider adjusting the coffee-to-water ratio.
Is instant coffee real coffee?
Yes, instant coffee is real coffee. Regular coffee beans are roasted, ground, and brewed as usual. Then, the brewed grounds are dehydrated, leaving dried coffee powder or crystals behind.
Should you refrigerate instant coffee?
You might think that, since the grounds in instant coffee products have already been freeze-dried, it’s harmless to keep the opened coffee in the refrigerator. However, this is false.
The coffee world is quite divided over whether or not you should store coffee in the fridge or freezer. It’s probably best, however, to keep all beans out of the freezer because those cold environments create an opportunity for excess moisture to slip into the coffee, ruining the smells and flavors of the brew.
You don’t want the instant coffee to lose any of its flavors, either, so it’s best to keep it in an airtight container in a cool, dark place, like a pantry.
How long can you store instant coffee?
Even once it’s been opened, instant coffee has a shelf life of up to 20 years. For this reason, many people keep it on hand in case of emergencies, like power outages or at-home brewer breakdowns. But just because you can keep it nearly forever doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
As you can imagine, your coffee won’t taste its best a whopping two decades after you purchased it. Some say that, if stored properly in an airtight container and kept away from light and moisture, your instant coffee will retain its freshness and quality for 12 to 18 months.
It’s still safe to use the instant brew after the 18 months have passed, but for the best-tasting results, you should consume the coffee before then.
Instant coffee is versatile, quick to brew, easily customizable, and surprisingly flavorsome — a perfect recipe for a convenient caffeine kick, so long as you purchase a quality product.
Now that you know all about instant brews, step out of your coffee comfort zone and try one of our featured brands for yourself.