10 Best Instant Coffee Brand Reviews (A Surprising Winner!)
- Who Drinks Instant Coffee?
- Best Instant Coffee 2020 – Reviews and Comparison
- 1. Sudden Coffee
- 2. Mount Hagen – Organic and Freeze-Dried
- 3. Nescafe Taster’s Choice 4 Flavors
- 4. Folgers
- 5. Cafe Bustelo Espresso Like Instant Cuban Coffee
- 6. Maxim Mocha Gold Instant Korean Coffee
- 7. Four Sigmatic Mushroom Coffee
- 8. Jacob’s Kroenung Instant Coffee
- 9. Starbucks VIA Ready Brew
- 10. G7 3-in-1 Vietnamese Coffee
- What Is Instant Coffee?
- Video – How Instant Coffee Is Made
- Other Uses Of Instant Coffee
- The History Of Instant Coffee
If you asked me whether I recommend you to try instant coffee or not, I would ask you first what kind of coffee drinker you are. For example, do you like black coffee or drink it with sugar or cream? Do you consider yourself a coffee snob?
Thinking of instant coffee, I say, either you love it or you hate it.
Well, to not be too black and white, let’s include a third group, which I belong to as well. This group does not really prefer anything instant as their first choice, but accepts it sometimes because of its convenience and speed.
Maybe you are one of those coffee drinkers, that only need the caffeine boost, and fast. And that’s OK. By all means.
Not everybody is a coffee snob and cares about fruity aromas or a floral aftertaste. All you care for is a quick and decent cup of coffee and again, quick! But when you ask a coffee connoisseur what he thinks of soluble easy-to-mix coffee granules, he might kick you off his property.
Why do I tell you all this and not start talking about the actual topic? Well, if you consider yourself a coffee connoisseur, you probably won’t like this post. Because I will tell you more than once that this type of coffee can be tasty!
At A Glance:
Who Drinks Instant Coffee?
Instant Coffee Statistics And Future Predictions
Did you grow up with instant coffee? And if yes, do you like the taste of it?
I guess the crucial factor of your answer could be where you have lived most of your life.
Why is that?
The best way to answer this question is to picture a world map and fold it in the middle.
If you have lived on the left side, like, Canada, USA, South America, and Western Europe, the chance you grew up with instant coffee is rather lower than with whole beans and grounds.
According to Euromonitor(1) , countries like Georgia or Belarus consume the most cups of instant coffee per head. If you listened to your Geographic teacher in school, you know that all these countries are in the east.
But there are signs that instant coffee gains popularity also in the western states. Euromonitor predicts, that the instant coffee market is about to grow over $8 billions by 2020 to a value of $36 billion.
Although most of the growth is predicted to happen in the east, there’s also movement in the west. Sudden Coffee, for example, has started a company in the USA in 2015 to offer a premium instant coffee beverage. It’s like the JBM of the coffee world but instant.
In this post we will have a closer look at Sudden Coffee, but also compare it with other brands.
Best Instant Coffee 2020 – Reviews and Comparison
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|Mount Hagen Organic Freeze Dried Instant Coffee||
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|Nescafe Taster’s Choice||
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|Folgers Classic Roast Crystals||
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|Cafe Bustelo Espresso Like Instant Cuban Coffee||
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|Maxim Mocha Gold||
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|Four Sigmatic Mushroom Coffee Mix||
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|Starbucks VIA Ready Brew||
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|G7 3-in-1 Vietnamese Coffee Mix||
||See on Amazon|
- Small batch freeze-dried
- Made with high-quality single-origin beans
- Subscription coffee plans available
- No added sugars
- No dark roast
I tell you right away, this list about the best instant coffee brands is not a list from worst to best. In fact, I’ll do it the opposite way.
I suggest the clear winner of the Top 10 Instant Coffees is, well, my #1 in the list – Sudden Coffee.
But not without a reason.
If you allow me, I like to call Sudden Coffee the first “third wave instant coffee”.
So what’s third wave then?
In short, it’s the latest trend in the coffee industry. Folgers, Maxwell, and even Starbucks is first and second wave.
The third coffee wave is about specialty coffee. It’s about more than Starbucks’ dark roasted brew. It’s about manual brewing methods and the exact water temperature. About coffee growing regions and farms, and more.
Sudden Coffee buys their coffee beans from all over the world. But only the good beans, not the cheap robusta beans, that others use. Then they let them roast from third wave high-quality roasters. Some well-known roasters are Intelligentsia or Equator, for example.
And to preserve the flavor and aroma after brewing, Sudden Coffee freeze-dries them in small batches.
Sounds good? Definitely.
But even more important is, does the coffee also taste good?
I have to admit, I was never a fan of instant coffee.
But after one or two cups and getting used to the convenience of only heating up some water, I liked it!
Sudden Coffee is not cheap, but this coffee is made from experts. Quality has its price.
And if you decide later, that Sudden Coffee is your way to start the day, choose a subscription plan and save some dollars. You can also find great subscription plans for whole beans here.
A 24 cup per month plan, for example, is only $1.75 per cup.
So in a nutshell, today, Sudden Coffee is, in my opinion, the best instant coffee you can get.
- Organic and fair trade
- No added sugars
- Higher price than non-organic, but not better taste
If you don’t like the strong and robust taste of most instant coffees, you should try Mount Hagen. Their instant coffee is balanced and mild. It also has a decaf variant if you’re considering decaf coffee beans.
It is certified by the EcoCert certification organization to be 100% organically grown. On top, Mount Hagen coffee is fair trade, which means, the coffee farmers get a fair price for their coffee growing efforts.
Be warned that it’s not the cheapest of all instant coffees. So you should decide for yourself if organic (no pesticides!), fair trade and the mild flavor are worth the price for you.
- Flavor options available
- Artificial flavors
- Added sugars
Back then when I still drank more instant coffee, I always preferred Nescafe.
Taster’s Choice is available in four different flavors. These are not all flavors, only two to be more specific: hazelnut and vanilla.
The other two options are either House Blend or French Roast. The House blend is more on the lighter side while the French is a darker roast, which is the roast we recommend to coffee lovers with sensitive stomachs.
You should know that the flavored coffee pouches have 2 g of added sugars and it’s not real hazelnut or vanilla that you taste. The flavors are artificial.
- Decent Flavor
- Likely Spray-Dried
It’s cheap, people like it, what else to say?
Well. maybe a little bit about the roast and taste.
Folgers plays it safe and uses a medium roast for this instant coffee. This means you get a well-balanced coffee, not too strong and rich but also not too mild.
Somehow Folgers must save money themselves to offer this low price. One of them is the blend of cheaper robusta and the better arabica beans.
I would say, get the Folgers, when you need a cup or two between your regular brewed coffee or when you go camping.
- Available in Single Serve Sticks and Jars
- Rich flavor for espresso-like drinks
- Maybe too strong and bitter for some
If you like espressos and cappuccinos and are looking for a quick caffeine shot between, you should give Cafe Bustelo a try.
Their instant coffee is dark and bold, has a full body, but is still smooth and aromatic. It’s made for people like you, who want to add steamed or frothed milk.
- Convenient: coffee, sugar, and creamer in one pack
- Added Sugars
- No control over coffee to sugar to creamer ratio
When it comes to Maxim Gold Instant coffee mix, I would not be surprised, if opinions tend to differ sharply. Why? Because these single sticks are not only filled with coffee granules but also sugar and creamer.
On the one hand, yes, they’re extremely convenient for camping, at work, or anywhere else on-the-go. But only if you like sugar and creamer in your coffee. Some suggest squeezing the stick at the end to block the sugar from coming out if you don’t like it sweet.
Makes sense. But still, if I don’t like sugar in coffee, which I don’t, I would simply pick a different instant coffee.
But the people that buy this coffee, seem to like it.
The red package is the original Maxim instant coffee. The yellow is Mocha so it has some extra Mocha in the stick. But both red and yellow are filled with coffee, sugar, and creamer.
- Organic Coffee
- Added Mushrooms supposed to support the immune system
It’s scientifically proven that coffee is healthy. Drink 3-4 cups a day and reduce the risk of many illnesses, including heart and blood vessel diseases, liver diseases, strokes and many more.c
Mushrooms also have health benefits. They’re packed with vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients.
Four Sigmatic thought why not create a super-coffee by making it even healthier. Let’s mix the mushrooms in the coffee.
But wait a minute if you don’t like mushrooms. You don’t taste it!
Four Sigmatic powders the mushrooms before they get mixed into the coffee. The coffee beans are by the way 100% certified organic coffee!
Make sure to check out all the flavors.
There is a medium roast, more fruity, mixed with lion’s mane & Chaga mushrooms. The darker roast, rich and smooth in flavor, includes cordyceps & Chaga mushrooms.
These are only two of the available 6 flavors. Check them out!
- Reasonable price
- Some may find the coffee bitter
The German Coffee Brand Jacobs knows how to produce a good cup of coffee. They’re in the business for a long time.
There’s nothing special about this product. The freeze-dried coffee is flavorful, has a decent taste and the aroma is almost like a regular brewed cup of coffee.
And compared to worse tasting instant coffees, the price is also reasonable.
- Dry-roast instant coffee
- Neither too bitter nor too weak
Of course, where is coffee, there is Starbucks. Depending on what roast you pick you can expect different flavors. The French Roast, the darkest, gives you a bold, smoky flavor, better for drinks with milk.
The Pike Place is instant coffee made of medium roast beans so you may even like it without added creamer. Although the coffee tastes OK, it’s pricey (but still not as pricey as some Kona coffee). Guess you have to pay for the brand name on top.
At last, there is G7. The Vietnamese coffee producer prepares their instant coffee a little different.
By now you know, that in most cases, coffee is brewed before it becomes instant coffee. (If you don’t know this by now, make sure you read the blue box below “How instant coffee is made”).
G7 coffee is neither pre-brewed nor freeze-dried. So you only brew it one time, at home. It’s supposed to taste fresher and more flavorful.
G7 coffee is available in different sizes and packages. There’s also a coffee, sugar and creamer mix available.
So make sure to read the description before you order, in case you don’t like sugary coffee.
Related: Best Coffee Beans for Pour Over
What Is Instant Coffee?
Instant coffee is a dried, soluble coffee extract in granulated or powdered form, which only needs hot (or cold) water to create a ready to drink coffee beverage.
What Is Freeze-Dried Coffee?
At first, coffee will be roasted and brewed as you know it. The first step of freeze-drying coffee (2) is to keep heating it up until it ends up as a thick creamy soup, comparable to caramel. Second step is to freeze the coffee soup to a temperature of around -40 to -50 degrees Celsius (-58F). At third the frozen sheet of coffee concentrate is crushed into the small granules.
Since the granules still contain water the fourth step is to transfer the coffee granules to a low pressure or vacuum drying chamber. The fifth and last step is to remove water from the coffee granules. The chamber is heated to about 50-60 degrees Celsius. Because of the vacuum, the locked water inside the coffee granules turns straight into steam.
Without the vacuum, the coffee granules would liquify. Skipping the liquid phase in water and going directly to steam is called sublimation.
What Is Spray-Dried Coffee?
Spray-drying (3) is often preferred over freeze drying because it’s faster, cheaper, and can be done in big batches. First step of spray-drying coffee is again to roast and brew it as you brew coffee at home, just in bigger proportions.
The second step is to spray the coffee liquid into a big drying tower. Compare it with a misting nozzle that sprays water to cool you off in the summer. But instead of water, it’s a thick coffee concentrate. The drops have the size of about 300µm (4) (micrometer=one millionth of a meter or 300µm=0.012 inches). The temperature inside the tower is about 250-300 degrees celsius. The coffee drops instantly dry out and become a granulated coffee powder.
An eventual third step would be to slightly make the coffee powder wet again to increase the size of the tiny granules.
Can You See The Difference Between Freeze-Dried And Spray-Dried Instant Coffee?
In general, yes. Freeze-dried coffee are coffee granules. They’re bigger and have a similar size of buckwheat. Spray-dried coffee looks more like a powder. However, some spray-dried coffees are made wet again a few more times to get larger sized granules.
Why Does Instant Coffee Taste Bad?
At first, taste is subjective. In fact, many instant coffee drinkers actually love it so much, they don’t like freshly brewed coffee.
But there are a few coffee brewing rules to follow. And those rules are backed by science that when not followed will reduce the quality of the brewed coffee.
1. It Is Not Fresh Coffee
In most cases the coffee that is used to produce this type of coffee is not freshly roasted coffee. Often the coffee has been roasted months, when not years ago. Roasted coffee goes stale after about a month or two at the latest.
There are articles saying that it’s fine to use instant coffee for some brewing methods like the French Press, but that won’t be ideal taste-wise, plus it defeats the purpose of getting an instant coffee. If you like French Press coffee, consider these instead.
By the way, we listed the best coffee beans in this review roundup.
2. Instant Coffee Is Often A Blend Of Robusta And Arabica Beans.
In short, it’s cheaper to grow robusta beans compared to arabica beans.
To keep the price of instant coffee low, a lot of manufactures use robusta beans. Since robusta beans have more caffeine they are blended with arabica beans to make the taste more bearable.
3. Instant Coffee Is Over-Extracted
Instant coffee is often brewed in big batches at temperatures much higher than the recommended 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit -> over-extraction!
The result is a bitter coffee.
Not all instant coffees are breaking those rules:
Sudden coffee (my instant coffee #1 pick) only picks fresh green coffee and lets them roast shortly before they brew them.
Secondly, there’s not one bean of robusta coffee in Sudden Coffee! It’s 100% single-origin arabica coffee!
And third, the coffee is brewed at recommended temperatures in small batches. On top, the coffee is picked and brewed by a pro: Umeko Motoyoshi (5)!
Not All Instant Coffees Break The Rules And Taste Bad!
(if you are not aware of those rules, read above “Why Does Instant Coffee Taste Bad”)
Video – How Instant Coffee Is Made
Other Uses Of Instant Coffee
There is a chance, that you wanted to try instant coffee and you didn’t like it at all. Now you have this big char of coffee granules in your pantry.
But it was not cheap, so you can’t overcome to throw it away.
So how can you use instant coffee other than drinking it?
Instant Coffee For Travelling Or Camping
I know, we assumed you don’t like instant coffee. But not all hotels have coffee machines in the room.
And maybe you’re on a tight budget and can’t afford to buy your daily caffeine shot in the shops. Then brewing a cup of instant coffee in the hotel room is eventually better than no caffeine at all.
Imagine you are waking up in the morning in nature, heating up water at the campfire.
Well, maybe a cup of instant coffee in nature tastes much better than at home. Try it!
Baking And Cooking
There are a lot of recipes that include coffee as an ingredient. Instead of brewing a pot of coffee you can use instant coffee!
Here are a few examples to use instant coffee:
- Steak Marinade
- Milkshakes Or Smoothies
- Oatmeals Or Cereals
- Ice Cream Topping
- And More…
Instant Coffee Ice Cubes
When it’s hot in summer, a refreshing iced coffee or cold brew coffee is the best we coffee addicts can get in our hands.
Unfortunately, adding ice cubes often dilutes the coffee and after a while, all you have left is a watery flavorless brew.
The solution: coffee ice cubes.
Mix cold water with instant coffee and pour it in ice cube trays.
Well, to be precise, it’s not a candle, but a candle warmer.
A pretty cool idea, especially if you like the smell of coffee in your house.
Pour a spoonful of instant coffee into the melted wax and soon you will think you have set foot in a coffee shop.
The History Of Instant Coffee
- 1771 Instant Coffee Compound In Britain
- 1853 Experimental Instant Coffee Cakes In Civil War
- 1890 New Zealand David Strang Invented Instant Soluble Coffee
- 1901 Japanese-American Satori Kato Invented First Stable Soluble Coffee Powder
- 1909 Instant Coffee Is Produced For The Masses By George C. Washington (Scientist, Not The President). He Calls It Red E. Coffee.
- 1914 During World War Instant Coffee Became Very Popular And Soldiers Call It “A Cup Of George”.
- 1937 Nestle Scientist Max Morgenthaler Invented A Process To Co-Dry Coffee Extract With Soluble Carbohydrates And Named The Product Nescafe.
Whether you like instant coffee or not, it’s not going away anytime soon. If you haven’t tried it, do it now. But try the good stuff, like Sudden Coffee.
And then let me know in the comments section below, how much you like it.
- Euromonitor Research, Ranked: Top 25 Coffee-Drinking Countries – Fresh vs Instant Retrieved 09/29/2017 from https://blog.euromonitor.com/ranked-top-25-coffee-drinking-countries-fresh-vs-instant/
- Instant coffee Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instant_coffee
- S.Padma Ishwarya, C.Anandharamakrishnan, Spray-Freeze-Drying approach for soluble coffee processing and its effect on quality characteristics Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0260877414004312
- Instant Coffee Retrieved from http://pubsapp.acs.org/cen/whatstuff/86/8639sci3.html?
- Ashley Rodriguez, 10 Minutes With Umeko Motoyoshi of Sudden Coffee—Part One Retrieved from http://www.baristamagazine.com/10-minutes-umeko-motoyoshi/
Husband, father and former journalist, I’ve combined my love of writing with my love of coffee to create this site. I love high end products, but write all my content with budget conscious coffee enthusiasts in mind. I prefer light roasts, and my normal brew is some sort of pour over, although my guilty pleasure is the occasional flat white.