For many of us the thought of instant coffee makes us want to cringe. Instant or soluble coffee has gained a reputation over the years for being cheap and nasty. And if we are honest the flavor of instant coffee can never compare to freshly ground and brewed coffee.
However, instant coffee is beginning to shed its bad reputation. There are more specialty coffee roasters bringing out instant coffee blends which taste surprisingly enjoyable. So for you instant coffee lovers out there – what is the best instant coffee? We decided to have a dig around on Amazon to see what are the top rated brands of instant coffee that customers love.
What Is Instant Coffee?
First off… what is instant coffee? Instant coffee is basically a beverage made from brewed coffee beans that is able to be made instantly and conveniently, requiring only hot water.
Instant coffee starts off like whole bean coffee – coffee beans are processed and dried then roasted. This is where instant and whole bean part ways. Instant coffee is then ground and brewed and then the soluble coffee compounds are extracted through complex processes. The resulting coffee extract is then dried through either Spray or Freeze Drying.
If you think of instant coffee, it is basically dehydrated coffee. Similar to dehydrated food it has the benefits of having a long shelf life, however it also doesn’t taste as nice as the real thing aka fresh coffee.
A Brief History Of Instant Coffee
Instant coffee was invented by Frenchman Alphonse Allais in 1881. Instant coffee grew in popularity during the First World War as it became a part of soldier’s rations. In 1930 Brazil was left with a large coffee surplus which spoiled after time so they approached Nestle to create a coffee that was soluble in water and retained its flavor. Nestle picked up on the idea and began researching instant coffee making methods and in 1938 Nescafe was produced. This became all the more popular during the Second World War and from then on its popularity only grew. In 1960 freeze-drying was introduced to improve the flavor of instant coffee. Today instant coffee accounts for 25% of all coffee sold worldwide.
How To Choose The Best Instant Coffee?
When it comes to choosing the best instant coffee it really comes down to how you are planning on using it. If you are using it for baking, the quality of the coffee doesn’t matter so much, whereas if you are planning on drinking it the flavor of the coffee should be the main consideration.
Arabica vs Robusta
As any coffee connoisseur will tell you the beans used to make the coffee have a huge impact on taste. When it comes to coffee the two main types of coffee beans used are Arabica and Robusta. Arabica beans account for ¾ of the world’s coffee crops.
When it comes to buying instant coffee, check what types of beans are used. If you are buying a higher quality, specialty instant coffee you may find that Arabica beans are being used.
Most instant coffees are roasted to a classic medium to dark roast. This tends to produce the classic instant coffee taste profile. Generally the darker the roast the more intense the flavor. However if you do prefer lighter or darker roasts there are more brands coming out that cater to these.
Obviously one of the main perks for buying instant coffee is the convenience of it. And a part of this includes the container the coffee comes in. Is it easy to store coffee in, and does it have a good seal to keep the coffee fresh?
The Best Instant Coffee 2021
Waka Coffee– Best Specialty Instant Coffee
Waka coffee is one of the new kids on the block, filling the niche of specialty instant coffee. Their whole motto is quality instant coffee and boy do they deliver. Waka coffee is made from 100% high quality Arabica beans, which are freeze dried. Their coffee comes in 8 individual packs containing 5g of coffee powder, or in larger resealable bags . Waka coffee has either a Colombian (medium roast), Indian (light roast) or Decaf option. The coffee has rich caramel flavors with fruity notes. And to top it all off Waka donates 4% of their profits to clean and safe drinking water initiatives. If you are looking for a smooth cup of specialty instant coffee look no further than Waka coffee.
Nescafe’s Taster’s Choice House Blend– Best Classic Instant Coffee
If you are after a classic instant coffee then Nescafe’s Taster’s Choice House Blend is a good option. This is a well loved blend that produces your basic cup of instant coffee. It is made from a mix of Robusta and Arabica beans that are responsibly sourced. The coffee is roasted to a light-medium roast and produces a mild cup of coffee with a smooth and well balanced flavor. It also comes in a convenient glass jar with a lid to keep the coffee fresh. If you are after a simple go-to instant coffee try Nescafe’s Taster’s Choice House Blend.
Mount Hagen Organic Instant Coffee– Best Organic Instant Coffee
If you are after an organic instant coffee, Mount Hagen has the answer. Their coffee is made from 100% organically grown Arabica coffee beans sourced from Papua New Guinea. Their coffee is also fair trade certified giving you the peace of mind that it was produced ethically. The beans are roasted to a medium level producing a mild brew with a smooth, rich taste. The coffee comes as either pre-packed sachets or in a glass jar. This is a great option if you are looking for an organic instant coffee that is produced with care and tastes great.
Folgers Classic Roast– Best Value Instant Coffee
If you are looking for a basic instant coffee that is affordable Folgers Classic Roast is a great option to consider. Folgers is one of the oldest brands of instant coffee, and has been around since 1850- so they must be doing something right! Their coffee is roasted to a classic medium roast and has a rich, strong flavor with bitter undertones. The coffee itself has a consistent taste and quality and dissolves very quickly. If you are looking for a basic cup of coffee or a coffee for cooking try Folgers Classic Roast.
Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Decaf– Best Decaf Instant Coffee
If you are after a decaf instant coffee then Starbucks VIA instant decaf is the place to go. It is made with high quality Arabica beans that are ethically sourced. The beans are roasted to a dark Italian roast, producing a great tasting instant coffee with deep, rich flavors and dark caramely notes. The coffee comes in boxes of 50 ready to brew sachets- you simply need to add water. Starbucks VIA is also super easy and quick to make taking only 10 seconds- you can’t beat that for convenience!
Trung Nguyen G7 3 in 1 Instant Coffee– Best On The Go Instant Coffee
Trung Nguyen G7 is a Vietnamese coffee that is perfect to enjoy on the go. Coming as a convenient 3 in 1 sachet it contains coffee, creamer and sugar- everything you need for a quick cup of coffee. The coffee is sourced from Jamaica, Brazil, Ethiopia and Vietnam and produces a well balanced, sweet and fragrant cup. The coffee itself is created a bit differently to the other coffees on this list as they use a secret patented dry roasting process to create their instant coffee. This is a very popular coffee especially in Southeast Asia. If you are after an instant coffee for travel try Trung Nguyen G7.
Four Sigmatic Mushroom Coffee– Something A Bit Different
Finally we have Four Sigmatic Mushroom Coffee on our list if you are after an instant coffee that is a bit out of the ordinary. We were very surprised to find such high reviews for this mushroom coffee… but apparently it’s very good! Four Sigmatic’s coffee contains 100% Arabica coffee grown in Colombia. This is then mixed with Organic Lion’s Mane and Chaga extract (both types of mushrooms). The former is known to increase focus, concentration and productivity and the latter has antioxidant properties. While this may sound odd it is one of the top selling instant coffees. It is a medium roasted coffee with a smooth, mild flavor and slightly earthy undertones. If you are after an organic, fair trade coffee with multiple health benefits then Four Sigmatic Mushroom coffee might just be the one for you!
So Why Buy Instant Coffee?
While here at The Coffee Folk we tend to recommend manual brewing methods such as Aeropress, Pour Over and French Press, we hope you can see that sometimes instant coffee does have its place. There is no denying that instant coffee is far cheaper per cup of coffee than any other brewing method. It also has the advantage of having a long shelf life so you don’t have to worry about how fresh it is. Instant coffee is very convenient to brew – all you have to do is boil the kettle! This makes it great for serving a quick drink to large crowds. Instant coffee is also versatile; it can be used in baking or to make whipped coffee or brewed hot or cold.
How Do You Improve The Taste Of Instant Coffee?
The taste of instant coffee will largely depend on what brand of instant coffee you are using. However there is a wee trick you can use when making instant coffee to help improve the taste.. And that is to add 1-2 tablespoons of cold water into the cup first and mix it with your coffee before adding the hot water. This helps the coffee to brew more gently and improves the final flavor.
Instant Coffee – Yay or Nay?
While instant coffee will never reach the deliciousness of freshly brewed coffee we hope you can see that there are tons of different options available today- some of which are pleasantly surprising. A good instant coffee should taste sweet and strong with no overly harsh or bitter notes. Instant coffee is a great option if you are looking for a quick, convenient coffee that is easy to brew. If you love instant coffee we would love to hear from you below! What is your favorite instant coffee? Have you tried any of the instant coffee brands on our list? How do you like your instant coffee?
Is Instant Coffee Bad For You?
There are a lot of rumors going around that instant coffee is bad for your health. These simply aren’t true! Instant coffee has similar health benefits to that of black coffee; it increases brain function, boosts metabolism and contains antioxidants. The only difference is instant coffee has less caffeine than regular brewed coffee (caffeine has a lot of health benefits see our article here). Be aware that the instant sachets of coffee may not be that healthy for you as they often contain sweeteners or sugar.
Can you make iced coffee with instant coffee?
Absolutely! This is a great option especially in those hot summer months when you don’t feel like a hot drink. You simply dissolve the instant coffee in some lukewarm water then top it up with either cold milk or water and add any sweeteners you want then serve over ice- Yumma mia!