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10 Best Instant Coffees Reviewed & Fully Compared

last updated Jan 27, 2019
Back in the day, instant coffee used to be, well, just gross! But we've come a long way my friend, and today there are instant coffees on the market that some people think taste better than freshly brewed. Since that's the case, and we all live such busy lives, why not at least have some on hand for when you're pinched for time at the very least? There are also several options that come in single-use packaging, making them perfect for runners who are training for ultra-marathons and other endurance events where they have to spend the night camping. We evaluated over 20 different products and picked the top ten best ones so you can find what's best for you.

In a Hurry? The test winner after 16 hrs of research

icon
Starbucks VIA French Roast
97/100 our score
Ease of Use
99
Product Purity
97
Value
95
Starbucks VIA French Roast
Why is it better?

Great taste

Convenient single serve packets

Can be used with cold water

In a Hurry? Editors choice:
Starbucks VIA French Roast
Test Winner: Starbucks VIA French Roast
Researched Sources
12
Researched Sources
Reviews Considered
1375
Reviews Considered
Hours Researching
16
Hours Researching
Products Evaluated
21
Products Evaluated
Last Updated:
Avatar
By EJ Callanan:

In this update, we added four new instant coffees to replace ones that weren't meeting standards any longer. These new products are: Starbucks VIA French Roast, Maxwell House French Vanilla, Douwe Egberts, and Starbucks VIA French Roast Decaf. We added this last one in response to readers who were requesting a decaf option. You talk, we listen! To your health!

Sorting Options
Ease of Use Product Purity Value By Default
Rank
PictureProduct
Name
Rating
Shops
#1
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
97
Ease of Use
99%
Product Purity
97%
Value
95%
Price Comparison Last Updated (22.02.19)
$5.62
#2
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
95
Ease of Use
94%
Product Purity
99%
Value
92%
Price Comparison Last Updated (22.02.19)
$19.48
#3
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
91.3
Ease of Use
99%
Product Purity
95%
Value
80%
Price Comparison Last Updated (22.02.19)
$39.11
#4
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90.7
Ease of Use
87%
Product Purity
89%
Value
96%
Price Comparison Last Updated (22.02.19)
$10.88
#5
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90.3
Ease of Use
90%
Product Purity
95%
Value
86%
Price Comparison Last Updated (22.02.19)
$19.68
#6
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
88.7
Ease of Use
95%
Product Purity
96%
Value
75%
Price Comparison Last Updated (22.02.19)
$39.31
#7
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
88
Ease of Use
88%
Product Purity
90%
Value
86%
Price Comparison Last Updated (22.02.19)
$22.23
#8
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
86.7
Ease of Use
89%
Product Purity
80%
Value
91%
Price Comparison Last Updated (22.02.19)
$44.72
#9
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
85
Ease of Use
85%
Product Purity
95%
Value
75%
Price Comparison Last Updated (22.02.19)
$19.98
#10
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
84
Ease of Use
92%
Product Purity
70%
Value
90%
Price Comparison Last Updated (22.02.19)
$31.92
In Depth Review Top 10
  • Starbucks VIA French Roast
  • Mount Hagen
  • Starbucks VIA Decaf Italian Roast
  • Maxwell House French Vanilla
  • Douwe Egberts
  • Starbucks VIA Italian Roast
  • Jacob's Coffee Jacobs Kronung Instant
  • Nescafe Taster’s Choice House Blend
  • Cafe Altura
  • Nescafe Tasters Choice Hazelnut
Table of contents
  • Criteria Used for Evaluation
  • Other Factors to Consider
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Sources

10 Best Instant Coffees

1. Starbucks VIA French Roast

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
97
Starbucks VIA French Roast
Ease of Use
99
Product Purity
97
Value
95
best offer for today
$5.62
Pros:

Great taste

Convenient single serve packets

Can be used with cold water

Cons:

Expensive

This option is highly reviewed and liked for its great flavor. Campers and backpackers especially like it for its convenient single serve packets. It's more expensive than other options but is of very high quality and tastes great.

Read more

Ease of Use

Since it comes in single serving packets it is very simple to use. Just pour water over it, stir, and you're ready to go. A nice feature is that it will dissolve well even in cold water, it just takes a little more time.

Product Purity

This one is made from 100% Arabica beans and contains no wheat or gluten of any kind.

Value

It's a fair bit more expensive than other options, which was really the only complaint we could find.

2. Mount Hagen

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
95
Mount Hagen
Ease of Use
94
Product Purity
99
Value
92
best offer for today
$19.48
Pros:

Certified Organic

No preservatives

Low acidity

Convenient single-serve packets

Cons:

Less flavorful

This certified organic instant coffee comes in convenient single-serve packages. It has lower acidity and a smooth, mellow but slightly less flavorful taste.

Read more

Beans/Roast
This coffee is made from 100% Highland Arabica beans and has a medium roast.

Taste & Texture
This medium roast has a mellow, mild flavor that is much less acidic. Many coffee snobs accept this a good alternative to a freshly brewed cup of joe.

Convenience
Packaged in single-serve packets for easy use and convenient storage. Some buyers report success with dissolving this coffee in cold or room temperature water but it seems to be best with hot water.

Caffeine
The company does not report how much caffeine is in each packet but users feel it does not have a very high caffeine content and is comparable to other Arabica coffee.

Shelf Life
This freeze-dried coffee is preserved for 6-12 months with no chemical preservatives needed.

Value
This organic coffee is slightly more expensive than some of the budget brands.

3. Starbucks VIA Decaf Italian Roast

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
91.3
Starbucks VIA Decaf Italian Roast
Ease of Use
99
Product Purity
95
Value
80
best offer for today
$39.11
Pros:

Great taste

Convenient single-use packets

Ethically sourced

Cons:

Expensive

We couldn't make a list of the ten best instant coffees without including a decaf option, and this one comes from the 800-pound gorilla of the coffee world, Starbucks. It's highly reviewed for its excellent flavor and comes in single-use packets for convenience.

Read more

Ease of Use

This option dissolves quickly in hot water and the single-use packaging makes it simple to take with you to work, camping, or hiking.

Product Purity

The company uses 100% Arabica beans, sourced ethically, to make this product. It doesn't contain any sugars or any ingredients other than coffee.

Value

As with the other offerings from Starbucks on this list, it's quite a bit more expensive than other options. Coffee aficionados felt it was worth it while some others felt it was too expensive.

4. Maxwell House French Vanilla

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90.7
Maxwell House French Vanilla
Ease of Use
87
Product Purity
89
Value
96
best offer for today
$10.88
Pros:

Affordable

Dissolves easily

Comes in bulk

Nice vanilla flavor

Cons:

Not for those who are lactose intolerant

Not the purest ingredients

This option gives the user a nice vanilla taste and can also be used to flavor regular drip coffee or used in recipes. It also dissolves easily and quickly and is a light option. Most users liked the flavor and that it's sugar-free. It does contain milk so if you're lactose intolerant it's not the one for you.

Read more

Ease of Use

Users reported that it dissolves quickly. It comes in a large 8.4 oz (dry weight) tub so you can add more or less according to your taste.

Product Purity

It does contain some artificial sweeteners and flavorings to add sweetness and flavor without sugar. It also contains powdered milk so be careful if you're lactose intolerant.

Value

One of the least expensive options on our list.

5. Douwe Egberts

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90.3
Douwe Egberts
Ease of Use
90
Product Purity
95
Value
86
best offer for today
$19.68
Pros:

Good Flavor

Dissolves easily

Old and reputable company

Blend of various bean varieties

Cons:

Some found it bitter

Comes in a glass jar that could break during shipping

This is a Dutch product that gets rave reviews from customers for its quality and taste. They also have a darker blend available but we found more people who preferred this one. It has a nice level of caffeine that does a good job of kick-starting the users day.

Read more

Ease of Use

Users reported it dissolves quickly in hot water but not in cold. An important thing to note is that it comes in a nice, reusable glass jar, however, a couple of customers were broken upon arrival. As always we suggest ordering from a reputable seller who will make sure to package it carefully.

Product Purity

The beans are grown in South Africa and are a blend of different varieties. It is made with the freeze-drying process and contains no sugar or additives.

Value

This one is a little more expensive than average.

6. Starbucks VIA Italian Roast

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
88.7
Starbucks VIA Italian Roast
Ease of Use
95
Product Purity
96
Value
75
best offer for today
$39.31
Pros:

Dissolves in cold water

Convenient single-serve packages

Long shelf life

Cons:

Price

Slightly more bitter

This Starbucks VIA Italian Roast packs in a bold, robust flavor that reliably creates a strong coffee taste with just one convenient packet.

Read more

Beans/Roast
This coffee is an Italian dark roast and is made of 100% micro-ground Arabica beans.

Taste & Texture
The taste of this dark roast is described as bold and robust. Users love the strong taste and bitter finish. The finely ground instant coffee dissolves completely without leaving any grounds lingering.

Convenience
Packaged in convenient single-serving packages that are easy to carry with you. This instant coffee dissolves after 10 seconds in hot water and can even dissolve in cold water when given a bit more time and stirring.

Caffeine
Each packet has around 135 mg of caffeine.

Shelf Life
This coffee has a long-lasting shelf life and users report good tasting, strong coffee even 8 months past the “Use By” date listed on the packaging.

Value
More expensive than most other options on the market. Due to the long shelf life, you can stock up on packs of 50 and save a bit of money.

7. Jacob's Coffee Jacobs Kronung Instant

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
88
Jacob's Coffee Jacobs Kronung Instant
Ease of Use
88
Product Purity
90
Value
86
best offer for today
$22.23
Pros:

Bold, blended coffee taste

You can adjust the taste

Utilizes freeze-dried beans to maintain taste and consistency

You can take it anywhere

Cons:

Too bold of a taste for some

Jacob's instant coffee is a favorite among many because it has the same rich, bold taste as brewed coffees. It is also affordable and can be bought almost anywhere.

Read more

Beans/Roast
This instant coffee uses high-quality coffee beans to closely mimic the taste of slow brewed, blended coffees. It has a rich, bold taste that will quickly make this one of your favorite instant coffees.

Taste & Texture
This coffee is smooth and goes down easy, it isn't or any different than your typical coffee. You can make it as strong or light as you'd like as well.

Convenience
This instant coffee comes in a jar, which is less convenient than the single serve packet to some people. However, it is easy to use and store and taste can be adjusted however you like it!

Caffeine
It is difficult to calculate exactly how much caffeine is in each cup of coffee, however, it probably falls in line with the average amount.

Shelf Life
This instant coffee utilizes freeze-dried beans to maintain its consistency and taste. This also allows it to have a shelf life of over a year, without sacrificing taste.

Value
This instant coffee is averagely priced and how long it lasts depends on how much or little you use for each serving.

8. Nescafe Taster’s Choice House Blend

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
86.7
Nescafe Taster’s Choice House Blend
Ease of Use
89
Product Purity
80
Value
91
best offer for today
$44.72
Pros:

Convenient single-serve packages

Compact packaging

Very affordable

Long shelf life

Cons:

Light flavor

These affordable and compact sleeves have a light and smooth flavor that is convenient for travel. It is not the best tasting instant coffee on the market but it is not bitter and is a fraction of the cost of some of the higher end brands.

Read more

Beans/Roast
This coffee features a blend of beans and has a light to medium roast.

Taste & Texture
This standard house blend is rich and smooth. Most users enjoy the light flavor but some find one packet a bit too weak and prefer to use 2-3 packs for a stronger taste.

Convenience
This instant coffee comes in easy-to-open sticks that are very compact and easy to store.

Caffeine
This coffee has about 65 mg of caffeine per cup.

Shelf Life
The individually sealed, freeze-dried coffee has a very long shelf life lasting almost 2 years.

Value
This instant coffee is convenient and very inexpensive when considering the cost per cup.

9. Cafe Altura

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
85
Cafe Altura
Ease of Use
85
Product Purity
95
Value
75
best offer for today
$19.98
Pros:

Organic

Fair Trade certified

Dissolves easily in hot and cold water

Cons:

Price

Sold in small jars; not packaged by serving size

This freeze-dried, organic coffee is grown and certified fair trade. Users love the mellow taste that lacks the bitterness and acidity of many instant coffees.

Read more

Beans/Roast:
This coffee is made of 100% Arabica organically grown and sustainably farmed beans. It has a light/medium roast.

Taste & Texture:
This mellow coffee has a lighter taste that is not bitter or acidic.

Convenience:
This instant coffee is packaged in a small jar and easily dissolves in hot or cold water.

Caffeine:
It has 60 mg of caffeine for the standard serving size.

Shelf Life:
This coffee is freeze-dried giving it a 3-year shelf life without any chemicals. Users note is maintains its flavor well over time.

Value
This freeze-dried instant coffee is on the expensive end and is sold in relatively small jars. However, if you are looking for a good organic, fair trade instant, this is the way to go.

10. Nescafe Tasters Choice Hazelnut

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
84
Nescafe Tasters Choice Hazelnut
Ease of Use
92
Product Purity
70
Value
90
best offer for today
$31.92
Pros:

Strong coffee with hazelnut flavor

Affordable

Convenient, small single-serve packets

Cons:

Flavor is not for everyone

Voted one of the best tasting and affordable instant coffees. This medium to dark roast has a hint of hazelnut that many buyers love.

Read more

Beans/Roast
This medium/dark roast coffee features a blend of both Robusta and Arabica beans.

Taste & Texture
This darker coffee makes a strong cup of coffee with a noticeable hazelnut flavoring.

Convenience
This instant coffee comes in small, single-serving tubes that are great for travel and use on the go. Many users love the addition of hazelnut and are happy to replace their morning brewed coffee with this instant blend.

Caffeine
There is 25-30 mg caffeine per packet.

Shelf Life
These packets should maintain their flavor for over 2 years.

Value
This coffee is fairly inexpensive and the flavor is strong enough that most users require only one packet per serving.

Criteria Used for Evaluation

Ease of Use

Whether you are traveling or just trying to save time in your morning routine, if you are choosing an instant coffee you are likely doing so for the convenience factor. We sought out coffees that are packaged well and easy to use when you are on the go.

These two qualities may be the most important when selecting an instant coffee. Sure, you may be willing to settle for a less tasty coffee when you are solely looking for convenience but it should not be too hard to find a variety that is better than tolerable. The ideal flavor profile, again, is largely personal preference. However, we focused our search on coffees that were generally well-received.

There is not a standard ideal amount for caffeine. Again, this is typically determined by the individual and how much caffeine you are accustomed to drinking and feel you need. Some users may be more sensitive to caffeine than others. Though we included only caffeinated options on this list, many of the brands on our list come in a decaffeinated version as well.

Product Purity

Coffee is made from two types of beans: Arabica and Robusta. Arabica is generally recognized as a better bean that is more aromatic and has more distinct flavors than the Robusta variety. Due to the better flavor profile, Arabica is generally preferred over Robusta. However, the Arabica plants are more delicate and therefore, Arabica beans are more expensive to grow and cost more. Robusta plants are much stronger and are more resistant to weather and insects. The taste of Robusta beans is not as refined but boasts a much higher caffeine level than Arabica beans. This bean is easier to grow making the coffee made from it much more affordable.

The roast of coffee is determined by the extent to which the coffee beans are roasted. This is typically measured by the color and internal temperature of the roasted beans. The “best” roast is largely up to personal preference. Lighter roasts are said to have a lighter texture and more mellow taste. These lighter beans also tend to be drier and have a more acidic taste and higher caffeine concentration than the darker variety. Medium roasts are typically described as balanced and smooth. Darker roasts are typically more robust, rich and full-bodied. Beans become dark through higher temperatures and longer roasting. As they roast longer, some of the caffeine burns off and they begin to lose the flavors from the bean and take on more flavor from the roasting itself.

Value

Price is always important when considering any purchase. We wanted to make sure that if you are paying more for your coffee, there is a good reason why.

Many people stock up on instant coffee for travel supplies and backpacking trips. If you are not planning to drink this coffee everyday it is important to consider the shelf life. While the coffee should not really “go bad” it can become less flavorful over time.

Expert Interviews & Opinions

Most Important Criteria (According to our experts opinion)
Sort criterias acording to:
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Click on a to rate the most important criteria:
#1
Ease of Use
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#2
Product Purity
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#3
Value
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Instant coffee is actually pretty good

Gone are the days of instant coffee being a downgrade. When you're in a hurry and can't tell the difference between that and the brewed stuff, why not have some on hand in a pinch.

Good for cooking or baking

Feel like adding some coffee flavor to that cake you're making? Use instant coffee! Just follow the directions to brew a cup and is it in place of water and/or milk in the cake recipe.

Other Factors to Consider

Bottom Line

Studies on endurance athletes have found that caffeine, and coffee specifically, has numerous benefits for runners, swimmers, and cyclists. Caffeine, in any form, can boost endurance performance. Studies have found that caffeine boosts both speed and endurance to help you go faster for longer. It is also rapidly absorbed in the GI tract which helps to give you an instant kick when consumed mid-race. Caffeine assists athletic performance by working as a stimulant and increasing the circulation and making more glycogen available. In this sense, caffeine also works well in your post workout routine as it can help you replenish your glycogen stores. Furthermore, there is not, much evidence to suggest it is dehydrating as some have been led to believe.

There are many ways to incorporate caffeine into your exercise routine through teas, sports drinks and caffeinated gels. However, there are some benefits to coffee itself as part of your daily routine. Recent studies have provided some evidence that coffee contains some substances that can be beneficial to brain health and can help stave off dementia.

Comparing instant coffees can be challenging because much of the decision making comes down to personal preference. However, we did find some important criteria that helped to narrow down the playing field. We looked for coffees that were convenient to use and tasted good for most reviewers. We sought out a variety of coffees and flavor profiles to provide a diverse top ten list with something for everyone.

Use

Are you looking for an instant coffee to have for the occasional trip or do you plan to throw out your coffee maker and only use instant? If you are dedicated to a daily cup of instant coffee then a jar may be more convenient than packets because it is easier to customize the strength and taste of your coffee. Additionally, people switching over to instant tend to prefer the instant espresso or espresso style coffees as they have a richer texture and no bitterness.

On the other hand, if you need a coffee that can easily be stored away for the spontaneous camping trip, packets are your friend as they take up very little room and have a longer shelf life than the coffee that comes in jars. In the case of occasional use, many people reach for the Starbucks VIA packets as it packs reliably strong flavor and a ton of caffeine to wake you up after sleeping on the ground. And, with occasional use, the cost will not break the bank.

Additionally, consider how you will be using your coffee. When we think of instant coffee we typically think about mixing it with boiling water. However, many people enjoy making iced coffee or even mixing the powder into milk to make an instant latte. Even if you don’t love the taste of coffee, instant coffee is an easy way to get caffeine into your pre or post-run ritual. Many runners love to mix instant coffee into butter to top their pancakes or blend it into a smoothie. Instant coffee is also a great flavoring agent for baking.

Many people come to love the taste of coffee but most of us out there have become addicted to the wonderful caffeine that keeps you alert and boosts performance. If you are considering coffee for the athletic benefits, experts recommend 3-6 mg of caffeine per kg of body weight taken 1 hour before working out. If you are seeking caffeine to wake you up in the morning then it may be a bit more trial and error to figure out the ideal amount. Typically this will depend on your weight and how much caffeine you are accustomed to drinking. Keep in mind that too much caffeine can produce negative side effects such as jitters and sleeplessness.

Much like ground coffee, instant coffee comes with a variety of flavor profiles. When choosing an instant coffee, it is best to start with flavors you already know you like. The type of roast will also affect the flavor of the coffee, so keep in mind if you prefer a strong flavor or a more mild one. Darker roasts tend to have a stronger flavor while medium roast won’t be as strong.

Frequently Asked Questions

q: How much caffeine should I drink pre-run?
a:

For athletes, the recommended intake of caffeine is about 3 to 6 mg per kg of your weight. So unless you drink multiple cups of coffee you should be alright with any choice on this list. If you do exceed that amount then you will likely experience the jitters or stomach problems, which are the last things you want when you are trying to run.

q: Will coffee make me dehydrated?
a:

People tend to mix up some of the details on what about coffee dehydrates you. Caffeine does not directly dehydrate you but it is a diuretic, frankly speaking, so it makes you have to pee more. Your body losing the extra fluids can dehydrate you. So we recommend with the coffee that you also take in some electrolytes and extra water to balance it out and preserve your hydration level.

q: Can too much caffeine be dangerous?
a:

Generally, caffeine consumption is not dangerous, in fact, you’d have to drink somewhere between 20 to 30 cups of coffee in quick succession to reach lethal levels of caffeine. That being said some conditions do require restricted caffeine consumption for safety reasons, so if you are unsure please consult your doctor. Also, excessive caffeine consumption should be avoided during pregnancy.

There are also side effects that most people are aware of from caffeine, an overabundance of energy or jitteriness, sleeplessness, and the like. Caffeine also accumulates the more you intake, meaning the more you use the longer the effects last. This is an important consideration when using caffeine as an athletic aid.

q: When should I consume caffeine?
a:

If you are looking to boost your endurance performance, most studies recommend consuming caffeine about 1 hour before your run.

q: How is instant coffee made?
a:

There are two main methods for creating instant coffee. Both start with liquid coffee and convert it to a powder. The first method requires spraying liquid coffee in a fine mist through very hot and dry air. As the water vapor evaporates, you are left with a fine powder that can be reconstituted when water is adding. The other, often preferred method is freeze drying. In this case, liquid coffee is frozen and then vaporized through chemical sublimation.

This version is preferred because it maintains a bit more of the aromatics and flavor of the original coffee and is more stable and has a longer shelf life. Starbucks VIA, on the other hand, has its own patented method of creating instant coffee with micro grinding technology. This unique process grinds the coffee into a very fine powder that helps maintain the coffee’s taste.

Sources

  1. Bede, Pamela Nisevich, 5 Truths About Running and Caffeine, Web Article, Oct 20, 2016
  2. Runner's World, 8 Things Runners Should Know About Coffee, Web Article, Jun 03, 2013
  3. Lokker, Brian , Coffee Roasts from Light to Dark, Web Article, Apr 05, 2013