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10 Best Instant Coffees Reviewed & Fully Compared

last updated Nov 23, 2018
10 Best Instant Coffees Reviewed & Fully Compared
By Alice Rhoades 0
Instant coffee is a convenience. Its fast and it’s cheap and for these qualities has generally garnered a reputation for not being of particularly high quality. That’s the thing about reputations, though. They become established and concrete, they don’t generally change even though the product does. Instant coffee has improved leaps and bounds since its invention but most people shy away due to its reputation. We want our readership to know that quality instant coffee is out there. Instant coffee is a boon to runners on the go, being a quick boost when they need it, and we want the runners that come to us to know about everything they have in their stable to help them be better runners.

Instant coffees aren’t just convenient because of their speed, but also their ease of transport. You can stick multiple packs in a purse or a pocket and most establishments will give you ice water for free (if you like your coffee cold, that is). Also, they are great for trails or camping trips when paired with a trail stove.

Instant coffees don’t have to be a bad tasting bitter replacement for the real thing. You can have fast delicious coffee. We are confident that anyone will find an instant coffee they will love on this list we assembled. Below our list, we also have the criteria that were used for finding our choices along with a helpful FAQ to answer any questions you may have. So here is to you finding the perfect cup to compliment your morning run.
Researched Sources
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Researched Sources
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Reviews Considered
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14
Hours Researching
Products Evaluated
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Products Evaluated
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By Giselle Killebrew:

While we were going through and evaluating our list we added Sudden Coffee at number 5 since they come so highly recommended for flavor and quality. We also elaborated on some of our FAQ answers to make sure they are as helpful and informative as they could possibly be for our readership.

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In Depth Review Top 10
  • Four Sigmatic Mushroom
  • Mount Hagen
  • Cafe Altura
  • Starbucks VIA Italian Roast
  • Starbucks VIA Colombia Roast
  • Cafe Bustelo
  • Nescafe Tasters Choice Hazelnut
  • Nescafe Taster’s Choice House Blend
  • Jacob's Coffee Jacobs Kronung Instant
  • Sudden Coffee
Table of contents
  • Criteria Used for Evaluation
  • Other Factors to Consider
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Sources

10 Best Instant Coffees

1. Four Sigmatic Mushroom

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
93.7
Four Sigmatic Mushroom
Use
89
Product Purity
97
Value
95
best offer for today
Pros:

Easy on the stomach

No jitters

Convenient single-serve packets

Cons:

Less caffeine

Hint of mushroom taste

A bit more expensive

This mushroom infused instant coffee has about half the caffeine of a regular cup of coffee. This may not be ideal if you are seeking caffeine to boost your runs. However, many users note that this coffee is easier on the stomach and makes them less jittery than your typical coffee. Some users do note a hint of mushroom in the taste but most find the coffee to be light and smooth with a velvety texture.

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Beans/Roast
The coffee is made with 100% Arabica beans with Lion’s Mane and Chaga Mushrooms. It has a light roast.

Taste & Texture
The flavor of this coffee is light and smooth. Most users note the taste is fairly standard for instant coffee but some people do note a hint of mushroom or dirt aftertaste that is off-putting.

Convenience
This instant coffee comes in convenient single-serve packets and dissolves in hot water.

Caffeine
It has 40 mg per serving.

Shelf Life
This mushroom coffee is well-packaged and has a shelf life of 12 months.

Value
This product is a bit more expensive when compared to other instant coffees. However, it is still less than buying a cup of coffee at a shop.

2. Mount Hagen

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
93.7
Mount Hagen
Use
96
Product Purity
91
Value
94
best offer for today
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.

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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 is 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. Cafe Altura

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
92.3
Cafe Altura
Use
87
Product Purity
98
Value
92
best offer for today
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.

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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.

4. Starbucks VIA Italian Roast

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
91.7
Starbucks VIA Italian Roast
Use
94
Product Purity
96
Value
85
best offer for today
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.

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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.

5. Starbucks VIA Colombia 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 Colombia Roast
Use
94
Product Purity
91
Value
89
best offer for today
Pros:

Medium roast for a bit more caffeine

Convenient single-serve packets

Dissolves easily in hot and cold water

Long shelf life

Cons:

Price

Starbucks VIA sets the standard for instant coffee with its micro ground beans and this medium roast Colombia coffee is a fan favorite. This balanced and nutty coffee has a nice level of acidity and one packet dissolves easily in hot and cold water to instantly provide a strong cup of coffee with 135 mg of caffeine.

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Beans/Roast
This medium roast coffee is made of 100% Arabica micro-ground beans.

Taste & Texture
Taste is described as nutty and balanced. Users note a roasted walnut flavor with a nice level of acidity. Starbucks’ micro ground blend dissolves completely in water for a smooth, drinkable cup of coffee.

Convenience
Conveniently packaged in 0.11 oz single-serve packets that dissolve easily in hot or cold water.

Caffeine
Around 135 mg of caffeine

Shelf Life
This instant coffee has a long shelf life that lasts well beyond the labeled “Use By” date. Users do not notice any change in strength or flavor no matter how long they leave it sitting in the cupboard.

Value
The price is the biggest complaint about Starbucks VIA. Most instant coffees are less expensive but the Starbucks VIA offers a strong, quality coffee with just one packet.

6. Cafe Bustelo

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90.7
Cafe Bustelo
Use
87
Product Purity
89
Value
96
best offer for today
Pros:

Inexpensive

Not bitter or sour

Convenient single-serve sleeves

High caffeine content

Cons:

May need 2 packets for strong flavor

An instant espresso style coffee that is conveniently packaged in single serve packets. The smooth texture and low acidity makes this darker coffee a favorite for many.

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Beans/Roast
This coffee is espresso style dark roast blend.

Taste & Texture
This coffee has a smooth and mellow taste that is low in acidity and not very bitter. One serving does not have the very strong taste expected of espresso so many people recommend using two packets.

Convenience
Packaged in small single-serve sleeves that are easy to use and travel with, without making a mess.

Caffeine
You'll find 112 mg per serving.

Shelf Life
These vacuum sealed packets last 720 days, about 2 years.

Value
These convenient packets are very inexpensive. They are affordable even if you plan to use 2 packets per serving.

7. Nescafe Tasters Choice Hazelnut

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90
Nescafe Tasters Choice Hazelnut
Use
86
Product Purity
89
Value
95
best offer for today
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.

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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.

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.
89.3
Nescafe Taster’s Choice House Blend
Use
89
Product Purity
85
Value
94
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.

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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. 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.
86
Jacob's Coffee Jacobs Kronung Instant
Use
80
Product Purity
82
Value
96
best offer for today
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.

10. Sudden Coffee

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
85.3
Sudden Coffee
Use
91
Product Purity
83
Value
82
best offer for today
Pros:

Small batch brewing for quality control

Delicious

Distinct flavors for each batch

Cons:

Expensive

Sudden Coffee is a brand that promises to take any hesitation out of mixing up a cup of instant coffee. These batch made tubes promise to be just as good as any slow poor coffee you could get at a cafe and most of their drinkers are inclined to agree.

Read more

Beans/Roast
All Sudden Coffee is made from beans the same source and is 100% Arabica. The beans are roasted by specialists at Equator Coffees and Intelligentsia Coffee.

Taste/ Texture
Sudden coffee has both light and dark roast options. The way they prepare their batches captures each batches unique flavor but they do have a general taste. The light roast is described as having flavors of pear, lime, and molasses. Their medium roast is described as bright melon, fruit gum, and chocolate chip cookies.

Convenience
Sudden Coffee comes in single-serve recyclable tubes that are great for storage or just throwing into your pocket or bag without risk of losing it like you would a packet since it doesn’t fold or slide.

Caffeine
There is 95mg of caffeine per one serving of Sudden Coffee, which falls on the little higher than average end of the spectrum.

Shelf Life
Due to its specialized storage tube, the shelf life of Sudden Coffee is at least six months but could possibly last longer.

Value
Sudden Coffee ends up being noticeably pricier than your average instant coffee, so if your motive for instant coffee is to save money then it probably isn’t the choice for you. But Sudden Coffee is worth its price in flavor and quality so if what you want is a fast and delicious cup of coffee then Sudden Coffee is more than worth the price. Plus your satisfaction is guaranteed with any purchase of this product so you know your money isn’t going to waste.

Criteria Used for Evaluation

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.

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 of free fattpost-workouting 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 bethe en lead 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.

Ease of 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 performance. 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 effect 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: Q: How much caffeine should I drink pre-run?
a:

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: Q: Will coffee make me dehydrated?
a:

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, 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: Q: Can too much caffeine be dangerous?
a:

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: Q: When should I consume caffeine?
a:

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

q: Q: How is instant coffee made?
a:

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