A Guide To The Best Instant Coffee

Instant coffee was invented before most of us were born (in 1901), and generations of refinement have gone into turning a dry, caffeinated coffee powder into something you can enjoy almost as much as your fresh brewed cup of Joe. So now that we find ourselves at the peak of instant coffee greatness, what is the best tasting example of this innovation? What instant coffee brand delivers the pinnacle of freeze-dried coffee deliciousness?

In this article we will give you some of the most popular choices as well as tell you what to look for in an instant coffee.

What Are 2014’s Best Instant Coffees?

INSTANT COFFEE
 
TYPE(S) OF BEAN
ROAST / FLAVOR
CUSTOMER REVIEWS
WHERE TO BUY?
Nescafé Taster's Choice 100% Colombian Instant Coffee, 20 Single Serve Packets, (Pack of 8)Arabica, ColombiaMedium / SmoothRead Here
Starbucks VIA® Ready Brew Colombia Coffee (50 count)Arabica, ColombiaMedium / Strong, sweetRead Here
Mount Hagen Organic Freeze Dried Coffee, 3.53 Ounce (Pack of 6)Organic ArabicaMild / Rich Read Here
Starbucks VIA® Ready Brew Italian Roast Coffee (50 count)ArabicaDark / Robust, smooth, sweetRead Here
Taster's Choice Instant House Blend Coffee, 7 Ounce Canisters (Pack of 3)Robusta, ArabicaMild / RichRead Here
Jacob's Coffee Cronat Gold Instant Coffee, 7.02 OunceBlendMild / SmoothRead Here

 

What To Look For in an Instant Coffee

First, we should talk a bit about what you should consider when buying an instant coffee.

Types of Beans / Process

Most commercial coffee is made from Arabica (originally Ethiopian) beans because they tend to taste the best overall. But Arabica blended with other types can produce a nice smooth flavor.

The process of turning roasted coffee beans into “flavor crystals” was invented over 100 years ago. The bean is dissolved in water and that brew is concentrated. The coffee is then dried by freeze-drying or spray-drying into a crystalline powder. Add some hot water to rehydrate the granules and you’re in business with a hopefully great tasting drink (and not an unpleasant sludge).

Roast

Here’s where coffees can differ the most. A mild roasted coffee such as Taster’s Choice is going to appeal to people who tend not to like the darker roasts of Starbucks. Darker roasts can have a bold, but slightly bitter edge that some love and some hate. If you’re a coffee drinker, you likely know what you like by now, and the top products almost all are indistinguishable from fresh brewed coffee.

Flavor and Aroma

Tastes can vary with some coffees imparting spicy, roasty, or sweet flavors. The aroma of coffee is one of the reasons why we love this drink, and a deep, rich smell is key to enjoying the whole experience.

Powder or Bags

Most instant coffees are powders, but there has been a move to using bags, much like tea bags, for dissolving the coffee in hot water. Using the crystal granules in a stick or pouch makes it a bit easier to alter the strength of the coffee, but otherwise there isn’t much difference.

Again, connoisseurs might be able to taste the difference between instant and fresh brew, but generally it’s a close match. Keep in mind, instant coffee is made from real coffee. It’s not a synthetic product. And these companies don’t add ingredients, so you’re getting 100% pure coffee that’s been dried in to a granule powder.

Our Top 6 Favorite Instant Coffees

Here are our top 6 favorite instant coffees. These selections taste the most like real brewed coffee. Starbucks makes a couple of appearances, as well as the classic brand Nescafe. Mount Hagen is one of the top, and only, organic instant coffees. Runners up include Folgers. We’ve included the type of beans, roast level, and flavor to help you decide which might best appeal to your taste.

Nescafe Taster’s Choice 100% Colombian Instant Coffee

Nescafe is one of the best known brands in the world and they’ve been creating instant coffee for a long time. Their Colombian Instant Coffee is among the best rated instant coffees out there and they come in handy single-serve packets that blend quickly in hot water. It’s a medium roast of 100% Arabica beans from Colombia.

Starbucks VIA Colombia Ready Brew Instant Coffee

This offering from Starbucks is one of the top selling instant coffee products. So if coffee drinkers are voting with their feet, it’s a good indication. Starbucks VIA Colombia is a medium roasted coffee with a strong, earthy, sweet taste. The beans are ethically sourced, and the handy packaging allows a single-serve packet to slide out, dispensing caffeinated happiness to the whole office (or family).

Starbucks VIA Italian Roast Ready Brew Instant Coffee

Starbucks knows coffee and they’re well known for their enjoyable, fresh brewed coffee. And they deliver on the instant coffee front with their bold and dark Italian roasted coffee. It has a rich, smooth aroma and will appeal to those who like a dark roast and a full bodied flavor. Some find it bitter, so it’s all a matter of how dark and bold you enjoy your brew.

Mount Hagen Organic Freeze Dried Coffee

Mount Hagen delivers on taste as well as healthiness with their Organic Freeze Dried brew. It’s a mild, but rich flavor, without a bitter edge. Organic as well as kosher-certified, with Mount Hagan, you’re drinking a cup of earth-friendly goodness. One jar serves up an incredible 60 cups of aromatic instant brew. And if you’re in the market for a good decaf, Mount Hagen Organic Freeze Dried Decaf Coffee is a popular choice.

Taster’s Choice House Blend Coffee

Nescafe brings you a classic, well balanced instant coffee with their House Blend. This is one of the milder tasting coffees and delivers a smooth roast flavor. One of the biggest manufacturers of instant coffee knows how to do it right, so you’ve got nothing to lose by trying this one.

Jacobs Cronat Gold Instant Coffee

A strong offering from Germany, many people swear by Jacobs Cronat Gold. Without a doubt, this is the best instant coffee drink that Jacobs brews (then dries). A German brand, Cronat Gold is a smooth taste with no bitter aftertaste. It’s a blend of beans which often helps smooth out the highs and lows of any coffee whether fresh brewed or instant. Some might find Jacobs a bit mild, but the beauty of instant coffee is that you generally can simply add more of the coffee crystals to your hot water and increase the flavor.

Instant Coffee Runners-Up

Folgers Classic Roast Instant Coffee

Folgers is one of the stand-by brands that’s been loved by generations of coffee drinkers. It’s a mild roast with a pleasant flavor and aroma. Connoisseurs will probably want something with a more complex flavor, but Folgers hits the spot for millions.

Trung Nguyen’s G7 Instant Coffee

Trung Nguyen G7 is one of the most popular instant coffees in Vietnam. It’s an instant coffee made straight from the bean without extra ingredients. It has a rich, full flavor that makes for a great cup of brew.

Community Coffee Instant Coffee

Community Coffee is a staple of New Orleans, Louisiana and this is a dark roast with a robust flavor. They also sell a version spiced with chicory which will bring you down to the South with even more speed. Also made with Arabica beans, you’re going to get a rich and full-bodied cup of Joe.

Douwe Egberts Pure Gold Instant Coffee

Douwe Egberts is a Dutch medium-roast coffee that is one of the bestsellers on Amazon. It’s a well-balanced brew with a smooth taste and nice aroma.

Other flavored products touch on freshly brewed coffees like cappuccino, espresso, and mochas. Plus there are some coffees that are intended to be iced. Since these terrific stand-ins appeal to a narrower group of drinkers, we’ve reviewed those coffees elsewhere. Most people, especially purists, prefer to start with a black brew and add milk, sugar or other spices to suit their tastes.

So What’s the Best Instant Coffee?

The best instant coffee is really going to depend on personal tastes and what you’re in the mood for. A taste-off of 10 coffees would result in 10 choices. But for an all around solid choice, Starbucks VIA Colombia Ready Brew Instant Coffee is going to make the most people happy. It’s a bestselling product that Amazon always carries at great prices.

The easy to use packs of single-serve coffee that slide out of the container are perfect for leaving in the office kitchen pantries or at home. Just dissolve the Starbucks VIA in a mug of hot water for a perfectly balanced caffeinated drink. A pack of VIA Colombia in your mug is sure to start your morning off right.

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