The Ultimate Guide to Finding the Best Coffee Instant: Reviews of Top Brands and Flavors

Are you tired of waiting in long lines at coffee shops only to be disappointed by mediocre coffee? Look no further! In this article, we will reveal the best instant coffees that will transform your morning routine and keep you energized throughout the day. Whether you're a coffee connoisseur or just looking for a quick and delicious pick-me-up, we have handpicked the top-notch options for you. Get ready to indulge in the rich aroma and bold flavors of the best coffee instant, as we take you on a caffeine-fueled journey that will leave you craving for more.

What are the top-rated instant coffees?

Partners' Brooklyn blend, a medium roast, has subtle fruity notes that our tasters enjoyed. Associate editor Zoe Denenberg noted that it had a berry-forward scent, but the flavors were more balanced when tasted, with a sharp acidity cutting through the fruitiness. While it didn't rank number one due to its weak body, it is still a high-quality instant coffee that we wouldn't mind drinking again.

Partners Coffee Brooklyn Specialty Instant Coffee

Intelligentsia's instant espresso received mixed reviews from our tasters. The brewed coffee was supposed to have notes of marshmallow, dark chocolate, and raw sugar, but these flavors didn't come through. It had more of a medium roast taste and was likened to diner coffee by some of our tasters. However, it would still work in a pinch when you need instant coffee.

Intelligentsia Black Cat Classic Instant Espresso

Canyon's Ethiopian single-origin instant coffee was enjoyed by most tasters. It had a slightly vegetal taste but was wonderfully bright. Some tasters noticed fruity notes in addition to the earthy flavors. The aroma was warm and inviting. However, there was a slightly sour note that affected the overall flavor balance. Overall, it's a very respectable instant coffee option.

Sightglass Blueboon Instant Coffee

Sightglass initially didn't impress with its aroma, which had a chemical quality. However, after a sip, many tasters found it more enjoyable, although a bit too acidic for their liking. Light fruity notes were detected, and it was considered drinkable.

Sightglass Blueboon Instant Coffee

The consensus on this contender was that it was decent but not outstanding. It lacked flavor and aroma, though it may fare better when used for lattes. It didn't have the richness and depth expected from espresso or strong roasted coffee. However, it was considered inoffensive and could work well for crowd-pleasing purposes. Chris described it as "clean and simple."

Cometeer isn't like other instant coffees. They source coffee from specialty roasters, brew it at high strength, and freeze it into a puck. When ready to make a cup, hot water is poured over the frozen concentrate. The first sip of this blend from Onyx Roasters revealed a sour taste, but subsequent sips adjusted to the acidity, resulting in a pleasant experience. However, it was still considered harsher than regular coffee and could be improved.

Onyx Roasters Southern Weather Blend by Cometeer

Verve's Streetlevel blend is a well-balanced medium roast that checks off all the boxes for a great cup of coffee. It has a delicious, chocolatey aroma, a strong dark roast taste, and a touch of acidity for balance. Chris described it as having "character and nuance." It combines the rich flavors of a pour over with the smoothness of a cold brew. Verve Streetlevel is named our best instant coffee.

How we conducted the testing

To find the best instant coffee, we blind-tested twelve brands, focusing on medium and espresso roasts. We included options from specialty coffee roasters as well as some supermarket brands to provide variety. Our panel of tasters evaluated taste, smell, and the complexity of each cup to find the closest resemblance to freshly ground coffee. We tasted each contender twice using hot water below boiling point, without any milk, creamers, or sweeteners. Here are our findings:

Folger's Classic Roast Instant Coffee

Folgers is appreciated for its convenient pouch form, but unfortunately, the taste falls short. It has an unpleasant burnt and stale flavor, reminiscent of overcooked graham crackers. The coffee is bitter and greasy, leaving a film in the mouth and a bad aftertaste. While we appreciate affordable everyday coffees, Folgers Classic Roast doesn't meet our expectations. However, it offers affordability, with seven servings available for just $1.

Folgers Noir Golden Dusk Instant Coffee

Folgers Noir attempts to compete in the mid-tier coffee market with its sleek packaging and darker roast. It offers a strong taste of bittersweet dark chocolate, resembling a city roast. While it's an improvement compared to classic Folgers, it still has a low-quality and age-related taste. It lacks the richness and full-bodied flavor expected from a dark roast. However, it's more palatable than other Folgers options. The 7-ounce jar yields 100 servings and can be purchased for less than .

Café Bustelo Espresso Instant Coffee

Café Bustelo Espresso Instant Coffee appeals to die-hard coffee drinkers. Its bold, dark flavor resembles that of an espresso powder. It can be enjoyed as an affogato, latte, or cappuccino, especially when paired with milk or heavy cream to balance the intensity. It has notes of butter toffee and dark chocolate and brings a smoky and bitter taste. While it may not be suitable for everyone, it's recommended for those who appreciate strong flavors. Each serving costs around $0.50.

Starbucks VIA Instant Italian Roast Coffee

Italian roast coffee is known for its deep flavor and low acidity, appealing to a specific palate. Starbucks VIA Instant Italian Roast Coffee offers a bittersweet taste with hints of cacao and charred marshmallow. Compared to other instant coffees, Starbucks comes closest to freshly brewed coffee. However, it can be greasier than other options and may not suit all coffee drinkers. It costs around $1 per cup, available at Target.

Juan Valdez Colombia Instant Coffee

Juan Valdez claims to offer the closest experience to freshly brewed coffee with its freeze-dried granules. However, the initial smell is burnt and stale, similar to bottom-tier instant coffee brands. The recommended 1 teaspoon of coffee per cup results in a nearly-absent flavor. Doubling the amount brings out the smooth flavor of quality Colombian coffee, known for its superiority to Arabica beans. The 3.5-ounce jar yields around 32 cups and costs approximately $0.16 per cup.

Starbucks Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate

Starbucks Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate provides a convenient way to enjoy cold brew at home. The Keurig-pod-like containers allow for easy preparation of an 8-ounce serving by adding water. While fresh cold brew from a coffee shop may be superior, Starbucks' instant version offers a full-bodied and flavorful experience. It has hints of graham, honey, and raisin, making it suitable for flavored creamers or other add-ins. However, it is more expensive at around $1.50 per serving.

Nescafé Clásico Dark Roast Instant Coffee

Nescafé Clásico Dark Roast is a decent mid-level instant coffee option. It doesn't require double the product like some other brands, but it lacks flavor and excitement. It falls short of the vibrant and full-bodied taste expected from a dark roast. While it may be suitable for those who simply need their morning coffee fix, it is mediocre in terms of taste. The cost is about $0.10 per cup.

Trader Joe's Instant Cold Brew Coffee

Trader Joe's Instant Cold Brew Coffee is an affordable option for cold brew enthusiasts. Compared to Starbucks, it has a lighter roast and less bitterness. It offers tart, citrusy, and acidic flavors, reminiscent of grapefruit and white wine. However, it may lack smoothness and volume due to its powdered granule texture. Overall, Trader Joe's Instant Cold Brew Coffee provides an affordable option for daily consumption.

Maxwell House Original Roast Instant Coffee

Maxwell House may not be considered one of the top coffee brands, but it is definitely one of the most well-known. To make this coffee, the instructions recommend using 1 teaspoon for every 6 ounces of water, resulting in a flavorful and satisfying cup of coffee. This medium roast has a slightly bright and acidic taste, with a hint of sourness. It has the distinct flavor of a robusta blend that hasn't been roasted with great finesse. However, Maxwell House's flavor, while not exceptional, is by no means the worst among instant coffees. It actually evokes a sense of nostalgia, reminiscent of enjoying breakfast at a hometown diner.

Maxwell House is also a budget-friendly option, with an 8-ounce jar costing less than and producing at least 50 cups of coffee (via Target). However, the large and bulky container makes it inconvenient to take this coffee with you while traveling or camping. Although we wouldn't choose Maxwell House for a cup of coffee to savor and enjoy, it can be suitable for instant coffee-based recipes, such as a freddo.

Great Value Classic Roast Instant Coffee

We had no idea what to expect from Walmart's own brand of coffee. It's interesting to think that a brand known for selling cotton balls and dish soap also produces coffee. However, we have tried some decent food products from the store's in-house brand before. Upon opening the jar, we noticed that the granules of this coffee looked and smelled similar to Nescafé Clásico's instant dark roast. Following the instructions on the packaging, using a teaspoon per 6 ounces of water resulted in a weak and somewhat transparent cup of coffee. We decided to add another scoop of coffee, and were pleasantly surprised by the enhanced flavor. The coffee turned out to be smooth, with a slight sweetness and a hint of caramel, providing minimal bitterness and without any greasy texture.

Let's be clear, the Great Value Classic Roast Instant Coffee is not a substitute for freshly brewed coffee or suitable for everyday consumption. However, it can be a great option to have as a backup in your pantry for those times when you run out of fresh coffee beans or when your coffee maker stops working. Plus, the 8-ounce jar costs less than $4 at Walmart and is said to make over 100 cups of coffee if you don't double the amount of granules used. However, we would recommend exploring more portable options for traveling.

Nescafé Taster's Choice Hazelnut Instant Coffee

Nescafé Taster's Choice Hazelnut Instant Coffee is made with artificial hazelnut flavor and appears to have a full city roast coffee base (source). When hot water is added, the aroma of hazelnut fills the kitchen. The coffee itself is probably quite good, as full city roasts, which are medium-dark roasts, are known for having a rich, smoky-sweet flavor profile without much acidity. However, in this case, the intense hazelnut flavor overpowers the natural taste of the coffee. Initially, the hazelnut is too overpowering, drowning out the coffee.

Fortunately, the hazelnut flavor becomes milder in the aftertaste. On a positive note, the strong hazelnut taste eliminates many of the unpleasant flavors often associated with instant coffee, such as bitterness and sourness. However, we did detect a slight charred/burned taste upon the first sip, the origin of which is unclear. It is worth noting that instant coffees cannot be burned by water that is too hot, as can happen with fresh coffee grounds. The cost of this option is around $0.25 per serving (Walmart), making it an affordable choice. However, we suggest opting for the unflavored Taster's Choice coffee and adding your favorite hazelnut creamer for a more balanced taste.

After conducting thorough testing and tasting sessions, we have narrowed down the list to the best coffee instants that truly deliver a satisfying caffeine fix. From the rich and bold flavor of Folger's Classic Roast Instant Coffee to the indulgent and aromatic notes of Nescafé Taster's Choice Hazelnut, there is a perfect cup for every coffee lover's palate. Whether you prefer a quick and convenient cup on-the-go or a refreshing cold brew, our top choices, including Café Bustelo Espresso Instant Coffee and Starbucks Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate, are sure to elevate your coffee experience. Say goodbye to mediocre instant coffees and savor the convenience without compromising on taste. Cheers to the best coffee instant that will awaken your senses and leave you longing for your next cup.

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