An estimated 62 percent of Americans drink coffee on a daily basis, according to the National Coffee Association. And it's easy to see why — coffee is a tasty source of energizing caffeine. It's also linked to health benefits for your brain, heart and longevity.
But brewing up your morning java can be a time-consuming task, and stopping at the coffee shop every day is expensive. Luckily, instant coffee gives you the ability to make your own at home without a whole lot of effort.
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Instant coffee is often criticized for quality and taste when compared to brewed, but that shouldn't be the case. "Depending on the brand, you'll get the same full-bodied, flavorful cup with instant coffee as if it was freshly brewed," says registered dietitian Danielle McAvoy, RD.
If you're in the market for the best instant coffee, we asked the pros for their top picks.
If you’re looking for a low-acid coffee, dark roasts tend to be gentler on the stomach, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
How We Chose
To help you find the best instant coffee, we consulted registered dietitians, food scientists and former baristas on what makes a good one. We also tested some of these products ourselves and read through hundreds of reviews to find out which brands make instant coffee that real people actually enjoy.
Based on insight from our experts and our own research, the list of instant coffee brands and products below were chosen based on the following criteria:
- Additional ingredients
1. Waka Medium Roast Instant Coffee
McAvoy recommends this instant coffee from Waka, which can dissolve in both cold and hot water, so it's perfect for a variety of coffee-based drinks.
Even if you've had bad experiences with other instant coffee brands, there's a good chance you'll enjoy this one. While many are made with inferior robusta beans that are roasted in huge spray-dried batches, this brand uses 100 percent arabica beans for a more pleasant taste. The grounds are also freeze-dried to preserve quality. Aside from this super-smooth medium roast, Waka also comes in a variety of different dessert-inspired flavors, such as butterscotch, maple chocolate and vanilla, so you can pair it with your favorite creamer for a cup that'll rival your go-to coffee shop's.
"I especially love that Waka gives back," McAvoy adds. "A portion of every purchase supports clean water initiatives."
2. Four Sigmatic Think Instant Coffee
Four Sigmatic's coffee is infused with adaptogenic extracts — specifically lion's mane and chaga, which may help counter the effects of stress in the body, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
For those prone to feeling jittery or anxious after drinking coffee, this one only has about half the amount of caffeine (50 milligrams) in a regular cup. (But that also means you can have an extra, extra cup in the a.m.)
We also love that it is made with organic coffee beans. "Choosing organic instant coffee helps you take in less of the harmful pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers that are found in conventional instant coffee," says registered dietitian Jenna Volpe, RDN, LD. "It's also usually better for the environment."
3. Mount Hagen Organic Instant Ground Coffee
Mount Hagen, which comes highly recommended by McAvoy, is the original creator of the world's first organic instant coffee, and the brand is well-known for its quality products. The brand gets its name from where it sources its coffee beans — Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea, home to full-bodied coffee beans.
"You're supporting small farmers using sustainable practices," McAvoy says. "The arabica beans also have the smoothest and sweetest flavor." Plus, this organic instant coffee is freeze-dried to preserve freshness.
4. Starbucks VIA Instant Coffee Dark Roast
"Many people think the Pumpkin Spice Latte or Frappuccino is Starbucks' best invention, but I think it's their instant coffee," says registered dietitian Samantha Cassetty, RD.
This instant coffee is an affordable option for those on a budget. Still, Starbucks uses 100 percent arabica beans and is committed to ethically sourced coffee.
"Some instant coffee brands taste weak, but this Starbucks instant coffee has a bold flavor," Cassetty says. "It also comes in decaf."
5. Blue Bottle Craft Instant Espresso
If you're a latte kind of coffee lover, you'll have to try Blue Bottle's instant espresso. It might be a bit pricier than other options on this list, but it's way more budget-friendly than investing in an espresso machine. And this powder gives you the speediness of instant coffee with the full-body richness of espresso. It's a dark roast with dark chocolate notes that make for a rich iced or hot latte.
Simply add one tablespoon of this instant espresso to 1 ounce of hot water, stir, and then pour in 6 to 8 ounces of favorite milk. Or, you can drink it straight up as an espresso shot.
6. Intelligentsia Instant Coffee
Medium and dark roast instant coffees are easy to come by, but light roasts are rarer. This one by Intelligentsia offers a unique flavor with notes of mandarin, chocolate and apple. Coffees from Latin American countries are associated with a subtle sweetness, and this one delivers.
"Intelligentsia isn't just high-quality coffee, it is also direct trade, which means the farmers at origin get paid fairly — a rarity in the instant coffee world," says coffee expert and former barista Tom Saxon. "This coffee is roasted light, so you can actually pick out the delicate flavor notes as you would with filter coffee."
It also brews well with cold water, so you can use it to make iced coffee on the go.
7. VitaCup Perfect Instant Coffee
Another organic pick recommended by Volpe, VitaCup Perfect Instant Coffee is certified fair-trade, third-party tested and sourced from a single origin. It's made with 100 percent arabica beans just like regular coffee, but it's much more convenient to make.
This one is also a low-acid option. "Choosing an instant coffee that is very low in acid could help with heartburn or acid reflux, which are often triggered by drinking coffee," Volpe says.
Third-party testing of this product is also noteworthy because many coffees contain trace amounts of mycotoxins (mold residues), but this one doesn't.
8. Laird Superfood Latte
Instant coffee is already a convenient way to get caffeinated in the morning, but Laird Superfood tops even the fastest brews. Its Instafuel is pre-mixed with non-dairy coffee creamer, so you just add hot water, mix and go.
"This product is an all-in-one with instant coffee and a superfood creamer," says food scientist Makenzie Jackson. "It's not the dairy-free hydrogenated horror of old — it's made with all-natural ingredients that are gluten-free and vegan. For travel and convenience, this is a go-to over hotel coffee."
Just keep in mind that because it's made without additives, the powder may clump. Massage the bag before use and mix with hot liquids for best results.
9. Anthony's Organic Instant Coffee
If you're wary about the taste of instant coffee, give this one a try. "It's considered an 'ultra-fine microground' instant coffee, so it dissolves more easily in water," Volpe says. "This gives it a smoother texture and better taste."
It checks the boxes for those looking for organic, non-GMO coffee that's quick and easy to make. While this one doesn't come in packets like other options, which makes it less portable, it's likely a more affordable option.
This instant coffee also tastes great in recipes like brownies, coffee cake and homemade mocha almond butter.
10. Good Pharma Brain Gain Instant Coffee
Most expect instant coffee to be, well, instant. If you have a few extra minutes — four to be exact — consider this mushroom coffee blend by Good Pharma.
It has the taste of fresh Arabica beans with a special twist coming from mushroom extracts. Some describe it as having a hint of chocolate.
"It uses a compostable infuser with pre-portioned ground coffee, so it is more similar to a pour over," Jackson explains. "This brew also has added benefits from ingredients like lion's mane extract, l-theanine and Rhodiola. The combination creates a well-balanced coffee without caffeine jitters."
11. Death Wish Instant Coffee
There's nothing scary about this instant coffee, despite its name. It's made with a blend of arabica and robusta beans, so it has a bold, intense flavor.
"This coffee is low in acid, so it's easy on the stomach," McAvoy says. "The small business also uses organic and fair-trade certified beans."
Dubbed "the world's strongest coffee," it's not for the faint of heart. In fact, it has 300 milligrams of caffeine.
You'll want to go easy and perhaps dilute this instant coffee with milk — 400 milligrams of caffeine per day is the upper limit for most adults, according to the FDA.
What to Look for in Instant Coffee
When choosing an instant coffee, experts say you should look for the following in your products:
Organic Arabica Beans
Go for instant coffee brands that use organic beans, which are better for your body and environment. "Choosing organic instant coffee helps to reduce the type and amount of harmful pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers, which can add up if you drink instant coffee regularly," Volpe says.
Where possible, choose instant coffees that are made with 100 percent Arabica beans. Robusta beans are more common in instant coffee, but they tend to have a neutral or bitter taste.
Make sure to purchase fair-trade coffee as often as you can. "It's important that coffee is produced using ethical and environmentally sustainable standards, and that growers support farmers and communities," Cassetty says.
Low-Acid (if Coffee Upsets Your Stomach)
Coffee is highly acidic and may cause digestive symptoms in some people. If you've got stomach issues like indigestion, you may want to opt for a low-acid instant coffee, which could help mitigate the effects.