There’s nothing quite like a hot cup of coffee in the morning. Although we’re big fans of a freshly brewed cup of espresso, there are some occasions where you just don’t have the time to brew a cup of coffee from scratch.
Enter instant coffee, which cuts the amount of time required to prepare a cup of coffee down to a small fraction of what it normally is, letting you caffeinate and prepare for the day faster.
Instant coffee has a reputation among coffee enthusiasts for tasting artificial and bland. While a lot of instant coffees are bland and artificial tasting, the best instant coffee brands on the market today taste almost as good as a cup of fresh espresso.
In some cases, a good cup of instant coffee can actually taste better than a freshly brewed cup of coffee.
Over the last month, we tested more than 20 of the most popular instant coffee brands sold on Amazon, ranging from classics like Folgers to the Starbucks VIA range. The goal of our testing was simple: to find the best tasting and best value instant coffees on the market.
We’ve listed our favorite instant coffee options below, grouped into categories based on quality and value for money. If you’re interested in reading our full reviews, scroll down. If you’d like to jump directly to our top recommendations, you can use the quick links below:
- If you want an instant coffee that tastes almost as good as fresh espresso, we highly recommend Starbucks VIA Ready Brew House Blend Coffee and Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Italian Roast Coffee, both of which taste fresh and flavorful.
- If you want an instant coffee that tastes good and costs much less than the Starbucks VIA Brew, we highly recommend Mount Hagen Organic Instant Regular Coffee. This coffee costs a quarter as much as the Starbucks coffee and tastes almost as good.
- If you want the best value for money instant coffee on the market and don’t care about a slightly bland taste, we recommend Folgers Classic Roast Instant Coffee, which is by far the cheapest decent quality instant coffee available.
- If you want a premium decaf instant coffee, we recommend Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Coffee in Decaf Italian Roast, which has the same taste as the traditional Italian Roast with none of the caffeine.
- If you want a decaf instant coffee that costs less than the Starbucks VIA Brew, we highly recommend Mount Hagen Organic Decaffeinated Instant Coffee, which costs about 20 cents per cup if purchased in bulk.
The Best Instant Coffee: Taste/Price Considered
Below are our three picks for the best tasting instant coffee on the market. They range from just under one dollar per cup to about 25 cents per cup, meaning there’s an option to suit every taste and price range.
Starbucks VIA Ready Brew House Blend Coffee
If you’re looking for espresso-quality coffee without the normal espresso coffee brewing process, Starbucks VIA Ready Brew House Blend Coffee is as close as you’re going to get. This coffee is formulated to taste just like Starbuck’s standard espresso blend, giving it a very rich, dark flavor.
If you’re used to the usual bland-tasting instant coffee powders, Starbucks VIA Ready Brew will likely surprise you. This coffee is made from 100% Arabica beans, with a fresh taste and hints of nut and cocoa. Brew this properly and it will taste just like a fresh cup of black espresso coffee.
Starbucks sells this instant coffee in separate packets, instead of the usual jar of powder. This makes it quick and easy to brew — just take a packet, add it to a cup of hot water and stir until it’s ready. The packaging of this coffee opens to form a convenient packet dispenser.
We’ve picked the House Blend flavor of this coffee as our top recommendation as it’s the most similar to the coffee you’ll find in Starbucks stores. There’s also an excellent Italian Roast flavor available, which we’ve reviewed below.
The only downside of this instant coffee is its price. At just over $50 for 50 packets, you’ll spend about $1 to prepare each cup. Compared to other instant coffees, this is quite a lot, although it’s less than a quarter of the cost of buying a similar quality cup of coffee at a café.
If you’re looking for espresso-quality instant coffee and don’t mind the $1 per cup price, this is our top recommendation. It tastes great, takes very little time to prepare and comes in helpful, self-contained packets that make weighing up each serving a quick and easy process.
Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Italian Roast Coffee
This is the Italian Roast version of the Starbucks VIA Ready Brew coffee above. Like the House Blend, it’s made of 100% Arabica coffee beans, giving this blend a smooth and rich taste that is closer to café quality espresso than most instant coffee.
The biggest difference between the Italian Roast version of this instant coffee and the standard House Blend is the taste. This version is a much darker, richer roast, with a stronger taste than the more moderate House Blend.
If you like your coffee dark and powerful, this is the instant coffee to choose. Just like all of the other Starbucks VIA flavors, it comes in a container of 50 individual packets, all of which brew quickly and easily. The pricing is the same as the House Blend above at about $1 per serving.
Mount Hagen Organic Instant Regular Coffee
Don’t want to spend a dollar a serving to make instant coffee at home? While the Starbucks VIA instant coffee is our favorite in terms of taste, it definitely isn’t the cheapest instant coffee on the market. Mount Hagen Organic Instant Regular Coffee is a great budget alternative that offers a natural, preservative-free taste with a much more agreeable price tag.
At about 30 cents per serving, this instant coffee is just over a quarter of the price as the more costly Starbucks VIA coffee. In terms of taste, it’s definitely a step down, but it’s still a pleasant tasting coffee that’s ideal if you want a quick, simple and affordable caffeine hit in the morning.
This instant coffee is made from 100% highland Arabica coffee beans, which contribute to its rich, strong taste. Because this coffee is made entirely from Arabica beans, it has none of the bitter, burnt taste of the cheaper Robusta-based instant coffee blends.
Like the Starbucks VIA coffee, Mount Hagen packages this coffee in individual packets, making it easy to brew at home. Each container contains 25 self-serve packets, which mix with a cup of hot water to make a fresh cup of coffee in less than a minute.
For the best value for money, we recommend buying this coffee in bulk. Four boxes of 25 packs (100 in total) cost just under $30, meaning you can make great tasting instant coffee at home for less than 30 cents per serving. For a 100% Arabica coffee blend, that’s fantastic value.
If you want 80% of the taste of the Starbucks VIA coffee at 30% of the cost, it’s hard to suggest anything other than Mount Hagen Organic Instant Regular Coffee. This coffee brews easily, has a pleasant taste and costs just over a quarter a day to drink, making it very hard to turn down.
The Best Value Instant Coffee
Don’t care too much about taste? If you’re not a coffee enthusiast and can tolerate an artificial taste to your morning cup of coffee, you can save a huge amount of money by buying a cheap, freeze-dried instant coffee blend.
Folgers Classic Roast Instant Coffee
Folgers is synonymous with instant coffee, and for good reason. We tested a variety of cheap instant coffee blends and found that Folgers offered both the best taste and best overall value within its price range.
This coffee is available in a three-pack of eight ounce containers for less than $25 on Amazon, making it by far the most affordable instant coffee on the market. Drink one cup of this coffee a day and you’ll have a year’s supply of reasonably tasty instant coffee for under $25.
To put it in perspective, that’s about than seven cents per cup of coffee — about 2% of the price of a cup of coffee at a local café. While this instant coffee obviously won’t beat fresh espresso in terms of taste, it’s impossible to beat Folgers in terms of value.
Beyond the great value for money, this is a surprisingly good coffee. It dissolves quickly in warm water and mixes very well with milk, making it a good option whether you like your coffee dark or light. Making a cup takes less than a minute, assuming you have a cup of hot water ready.
If you’re looking for the best value instant coffee on the market, it’s impossible to beat this. Trust us — we’ve tried. Compared to other instant coffee products in the same price range, this tastes better, mixes much more smoothly and delivers much better quality at a very low price.
The Best Decaf Instant Coffee
Do you like the taste of coffee but prefer not to get the caffeine hit? If you prefer decaf coffee to caffeinated coffee, you’ll like both of the options we’ve listed below. We chose two decaf instant coffees — one premium blend and one value-for-money option.
Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Coffee, Decaf Italian Roast
This instant coffee tastes the same as the excellent Starbucks VIA Italian Roast we reviewed above, but has a caffeine-free formula that makes it the perfect choice if you like great tasting coffee but have a sensitivity or aversion to caffeine.
Just like the caffeinated Italian Roast version, this coffee has a rich, espresso-like taste that puts it in the same category as most café coffees. It’s made using 100% Arabica coffee beans, giving it a smooth aroma and a much darker, fuller taste than most cheap, freeze dried instant coffees.
Starbucks sells this coffee in a 50-pack for around $50 (the price varies from day to day, but is usually near the $50 mark), meaning it costs about one dollar per cup. If you enjoy the taste of Starbucks coffee, this is a great way to enjoy it at home for 25% of the regular café price.
Like the caffeinated Starbucks VIA blends, this instant coffee mixes quickly in water and tastes good with and without milk. If you like dark roast coffee but prefer not to get the usual serving of caffeine, this is by far the best decaf instant coffee available you’ll taste.
Mount Hagen Organic Decaffeinated Instant Coffee
If you’re looking for a decaf instant coffee that tastes good and doesn’t break the bank, you’ll like Mount Hagen Organic Decaffeinated Instant Coffee. Priced under $20 for two 3.5 oz containers, this is by far the most affordable instant coffee worth buying.
Unlike cheap instant coffee blends, which are made largely from Robusta coffee, Mount Hagen makes this instant coffee using 100% Arabica beans. This instant coffee has a mild and smooth taste that’s significantly less strong and smoky than the Starbucks Italian Roast above.
If you like your coffee to taste fresh and flavorful without the very strong taste of many Arabica blends, you’ll like this coffee. Although it doesn’t quite match fresh espresso or drip coffee, it’s pleasant to drink and doesn’t have the usual bland taste of other freeze dried instant coffees.
This coffee is 100% organic and fair trade, adding to its appeal. All in all, this is a great quality decaf instant coffee that’s available at a very low price. Buy it in bulk and you’ll spend less than 25 cents on each cup, making it about seven percent of the price of fresh cup of café coffee.
What Do You Think is the Best Instant Coffee?
Everyone has a favorite coffee brand, whether it’s instant or espresso. What do you think is the best instant coffee brand? If you’ve got a favorite brand that isn’t on our list, let us know about it in the comments and we’ll add it to our “to review” list for future coffee buyer’s guides.