The best cup of coffee is the freshest cup of coffee — with coffee beans that you grind right before brewing and a cup that’s waiting to be filled. But making fresh coffee by the cup isn’t always convenient. That’s why sometimes, instant coffee can be the only option. But there’s a reason many people treat instant as a last resort — it often tastes pretty bad. But it turns out it doesn’t have to taste bad.
An ever-growing crop of coffee roasters is taking instant coffee more seriously. Specialty roasters from Verve to Intelligentsia have been getting into the instant coffee game, making convenient brews that taste nearly as good as the real thing.
Instant coffee can be a great option for people with rushed morning schedules, or people looking to enjoy a hot cup of coffee on a camping trip who (understandably) might not want to bring along their Chemex. Instant coffee can also be a good option for anyone at a small desk who only has space for a small electric kettle.
Specialty roasters have also been experimenting with what instant coffee can be, beyond the plastic twist-off tub most of us are familiar with. Many instant coffees come in single-serve packets that resemble a teabag pouch.
If instant is totally off the table for you but you still need something convenient, we’ve also included single-serve pour-over kits. These are as easy to store and use as instant, but they’re as fresh as pour-over. Another unique option worth considering is coffee concentrate, which comes in liquid form. All you need to do is add hot (or cold) water and a small spoon of the concentrated coffee formula. And of course, if you just want some classic instant coffee, we’ve got those options, too.
These are some of the best instant coffees to try.
1. Joe Coffee Specialty Instant Coffee Packets
Joe Coffee is a popular option in New York, but you don’t have to be in The City to get your daily fix. This instant coffee is based on Joe’s daily house blend. Each box comes with six tearable packets of coffee — simply add 8-10 oz of hot water and give it a stir to enjoy. It’s pretty pricey, so you may not use it as your daily brew, but it’s a great option for travel or to keep in your pantry for caffeine emergencies.
2. Mount Hagen Organic Instant Coffee
Many coffee companies dabble in instant, but instant coffee is Mount Hagen’s entire M.O. It’s a reasonably priced option that results in a rich brew. Plus, Mount Hagen’s instant coffee is certified organic and fair trade. That means that even on mornings when you can’t put much thought into your cup of coffee, you can rest assured knowing that Mount Hagen did.
3. Waka Quality Instant Coffee
This coffee from Waka consists of freeze-dried Arabica coffee, resulting in coffee that tastes like a classic cup of drip coffee. You can add 8-10 oz of hot water for a classic cup of instant, or you can use cold water for a refreshing glass of iced coffee. This option is a balanced medium roast that comes from Colombian coffee beans.
4. Verve Seabright Instant Coffee
Verve was born in the quiet college town of Santa Cruz, but it’s since become a global brand, with outposts in LA and Tokyo. If you’re not in California or Japan, though, you can enjoy Verve from online retailers. This medium roast is Verve’s house blend, and six packets of single-serve coffee are included.
5. illy Instant Coffee
BEST ITALIAN COFFEE
Italian roaster illy has been in the coffee business for nearly 90 years, and while they specialize in espresso, the company also makes excellent roasts for drip coffee, as well as this instant coffee. It comes in a 3.5oz container.
6. Alpine Start Instant Coffee
BEST INSTANT STICKS
This instant coffee can be enjoyed anywhere, but as the brand’s name implies, it was crafted with the great outdoors in mind. Many campers and backpackers are fans, including those that are also self-professed coffee snobs. It’s made with Arabica coffee and comes in conveniently packable sticks that you tear open and pour into your cup. Alpine Start’s coffee can be enjoyed hot or iced.
7. Copper Cow Coffee The Classic Latte
BEST INSTANT POUROVER
This is stretching the definition of instant quite a bit, but you’ll be impressed by how convenient the coffee from Copper Cow is. Copper Cow takes inspiration from Vietnamese coffee, a proud (and delicious) tradition that you may not have experienced yet. This latte includes a disposable paper pour-over kit that sits over your coffee cup. You then pour hot water from your kettle over the grounds, like you would with pour-over. Then, empty the condensed milk pouch to make a quick and convenient latte.
8. Intelligentsia House Instant Light Roast Coffee
BEST PREMIUM COFFEE
Chicago-based Intelligentsia is one of the biggest names in specialty coffee, with locations in major cities across the country. If you don’t have a cafe near you, Intelligentsia is available at grocery stores and online retailers. This light roast includes five packets of instant coffee.
9. Jot Concentrated Coffee
BEST FOR COLD BREW
Jot makes one of the most unique options on the market. It comes in a liquid concentrate, and the small 6 oz bottle is easy to take on the go or keep at your desk. You simply add a tablespoon of concentrate to a cup of hot or iced water. You can even brew using milk to make a latte. The resulting brew is strong yet smooth.
10. Thrive Market Organic Instant Coffee
Thrive Market is one of the best online markets for organic and ethical groceries, and they offer their own house line of organic coffee. The coffee is derived from organic, fair trade arabica beans. It comes in a convenient 3.5 oz resealable bag.