Brew up the Best Instant Coffees of 2023 for a Quick Pick-Me-Up

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Coffee occupies a large part of my heart. I make pour-overs and French presses. I obsess over the sources of my beans. I anxiously await my coffee subscription to try out new blends, and, unlike other hardcore coffee lovers, I am not opposed to a solid cup of diner-style drip. But instant coffee? Hard pass.

I’ve always assumed that I knew everything about instant coffee. It’s fast. It’s bad. But despite its stale reputation, there is no denying that instant joe is the most efficient—and cheapest—way to get caffeine into your body. So when word got around the coffee shop that instant coffee no longer was the chalky, sour, black sludge our grandparents sipped, I decided to reevaluate my hostility toward it.

Therefore, I decided to review today's instant offerings and present you with the 10 best instant coffees of 2023.

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The Best Instant Coffee - Our Top Picks

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Best Overall - Waka Coffee Instant Coffee Bundle

Waka Coffee Instant Coffee Bundle


  • Size: 2.8g (40 individual packets)
  • Roast: Light, medium, and dark


Waka Coffee specializes in instant coffee. The company grew out of the desire to simplify the sometimes complicated and often expensive coffee ritual without sacrificing taste. They freeze-dry a variety of beans from different coffee hotspots, including Colombia, Ethiopia and Papua New Guinea. These high-quality sourcing practices create an aroma and flavor similar to freshly ground coffee.

The bundle packet allows you to experiment with various roasts so you can find the one that you like best. The bundle includes five different boxes with eight single-serve packets in each box. Each packet makes a 10 fl. oz. cup of coffee. Waka adds no sugar or sweeteners, opting instead to allow the coffee’s natural flavors to shine. The taste and convenience of Waka Instant Coffee is the reason it landed in our best overall spot.

What We Like

  • Variety of roasts available
  • Individual packets
  • Dissolves evenly
  • Sustainable packaging

What We Don't Like

  • Not a lot of distinct flavors 

BUY: Waka Coffee Instant Coffee Bundle

Best Instant Decaf Coffee - 365 Whole Foods Decaf Instant Coffee

365 Whole Foods Decaf Instant Coffee


  • Size: 3.5 oz.
  • Roast: Vienna roast (medium-dark)


When you crave the flavor of coffee but don't want it keeping you up all night, it's time to reach for decaf. Whole Foods Decaf Instant Coffee delivers the rich taste of coffee without the jolt of caffeine.

Although I prefer hot coffee year-round, this brand is great hot or iced. The Vienna Roast strikes a great balance between medium and dark roasts to provide a full, mellow taste. The flavor is similar to drip coffee because of the larger granules.

What We Like

  • Smooth, deep flavor
  • Easily dissolves
  • Inexpensive

What We Don't Like

  • Some complain of bitter taste

BUY: 365 Whole Foods Decaf Instant Coffee

Best Instant Organic Coffee - Anthony's Organic Instant Coffee

Anthony's Organic Instant Coffee


  • Size: 14 oz.
  • Roast: Dark roast


Thanks to its ultra-fine grind, Anthony's Organic Instant Coffee dissolves easily and evenly in both hot and cold water. This instant coffee sources its Arabica beans from Central America, and it has great balance and acidity. Notes of chocolate punctuate its smooth taste.

This instant coffee also works well as a baking ingredient. Coffee cake anyone? You can even make a quick cup or two while the oven’s on.

What We Like

  • Verified gluten-free
  • Dissolves easily and evenly
  • Uses organic Arabica beans
  • Great for cooking and baking

What We Don't Like

  • Inconsistent taste from bag to bag

BUY: Anthony's Organic Instant Coffee

Best Instant Coffee for Backpacking - Mount Hagen Organic Instant Coffee Single Serving

Mount Hagen Organic Instant Coffee Single Serve


  • Size: 1.76 oz. (25 single-serving packets)
  • Roast: Dark roast


Not only does Mount Hagen make a lovely instant coffee, they do it with ethical farming practices and sustainability in mind. The single-serving packets are an ideal companion when backpacking because they won't take up much room in your pack, and they brew consistently every time.

This instant coffee’s smooth, bold taste results from a distinctive blend of freeze-dried Arabica beans from the highlands of Colombia. Importantly, Mount Hagen produces their product without chemicals, so its coffee taste is, well, just coffee. When you are ready to hit the trail, make sure you take some Mount Hagen Instant Coffee along for the journey.

What We Like

  • Easily portable
  • Smooth, bold taste
  • Dissolves evenly

What We Don't Like

  • On the more expensive side
  • No instructions on how much water to add

BUY: Mount Hagen Organic Instant Coffee

Best Instant Coffee for Iced Coffee - Starbucks VIA Sweetened Iced Coffee

Starbucks VIA Sweetened Iced Coffee


  • Size: 5.6 oz. (6 individual servings)
  • Roast: Medium roast


On days when the heat is relentless, a refreshing iced coffee can be one of the best ways to cool down. Not only will Starbucks VIA Instant Sweetened Iced Coffee add some chill to your day, it will also satisfy your sweet tooth. Starbucks uses pure cane sugar to give these medium-roast Arabica beans the right hint of sweetness.

Starbucks VIA Sweetened Iced Coffee is made with micro ground coffee specifically designed to dissolve in water. Simply add cold water to your packet of VIA, wait 10 seconds, and voila—a delicious cup of iced java.

What We Like

  • Dissolves easily in cold water
  • Lightly sweetened taste
  • Individual packets
  • Clear instructions

What We Don't Like

  • Fairly expensive
  • Packets don't always tear easily

BUY: Starbucks Via Sweetened Iced Coffee

Best Instant Coffee for Camping - Kuju Coffee Single-Serve Pour Over Coffee

Kuju Coffee Single-Serve Pour Over Coffee


  • Size: 3.0 oz. (6 individual packets)
  • Roast: Variety from light to dark


This unique take on instant coffee will quickly become one of your camping essentials. Although the packets are slightly bigger than other single-serve options on the market, they are still smaller than a protein bar. A unique feature of this instant coffee is that the grounds sit in a filter that attaches to a cup via paper legs. You place the legs over your mug, add hot water, and steep the coffee.

Because of this steeping process, it takes slightly longer to enjoy than other instant coffees. But we believe the flavorful, consistent taste is worth it. For those who have a favorite region of coffee producers, you'll be happy to know that Kuju offers single-origin coffee from Ethiopia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia. They also offer a variety of blends that range from light to dark roast.

What We Like

  • Pour-over style instant coffee
  • Single-origin offerings
  • Small and lightweight packaging
  • Portability

What We Don't Like

  • Legs don't always easily attach to mug
  • Takes longer to enjoy than other instant coffee

BUY: Kuju Coffee Single-Serve Pour Over Coffee

Best Dark Roast Instant Coffee - Verve Instant Craft Coffee - Buena Vista

Verve Instant Craft Coffee (Dark Roast)


  • Size: 1.6 oz. (6 individual packets)
  • Roast: Dark roast


Buena Vista's dark roast offering is a satisfying flavor explosion of dark chocolate and graham crackers. Rarely does instant coffee produce flavors as distinct as these. Each packet makes 10 ounces of coffee and easily dissolves in hot or cold liquid—including milk.

In addition to making a robust instant coffee, Verve sources directly from farmers, advocates fair pay, and, through their Farmlevel Initiative, helps develop sustainable growing practices. Verve shows their commitment to making a quality instant coffee by brewing small batches in-house every day.

What We Like

  • Distinct flavors
  • Dissolves in water or milk
  • Small batches made daily

What We Don't Like

  • Pricey
  • Inconsistent taste

BUY: Verve Instant Craft Coffee

Best Medium Roast Instant Coffee - Alpine Start Instant Coffee

Alpine Start Instant Coffee


  • Size: 0.88 oz. (8 individual packets)
  • Roast: Medium


I am a lifelong fan of medium roast. It offers the best of both light and dark roasts, providing full body flavor and just the right touch of acidity. Alpine Start Instant Coffee nails the balance. It dissolves easily in 10 ounces of hot or cold water, and the individual packets are great to throw in your purse or bag for an anytime pick-me-up.

These packets tear open easily, which is especially helpful when you’re on the go. If you don't have a ton of time but still want a quality, well-balanced cup of coffee, check out Alpine Start Instant Coffee.

What We Like

  • Easy-to-open packets
  • Well-balanced taste
  • Dissolves easily

What We Don't Like

  • Can get too acidic quickly
  • Not great for groups

BUY: Alpine Start Instant Coffee

Best Light Roast Instant Coffee - Waka Light Roast Ethiopian Instant Coffee

Waka Light Roast Ethiopian Instant Coffee


  • Size: 3.5 oz.
  • Roast: Light roast


Although many consider the rich flavor of dark roasts the apex of coffee taste, the Waka Light Roast Ethiopian Instant Coffee makes a strong case for light roasts. The floral notes and hints of caramel and brown sugar make for a delightful experience. Despite these flavors, you can rest assured that no sugars or sweeteners are added to these Arabica beans from Ethiopia.

The packaging does not indicate how much water to use, but we found that about 10 ounces is the right amount. Just add one and half or two teaspoons of coffee and you’re good to go.

What We Like

  • No clumping
  • Distinct flavors
  • Consistent taste

What We Don't Like

  • Some complaints of bitterness

BUY: Waka Light Roast Ethiopian Instant Coffee

Best Budget Instant Coffee - Maxwell House Instant Coffee

Maxwell House Instant Coffee


  • Size: 8 oz.
  • Roast: Medium roast


Coffee has come a long way in the past century, but few brands have endured quite like Maxwell House. After all these years, the brand still produces a solid cup of regular coffee. And Maxwell House Instant Coffee is no different. It may not be the flashiest, but it’s one of the most reliable.

Not only is it consistent, but it won't cost you a small fortune. Maxwell House brings you a straightforward cup of joe at a fraction of the cost of other instant coffee. If you're looking for a coffee that is like a trusty friend, grab some Maxwell House Instant Coffee.

What We Like

  • Affordability
  • Consistency
  • Resealable package

What We Don't Like

  • Indistinct flavor
  • Can be bitter

BUY: Maxwell House Instant Coffee

What to Look for in Instant Coffee

When shopping for instant coffee, you will want to understand how it was produced. Instant coffee uses two methods of production: freeze drying and spray drying.

Freeze drying entails freezing the coffee extract to around -40 degrees Celsius to remove water. That extract is then broken apart and cut into granules. These typically go into a vacuum chamber where they dry at low temperatures.

Spray drying uses lower quality beans, so it’s cheaper than freeze drying. It is also faster because the coffee extract gets sprayed into a chamber of hot air.

Freeze-dried instant coffee usually produces a taste closer to ground coffee beans, so you’ll want to check to see which drying method the manufacturer used.

FAQs About Instant Coffee

How can I make instant coffee taste better?

Instant coffee is a convenient way to get a quick caffeine boost, but the major complaint is that the taste doesn't compare to freshly ground coffee. The easiest way to make instant coffee taste more like regular coffee is by splashing a touch of cold water over the coffee powder before adding the hot water.

Does all instant coffee have acrylamide?

Yes, all types of coffee and coffee-based products have acrylamide. This includes instant coffee.

Which type of coffee is healthy?

Which type of coffee is healthy is subjective. If you're looking for coffee that is effective in reducing body weight, dark roast can be more effective than medium and light roast. Dark roast also helps restore red blood cells and vitamin E. However, this should not be taken as medical advice.

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