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18 Instant Coffees, Ranked Worst To Best

For many of us, instant coffee translates to instant fuel. Even though the idea of a glorious pour-over sounds incredibly desirable, we might not have enough energy to endure every step of the process. This is exactly why mega commercial brands like Folgers and Maxwell House became famed pioneers in the "first wave" of instant coffee. They seized the opportunity to caffeinate as many humans as possible, all while keeping costs extremely low. But when it comes to the two most judged criteria (taste and caffeine dosage), instant coffee rarely outshines the whole bean. 

For instance, a conventional cup of coffee usually contains between 70 and 140 mg of caffeine, whereas instant coffee falls between 30 to 90 mg. Boo-hoo. Also, most of the first wave "cheap" instant fuel tasted like straight up, chemically-interpolated potting soil — lacking the richness of the real stuff. 

However, in more recent years, startups have made more daring moves by repositioning coffee as something to consume quickly without compromising taste. Plus, they're jumping miles ahead by infusing blends with health benefits, making "progressive" instant coffee all the more enticing. Today, we're spilling the caffeinated "tea" on instant coffee and giving you a compilation of options, ranked worst to absolute best.

18. Folgers Classic Roast Instant Coffee

The classic red Folgers jar emblazoned with majestic mountains and a peering sun might be pure nostalgia for many of us. After all, Folgers launched back in 1900 and started selling coffee based on "merit" and "high-quality." When instant coffee boomed in the 1950's, Folgers released its first-ever iteration in 1953, but immediately discontinued it due to poor customer feedback. 

The second attempt to produce good instant coffee landed in 1958 and the rest was history. Folger's most popular instant blend is the Classic Roast Instant Coffee — a medium roast, classified as convenient coffee crystals you can guzzle down in a jiffy. Just add hot water and milk! Even though the description sounds alluring, customer feedback coos different sentiments, suggesting a burnt, muddy aftertaste with absolutely zero flavor.

"I purchased this because the other brand I have been buying has been out of stock," a verified buyer mentioned in a review. "I figured it would be OK because it is such a well known brand. This tastes like day-old percolator coffee that had been reheated in the microwave. I mean that literally. I have a friend that has served day-old perc coffee to me reheated in the microwave and it is terrible. That is what this is like... Terrible burnt aftertaste." Unfortunately, there are a plethora of negative reviews that echo this opinion.

17. Maxwell House Original Instant Light Roast

"Good to the last drop" is Maxwell House's tagline outlined in small lettering on a dark blue jar that you'll find in just about every grocery store and online store. Maxwell House also describes this medium Kosher blend as exceptionally smooth — emanating a classic taste, featuring custom-roasted coffee beans. Like the rest of the instant options, all you need to do is add boiling water. 

So let's start with the pros first — it's ridiculously accessible and quite easy to spot. Cons? Well, it's too dang mild for most, tastes like plastic and really just "get me by" caffeination crystals for camping trips and outdoor excursions.

"There are other competitive coffees on the market now that have caused this brand to "take a back seat." Verified Amazon buyer Kewan Bonhardt mentioned in a sad two-star review. So we suggest if you see this tiny blue jar taking space on the coffee shelves, just keep on strolling.

16. Yuban Medium Roast

You might see Yuban coffee alongside Folgers, Maxwell, and a myriad of other common coffee brands — it's another relatively affordable instant coffee that claims to check the superior quality, aroma, and flavor boxes. The Yuban instant powder only consists of 100% pure coffee made from the distinctly high-caliber beans. Sounds a bit too good to be true? Many reviewers point to a potential recipe change and absolutely zero taste, as if the coffee itself went rancid.

"Doesn't taste the way it used to. Previously, it used to say "Arabica bean" coffee but now it doesn't," said Amazon Reviewer K.S. "This was our favorite brand for almost a decade and we are now trying to switch to a different brand, but none taste like the old Yuban." The Medium Roast specifically seems to exhibit bitter qualities which certainly doesn't make for a decent cup of joe if you ask us.

15. Nescafe Clasico Dark Roast

If you're ready to embrace a blast of bold flavor, Nescafe claims to fulfill this with the Clasico Dark Roast Instant blend. According to the site, this instant, full-bodied formula only contains 100% respectfully grown coffee beans. Every sip *should be* a rich indulgence. Also fun fact, Nescafe owns the "World's Best Selling Coffee Brand" accolade, based on 2019 global retail sales data. Seems like the makings for a good cup of joe? Perhaps. However, many buyers expected that bold, nutty flavor, but instead slugged down something shockingly flat, with rubber-like characteristics. 

According to Verified Amazon Buyer ZenTren, this roast was just too dark and overwhelming bitter. "I have to use quite a lot of both sugar and cream, to mask the burn like a favor that's far from tasty coffee." Outside of the unfavorable taste, there's also chatter that mentions this doesn't totally dissolve in boiling water like any instant coffee should — pretty concerning if you ask most coffee connoisseurs. 

14. Nescafe Taster's Choice House Blend Instant

If Nescafe hosted a chef's table, you'd be served with Taster's Choice coffee — a line crafted with a bit more intention and elegance. With a few variations to choose from, the House Instant Blend is a fan favorite and notably "the signature blend." This type of roast lands right between light and medium and the beans are supposedly flash freezed to enhance its smoothness. When you think of the Nescafe's House Blend, you're supposed to imagine an ultra-smooth and balanced cup. It also ranks somewhere in the middle on the caffeine pendulum, with approximately 65 mg of caffeine per cup.

When it comes to reviews, this one specifically yields a mixed bag. Many customers alluded to a burned aftertaste, but there are several die-hard fans that mention this is a decent, middle ground instant coffee option.

Amazon Reviewer Anna can't live without it. "'An instant???!!' you say? YUP! I love coffee. I drink it from the moment I wake up to right before I go to bed. I drink it hot, cold, sprinkle it on my ice cream, etc. ...and this is my favorite!" she stated in her writeup. 

13. Starbucks VIA Instant Italian Roast

Out of all the brands available in the commerce universe, Starbucks has mastered your staple "coffee at home" while maintaining a vast variety of quality coffees to choose from. If you're looking for a much deeper and darker flavor, Starbucks VIA Instant Italian Roast will seemingly satiate your caffeinated cravings. According to the site, this dark roast embodies notably sweet undertones which contribute to its overall depth.

"It showcases the precision and skill of our roasters, who created a coffee that's slightly darker than our Espresso Roast without the smoky edge of French Roast. A great cup of coffee, it has a depth of flavor that holds its own with cream and sugar." Starbucks claims.

With over 350, 5-star reviews, this instant blend generates all the rave on the Starbucks site, satisfying all of those coffee drinkers who yearn for something that packs a punch. Even though customers seem to be delighted, Coffee Review doesn't share the same sentiments. "Coffee drinkers who enjoy the pungent, robust richness of dark roasts will not find that sensation here. Inert, thin and unattractive."

Our advice is to simply proceed with caution. You'll most likely get a decent cup of darker coffee, but the opinions around "taste" here seem to be a consistent mishmash.

12. Starbucks VIA Instant Columbia Medium Roast

The Starbucks VIA Columbia Instant Coffee is positioned as a balanced, single-origin medium roast with faint hints of fresh herbs and nuts. According to Starbucks, this blend is made from beans foraged straight from the bright Colombian countryside, lending to the location-specific juicy taste and round body. Many reviewers claim this is the best VIA flavor out there, substantiating its ever-so-smooth, nutty taste. Some even go to the extreme — mentioning it's better than the real whole bean coffee!

Verified Buyer Elaine gave her honest opinion. "This is not my 'go to' coffee for everyday. But I enjoy it on the go or when I want coffee without making a whole pot (I am the only coffee drinker in the house. It fully represents the flavor of brewed Starbucks. It's a great pick-me-up on a busy day. It has a slight aftertaste, but that doesn't deter me from enjoying it!"

11. Medaglia D'Oro Espresso Instant Dark Roast Coffee

Since 1924, several Americans have enjoyed Medaglia coffee, making "Italian-style" espresso accessible and affordable. The Espresso Instant blend has been a notable cult favorite instant coffee for over 80 years! Italian-American families tucked this away as an imported prized possession back in the day, commemorating a small sliver of home. You can easily find this blend in a 1-2 ounce jar, and rest assured, it only contains the finest quality coffee beans that emanate a rich, aromatic espresso flavor. Sipping on a small cup of this ignites a sort of rustic tradition that is irresistible.

Amazon Reviewer Annie always keeps Medaglia stocked in her pantry. "I love this coffee! Wonderful flavor, no bitter aftertaste and do not let the word, instant, fool you. In my opinion it has the same full body smooth flavor as the non instant coffee. However their roasted beans and drip coffees are also very tasty, smooth, warm, and comforting without a touch of burnt bitterness."

10. Juan Valdez 100% Colombian Classic Freeze-Dried Instant Coffee

In direct competition with Starbucks Columbia Roast, Juan Valdez claims to be the real deal, only using 100% Colombian Premium freeze-dried coffee, that's quite aromatic and irresistible. With a medium acidity, this is a cup of joe you'll look forward to no matter what time of day it is. So what sets this one apart from other Colombian coffee? Supposedly it's the texture that makes it distinguishable, with a well-balanced, medium body. Many reviewers on Amazon mention it's a pleasant change from the particularly dark and bold blends.

"I put about 5 rounded tablespoons of these granules in a pitcher of milk for a delicious iced coffee, ready to pour and enjoy," said Amazon Reviewer Julia X. "I tried about 10 other brands of instant coffees and instant espressos, in side-by-side taste tests, most of them either had an off-taste by comparison, or left sediment at the bottom of the pitcher."

9. Cafe Bustelo

Similar to the deep ethnic roots of Medaglia, Cafe Bustelo was founded over a century ago and its foundational tenants underscore love for Latin coffee, supporting community, and unifying people together. As you might know, Latin-style espresso is innately rich and full-bodied, always packing an intense punch, especially in the wee hours of the morning. Bustelo instant espresso specifically carries discernible nutty and chocolaty notes and is one of the most accessible instant coffee brands on the market. Even though its popularity has surged over the past years, Bustelo coffee is always sold at scale, always making it an affordable option.

"My new favorite instant coffee," said Influenster Reviewer Kimignon T. "I saw this at Family Dollar and since I am the only one drinking coffee.... I don't know what it is but I have now been choosing this over Folgers!"

So next time you see the face of Lady Bustelo on a vibrant yellow can, just remember you'll most likely sip on a reliably strong cup of joe.

8. Mount Hagen Organic Fairtrade Coffee, Instant

Coming in as one of the most accessible organic instant coffees, Mount Hagen coffee is considered a bit more commercialized than other microbrands. But they've maintained a level of sustainability, ensuring every glass jar is 100% recyclable. Like a few other options on the market, Mount Hagen produces a silky smooth product that is gently processed and reflects the origin flavors of Papua New Guinea.

According to Molly Young at The Strategist, this coffee makes her morning ten times more delightful. "These arid little crystals have brought me so much joy! I feel like an astronaut when I prepare my daily cup, stirring a scant spoonful into a mug of hot water!" she mentioned. "I would describe the taste as 'very brown,' in a good way. If you polled 100 people on their ideal cup of coffee, this would be the resulting average. It is a friendly and pleasing brew — not bitter or acidic."

7. Thrive Organic Instant Coffee

Here's one that checks all your health boxes: gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, vegan, paleo, whole30 — the list goes on.  Thrive's Organic Instant Coffee is not only ethically-sourced, but derived from premium arabica coffee beans, making for a perfectly delightful cup of coffee. Plus, each bag generates around 50 cups of coffee which is an automatic bonus. As a Thrive member, you can snag this bag for $7.99, which is a pretty decent bang for your buck too.

Many customers allude to this instant coffee tasting just as good as the real deal, which is quite a daring statement. It's rich and discernibly creamy too, which is a rarity when it comes to instant coffee.

"I have never been a fan of instant coffee or the flavor it provides," said Thrive Buyer Jessica in a recent 5-star review. "With having a busy work schedule and needing a quick on the go cup of coffee I turn to instant coffee if I am desperate. With the Thrive brand organic instant coffee I actually LOVE the flavor of this and it has great body and consistency. This is a great product and I love that it is organic!"

6. Cafe Altura Medium Roast

Cafe Altura's Instant Coffee seems to be in a league of its own, made with a proprietary freeze-drying process that preserves natural coffee flavor profiles and ensures no chemicals weasel their way through. According to the site, this Medium Roast Blend includes a dynamic mix of arabica coffee beans sourced from Africa, Asia, and South America, delivering a fresh blend that emits notes of toasted marshmallow and chocolate. Mixed in with boiling water and cream, this might as well be a dessert. On top of the wildly succulent tasting notes, this one also is USDA Organic, fair trade, non-GMO verified, and Kosher certified. It's very rare to come across a sour review on this one.

"I'm kind of a coffee snob and I have the best of coffee, even an espresso maker fit for a coffee shop, and I'm really enjoying this organic freeze dried instant coffee by Cafe Altura," a recent Amazon reviewer states. "It is delicious! It's rich and I'm not good at detecting exactly what it is that I love about it, but since I'm a chocolate lover and I love this coffee, there may be something there that reminds me of semi-sweet chocolate."

5. Trader Joe's 100% Colombian Instant Coffee

It seems like Trader Joe's carries every product under the sun, and coffee is no exception. This instant blend is pretty dang close to a freshly brewed cup of coffee (according to the label on the glass jar) and definitely won't break the bank. It's also made with the purest coffee beans. With one heaping teaspoon, combined with boiling water and some cream, it's pretty much equivalent to liquid velvet.

According to Coffee Review, you'll pick up caramel and a hint of dark chocolate aromas. The finish is quite sweet too. Many Amazon reviewers mention that this is a Trader Joe's pantry staple and is as good as it gets when it comes to affordable, instant coffee. It also acts as a dependable mixing agent for sweeter drinks like lattes and beyond.

"Great coffee for instant," said an Amazon reviewer. "I've tried other brands and they aren't as full-bodied and tend to get bitter over time. This one packs a punch. Very flavorful and rich. Perfect for mixing with hot chocolate for a cheap mocha."

4. Verve Streetlevel Craft Instant Coffee

If you're looking to explore the realms of boutique instant coffee, Verve's Streetlevel is quite the experience, igniting notes of honeyed citrus and red apple, with a distinct flavor profile mapped to Guatemalan, Colombian, and Honduran beans. This one is a bit on the pricey side, but it's small-batch, and hand-roasted, guaranteeing you'll drink a superior cup every time.

Margaret Eby at My Recipes tested it out herself and had no complaints. "Since you can also mix the instant coffee with cold water or milk, it's also a great way to make a quick cup of actually-good iced coffee at your desk or in a hotel room or in a dorm. It's extremely portable, thanks to the single serving packets." she mentioned.

Customers online are raving about this stuff too. "This coffee was amazing," Verified Buyer Taylor Y states. "I'll admit I was skeptical at first, but it was smooth, not bitter and had wonderful flavor. I took it backpacking with me at Isle Royale National Park, so I was able to use fresh water from Lake Superior to make it."

3. Laird Instafuel Coffee

Laird Superfood found a clever and healthy way to provide consumers with freeze-dried Arabica coffee pre-combined with the original Laird Superfood creamer, instantly creating a creamy latte with faint hints of coconut. All ingredients in here are 100% natural, only containing coconut milk powder, arabica coffee, organic coconut sugar, extra virgin coconut oil, and seaweed-derived calcium. Sounds like a flavorful dream to us. This blend specifically is super portable and shelf-stable, so you can take it on camping adventures and outdoor escapades easily. As a bonus, you'll also get 104 mg of caffeine per every 12-ounce serving!

"I might like this better than just plain coffee," Verified Buyer Becky E. stated. "Definitely taking this with me when I travel. The fact you just need hot water and not a whole coffee maker to get this great taste...I'm sold and can't wait to try the chai flavor next!"

2. Four Sigmatic Instant Coffee with Lion's Mane

If you've jumped on the functional mushroom bandwagon, you're probably familiar with the shroomy folks over at Four Sigmatic, crafting healthy lattes and coffee with the added benefits of mushrooms. The Instant Mushroom Coffee with Lion's Mane promises clean, focused energy (from the Lion's Mane) with the perfect amount of caffeine so you'll never feel those unwanted jitters. On top of the health benefits of Lion's Mane, this instant blend is vegan and organic, without an ounce of added sugar. Made with 100% real arabica coffee beans, this is a medium blend that's intrinsically creamy, with a dessert-like appeal. With over 3,000 reviews, this one makes for a great addition to your morning routine.

"The best coffee! Smooth, delicious flavor. This has been our coffee of choice for 5+ years. Most coffees are too acidic for my husband, this one is just right!" said verified purchaser N.C.

1. Get Supr Instant Coffee with Hemp Extract

If you're ready to taste a "super" coffee (no pun intended) then Get Supr promises to deliver this and more. This 100% organic Colombian instant coffee is infused with 20 mg of broad-spectrum hemp extract, keeping you stress-free throughout the day, yet alert. Also if you're on the fence about the latest hemp hype, you don't need to fret. Get Supr instant coffee doesn't contain any THC, so you won't feel high as a kite — you'll just reap the good benefits, including a blast of antioxidants. Along with each packet checking the vegan, non-GMO, and gluten-free boxes, the taste is medium and smooth-bodied, with subtle hints of sweet citrus.

Verified purchaser Stephanie Hartle can't get enough. "This stuff is great! With 20mg broad spectrum hemp extract in each packet and no THC, it's smooth and well balanced," she mentioned. "Perfect to kick start your day! It's so tasty and does the trick of getting your morning caffeine and hemp kick all in one! highly recommended!"