Who makes the best instant coffee? Does such a thing even exist? 

By Oset Babur
September 26, 2019

 

While connoisseurs have historically shunned instant coffee as a heavily processed shadow of the bean lacking in aroma, consistency, and flavor, change is brewing. Many of our favorite roasters are gently freezing, dehydrating, and crystallizing their offerings to preserve those subtle, sweet notes that attract us to their coffee in the first place. We’re loving being able to enjoy a high-quality ethically sourced cup on a busy travel day, camping trip, or one of those weekday mornings when the ritual of grinding beans to filter through a Chemex is just too much to tackle.

Through a taste test led by Reagan Petrehn, co-founder of 1900 Barker in Kansas City and head of brand at New York City’s Felix Roasting Co., we found nine options that are sure to challenge your pre-existing notions about instant coffee.

 

Food & Wine

Canyon Coffee –– Celinga

Price: $20 (6-pack)

Editors say:

“Strong, developed notes of peach and caramel with some pleasing subtle spices mixed in.”

“Mild, slightly sweet. Would drink again.”

“Lots of acid here”

“Very savory, taste lingers on the tongue”

Overall Rating: 8/10

 

Food & Wine

Intelligentsia Single Origin Crystallized Coffee

Price: $13 (4 vials)

Editors say:

“Strong fermented blueberry and blackberry notes. Longer finish with low acidity.”

“Solid. Sweet and bold, well-balanced. Not particularly remarkable.”

“Burnt toffee and chocolate notes”

Overall Rating: 6.5/10

 

Food & Wine

Starbucks Via –– Pike Place Roast

Price: $6.99 (8-pack)

Editors say:

“Dark, traditional notes with molasses, caramelized sugar, cinnamon, and cloves.”

“Kind of reminds me of soy sauce.”

“Really thin, and tastes a little burnt.”

Overall Rating: 5/10

 

Via Ritual

Ritual Coffee

Price: $15.99 (4 vials)

Editors say:

“Early notes of blueberry, clove, and green apple with some floral hints, but had a less-than-smooth finish.”

“Gorgeous packaging, but too much acid for me.”

“Distinctly rich and bold, a little bitter, though.”

Overall: 6.5/10


 

Food & Wine

Swift Cup –– Mainstay Blend

Price: $11.95 (6-pack)

Editors say:

“Subtle notes of pecan and praline, as well as red apple and grape. Clean with balanced acidity. A crowd-pleaser.”

“Rich and even. Not bitter!”

Overall Rating: 9/10

 

Via swiftcupcoffee.com

Swift Cup –– Burundi

Price: $15 (6-pack)

Editors say:

“Very rich, nutty, and full-bodied notes of chicory, molasses, and cocoa.”

“Earthy and funky”

Overall Rating: 8/10

 

Food & Wine

Tandem Coffee –– Dalecho

Price: $15 (6-pack)

Editors say:

“Blackberry plum, and candied lemon notes, plus some undeniable hints of dark chocolate.”

“Nutty, smooth, and light––a little weak, though.”

“Pleasant and balanced. I’d drink it again.”

Overall Rating: 7.5/10

 

Greta Rybus Photography

Tandem Coffee –– Time and Temperature

Price: $15 (6-pack)

Editors say:

“A bright but sweet medley of caramel and butterscotch notes.”

“Distinctly savory, has a unique undercurrent I can’t really put my finger on. Almost reminds me of legumes.”

“Robust, but not amazingly so.”

Overall Rating: 6.5/10

 

Food & Wine

Voila –– Cirque Weirdo Blend

Price: $16 (5 bags)

Editors say:

“Complex and balanced with super juicy notes of white grapes and blackberries. Ideal for the adventurous caffeine-seeker.”

Overall Rating: 7.5/10

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