Artisanal coffee snobs loathe those little crystals, but quality instant coffee brands deserve far more credit than they get. (After all, even the renowned Starbucks has an instant variety.)
Firstly, it’s important to note that any coffee bean can be transformed into instant coffee. The process involves freeze-drying coffee, essentially forming an extract of that blend.
In other words, just as different coffee beans can vary in quality and taste, so, too, can their instant counterparts. Here are the best instant coffee brands for your next quick cup.
Bustelo Instant Espresso (Puerto Rico)
There’s little not to love about this Bronx-born brew.
Cuban exiles preferred the Bustelo brand in their stovetop espresso makers, versus filtering coffee grounds through a sock (though, honestly, who wouldn’t?). That alone is a testament to its simple preparation.
Bustelo Instant boasts a lineage straight from the company’s signature espresso. It’s strong, creamy, not too bold, and instantly likeable.
Try: Bustelo Dalgona Whip
Bustelo instant coffee whipped with a touch of sugar, a kiss of honey, a dash of milk and poured over ice.
Hula Girl Instant Coffee (Hawaii)
Stumble upon this unbelievably tasty instant coffee, and you’ll definitely second-guess that it’s instant.
Hula Girl instant coffee is for those long rainy days when all you care to do is sit in a comfortable chair with a blanket, watch the drops hit the window, and listen to some phat ChillHop beats. It’s unmistakably Kona: exceptionally smooth and flavorful.
Tim Hortons Instant Coffee (Canada)
Perfect for a blended iced cappuccino, Tim Hortons takes instant coffee to the next level with its smooth, desirable flavor.
Instead of using hot water to dilute the instant coffee crystals, you use hot milk. This creamy creation then forms a silky, batter-like texture that’s unforgettable.
What’s more, it’s available in Light Roast, Dark Roast, Medium, and Decaf.
Africafe Instant Coffee (Africa)
Some instant coffee brands takes your taste buds on a journey. Africafe takes them on safari.
Originating in Tanzania, home to one of the most infamous coffee beans, all the Africafe company does is produce instant coffee.
The love, care, and pride that goes into creating this blend are evident in every cup. Africafe instant coffee also makes a very cool gift, and it’s organic.
Try: Africafe Tiramisu Instant Coffee Swiss Roll
Create your own version of Italy’s decadent, iconic dessert with this recipe by Izy Hossack of Top with Cinnamon.
Highground Instant (Spain)
When you purchase a Fairtrade-certified Highground instant coffee, everybody wins. Each cup helps pay farmers fair wages, and supports sustainable production practices that respect the environment.
Try: Highground Jiggly Buzzers
Combine homemade Japanese-style instant coffee jellies with sweetened condensed milk for a passable, perky snack your guests will love. Get the recipe from The Subversive Table.
Republica Instant (Australia)
One taste of this brand, you’ll become an instant coffee connoisseur.
Republica produces its coffee with time-honored growing and roasting traditions, passed down among Colombian coffee farmers for generations.
Republica instant coffee has notes of caramel, and the velvety texture is unforgettable.
Trader Joe’s Instant (USA)
TJ’s believes in their instant coffee so much, they took out a full-page digital ad titled, “Change Your Opinion of Instant Coffee.”
Instead of freeze-drying, Trader Joe’s passes a curtain of steam over the grounds in a technique known as agglomeration.
That’s why Trader Joe’s instant coffee instantly dissolves, putting an end to stubborn granules at the bottom of your mug.
Douwe Egberts Pure Gold Instant Coffee Sticks (Netherlands)
For on-the-go aromatic indulgence—or that sudden Zoom call with your in-laws—tuck a few Douwe Egberts instant coffee sticks in your pocket.
This caffeine treat from the Netherlands is a light golden roast, produced with a mix of the finest tasting Arabica and Robusta beans. Smooth and slightly bitter, it makes for an absolutely perfect cup.
Try: Douwe Egberts No-Fuss Coffee Bean Cookies
Keep an airtight jar of these on your desk. Slightly sweet and gently caffeinated, they’re the ideal treat for that 3 o’clock slump. Get the recipe from Vancouver Pigout.
Instant coffee is extremely undeserving of its bad rep. It’s been touted as a poor man’s coffee, “factory floor sweepings,” and other claims that couldn’t be further from the truth. Like all great coffee, you can find brands ranging from lackluster, to the truly exceptional.