8 Best Instant Coffee Brands, Tested by Food Network Kitchen

Even coffee snobs will love these instant coffee picks.

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November 10, 2022

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Photo by: All Nea / 500px / Getty Images

All Nea / 500px / Getty Images

Our Top Instant Coffee Picks

Tested by Beth Lipton for Food Network Kitchen

Forget those dusty jars your grandma kept in the pantry – instant coffee has evolved, and these days, there are several brands worth sipping. Whether you enjoy a simple cup of black or a sweetened iced latte, or something in-between, there’s now a box in of instant coffee grounds to make your brew of choice. Even more reason to give instant another look: Along with drinking it when you’re in a hurry or traveling, you can use it in recipes and fun applications like whipped coffee.

We poured and sipped our way through several brands to bring you the eight best instant coffee brands on the market.

Coffee connoisseurs, rejoice — this one’s for you. The company brews high-quality, thoughtfully sourced coffee to a concentrated state, then freeze-dries it — and the flavor does not disappoint. Shop by region or get a mix to see what you like best (the Kenya Nyeri was our favorite). Swift’s packaging also happens to be beautiful; it would make a fantastic gift. You can buy single-serve packets or bulk to measure yourself. Stir a packet into 10 oz. of hot water and start your journey.

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No time to visit one of Joe’s locations, or on the road? Take one of these packets with you; it’s the next best thing. The coffee is roasted in small batches, then put through a brewing and freeze-drying process, and the result is rich and complex, with understated hints of caramel. At $3 per packet, it’s a bit of a splurge for instant coffee. Add to 8 to 10 oz. hot or cold water and enjoy the indulgence.

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Prices vary

Clear some space in your freezer for this unique offering, which is unlike traditional instant coffee in that it’s not freeze-dried or concentrated. Thanks to the company’s proprietary brewing system, the coffee comes in small aluminum capsules, which you keep frozen. Grab a capsule, knock out the little puck of coffee, add 6 to 8 ounces of hot water or milk, and you’re in business; or you can use the capsule in a single-cup brewing machine. (The capsules are recyclable, too.) The best part: Cometeer offers coffee from many interesting brands including Counter Culture, Equator, Birch, Bird Rock, and more, so you can stock up on your favorite or keep a variety on hand.

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Forget any past experiences you may have had with coffee concentrates. Thanks to an innovative extraction method, this new brew has such smooth, rich flavor that if you didn’t know it came from a concentrate, you’d never guess. It’s made from fair trade beans and it’s 20 times stronger than regular coffee; all you have to do is add 1 tablespoon to 8 oz. of hot water for regular coffee (or use less water for espresso). It’s also a fantastic ingredient for cocktails and other recipes and is available in three varieties.

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Keep a jar of this very finely ground double-roasted instant coffee in the pantry for espresso that’s even quicker than pulling a shot (and definitely faster than a trip to the coffee shop). Add a rounded teaspoon to 2 to 6 ounces of hot water or milk, or use the powder in recipes (we like to dissolve it in vanilla and add to brownie batter).

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The name might not be for everyone, but that’s no reason not to brew up this instant coffee, especially if getting as much caffeine in your cup as possible is the goal. Each packet of organic instant coffee has 300mg of caffeine (compared to an average cup, which has 96mg), thanks to the addition of green coffee bean extract. Plus, it has a nice, rich flavor. Hey, it was good enough for astronauts on the International Space Station, so why not you, too? Add 8 oz. of hot water and take off.

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The OG of coffee brands to incorporate adaptogenic mushrooms, Four Sigmatic offers several combinations of instant coffee and mushrooms depending on what you’re looking for. Think features focus-boosting lion’s mane, while Chill has stress-busting reishi, and Defend offers immune-strengthening cordyceps (all have chaga, which some studies show may help reduce inflammation). The coffee is full-bodied and smooth, with no mushroom flavor, and a packet has about half the caffeine of a regular cup, so you get all of the enjoyment with no jitters or crash.

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Latte lovers, this one’s for you. Dairy free and low in sugar, these just-add-water packets combine organic instant coffee with collagen peptides (that adds 15 grams of protein), creaminess from MCT oil, immunity-boosting reishi mushroom and calming l-theanine, so you get that lift from the coffee without jitters. Morning Fix has a creamy vanilla flavor; Daybreaker is rich with a mocha flavor thanks to the addition of cacao. The company also offers a Black variety minus the collagen and sugar. (It still has the MCT though, so skip it if you prefer truly black coffee).

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How We Tested

We sourced several brands of well-reviewed instant coffee, including regular coffees and varieties with add-ins such as adaptogens and protein. We brewed each according to the manufacturers’ instructions. We tried traditional instants and others made with modern techniques. For the unflavored varieties, we tasted them black and with a splash of cream. We evaluated all of the coffees based on flavor, richness, smoothness and acidity, and also factored in price.

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