You already know instant coffee gets a bad rap. It’s often considered to be a last resort for coffee drinkers when they don’t have time to brew a proper pot in the morning. What you don’t know? Instant coffee is in the midst of an epic renaissance: Sales went up by nearly 30 percent in 2020 as more and more people began making their daily joe at home. Not only does it provide a consistent cup, but offerings have dramatically improved since its last American heyday in the ’80s. Don’t believe us? We tested a slew of popular options to find the best instant coffee brands out there that deliver a joe just as delicious as one brewed with a drip machine or French press.

To test them, we prepared each instant coffee according to package instructions, making one hot cup and one cold if applicable. We added a bit of milk for tasting, unless the instant coffee already included creamer, and no extra sugar. Then, we rated them based on affordability, quality of ingredients and processing, ease of use and functionality (can it be made with either hot and cold water? Can you only make one cup at a time?), dissolvability and flavor. Read on for our top picks.

RELATED: We Found the Best Coffee for Cold Brew, from Whole Beans to Brew Bags

The Best Instant Coffee Brands, At a Glance

Café Altura

1. Café Altura Instant Organic Coffee

Best overall

  • Value: 19/20
  • Quality: 20/20
  • Ease of Use/Functionality: 19/20
  • Dissolvability: 20/20
  • Taste: 20/20

TOTAL: 98/100

Believe it or not, instant coffee can taste just like drip. Café Altura has a silky, full-bodied mouthfeel with none of the wateriness you may expect from an instant coffee. The blend is made with organic, Fair Trade Arabica coffee from South America, Africa and Asia, which is rain-washed, sun-dried and fire-roasted to perfection. The flavor is rich yet mellow and balanced with notes of nuts, spices and chocolate. It boasts a smooth finish with just the right amount of bitterness. While it can be served both hot and cold, the brand recommends it be made with hot water, so if you want it chilled, add ice or refrigerate before sipping.

$22/two-pack at Amazon

Waka Coffee

2. Waka Coffee Medium Roast Colombian

Best for iced coffee

  • Value: 18/20
  • Quality: 19/20
  • Ease of Use/Functionality: 19/20
  • Dissolvability: 19/20
  • Taste: 18/20

TOTAL: 93/100

Contrary to popular belief, not all instant coffees require hot water to dissolve. Waka Coffee, a brand that’s exclusively dedicated to instant coffees and teas, can be prepared with cold water, meaning you won’t have to wait for your brew to chill in the fridge to make a glass of iced coffee. Unlike some producers that use Robusta beans, which are typically bitterer and harsher, Waka uses 100 percent Arabica beans, which are smoother and sweeter. The instant coffee is also produced by freeze-drying—the beans are used to make coffee extract, which is frozen before getting its liquid sucked out by a vacuum, turning the ice to steam (that’s called sublimation). This helps the instant coffee retain its flavor and smell. We’re big fans of the medium roast Colombian variety’s single-serve packets, thanks to its smooth, citrus-forward flavor. It’s a little bit on the watery side, but a flavor syrup or creamer of your choice can help thicken the mouthfeel.

Oh, and did we mention Waka donates 4 percent of its sales through its Add Water, Give Water program, which brings clean, safe drinking water to communities in need all over the world?

$12 at Amazon

Amazon

3. Mount Hagen

Best decaf instant coffee

  • Value: 18/20
  • Quality: 20/20
  • Ease of Use/Functionality: 18/20
  • Dissolvability: 20/20
  • Taste: 18/20

TOTAL: 94/100

If you shop with ethical farming practices and climatarianism in mind, look no further than Mount Hagen. Despite the coffee industry’s history of slavery and environmental destruction, this brand is the first instant coffee producer in the world to be certified organic and Fair Trade, which guarantees that everyone on the supply chain—from farmers to processors to transporters—are paid and treated fairly. Like Waka, Mount Hagen uses Arabica beans and freeze-drying to make its instant coffee. The decaffeinated blend is a mix from Papua New Guinea, Peru and Honduras, which makes for a mild, nutty and fruity final product. There’s no specific amount of water noted on the packaging, so we used two teaspoons of coffee and filled our mug with about 6 ounces of water. The result was balanced and super smooth.

$33/three-pack at Amazon

Amazon

4. Starbucks VIA Instant Veranda Blend

Best blonde roast

  • Value: 18/20
  • Quality: 18/20
  • Ease of Use/Functionality: 17/20
  • Dissolvability: 20/20
  • Taste: 17/20

TOTAL: 90/100

Did you know blonde roast coffee is actually higher in caffeine than dark roast? Many people assume the opposite because of dark roasts’ robust flavor, but blonde beans are actually roasted for a shorter length of time to achieve a mellower flavor, which in turn means less of the caffeine is roasted out. Made exclusively with Arabica beans, Starbucks Via Instant’s single-serve packets of the signature Veranda blend are filled with both instant and microground coffee (aka coffee that’s so finely ground, it can be dissolved in water—we wonder if this is why we noticed some oily spots in the crema that formed on top of the coffee), so it looks more like typical grounds than the granules you might expect. Just like a blonde drip ordered in store, the instant version is malty, mild and bright with balanced, subtle sweetness. (BTW, if you prefer canisters over single-serve packets, Starbucks just launched three new Premium Instant coffees…)

$8 at Amazon

Joe Coffee

5. Joe Coffee The Daily

Best medium roast

  • Value: 17/20
  • Quality: 19/20
  • Ease of Use/Functionality: 19/20
  • Dissolvability: 20/20
  • Taste: 18/20

TOTAL: 93/100

Brace yourself for an easy-drinking cup of coffee that just might become your new go-to. Joe Coffee’s The Daily is roasted, brewed and turned into concentrate in small batches before being freeze-dried, resulting in a blend that’s equal parts bright and sweet. The coffee is typically sourced from South and Central America; the beans change based on what’s seasonal and fresh. Its caramel notes shine through beautifully when served cold, and we noted a more pronounced chocolate flavor served hot. If you like adding sweet creamers and flavor syrups to your coffee, we have a feeling this pick will be right up your alley.

$20 at Amazon

Amazon

6. Nescafé Taster’s Choice French Roast

Best dark roast

  • Value: 19/20
  • Quality: 17/20
  • Ease of Use/Functionality: 18/20
  • Dissolvability: 20/20
  • Taste: 17/20

TOTAL: 91/100

On the hunt for a bold, complex dark roast that won’t totally bulldoze your tastebuds? The instant French Roast option from Nescafé’s Taster’s Choice line strikes just the right balance. “It’s not too acidic, [it] dissolves easily—no vigorous stirring required—and gives me rich flavor with minimal work,” says our senior SEO editor Alexia Dellner. We put her claims to the test and tried it ourselves, only to be pleasantly surprised by its chocolatey notes and rich mouthfeel. Even though the packaging doesn’t recommend using cold water, the seven-ounce container certainly makes it easy to serve a crowd quickly, which is a plus in our book. We also love how easy the packaging makes it to adjust the ratio of instant coffee to water based on your mug size. If you’re looking for something even darker, try Nescafé Clásico Dark.

$11 at Amazon

Swift Cup Coffee

7. Swift Cup Coffee Brazil – Carmo de Minas

Best single-origin instant coffee

  • Value: 17/20
  • Quality: 19/20
  • Ease of Use/Functionality: 18/20
  • Dissolvability: 19/20
  • Taste: 20/20

TOTAL: 93/100

In case you’ve ever wondered, single-origin coffees are exactly what their name suggests. The beans come from one singular place, so their taste echoes specific flavors and qualities of the place they’re grown. (Blends combine beans from various places, resulting in a less specific flavor.) If you’re new to single-origin brews, Swift Cup Coffee is a great place to start. First of all, they make instant coffee for more than 100 roasters in the U.S., Canada and Europe, including brands like Verve and Intelligentsia, and it’s no surprise why. Their ethically sourced instant coffees are both affordable (especially for a smaller brand) and high quality, plus can be made with either hot or cold water. But most importantly, their Brazil variety blew us away with its mellow, nutty flavor and notes of chocolate and caramel. We’re not even sure we’d add sugar, thanks to its pleasant natural sweetness. The Ethiopia – Agaro is also tasty and leans citrusy and fruity. If you want to try both, go for The Essentials sampler trio, which includes the fruity, cocoa-like Mainstay blend.

Buy it ($14)

Amazon

8. Cusa Tea & Coffee Vanilla Dark Roast Coffee

Best flavored instant coffee

  • Value: 18/20
  • Quality: 20/20
  • Ease of Use/Functionality: 18/20
  • Dissolvability: 20/20
  • Taste: 18/20

TOTAL: 94/100

High-elevation Arabica beans + Madagascar vanilla = a match made in java-loving heaven. Whether you’re sipping this cold brew coffee hot or iced, Cusa’s Vanilla Dark Roast is sure to please with its round flavor and subtle sweetness. The eight-hour cold brew process ensures that heat and aggressive dehydration don’t spoil the coffee’s flavor and quality. Instead, the coffee is gently brewed with room temperature water before being vacuum dehydrated into dissolvable crystals. The added vanilla and the coffee’s natural flavor notes of caramel and burnt sugar remind us of baked goods (it basically tastes like a liquid chocolate chip cookie). The beans are from a Rainforest Alliance Certified plantation to boot, meaning they’re the result of organic farming practices and regenerative agriculture.

$28/thirty-pack at Amazon

Seoul Mills

9. Maxim Mocha Gold Mild Coffee Mix

Best value

  • Value: 20/20
  • Quality: 17/20
  • Ease of Use/Functionality: 20/20
  • Dissolvability: 19/20
  • Taste: 18/20

TOTAL: 94/100

Imagine an instant coffee that 1) can be prepared hot or cold, 2) is a killer bargain and 3) doesn’t require a drop of creamer or sugar. Introducing Maxim Mocha Gold Mild Coffee Mix, the quickest route from zero to light-and-sweet java you’ll ever find. “These Korean instant coffee packs are delicious,” says our senior beauty editor Jenny Jin. “They come pre-mixed with creamer and sugar in them, so they can be a tad sweet, but it’s pretty easy to adjust by not using the entire contents of the pack, because the sugar and cream usually sit on top of the coffee [so they’re easy to remove].” Not only do the single-serve packets come in 100-serving boxes (that’s about 26 cents per coffee), but they also don’t require any additional creamer or sugar. If you like your coffee black, this obviously isn’t the pick for you. But if you like it sweet, nutty and round with hints of chocolate and caramel, this pick will change your mornings forever. If you want it cold, we recommend dissolving it in a bit of hot water first or waiting a few minutes for the creamer to fully dissolve in cold water before drinking.

Buy it ($20/100 sticks)

The PureWow100 is a scale our editors use to vet new products and services, so you know what’s worth the spend—and what’s total hype. Learn more about our process here.

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RELATED: The Best Way to Make Coffee at Home, According to Our (Caffeine-Obsessed) Staff

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