Instant coffee is by far the easiest and most light-weight way to get your coffee fix on the trail. All you have to do is put instant coffee in a cup, add hot water, and you’re done. However, instant coffee has a reputation for poor taste. But don’t worry — things have changed.
Preferred brewed coffee? Check out our post about brewing coffee in the backcountry: 8 Ways to Make Coffee While Thru-Hiking or Camping
We tasted a variety of instant coffees. Most weighed less than 4 grams per serving, including packaging, with the packaging weighing in at less than one gram.
We’re not coffee snobs, but we know a good cup of coffee from a bad cup. If you haven’t tried instant coffee in a while, you’ll be in for a pleasant surprise. They all tasted just fine, even Folgers.
We tested some of the most common brands founds in the grocery store or on Amazon. But the sky is the limit: there’s an instant coffee out there for any taste. With a little experimentation, you will certainly find an instant coffee that will work for you.
We purchased all items and were not solicited to review any item in this blog post.
Folgers is the classic, affordable coffee drank by millions. Coffee aficionados may turn their nose up to it, but give the instant a try.
The Classic Roast instant has a mild flavor at one-fifth the price of Starbucks Via (reviewed below). However, this was our least favorite of all the coffees we tried. Small downside: it is designed for 6 oz. water, unlike all other instant coffees reviewed here, which call for 8 oz. water.
$0.12/serving, 2.6g total, 0.4g packaging
Folgers also offers an instant Cappuccino Mocha that is about one-third the price of the Starbucks instant Caffe Mocha.
$0.37/serving, 26g total, 1.1g packaging
We include the Folgers single classic coffee bag here for those who like brewed coffee, but packing out the used bag is on the heavy side compared to instant.
$0.23/serving, 6.5g dry, 9.7g slightly wet
2. Nescafe Taster’s Choice
Taster’s Choice is your classic instant coffee that comes in a variety of roasts and flavors and packaging options. We found it to be a surprisingly good-tasting coffee at an affordable price.
$0.28/serving, 3.8g total, 0.5g packaging
$0.17/serving, 3.4g total, 0.5g packaging
$0.20/serving, 3.8g total, 0.5g packaging
$0.76/serving, 32g total, 1.2gpackaging
We tried four Starbucks Via instant blends and the Starbucks Caffe Mocha. These are robust coffees and have that slightly-burned taste that seems common with Starbucks. We particularly liked the Via Pike Place and Via Veranda blends . The Via French Roast is quite strong. Starbucks was among the most expensive instant coffees we tested, and while it has a great flavor you can probably get away with spending less.
House / Pike Place / Veranda / French Roast
$0.66/serving, 4g total, 0.6g packaging
$1.05/serving, 40g total, 0.6g packaging
4. Double Joy Select
Double Joy Select intense dark roast was the most expensive instant coffee we tested. It had a bold, smooth taste without the bitter/burned ending you might get with other bold coffees. It is powdered, which means no stirring is required.
$0.75/serving, 4g total, 0.6g packaging
5. Mount Hagen Organic Fairtrade
Mount Hagen is a German coffee company that exclusively offers Fairtrade, organically grown coffee, with an instant variety at about half the cost of Starbucks Via. It is a well-rounded coffee that you can feel good about drinking. This was one of our favorites.
$0.34/serving, 2.6g total, 0.6g packaging
6. Coffee Additions
If you are craving some extra calories or something sweet, consider adding powdered Coffee-mate or powdered hot chocolate to your coffee. You can make your own mocha at a fraction of the cost of a pre-packaged mocha.
$0.06/serving, 3.8g total, 0.7g packaging
Nestle Rich Milk Chocolate cocoa mix
$0.23/serving, 22g total, 1.6g packaging
Instant Coffee Summary
There are so many choices of instant coffee today. With a little experimentation at home we are sure that you can find an instant coffee that fits your desired taste and cost.
Pro tip! Add BOILING water to your instant coffee. Otherwise it may not completely dissolve and result in an unappealing mixture.