Despite the increase of coffee machines and coffee shops over the last decade or so, three-quarters of the coffee brought in the UK is instant coffee. Popularly believed to be a habit picked up from the Americans during World War 2, instant coffee is still the preferred way Brits like to drink their coffee. Most of us, however, don’t actually know what the difference between instant coffee and ground coffee is. A surprising number of people think that instant coffee is just extremely finely ground coffee beans.
What is Instant Coffee?
Instant coffee is basically made by removing the water from coffee. The best instant coffee is made from freshly roasted and ground coffee beans brewed into a vat of very concentrated coffee.
The water is removed either by spraying the liquid into very hot air or by freezing and then drying it in a vacuum. The result is then crushed into the familiar looking powder we dissolve in our mugs of hot water. Freeze drying produces a better instant coffee as too much heat gives coffee a bitter taste.
In recent years, manufacturers have started adding a small amount of ground coffee to their instant coffee. Only about 20% of ground coffee will dissolve in hot water but a trace amount can enrich and deepen the flavour of the coffee without being too gritty. This type of coffee is often labelled as ‘Barista style’.
The advantage of Instant Coffee
The main advantage of instant coffee is that it is extremely quick and simple to use. You put a teaspoon of coffee in your mug, pour on hot but not boiling coffee, add milk and sugar according to your preferences and give it a good stir and it is instantly ready to drink.
Our Top Recommendations
Best Instant Coffee – Our Top 5
These are our top choices based on customer reviews and our own personal preference. However the choice is huge so it has been very hard for us to limit it to just these five choices. But fear not, simply scroll down for even more!
1) Lavazza Prontissimo Intenso Instant Coffee
Despite the misleading Intenso in the title this is a medium roasted, 100% Aribica coffee. It has 10% ground coffee mixed in with the instant coffee. It makes a rich, rounded coffee as you would expect from Lavazza. Personally I use one and a half teaspoons to get the strength I like. It come in a tin with a resealable plastic lid containing 95 grams.
- 95 gm tin of instant coffee with dark roasting and a delicate intensity
- Full and intense with distinct notes of toasted coffee
- Prontissimo in 3 steps. One: take your favourite cup and pour hot water into it. Two: add one or two teaspoons of Prontissimo. Three: mix well and add milk and sugar to taste
2) Costa Coffee Smooth Medium Roast Instant Coffee with Finely Ground Beans Tin.
The UK’s favourite coffee shop comes as instant coffee to use at home. It’s the familiar Costa blend that you get in their shops. Medium roast with hints of nut and caramel, it will taste familiar. If, like me, you like your coffee strong there’s also and Intense Dark Roast version. It has ground coffee mixed in with the instant coffee to give it a stronger taste. This is one of the instant coffees I need one and a half spoons of powder but most people are happy with just one. The coffee comes in a 970 gram round metal tin with a resealable plastic lid.
- We’ve created this Premium Instant coffee with the recognisable smooth and nutty taste of our Signature Blend☕
- Mixing finely ground roasted beans with instant coffee for the perfect pick-me-up!🙂
- Our Smooth Medium Roast Premium Instant won Product of the Year 2021🏆
3) NESCAFÉ AZERA Americano Instant Coffee Tin
This is the instant coffee I keep stocked in my cupboard and I have yet to find anyone who doesn’t enjoy it. A mix of Arabica and Robusta instant coffee with 5% ground coffee it delivers a smooth, full bodied taste with hints of toasted nuts and cocoa. The Intenso version is richer and smokier and the Decaff doesn’t lose the rich flavour with the caffeine. It can be very expensive in the supermarkets so the best way to buy it is in bulk online. I tend to use one and a quarter teaspoons of this coffee to get the strength I like. It comes in a round metal tin with a resealable plastic lid containing 100 grams.
- Consegna gratuita nel regno unito.
- Nescafe azera americano instant coffee (100g) - pack of 6
4) Clipper Latin American Organic Instant Coffee 100 g
Although better known for their tea, Clipper also do a delicious range of coffee. This is my favourite because I love Central and South American coffee but there also have a wide variety of other options, including Italian and French style, decaffeinated and a lovely rich single origin coffee from Papua New Guinea. Clipper’s products are all organic and Fairtrade. This coffee comes in the more traditional glass jar with a plastic screw on lid.
- Arabica Clipper coffee: 600g (6x100g jars) of medium roast organic instant Arabica coffee granules. A toasty and intense blend with a wonderfully smooth, clean finish and rich aroma to enjoy every day
- Premium organic coffee: Fairtrade instant coffee with a crisp, rich and full-bodied flavour. Our Super Special Arabica coffee blend is made from non-GM soil-association approved organic ingredients
- Fairtrade Clipper coffee: Instant hot drinks without the hassle of using a French press, coffee machine or cafetiere. Boil fresh water and leave to cool for a minute before pouring over the coffee
5) Douwe Egberts Pure Indulgence Instant Coffee
Douwe Egberts boast that they have been making coffee for over 260 years and this is a very nice instant coffee. It’s rich, smooth and dark freeze dried coffee. They also do a lighter Pure Gold and Pure Decaff. It comes in a glass jar with a glass stopper that provides a good seal. They have recently modified the lids to make them a bit easier to remove but they still provide a tight seal. Refill bags are available and Clipper are committed to working in a sustainable environmentally friendly way.
If you are looking for a few more ideas, take a look at the instant coffee options below. They are all excellent choices that we are sure you will not be disappointed with.
6) Kenco Iced Latte Salted Caramel Instant Coffee
- THE BARISTA EDITION - Blend a little indulgence into your daily routine with our delightfully refreshing Salted Caramel iced coffee. A coffee selection designed to deliver a delightful taste...
- DELICIOUSLY INDULGENT - Your favourite moment is a mere coffee away with refreshingly rounded flavours that lift the edition. Enjoy a cool, coffee-shop inspired iced sensation.
- SIP IN SECONDS - Packaged in sachets to maintain tasty quaility, simply add cold water to this milk and espresso blend for a perfectly smooth and deliciously sweet taste sensation.
7) Nescafé Azera Speciality Cappuccino
- Smooth and milky topped off with a velvety froth and intense aroma
- Roast and ground beans blended with instant coffee and skimmed milk powder
- Quick and convenient, single-serve sachets mean low wastage
8) Illy Coffee, Classico Instant Coffee, Medium Roast
- INSTANT COFFEE: illy's instant coffee gives you the great, bold taste of illy in an ultra-convenient instant format. Velvety smooth and perfectly balanced.
- CLASSICO MEDIUM ROAST: Our delicious Classico instant coffee is a medium roast and has a lingering sweetness and delicate notes of caramel, orange blossom and jasmine.
- 100% ARABICA COFFEE BEANS: illy's distinctive smooth, rich and full-bodied taste is created from the skilful blending of 100% sustainably-grown Arabica beans, selected from different growing regions...
9) Kenco Millicano Whole Bean Instant Coffee
- Wholebean instant coffee
- Finely milled Arabica coffee beans
- Full bodied taste and rich aroma
10) Beanies Flavoured Instant Coffee Jars
11) Nescafe TS-150049 Original Instant Coffee Granule
- Instant coffee granules of consistent high quality and smooth flavour
- Easy to Use and ideal for busy offices and workplaces
- NESCAFÉ Decaff is produced with 100% coffee beans, nothing else
12) TrueStart Barista Grade Instant Coffee
- BARISTA APPROVED UK BRAND - Premium luxury freeze dried quality posh instant coffee for the coffee shop experience at home. Rich smooth flavour made with with speciality grade beans
- SMOOTH RICH ROAST - Tastes delicious with or without milk to make a healthy strong coffee instant. High quality coffee, roasted for maximum taste and smooth flavour for a luxury instant coffee
- 100% COLOMBIAN ARABICA - Coffee grown at high elevation and gently roasted for a true espresso flavour. Very smooth, clean tasty strong instant coffee
13) Clipper Papua New Guinea Rich Roast Single Origin Arabica Coffee
- Natural fair and delicious
- Rich, buttery and smooth
- Truly exceptional flavour
14) L’OR Classique Freeze Dried Instant Coffee
- Low in fat and sugar
- Golden Roast Blend
- Specialty: Low Fat
15) Lyons Rich Roast Coffee Granules
- Quality coffee granules with a strong, refreshing taste
- In a resealable catering tin to preserve freshness
- Ideal for catering and office kitchens
Instant Coffee Buyers Guide
Instant coffee is basically dehydrated coffee powder. All that is needed is a spoonful of powder and a kettle, although most people also add milk and sugar. Instant coffee completely dissolves in hot water. Instant coffee can not be used in any kind of coffee machine or cafetière.
Is Instant Coffee Any Good?
The quality of the coffee powder you get is dependent on the original coffee beans used, how they were roasted, how concentrated the coffee was and what method was used to extract the water. Freeze dried coffee is the best method for flavour as the hot air method can overheat the coffee and give it a bitter flavour. Generally speaking, if the company have used the freeze dried method they will mention it on the packaging. If it doesn’t mention the method then it was probably not freeze dried.
Very few instant coffee give details of the kind and origin of the beans they use. Not all of them give any indication of what kind of roast either.
Supermarket coffee can be confusing, checkout the video below to help narrow down your search.
Instant Coffee with Ground Coffee
There has been a growing trend in recent years for companies to add a small amount of ground coffee to their instant coffee. A little can give an added intensity to the flavour but too much can leave gritty bits of sediment in the bottom. Some companies claim that the added ground coffee can create a layer of crema on the instant coffee. Although there may be a lighter layer on top of the coffee it isn’t crema as that can only be produced by using an espresso machine.
Storing Instant Coffee
Instant coffee keeps much better than ground coffee and is more consistent in taste. The packaging can vary between metal tins, glass jars and plastic packets. Although it is not as easily affected by time and its surroundings as ground coffee, it does still need to be kept in a sealed container.
Why is my coffee weak?
Everyone’s personal taste varies and what some people consider as weak as dishwater, others think of as mind-blowingly strong. Instant coffee for the average taste buds is designed to be made with one teaspoon. I like my coffee strong and I always need more than one spoonful. I have a friend who only ever has half a spoonful. Instant coffee is also generally made with less milk than ground coffee. However if your coffee still seems too weak, most ranges have more intense varieties made with a darker roast.
Does boiling water ruin instant coffee?
Instant coffee should be made with water at about 95 degrees, not 100 degrees. Boiling water will ‘scorch’ the instant coffee powder and give it a bitter taste. You don’t need to start measuring your water’s temperature with a thermometer though. Simply wait one minute or count to a hundred after your kettle has boiled before pouring it into your cup. If your coffee still tastes bitter it may have been made using the spray dry method. Some people can’t taste the difference but if you can then make sure you buy instant coffee that has been made with the freeze dried method.
Improve Bad Instant Coffee Trick
If you are stuck in a hotel with just a few sachets of instant coffee and a kettle, this little trick will make the world of difference to your morning.
How can I buy the cheapest instant coffee?
The most cost effective way to buy instant coffee is online in bulk. Most supermarkets stock a small range but unless they are on offer they are still expensive. You can buy the exact same coffee online and it you buy more than one lot at a time you can make major savings. Sellers quite often offer to sell instant coffee in groups of 4, 6, 8, 10, and even 20.
Is instant coffee bad for you?
From time to time we get sensational stories about how one particular kind of food and drink is bad for you and instant coffee is no exception. Coffee snobs (you know who I mean) like to quote these headlines to justify how despicable drinking instant coffee is.
The main statistic used to claim instant coffee is bad for you is that is instant coffee typically contains twice as much acrylamide than regular coffee. Acrylamide is formed when coffee beans are roasted and it is also found in found in foods such as bread (especially burnt toast) and fried potatoes products. It can build up in your system and cause dysfunction of your nervous system. Overexposure to the chemical may also increase your risk of cancer. However in 2015 the European Food Safety Authority published a report that concluded that the amount of acrylamide people get from their diets, including coffee, is not enough to pose serious health concerns.
The other potentially harmful ingredient in instant coffee is caffeine. A small amount of caffeine can be a good thing according to scientists but too much can cause symptoms such as migraines, jitteriness and insomnia. An average cup of instant coffee contains 65 to 85 milligrams of caffeine per serving, while brewed coffee offers 75 to 165 milligrams per serving and black tea about 47. It’s not a problem if you are drinking a normal amount of coffee but if you are drinking more than five or six cups a day you may want to keep track of how much caffeine you are consuming. The average adult should have less than 400 milligrams a day while pregnant and breastfeeding women should keep it below 300.
In short, drunk in moderation instant coffee is not harmful. If you are concerned about your caffeine levels then instant coffee contains less that regular and is therefore the better option.
Is instant coffee bad for my skin?
Another popular health scare related to coffee is that it is bad for your skin. Studies have shown that while caffeine doesn’t cause acne it can make it more severe. A lot of caffeine can cause an increase in the stress hormone cortisol which may increase the amount of oil produced by your sebaceous glands, contributing to worse spots. More research needs to be done to reach a definite conclusion however but it is consuming an excessive amount of caffeine that causes the problem so instant coffee would be better than regular coffee.
There have also been claims that coffee will dehydrate you, which if true would affect your skin noticeably. While caffeine is a diuretic, scientist say you would have to have more than 500 mg a day for it to start effecting your hydration levels. Since coffee tends to be consumed mixed in some way with liquid, any diuretic effect is negated.
Is instant coffee bad for my kidneys?
There have been concerns raised int the last few decades that instant coffee is bad for your kidneys. The main reason seems to be that oxalate stones are one of the commonest varieties of kidney stones, and one of the main sources of oxalate in our diet is regular coffee. While coffee does contain oxalate it is not classified as high oxalate. Interestingly, a number of large scale studies have shown that coffee actually reduces the risk of kidney stones.
What is the difference between instant coffee and regular?
As already discussed, instant coffee is dehydrated concentrated coffee. We have also mentioned that it contains less caffeine. There are a few other things to consider when comparing instant coffee with regular.
The obvious one is that instant is the quickest coffee to make – the clue is in the name! It’s also the quickest to clean up after making, all you have to do is wash your teaspoon as there are no used grounds to dispose of or equipment to empty and clean. Instant coffee is also much cheaper. If you are concerned that the cheapness comes at a cost to the environment and sustainability there are many responsible manufacturers who have things such as the Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade certification. You are never going to get the same intensity and complexity of ground coffee with instant coffee and you can’t replace the ritual of brewing coffee but instant coffee does make a lovely drink, especially if you choose a decent brand, such as those we recommend above.
Instant coffee is still the most popular option for a quick coffee and if you buy the right kind you can easily make a delicious cup of coffee with very little effort.