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The 7 Best Instant Coffee Brands to Try in a Cold Brew Pinch


Brandon Pierce
January 28, 2023

Our Top Picks

Trader Joe's Instant Cold Brew Coffee

Most Convenient 

Civilized Coffee Co. Instant Cold Brew Coffee 

Most Cost-Efficient

Cusa Coffee Cold Brew Instant Coffee

Most Flavor Options

Saturnbird Instant Cold Brew Coffee

Best Flavor

Jump to the Reviews

When you need coffee in a hurry, you can't always wait for cold brew. If you're looking for the best tasting instant coffee producers to try in a pinch, check out our list.

We've scoured the instant coffee market and tried many instant coffees. Before we get started with our review, let's get one thing straight.

For most people, instant coffee tastes inferior to freshly ground.

Despite what you may think about instant coffee beforehand, we ask that you put aside your critical factor, and give instants another look.

With that in mind, we've decided on the best high quality instant coffee options on the market today, so you can get your caffeine fix in a pinch. The best part is, these don't require hot water.

As a long-time coffee enthusiast/guinea pig for all things coffee-related, I have an extensive personal experience with instant coffee. I have tried and tested a wide variety of instant coffee options for my own purposes, and have developed a keen palate for identifying the nuances of flavor that help define "quality" in this type of coffee.

I can confidently say that the taste and quality of instant coffee products has greatly improved in recent years, to the point where choosing an instant coffee for cold brew could be a working solution in a pinch. That being said, don't torch me if you dislike any of the instant coffees we've put in our list.

What Defines "Quality" in Instant Coffees?

When defining quality for instant coffee, the key decision-making factors for many consumers is primarily the taste and aroma of the product, but the bean variety, processing method, ingredients, and packaging also play a role.


Individually packaged, single serve packets are by far the most common and travel-friendly solutions, but you will also find instant coffee in jars.

Choosing an instant coffee based on the packaging may be a bit nit-picky, but if you are environmentally conscious, you really need to consider the carbon footprint that disposable packaging has on the Earth. 

However, the downside of choosing bulk instants is the inevitable consequence of coffee going stale. As you open and close the jar, moisture from the air will get into the jar and slowly rehydrate the freeze-dried powder. As a result, your instant coffee flavor will degrade over time.

Emptying your jar into a vacuum-sealed container will prevent this from happening and lower your carbon footprint.

Processing Method

There are a few ways instant coffee is processed, which we will get into more later, but there are also brands which finely tune their processing for the purposes of recreating your cold brewed coffee flavor, if that is what you are after.


Not all instant coffees are created equal, and some may contain artificial flavors or even unwanted preservatives. While you might want some of the additives if they enhance the flavor or mouthfeel. However, it's worth checking the ingredients list and looking for instant coffees that are made with natural ingredients as much as possible and to avoid those with ingredients you cannot pronounce or do not know the purpose of its inclusion.


This may come as no surprise, but while instant coffee is known for its convenience, it can often be difficult to find a high-quality option that truly delivers on these factors when compared with traditional coffee roasting.

Bean Variety

One of the key underlying factors in determining the quality of instant coffee is the type of beans chosen for the product. In our collective opinion, the best instant coffee producers use high-quality, specialty-grade arabica beans that are carefully sourced from top coffee-growing regions around the world. Otherwise, fine robusta beans make a decent blend with arabica. Regardless of which, these premium beans are often hand-picked, sun-dried, and carefully processed to ensure optimal flavor and aroma.

Taste & Aroma

There are a number of instant coffee brands that stand out in terms of taste and aroma. To determine the best instant coffee options on the market, we conducted a blind taste test of several leading brands.

We evaluated each coffee based on the factors we mentioned above. Our findings reveal a number of instant coffee options that truly deliver on flavor, and stand out from the competition when compared.

What is Instant Coffee?

Instant coffee is a type of coffee made from coffee beans that have been roasted and ground, then brewed and freeze-dried. Instant coffee is convenient because it can be made quickly and easily with just hot water. It's also easy to transport and doesn't require any special equipment.

It's perfect for busy mornings, travel, and outdoor activities where you need an instant pick-me-up.

 When choosing an instant coffee, it's important to find one that you personally enjoy the taste of.

Instant coffees can vary widely in terms of quality and flavor, so it's worth trying a few different brands to see what you like best.

Instant Coffee

Traditional instants like Starbucks VIA, Nescafe Taster's Choice, and WAKA are excellent choices that I highly recommend if the cold brew options below don't quite meet your needs.

As a part of our research, we've sifted through the chaff and compiled a list of 8 great instant coffees we think you might like, and answer a few questions you may have along the way.

What are the Benefits of Instant Coffee?

One of the main benefits for choosing instant coffee is its convenience. It can be brewed anywhere there is a container and water.

This makes it a popular choice for people who want a quick and easy cup of coffee on the go, or to bring with for camping, hiking, or for other outdoor activities where boiling water might not be feasible.

Couple enjoying coffee by a camp fire

Another benefit of instant coffee is the wide variety of flavors and blends available on the market today.

We will cover some cold brew coffee options below that go further than the traditionally mocked instant coffee taste, to provide more in your morning cup, most closely resembling a cold brew that took hours to make.

However, there are also some drawbacks to instant coffee which make it less desirable than your freshly brewed cup. 

The taste and quality can vary widely depending on the brand and type of instant coffee you choose.

Additionally, some instant coffee producers use lower quality beans or artificial flavors and additives to cut costs, which negatively impact the taste of the final product. Quality instant coffee stems from how it's manufactured.

How is Instant Coffee Made?

There are a couple different ways that instant coffee can be made. The most common method is to roast and grind real coffee beans, then brew them and freeze-dry the resulting liquid. Instant coffee can also be made by extracting the flavor from roasted coffee beans using water, then spray-drying the mixture into a powder.

Freeze Dried Production Method

Traditionally, the highest-quality instant coffee comes from producers using a freeze-drying method, which preserves the coffee's natural attributes, such as aroma and flavor.

In my experience, some of the best instant coffee options on the market are made using the freeze-drying method. The freezing process also eliminates the need for any preservatives, which can negatively impact the coffee's authentic taste.

However, you will learn that with advances in technology, there are now more ways to produce high quality instant coffee. 

A Brief History of Instant Coffee

Instant coffee was invented in 1901 by Japanese chemist Satori Kato. He was trying to find a way to make coffee that was easier to transport and store.

After years of trial and error, he finally perfected his instant coffee recipe.

Since then, instant coffee has become a popular choice for people who want a quick and easy cup of coffee. It's also a popular choice for camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities where boiling water might not be an option.

Historically, instant coffee has been viewed as a sub-tier alternative to freshly brewed coffee, but as you will continue to learn in this post, with recent advances in technology, the quality of instant coffees has improved greatly.

Today, there are many different brands and varieties of instant coffee available on the market.

And with advances in technology, the quality of instant coffees has improved greatly over the years.

history of instant coffee

What are Spray-Dried vs Freeze Dried Instant Coffees?

In my experience, the best traditional instant coffee products on the market today are those that are made from high-quality beans, a freeze-dried processing method, and proper packaging for airtight storage.

Still, spray-drying has it's benefits, especially when careful attention to made to ensure cold brew coffee crystals maintain their authentic flavors. Let's have a look at the differences of these preparation methods for more context.

Spray Drying Instant Coffee Crystals:

The traditional spray-drying method utilizes a special sprayer to spray condensed coffee concentrate into a cylinder. The cylinder is then heated to nearly 480°F, causing the liquid mist to evaporate, leaving behind powdered coffee particles.

However, brands like Cusa Tea use a botanical extraction method, a spray drying variation specifically designed for coffee, which gently dehydrates cold brew coffee to maximize flavor extraction without temperature shock. 

Freeze Drying Instant Coffee Crystals:

Freeze drying takes a bit longer to complete and is a little more complicated.

However, this method is generally preferred over spray drying since the coffee's natural attributes, such as aroma and coffee flavor, stick around after it becomes a powder.

Unlike with spray-drying, the coffee concentrate is placed within a freezing chamber instead of a heated cylinder, where temperatures are kept around -58°F.

The frozen coffee is separated into trays, broken up into coffee granules, and then transported into a sublimation chamber.

This chamber subjects the coffee to temperatures so drastic, that water solids instantly become a gas, without passing through the liquid phase.

The freeze drying instant coffee passes through low-pressure, heated vacuum tubes to remove the gases from the solids quickly, leaving freeze dried instant coffee with much of the same flavor and aroma as before.

Is Instant Coffee a Game Changer for Cold Brew?

Instant coffee could be a game-changer for cold brew as long as you first understand that not every instant coffee is considered equal

You may find companies claiming their new instant blend is great for cold brewing purposes only to realize that the final product tastes like poor quality iced coffee.

Instant coffee granules

Some marketing tactics may suggest that you are getting a cold brew product by adding cold or lukewarm water to their instant coffee powder, but was that coffee extract powder made from cold-brew or hot coffee?

Still, the magic is in brewing method.

As long as you choose cool water for cold-brewed instant coffee powder, then you may experience many similar benefits from traditional cold brews at a fraction of the prep time.

Since some brands have decided to cold brew their instant coffee, then use the freeze-drying process to create a powder out of the result, you may find these to be the best instant coffees when you add cool water.

If nothing else, these brands are certainly worth trying, as the flavor you are coming from the cold-brewed process.

That being said, you probably want to stick to a medium roast instant coffee or dark roasts.

You might not like how bitter an instant Italian roast is, even if it was initially cold-brewed.

Can You Make Tasty Cold Brew with Instant Coffees?

Yes you can, but don't make the mistake thinking every instant coffee will taste great as cold brew.

Note: Not every brand can produce instant coffee of significance.

While brewing iced coffee or cold brew with good instant coffee is possible, it may not taste as good as if you were to use traditional brewing methods.

Even if some brands choose to cold brew their organic instant coffee powder first, the processing it goes through may strip away some of the coffee's natural nuances in both flavor and aroma.

So, if you're looking for a quick and easy cup of coffee that tastes close to what you might expect from cold brew, you may be disappointed with the final product.

When does it Make Sense to Use Instant Coffee for Cold Brew?

There are a few situations where using a single serve instant coffee packet for cold brew might make sense:

If you're in a pinch and need a quick cup of coffee.

It's also a good choice for camping, hiking, or other outdoor activities where boiling water might not be an option.

If you are traveling to a place where cold brewing equipment is hard to come by.

You love trying new things but don't have much time on your hands.

What types of Beans are Most Commonly Used in Instant Coffee Brands?

There are two types of beans that are most commonly used in instant coffee brands:

  • Arabica
  • Robusta
A Look at the Burr grinder Cuisinart | 2022 Edition

Arabica coffee beans are known for their sweet, more vibrant flavor, while Robusta beans are known for their bold, more robust flavor.

The best instant coffee brands will use Arabica beans only, while others choose a blend of both lower quality Arabica and Robusta beans due to price or other restrictions.

Some brands feature premium "fine robusta" or hand-selected robusta beans which are of higher quality. Brands featuring fine robusta charge a premium, but the flavor and quality are of a higher tier.

3-in-1 Instant Coffee Packets

Historically, instant coffees relied on subpar arabica or robusta beans because they did not meet market standards.

3 in 1 instant coffee packs

Yet, instead of throwing them out, instant coffee has always been a better solution as part of a powder pack, sometimes referred to as 3-in-1 instant coffee.

3-in-1 instant coffee combines instant coffee powder, powdered creamer, and sugar.

The Top 4 Best Instant Coffee Brands for Instant Cold Brew in 2023

If you're looking for the best instant coffee brands to try a cold brew pinch, look no further than these four best options!

Why? Well, they were first made using a cold brewing method before the freeze-drying process.

1. Trader Joes Instant Cold Brew Coffee


  • Medium Roast - Less Bitter
  • Environmentally Friendly
  • Fair Trade
  • Price
  • Convenient to Buy In-store


  • May go Stale if not Vacuum-Sealed
  • Glass Jar may Break

One of the top contenders in our taste test was the instant coffee from Trader Joes, featuring a rich aroma and a smooth taste. I found that for an instant coffee developed for the cold brew crowd, that it was surprisingly well-balanced and not too bitter. 

Additionally, it had a pleasant mouthfeel, that made it easy to drink. Now, I've been drinking Trader Joe coffee for years, and love the convenience of getting some at the store. So, I was pleasantly surprised to see a cold brew option appear on the shelves that wasn't a pasteurized shelf-stable liquid. 

Trader Joes claims that their Instant Cold Brew Coffee is made from 100% Arabica beans and comes in a convenient pre-measured packet, making it easy to get the perfect cup of cold brew every time. Simply add water, stir, and enjoy!

Where this option truly shines is how it delivers on convenience. I'm so glad there is an option I can find in my local grocery store, but that is also available online for purchase.

2. Civilized Coffee Co. Instant Cold Brew Coffee 


  • Environmentally Friendly
  • Medium Roast - Less Bitter
  • Low Acidity
  • Non-GMO


  • Muted Flavor
  • May go Stale if not Vacuum-Sealed

Another standout brand in our taste test was Civilized Coffee Co. This instant coffee had an earthy, toasty aroma, and a chocolatey, caramel flavor that fills the mouth fully, and trails smooth.

I could see this particular product sitting on my shelf in a pinch, if I ran out of cold brew, time, or both. Civilized Coffee Co. Instant Cold Brew Coffee Granules are also made from 100% Non-GMO Kosher Arabica beans.

The coffee is spray-dried and extracted as cold brew first, but I did not notice anything amiss with the flavor. It comes in a jar, so you can make as much or as little cold brew as you like.

However, since it comes in a 5 or 10oz jar, you may want to pour it into a vacuum sealed container to keep it fresh longer, and to avoid it potentially going stale if you do not drink from it often.

3. Cusa Coffee Cold Brew Instant Coffee


  • No Artificial Additives
  • Very Convenient
  • Travel-Friendly
  • Roast Variety
  • Flavor Variety


  • Not Environmentally Friendly Packaging

For the sheer number of varieties to choose from Cusa Tea brand instant cold brew coffee really sets the bar high for flavor-enhanced instant cold brew packets. Cusa Tea's instant cold brew coffee is made with fair trade, organic Arabica beans and has a rich, smooth flavor that is perfect for cold brewing.

Their cold brew variety pack gives you plenty of options to choose from, so you are sure to find one you like from the bunch. It comes in a single-serve packet, so you can take it with you on the go.

What's more, even with the flavor enhancements, Cusa screens their products for mold, fungus, heavy metals, and pesticides. Finally, they use a patented slow dehydration process, which prevents bitterness, and muted flavors found in traditionally processed instant coffees.

4. Saturnbird Instant Coffee


  • Roast Variety
  • Price
  • Non-GMO
  • Chemical Free


  • Not Environmentally Friendly Packaging

Another brand with multiple flavor options is Saturnbird Instant Coffee. Their flavors range from light to dark roast, but we found their medium to darker roasts to meet our collective taste expectations more than the lighter roasts.

Still, their mix variety pack will give you several numbered options to try. Then, if you enjoy them as much as we do, you can buy them based on the number.

Personally, I prefer their medium dark roast(#4) for my instant cold brewed coffee over their lighter roasts. Their dark roasts are a bit too bitter for me without adding creamer. And if you know anything about me, I drink my cold brew black without sugar or cream.

Saturnbird Instant Cold Brew Coffee is made from 100% Arabica beans that have been slow-roasted for a smooth coffee flavor. They dissolve quickly in cold water, so you can enjoy your cold brew in just minutes.

The downside of this brand is their choice to use individual coffee cups, which seem to have no other use than to resemble a cup of coffee, yet seem to serve no other purpose than to dispense a single serving.

In China, where the brand originates, they have a recycle program which rewards consumers for returning the containers in exchange for prizes, while enticing them to make more purchases at these coffee shop partners. Yet, nothing like this exists in the USA, and the environmental waste without such a program is a bit disheartening. For this reason, they are last on our list of contenders.

The Best Instant Coffee Options Iced Coffee in 2023

Given the realm of cold brew instant coffees is fairly new, we thought we would include some of our favorite traditional instant coffees as well for you to sample. If you like the flavor of iced coffee and you want more variety give these other instant coffees a try.

Nescafe Taster's Choice House Blend Instant Coffee

Looking for a delicious and convenient way to enjoy iced coffee?

Taster's Choice House Blend Instant Coffee is the perfect solution! 

Made with 100% Arabica beans, this instant coffee is specially formulated for iced coffee. Just add water, stir, and enjoy!

Nescafe Clasico Instant Coffee

Nescafe Clasico Instant Coffee is another great option for iced coffee.

Plus, the single-serve packets make it easy to take on the go. 

This is not Nescafe Gold. Nescafe Gold instant espresso roast will always taste bitter in my opinion.

Starbucks VIA Instant Coffee

Starbucks VIA Instant Coffee is another great option for instant iced coffee.

Though some people do not like Starbucks coffee in general, at least they taste consistent.

Their instant coffee has that same rich flavor any coffee drinker comes to expect from the brand, yet packaged in single-serve packets. Starbucks VIA Instant comes in many roast options, but their sweetened iced coffee is pretty good if you like sweetened.

WAKA Coffee Instant Coffee

WAKA Coffee Instant Coffee makes a decent cup of iced coffee. There are so many flavor options to try and they are all really good. Don't sleep on this brand, as it is a crowd favorite around here.

You might also like instant coffee from Douwe Egberts Pure Gold or Mount Hagen Organic Instant Coffee.

Four Sigmatic Mushroom Coffee (added to cold brew), while not entirely coffee powder, is a great addition to your morning joe.


What are some other uses for Freeze Dried Instant Coffee?

Use your instant coffee in recipes that call for coffee extracts, like Tiramisu, coffee cakes, and cocktails. A pinch of instant coffee powder can help enhance the flavor of soups, stews and other dishes.

Can I use ground coffee for instant coffee?

No, unless you freeze dry or spray-dry your already prepared coffee liquid, using ground coffee without a filter will result in a gritty, sediment-filled sludge that you will likely choke up while drinking. Don't do it.

Is there an instant coffee that tastes like real coffee?

Technically speaking, instant coffee is real coffee, but the flavors will rarely match the highest quality freshly brewed cups you already enjoy. Consider instant coffees for times where boiling water is not feasible, or when you are on the go without the time or patience to brew a cup beforehand.


Overall, I believe that instant coffee has come a long way in terms of taste and quality, especially for cold brew lovers.

I am confident that my personal experience with these instant cold brew coffee brands have enabled me to provide a detailed and accurate evaluation, highlighting each brand's strengths and weaknesses. My ultimate goal after all, has been helping you make an informed decision when choosing the best instant coffee brand for your cold brew needs.

With its convenience and wide variety of flavors, instant coffee is a great option for anyone looking for a quick and easy cup of coffee, but it's also important to note the potential drawbacks and make an informed decision when purchasing.

With so many great options available, it's easy to find an instant coffee that you will love, but perhaps not for everyday cold brew use. I would recommend trying a few of the brands we covered in this article, but also other varieties to find the perfect one that fits your taste.

If I am being completely honest with you, nothing beats the rich and bold flavor of a freshly brewed batch of steeped cold brew.

Did You Know? Instant coffees are never the first choice for coffee lovers, and usually not in the realm of thought for a cold brew fanatic like me. 

However, when you are traveling, outdoors, or out of time, you may need something to tide you over. In those cases, there are a lot of great instant coffee options out there.

In the end, these are some of the best we've found. So, if you're looking for a delicious and convenient way to enjoy cold brewed or iced coffee on the go, you are sure to find a winner from the curated list above.

Brandon Pierce

About the author

My name is Brandon and I love cold-brew coffee. If you're a fan of everything homebrew, then we'll get along just fine. I also enjoy riding my Onewheel around town, and going on adventures with my future wife! As an online work-from-home advocate, it's important that I stay connected to the world while being able to maintain a healthy work/life balance.

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