Finding the best instant coffee means you can enjoy the quality of a good brew without sacrificing your time to make it.
However, choose the wrong instant coffee and you might find yourself complaining about the taste, value and ultimately end up with a little bang for your buck.
Fortunately, we’ve combined our own extensive testing with thousands of real customer reviews to bring you the ultimate guide to the best instant coffee available in the UK.
We’ve broken the guide down into specific categories so have a quick look at our table of contents and feel free to skip to your preferred category to save you going through the whole article (it’s quite long!)
Best Instant Coffee Overall: Mount Hagen Instant Coffee
Mount Hagen’s authentic high-quality coffees granules are freeze-dried to conserve its deviously smooth flavours using ultra-modern technologies, whilst successfully avoiding the use of any form of preservatives or additives.
The 100% organic and Fairtrade certified beans originate from the stunningly fertile coffee gardens of Papua New Guinea, one of the highest regarded coffee production areas in the world. Derived from 100 percent Arabica beans, Mount Hagen offers a mild and naturally smooth rich flavour which is kind on the stomach and environment.
- Not very acidic, so it’s easy on the stomach
- Tasty, healthy and organic
- Beautifully smooth and rich and a little goes a long way
- Environmentally friendly organic coffee
- A little bit expensive compared to other alternative brands
Best for Trusted Quality: Nescafe Azera Instant Coffee
Freshly brewed and roasted, Nescafe’s Americano barista-style coffee is a delightful combination of instant and finely ground coffee beans.
Its smooth blend of soluble coffee and 5% finely ground roasted coffee yields a rich and strong flavour projecting intense aromas topped with a Caramel-coloured layer of velvety coffee crema in every cup.
The responsibly sourced Arabica and Robusta beans savour a fruity aroma and a well-balanced flavour kept fresh with click-to-close technology for simple and secure re-sealing. However, bear in mind that tin designs may vary due to recent collaborations with The University of the Arts London.
- Creates premium barista-style coffee
- Space efficient tin with re-sealable Click-to-Close technology keeps the coffee fresh for longer
- Ideal for offices and workspaces
- Short expiry date
- The lid is flimsy, making it hard to open (especially on groggy mornings)
Best Premium Instant Coffee: Quokka
Quokka prides itself on providing high quality and ethically sourced Colombian instant coffee, being both Fairtrade and FNC certified. As you may already know, Federacion Nacional de Cafeteros is a Colombian national non-profit organisation campaigning for environmental conservation and social responsibility.
While Quokka’s brand is orange, they try to be as green as possible with their super presentable, low impact paper bags and donating a minimum of 10% of profits to environmental-based charities. The proudly British brand uses 100% Colombian Arabica coffee beans producing a premium tasting and gold standard cup of instant coffee.
- Keeps your conscience green
- Sensible and environmentally friendly packaging
- Bold coffee shop experience
- More expensive than alternative well-known brands
Strongest Instant Coffee: Lavazza Intenso
The first premium Italian-style instant coffee of its kind from the Lavazza brand, Intenso contains 10% micro-ground roasted coffee, for the authentic Italian taste. Locked inside the micro-granules are the vital coffee oils that give the full-bodied freshly brewed barista taste.
Its extraordinary blend of dark roast with dark crema creates lingering flavours and aromas leaving you wanting more.
- Authentic strong Italian taste
- The 10% micro-ground roasted coffee makes it taste like the real thing
- Intense aroma
- Superior to all the other “barista-style” instants on the market
- Leaves some residue at bottom of the cup
- Expensive but frequently in promotional discounted deals
Highly Rated Option: Illy (4.8/5)
The well balanced velvety smooth, yet bold taste of Illy instant scores a whopping 4.8/5 based on nearly 200 reviews giving it the highest-rated title. The authentic Italian quality instantly transports you to the cafes of St. Mark’s Square in Venice.
Made with 100% sustainably-grown Arabic beans meticulously selected from different growing regions around the world, its medium roast offers delicately sweet lingering notes of caramel, orange blossom and jasmine.
- Authentic Italian quality
- Committed to sustainable coffee growing
- Nine varieties of high-quality beans are combined and carefully balanced to produce the blend
- Less bitter than alternatives on the market
- Hard to find in supermarkets
Best Flavoured Instant Coffee: Beanies
Beanies flavour coffee delivers a new and exciting coffee experience with subtle hints of syrup-like flavours but without the sweetness (40 to be exact). Flavoursome at 2 calories per cup, you can understand why its highly regarded considering it’s relatively new to the coffee game.
It has rating of 4.5/5 based on nearly 2,000 global reviews and our own reviews were also in this region. Don’t want to commit to a single flavour? Neither did we, that’s why we tried and tested the “100 Mixed Stash” box with Nutty Hazelnut being the firm favourite.
- 2 calories per cup, sugar-free and suitable for vegans
- 40+ flavours to choose from
- Some flavours can be ‘hit and miss’ – the “Mixed Stash” is recommended to find your favourite flavour
Extensively Reviewed: TrueStart
Barista Grade instant coffee is made with barista approved beans, TrueStart promises every decision along its journey from crop to cup is ethical and sustainable, making it a feel-good and guilt-free source of energy. The pure Colombian Arabica beans produce an incredibly smooth blend with notes of chocolate and caramel.
- Barista quality beans instead of the commodity-grade
- If you like proper coffee this is something to savour
- Roasted and toasty but no bitterness
- Ethical and sustainable
- Not as strong as others on the market, needing at least 2 spoonfuls in every cup
Best Budget Option: Carte Noire Classic
- Better than similarly priced coffee
- Full flavour without tasting bitter
- Award-winning instant coffee
- The odd shape of the new jar makes it hard to grip and the huge lid is a waste of plastic
- Only sold in 100g jars
Good Alternative: Cafedirect
Grown at extreme altitudes above 2,200 metres in the fertile volcanic soil of the Machu Picchu region, the unique microclimate produces a full body coffee with light acidity. The gourmet beans are hand-picked only when perfectly ripe from some of the steepest farms in the world. Its award-winning 100% Arabica beans produce nutty and chocolate overtones which are distinctive to the Machu Picchu region.
- 100% Fairtrade, sharing 50% of profits with grower partners (better than standard Fairtrade).
- Award-winning 100% Arabica beans.
- Plastic lid not recyclable.
Something Different: Super U Shroom Coffee
Experience a calmer and more prolonged release of energy with SuperU’s Shroom instant coffee. Its adaptogenic properties relieve symptoms of stress with its combination of Arabic beans and trio of mushrooms (Chaga, Lion’s mane and Cordyceps). This combination produces a smooth coffee with earthy undertones which aren’t overpowered by the mushroom taste.
- Relieves symptoms of stress to feel calmer and more grounded.
- Good for your cognitive skills.
- Coffee without the jitters.
- Nice container that gives it a real artisan feel.
- Less caffeine but lots of energy.
What Is Instant Coffee?
Instant coffee comes in the form of crystals and powder, it is super-convenient and the perfect solution for a rapid release of caffeine. Invented in 1881 by Frenchman Aplhonse Allais, the original idea was to make coffee storable, needing no more than hot water and an optional splash of milk, making it a success in the trenches of WW2.
The journey of bean to jar initially starts the same. Whole beans are roasted, grounded and brewed. Resulting in a condensed extract to be preserved and prepared by either freeze-drying or spray drying, to which it can be rehydrated instantly speeding up preparation time, longer shelf life and a lower environmental footprint than other preparation methods.
With so many variants on the market, we understand the underwhelming feeling when coffee just doesn’t meet your list of credentials. Granted we’ve tried and tested many a brew, analysing reviews from like-minded coffee aficionado’s to create a true instant coffee guide ensuring the perfect cup every time.
If you’re looking to replicate the coffee shop experience we all crave at the moment, this guide will ensure the notes of nostalgia are hit – transporting us to our favourite corners of the world reminiscing on brews shared with family and friends.
The coffee masters mentioned in this guide have perfected growing and roasting the best beans from around the world to conveniently produce a product that performs in seconds, giving you that release of energy to see you through the day.
Thinking about upgrading from instant coffee to something else? Feel free to check out our recent best ground coffee guide where you can find our expert suggestions for great ground coffee in the UK.