Best Instant Coffee UK: From Dark Roasts To Speciality Blends

Get a quick caffeine fix without compromising on taste.

Best Instant Coffee

by Ellen Kinsey |
Updated on

When we need that quick fix at home, instant coffee comes to the rescue. It is quick and easy to prepare and is pretty consistent every time. Although some coffee connoisseurs may turn their noses up at instant coffee, over the last few years, we have seen real improvement when it comes to instant coffees with flavoured coffee granules to latte blends. If you are looking for the best instant coffee in the UK, we have rounded up the best, including decaf and speciality coffees, as well as a guide to help you choose the best instant coffees for your home, office or your camping bag.

According to the British Coffee Association, around 80 per cent of UK households buy at least some instant coffee for their kitchen cupboards. In recent years, we have seen an expansion in the range of instant coffees that are available, as well as freeze-fried coffee brands that have tried to replicate the taste of speciality coffees, such as Americanos, and lattes, without the need for a coffee machine.

Is instant coffee good quality?

There are some surprisingly good instant coffees on the market these days. However, coffee can only be as good as the beans it's brewed from, and instant coffee made from Robusta beans will never be as good as instant made from Arabica beans. In this roundup, we have selected only the best brands made from high-quality beans to ensure when you take a sip, you won't be disappointed.

The freeze-dried process used to make instant coffee has been used for the last part of the 20th century and is still the process used today. This process does a good job of preserving the taste, flavour and consistency of roasted coffee.

The freeze-drying process that's still used in the industry can create very good instant coffee but is much more expensive as it requires special equipment that can freeze the concentrated slurry to very low temperatures.

So let's get into it. Here are the best instant coffees in the UK, ranging from well-balanced roasts, speciality coffees, mushroom coffee blends, and coffee alternatives.

Best Instant Coffee UK

Best overall instant coffee

This deliciously dark roast premium instant coffee has been made with 100 per cent Arabica coffee beans from Latin America. The Gold Blend Alta Rica may be a little pricier than the original Gold Blend brand, but it is still reasonably priced for a deluxe instant coffee.

If you enjoy full-bodied, rich coffee with notes of chocolate and caramel, this will be a good pick for you. The 500g tin is an excellent value if you already know and love this brand, but if you would prefer the smaller version, you can also purchase the 95g Alta Rica coffee too.

Customer review: "I only buy this coffee as it's the best. We love it. Plus, it is an excellent value as well."

Pros

  • Full-bodied dark roast
  • Excellent value
  • Highly rated

Cons

  • Some drinkers have complained that its flavour changed after being rebranded, although Nestle insists that the recipe is still the same

Best instant coffee for an espresso Americano taste

Lavazza is a household name when it comes to coffee brands and is one of the longest-standing Italian-style coffee companies around. The Prontissimo Americano is an extremely fine instant coffee, made with a blend of five per cent roasted ground coffee with instant powder - making it the closest to an espresso americano you can find.

If you enjoy rich black coffee that doesn’t taste too strong, this would be a good choice for you. If you know and love this product, you can get a collection of six 95g tins, or if this is your first time trying it, you can get a single Lavazza Prontissimo Americano Instant Coffee tin here.

Customer review: "I've tried most instant coffees and this in my opinion is by far the nicest of them all."

Pros

  • Great for black coffee lovers
  • Rich, full-bodied taste

Cons

  • Coffee blend may be too fine for some drinkers

Best independent instant coffee brand

If you are looking for a delicious, sustainable and ethically sourced coffee brand, then Quokka is a good choice. It uses Fairtrade and FNC-certified 100 per cent Colombian Arabica freeze-dried coffee that comes in a red recyclable aluminium tin. The light-in-colour dry chunky granules have a subtle aroma that tastes like smooth filter coffee; you don't need too many granules to make a rich and satiating cup of joe.

Customer review: "As a long-time filter and drip coffee fanatic, I recently decided to test out a few of the premium instant coffees and have to say this is the best I've found so far! It tastes like a good filter coffee, and would happily buy it again. Just wish it was a little bit cheaper."

Pros

  • Sustainably and ethically sourced
  • Well-balanced flavour

Cons

  • A little overpriced for a 100g tin

Best instant coffee for value

Whether you are stocking up on the coffee stash for the office or have a household filled with coffee drinkers, these Kenco Smooth Instant Coffee Refill bags come in a packet rather than the glass jar, which Kenco says reduces packaging by 97 per cent. The relatively low cost of Kenco Smooth Instant Coffee, combined with the balanced smooth and enjoyable flavour, makes it one of the best instant coffee in the UK in terms of value and taste.

Customer review: "I have tried many instant coffees over the years, and I do think that Kenco smooth is the best on the market. It has a beautiful aroma; it is flavourful, it is not at all bitter tasting, and it seems impossible to make a bad cup of coffee with this brand. It is not too expensive a mid-range priced coffee."

Pros

  • Mild flavours of fruit
  • Sustainable option
  • Great value

Cons

  • It can be too dark and bitter for some

Best instant coffee from a cafe chain

Every town, village and city corner has a Costa Coffee kicking about, and although it may not always have the same atmosphere as an independent cafe, it is certainly reliable. The same goes for their instant coffee - with all the same flavour notes and balance you can expect from your local Costa, this coffee is a great replacement for your morning coffee run.

Customer review: "Very good quality flavour and excellent value for money."

Pros

  • Well-known cafe chain
  • Good value and taste

Cons

  • Some people may prefer to buy from more independent sellers

Best flavoured instant coffee

beanies

Rrp: $6.75

Price: $6.25

Beanies flavour instant coffees are a great sweet treat at only two calories per cup and contain no added sugar. With 12 flavours and three decaf options, the range of Beanies flavours eliminates the need to add sugar or sweeteners, making them the perfect sweet-tooth drink. You can even get your pumpkin spice latte fix with this PSL flavour coffee.

Customer review: "Amazing flavour. Finally, I've tried all the Beanies flavours available in India & come to the conclusion that Double Chocolate, Irish Cream, Creamy Caramel & Chocolate Orange are my top four flavours from this brand. If you like flavoured coffee, you should totally try Beanies."

Pros

  • Six flavours
  • Good value

Cons

  • Maybe on the sweeter side for some taste pallets

Best decaf instant coffee

L'or decaf
Price: £3.50 (was £4.75)

www.sainsburys.co.uk

L’Or has done a good job of keeping its decaf blend close to the original coffee flavour. It has a well-balanced taste, and because it is caffeine-free, it is ideal for those with caffeine sensitivities or those who want a warm drink at night.

Customer review: "This is the best decaff I have ever had. More flavour than most non-decaff coffees."

Pros

  • Many reviews say it is the closest taste to caffeinated coffee
  • Decaffeinated
  • Affordable

Cons

  • None if you only want decaf

Best healthy instant coffee with a mushroom blend

This superfood mushroom coffee blend is made of delicious Arabica coffee. Sourced from Central America using the highest quality organic ingredients and 1,200mg of pure and potent mushrooms, including Chaga, Cordyceps, Lion's Mane, Maca and Ashwagandha. This is a fantastic coffee blend for those looking to add some extra health benefits to their routine morning brew.

In terms of taste, the beans have been carefully roasted to maintain the full-bodied round taste and delicate tones. The mushrooms have powerful health benefits such as improving memory, mood and focus and gut health and help with skin and immunity. It is nutrient-dense containing Vitamin D, Potassium, Amino Acids, Zinc, Iron, Magnesium, and Calcium, so this blend really packs a punch.

Tried and tested by A Modern Kitchen writer Ellen Kinsey, "I am very sensitive to caffeine and find espresso quite strong for my digestive system. This filter coffee from DIRTEA is the best of both worlds; it has a bright yet earthy flavour profile made with a powerful fusion of pure mushrooms, maca and ashwagandha, which helps reduce the coffee shakes and calms me down. I would highly recommend it for occasional coffee drinkers looking for something a little more gentle yet caffeinated."

Pros

  • Medicinal mushrooms have incredible health benefits
  • A superfood drink and caffeinated beverage in one
  • High-quality ingredients

Cons

  • Expensive

Best instant coffee latte blend

Latte
Price: $62.38

Made with fresh milk sourced from British dairy farmers, this instant latte mix allows you to whip up velvety and frothy lattes in a matter of seconds. This tin comes with 40 latte sachets inside, perfect for your next camping trip or for your office stash.

Customer review: "Very good value for money and tastes good too."

Pros

  • Sachets are great for travel
  • Great for latte drinkers
  • Excellent value

Cons

  • It can be a bit clumpy if not stirred properly

Best instant coffee dairy-free latte blend

This dairy-free alternative to the NESCAFE instant coffees is a fast-track way to get in your almond milk latte without leaving the house. Each non-dairy latte sachet is easy to prepare. Just add hot water, stir and take in the taste of the coffee.

Tried and tested by A Modern Kitchen writer Ellen Kinsey: "I am intolerant to dairy and find these sachets extremely handy for trips away or to drink at home. The sachets are perfect for taking camping or abroad, where it can be trickier to find dairy-free alternatives. Plus, they taste great too!"

Pros

  • Dairy-free coffee alternative
  • Sachets are good for on-the-go
  • The bulk pack is a good value

Cons

  • It contains oat flour, so it may be unsuitable for sensitivities

Best instant coffee alternative

Whether you don't drink coffee for religious reasons or are sensitive to caffeine, this Whole Earth Wake Up coffee alternative is delicious and made with natural ingredients, including barley, figs, chicory and a dash of guarana - an Amazonian plant with amazing pick-me-up properties.

Customer review: "I cannot drink coffee for religious reasons, but it doesn't technically ban caffeine. This coffee substitute is amazing. It looks like coffee, so my coworkers don't think I'm a crazy person for not drinking coffee. It tastes exactly like coffee, so I can know the joy of an iced latte in the summer."

Pros

  • Healthy coffee alternative
  • Good low-caffeine alternative

Cons

  • It does contain caffeine if you are looking to avoid it

OUR VERDICT: What Is The Best Instant Coffee?

If you are a dark roast lover, then you will absolutely love the Nescafe Alta Rica Gold Blend. It has a dark and intense taste and will be especially delicious for those that like a chocolaty flavour and deep aroma. However, if it is the best value for money you are looking for, then we would recommend Kenco's Smooth Instant Coffee Refill.

coffee

Instant Coffee FAQs

How Many Cups Of Instant Coffee Can I Have A Day?

According to the NHS's caffeine recommendations, non-pregnant adults can have up to 400mg of caffeine per day. This equates to four mugs of instant coffee (at 100mg per mug) or around three cups of filter coffee (at 140mg per cup). In terms of tea, just over five cups of tea (at 75mg per mug) is the recommended limit.

What Coffee Roast Do I Choose?

A light roast coffee does not get roasted for long enough to caramelise. Therefore, it retains more of the original flavour of the coffee bean. Single-origin coffees are generally medium roast as it brings out the flavour and preserves it. After the second crack, coffee beans start to get dark and oily. The roast character comes through as darker, burnt and intense. However, dark roast coffee is not stronger than light or medium coffees. Dark is more intense, generally cheaper to buy and accounts for the majority of coffee on the market.

Why Is Instant Coffee Bitter?

Good instant coffee should not taste bitter. If you have bad luck with choosing a good-tasting coffee brand, try and opt for instant coffee that is made using 100 per cent freeze-dried premium Arabica beans. Another tip is to not use boiling water when making coffee, as that is often what makes it bitter. Just off the boil is best.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us