Celeste Wong: Actress & Top Coffee Barista. Born in Dunedin, New Zealand, Celeste is has held top positions in leading artisan cafes all over the world for over a decade. Since migrating to the UK, she has been listed as one of London’s top five Baristas in The Financial Times and noted for her excellence in a plethora of other publications.
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An actress & Top Coffee Barista. Born in Dunedin, New Zealand, Celeste has held top positions in leading artisan cafes all over the world for over a decade. Since migrating to the UK, she has been listed as one of London’s top five Baristas in The Financial Times and noted for her excellence in a plethora of other publications.
First of all, forget the notion that instant is going to taste exactly the same as fresh, and accept it as a quick, tasty coffee that’s easy enough to make even when you’re still half asleep. Here are some top tips on picking a café-quality instant.
Robusta, on the other hand, is smokier, earthier and more bitter, as well as being cheaper to grow and produce. Most instant coffees will use a blend of the two to cut down on costs, and to utilise arabica’s sweetness and flavour as a way to balance out robusta’s bitter notes.
If it’s a premium, top-tier instant coffee you’re after, we would suggest looking for claims of “100% arabica” on the box, bearing in mind that if it says nothing, it’s more than likely a blend of the two. The main draw of blends is that they’re more budget-friendly, though you may just prefer the addition of robusta’s dark bitterness.
Personally, I generally prefer Arabica across the board, I just enjoy the taste more. But yes, it is also is generally higher quality. It is likely more expensive because it takes longer to grow and develop, is often grown at higher altitudes and needs a bit more care and attention to its more hardy, easier grown cousin, Robusta.
Most java drinkers know that you should always use hot, and never boiling, water to prevent the coffee from burning and tasting charred and bitter, so it makes sense that spray-dried coffee is the lesser recommended of the two.
Freeze drying, of course, uses much colder temperatures to dry the coffee extracts, which is said to better preserve the aromas and ensure the final result is smoother and more palatable. Again, if the label does not say it is freeze-dried, it probably isn’t, and once again the cheaper processing method will make for a cheaper product price.
Instant coffees are often brewed at really strong concentrations and are able to trap the aromas to re-infuse at the later stage of the process, so you get a double hit of strong coffee and aroma.
Alternatively, some instants feature a scale from 1-5 on the packaging to describe the coffee’s roast from light to dark, or even a strength scale, which can also help you select to your preferences. Here is a brief explanation of each type for those that do state the roast:
Coffee is so interesting, mainly because it is also quite subjective. Generally, the darker the roast the stronger or intense it will taste. Lighter roasts will seem more delicate in comparison.
Go for a greater percentage for the most convincing taste, which is also delicious when recreating iced coffees and frappes. They tend to market themselves as “barista blend”, or “barista-style”, but it’s always worth scanning the ingredients for mention of ground coffee if this is something that appeals to you.
I think if you are going to add fresh ground coffee to instant coffee, it sort of negates the purpose of instant coffee which is to make it quickly and with the least fuss possible. It might enhance the instant coffee slightly, but really only adds something in a half-hearted way.
If you are going to drink instant coffee, experiment with some different brands that offer different roasts to see what you enjoy most; or alternate your coffees with fresh ground coffee. Maybe instant coffee can be your weekday brew and freshly ground coffee for special occasions where you have more time, like at the weekends.
They’re life-saving when you don’t have access to a fridge or milk, and savvy if you’re trying to cut costs on takeaway lattes and other treats. Do consider the fact some of them contain sugars, sweeteners and other additives, so if you take your coffee without or don’t fancy the extra calories, choose unsweetened varieties.
Let's be honest. Nothing replaces a real, cafe, barista-made cappucino, but when needs must, this can be a good alternative. It's definitely a good one to keep in the cupboard when you've run out of milk!
Finally, ensure that you pick an instant coffee with a container that suits your needs and is sized appropriately for you or your household’s coffee consumption. Here we’ll discuss the draws of the main varieties you’ll come across when browsing online.
This is worth remembering when you notice their steeper price tag because their higher production cost is inevitably passed onto you as the consumer. Glass jars can also be reused or repurposed for many other things, or easily recycled at home.
With sustainability and climate change in the forefront of our minds (well I hope it is at least something you're aware of), we do need to look at packaging and containers that are recyclable, reusable and eco-friendly.
It doesn't always seem like our own waste is much, but if you think what if your whole street bought the same product, you can really see it mount up in a significant way. Check labels for recycling, look for brands that are actively making improvements before you purchase.
These larger sizes are an economical option for fuller households, those of you who sip on several cups a day, or anyone who wants to stock up and save money by buying in bulk. Just be sure to only buy an extra-large size if you know you will be able to drink it before it loses its freshness.
Instant coffee has a longer shelf life than fresh coffee, so if you are an institution, like a school or a company that does charity events or the like, you can often save what's leftover for the next event if you buy in bulk.
As for their disadvantages, they are usually more expensive per hundred grams than larger containers, and may not suit you if you like especially weak or strong coffee because they are already portioned out.
This is exciting because there are actually a handful of really good speciality coffee roasters making beautiful tasting instant coffee. The thing I like about it is that it tastes so much better than any of the instant coffee I've had from supermarkets and it tastes pretty close to a speciality coffee filter brew. So it has a nice flavour, it's not too heavy and manages to hold interesting flavour characteristics and a degree of complexity!
Now, if you're a hardcore instant coffee fan, then this might be a bit of a leap, both in flavour and in price. But if you are keen to dip your toe into speciality coffee, then this could be an easy "taster". As a speciality coffee drinker, it's great because after a long hike in cold London or if you're camping - taking these sachets with only hot water saves me bringing my equipment! My favourite so far is Voila coffee if you're interested!
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Fairtrade Machu Picchu Instant Coffee｜2 x 100 g
The Ultimate Instant Coffee
Azera Americano Instant Coffee｜100 g
Instant Americano for Everyday Enjoyment
Fairtrade Super Special Organic Arabica Coffee｜100 g
Super Special Organic Deliciousness
Pure Gold Instant Coffee｜190 g
A Balanced Medium Roast for Every Palate
Gold Unsweetened Cappuccino Sachets｜50 Sachets
A Low-Fat, Low-Sugar and Velvety Smooth Cappuccino
Millicano Americano Decaff Instant Coffee｜100 g
Barista-Style Coffee, Minus the Caffeine
Barista Grade Instant Coffee｜100 g
Ethically Sourced Instant From a British Family Company
Cap Colombia Arabica Instant Coffee｜500 g
A Family Favourite Goes Gourmet
Caramel Latte Premium Instant Sachets｜5 Sachets
A Sweet Option for Starbucks Addicts
2-in-1 Instant Smooth White Coffee Sachets｜5 Sachets
Coffee Sticks for the Working Week
While instant coffee is great for busy mornings, short work breaks or backpacking trips, if you are a fan of high-quality coffee you may also be on the hunt for delicious coffee beans or ground coffee. Take a look at some of our other recommendations!
By considering your flavour preferences alongside your portability needs, you should now be able to confidently pick the best instant coffee for your morning (or afternoon, or nightly) fix. Hopefully, we have shown you that instants can be just as satisfying and flavoursome as any fresh variety, and a lot easier to brew up, too!
Author: Natasha Dziubajlo
Just starting your journey into the coffee world? Or are you a fully-fledged enthusiast always on the hunt for the best equipment? Either way, you'll want to head over to top barista, blogger and all-round coffee expert Celeste's top picks, where you'll find everything from this gorgeous reusable cup to machines and monthly subscriptions.
No. 1: Café Direct｜Fairtrade Machu Picchu Instant Coffee｜2 x 100 g
No. 2: Nescafé｜Azera Americano Instant Coffee｜100 g
No. 3: Clipper ｜Fairtrade Super Special Organic Arabica Coffee｜100 g
No. 4: Douwe Egberts｜Pure Gold Instant Coffee｜190 g
No. 5: Nescafé ｜Gold Unsweetened Cappuccino Sachets｜50 Sachets
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