Gold instant coffee blends are marketed as a smoother, richer, and often pricier alternative to your regular instant roast, but our taste test revealed they can really vary in quality – and even the most luxurious instant blends can let you down.
We asked a panel of 67 coffee-lovers to blind-taste 10 supermarket gold coffee blends alongside big-brands Nescafé and Douwe Egberts.
Just one coffee impressed our tasters enough to be named a Best Buy, thanks to its strength of flavour and pleasant aroma.
You can see which product we recommend in our round-up of the best gold coffee blends.
To find out more about what gold blend actually is – and getting the best price – read on for our top tips.
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1. Gold is not a specific bean or roast
‘Gold’ coffee is actually just a marketing term used by brands to describe a slightly more sophisticated class of instant coffee blend, rather than relating to a specific type of bean or roast.
Coffee expert Giles Hilton explains: ‘The standard supermarket instant is probably 50% Robusta (above, pictured right), a coarse near-wild coffee, hence the basic, sometimes flat taste.’
Gold coffee blends tend to be more expensive and contain more like 90-100% Arabica beans (above left).
‘This is a more refined bean whose flavour varies depending on where and how it is grown – similar to wine,’ says Giles.
Get more tips and insight from Giles in our full guide on how to choose the best instant coffee, which also covers regional, micro-ground and espresso-style coffees.
2. Gold coffee blends are more expensive – but you can make savings
Making instant coffee at home is far more cost-effective than buying lattes from your local barista every morning, but you’ll still typically pay more for gold coffee blends than a regular instant roast.
Nearly every gold coffee blend we tested cost more than the same brand’s original roast alternative. For example, Nescafé Gold Blend is on average 75p more expensive per 100g than its original roast.
However, our pricing research suggests you shouldn’t ever buy Nescafé’s version at full price anyway, as it’s almost always on offer somewhere (and it’s better to stock up when it is).
We looked at the prices of nearly 500 branded grocery products at Asda, Morrisons, Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, and Waitrose every day throughout 2020, including Nescafé Gold Blend.
Prices for a 200g jar of Nescafé Gold Blend alternated between high and low at all the supermarkets, which means it can usually be found at a reduced price at one or more retailers at any one time.
For example, Asda’s price alternated anywhere between £4 and £7.49 throughout the year, changing at roughly four-week intervals. The cheapest we found it was £4 at all six of the supermarkets. In fact, for 95% of the year you could buy it for £4.50 or less in at least one of the supermarkets.
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3. Don’t confuse gold coffee blends with gold coffee
Confusingly, gold instant coffee blends are different to ‘gold coffee’. Pioneered by an American company called Golden Ratio, gold coffee is a type of ultra-light roasted coffee.
It’s said to be up to five times less acidic than regular coffee and it comes in pouches, just like tea.
Although this brand isn’t currently available to buy in the UK, it’s a trend that seems to be gaining popularity across the pond, so it might not be long before our original gold coffee blends have a new gilded drink to contend with.
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4. One cup has the same amount of caffeine as an espresso
Many people believe a shot of espresso is the most caffeinated coffee you can drink, and they aren’t wrong. An espresso definitely has the most caffeine per volume.
But, per serving (30ml shot) an espresso actually has around the same amount of caffeine as your regular 250ml cup of instant gold coffee (65mg).
If you’re really in need of a caffeine fix, consider filter coffee – a 250ml cup of freshly ground filter coffee contains around 100mg of caffeine, making it one of the strongest coffees per serving.
If you fancy swapping instant for whole bean filter coffee, see our round-up of the best coffee grinders