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28 September 2021

Best gold instant coffee blend

Nescafe and Douwe Egberts go up against cheap supermarket own-brands in our gold instant coffee blend taste test
Jade Harding
Man drinking instant coffee

Smooth, aromatic, and just that little bit fancier, gold coffee blends are marketed as a step up from regular instant coffee. But is it worth spending more for big-name brands or can you still bag a distinctive-tasting 'gold' brew from your local supermarket?

We tested Nescafé and Douwe Egberts gold coffee blends alongside 10 cheaper supermarket own-label options - including those from Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco - in August 2021.

We uncovered some standout coffee that tickled our testers' taste buds. But there were also some low scorers that failed to impress.

Best gold blend coffee

Only logged-in Which? members can view our test results and tasting notes below.

If you're not yet a member, you'll see an alphabetically ordered list of the coffee on test. To get instant access, join Which? now.

All prices are correct as of 10 September 2021.

Aldi Alcafé Gold Roast Freeze Dried Coffee

95p per 100g

Aldi Alcafé Gold Roast Freeze Dried Coffee

The joint-cheapest coffee on test, did our taste testers notice the difference or has Aldi produced an excellent-value instant brew?

Log in now or join Which? to unlock our test results.  Want to buy without reading our results? Available from Aldi.

Asda Gold Roast Instant Coffee

£1 per 100g

Asda Gold Roast Instant Coffee

Is Asda’s reasonably priced coffee more bronze than gold? Our tasters reveal all.

Log in now or join Which? to unlock our test results. Want to buy without reading our results? Available from Asda.

Co-op Fairtrade Gold Roast Instant Coffee

£2.10 per 100g

Co-op Fairtrade Gold Roast Instant Coffee

Our panel has rated the flavour, mouthfeel, aroma, and appearance of Co-op’s coffee. Find out whether it deserves a spot at your breakfast table.

Log in now or join Which? to unlock our test results. Want to buy without reading our results? Available from Co-op (in-store)

Douwe Egberts Pure Gold Instant Coffee

£2.64 per 100g

Douwe Egberts Pure Gold Instant Coffee

One of two big-name brands on test and the most expensive coffee per 100g. Does paying more get you a better-tasting coffee? 

Log in now or join Which? to unlock our test results. Want to buy without reading our results? Available from Aldi, Asda, Iceland, Morrisons, Ocado, Tesco, Sainsbury's and Waitrose

Iceland Continental Gold Freeze Dried Instant Coffee

£1.40 per 100g

Iceland Continental Gold Freeze Dried Instant Coffee

Did Iceland top the lot with its gold roast, or could its instant coffee make you wish you'd shopped somewhere else?

Log in now or join Which? to unlock our test results. Want to buy without reading our results? Available from Iceland.

Lidl Bellarom Gold Freeze-Dried Instant Coffee

95p per 100g

Lidl Bellarom Gold Freeze-Dried Instant Coffee

Lidl’s gold coffee is joint-cheapest on test, so if you want your caffeine hit on a budget it could be a great choice. Is it too good to be true?

Log in now or join Which? to unlock our test results. Want to buy without reading our results? Available from Lidl.

M&S Fairtrade Gold Instant Coffee

£2.25 per 100g

M&S Fairtrade Gold Instant Coffee

This isn’t just any coffee; this is M&S gold coffee made with 100% Arabica beans. But does it make for a top-scoring beverage?

Log in now or join Which? to unlock our test results. Want to buy without reading our results? Available from Ocado

Morrisons Gold Instant Coffee

£1 per 100g

Morrisons Gold Instant Coffee

Morrisons claims that ‘great days start with a great cup of coffee’. But will its gold blend be able to provide just that? Read on to see how it fared.

Log in now or join Which? to unlock our test results. Want to buy without reading our results? Available from Morrisons.

Nescafé Gold Blend Instant Coffee

£2.50 per 100g

Nescafe Gold Blend Instant Coffee

At more than double the price of the cheapest coffee we tested, is Nescafé’s proprietary gold blend coffee worth paying more for?

Log in now or join Which? to unlock our test results. Want to buy without reading our results? Available from Aldi, Asda, Iceland, Morrisons, Tesco, Sainsbury's, and Waitrose.

Sainsbury’s Gold Roast Instant Coffee

£1.50 per 100g

Sainsbury’s Gold Roast Instant Coffee

Does Sainsbury’s deliver when it comes to its own-brand coffee? We’ve put it to the test.

Log in now or join Which? to unlock our test results. Want to buy without reading our results? Available from Sainsbury’s. 

Tesco Gold Instant Coffee

£1.50 per 100g

Tesco Gold Instant Coffee

Tesco promises a coffee that’s ‘rich and smooth’. Did it win over our panel of tasters?

Log in now or join Which? to unlock our test results. Want to buy without reading our results? Available from Tesco.

Waitrose Gold Roast Instant Coffee

£2.50 per 100g

Waitrose Gold Roast Instant Coffee

This coffee is the most expensive supermarket own-label coffee we tested per 100g, so should Waitrose shoppers favour this one over the big brands?

Log in now or join Which? to unlock our test results. Want to buy without reading our results? Available from Waitrose.

What is gold blend coffee?

Stirring black coffee

The term ‘gold blend’ was trademarked by Nescafe in the 60s. A slew of other brands then followed suit, creating their own ‘gold’ varieties. But what is a gold blend, and how is it different from your basic instant coffee? The words that crop up most on the labels to describe it are 'rich, smooth and well-balanced'.

Our coffee expert Giles Hilton explains: ‘Gold is more of a class of better-tasting blended coffees rather than the name of a specific bean or a description of a specific roast.

The standard supermarket instant is probably 50% Robusta, a coarse near-wild coffee grown en masse in China, Vietnam and Africa. Hence the basic, sometimes flat taste.

Gold blends and own-label stylish coffees are more expensive and contain near 90% (or even 100%) Arabica. 

The varieties vary by country (like wine). But typically, they're properly farmed, with care, harvested when ripe and give all the distinctive flavours. Though the quality and taste of each brand can certainly still vary.’

If gold blend isn’t for you, get more tips and insight from Giles in our full guide on how to choose the best instant coffee

How much caffeine is in gold blend coffee?

Person choosing instant coffee in a shop

One teaspoon of instant coffee diluted in 250ml of water contains around 65mg of caffeine. Instant tends to have a lower caffeine content by volume than filter coffee or espresso.

A 250ml cup of whole bean filter coffee contains around 100mg of caffeine, while a short 30ml shot of espresso contains around 60-80mg of caffeine.

Is instant coffee the most sustainable option?

Harvesting coffee beans

As ever with anything where the environment is a factor in your decision, there are a lot of things to consider.

As far as environmental impact is concerned, the most important aspect is to ensure you’re picking a coffee, whether it’s whole bean or instant, that has been cultivated the right way (shade-grown, bird-friendly or using a recognised certification such as Rainforest Alliance).

This is because the damage done by deforestation or poor land management is often far greater than any other part of the process.

How the coffee is consumed (instant, fresh grounds or pods, for instance) has less influence.

However, that doesn’t mean you should ignore the energy used when making a coffee. 

Reduce your energy use by only filling your kettle with the water you actually need and opting for energy efficient appliances.

See our best energy-saving kettles

Coffee food assurance labels

Food assurance labels

When choosing coffee in the supermarket, you might notice food assurance labels on the packaging, such as the Rainforest Alliance logo. This means that the coffee has been certified as compliant with certain sustainability and welfare standards. See below for what each logo means.

Fairtrade 

Co-op, M&S and Waitrose use Fairtrade-certified coffee for their gold coffee blends. This scheme ensures farms have fair working conditions and meet environmental criteria, such as responsible water use. Forced and child labour is banned, and there is a set minimum market price for what farmers and producers are selling, to cover the cost of sustainable production.

Rainforest Alliance 

Of the products we tested, only Tesco uses Rainforest Alliance-certified coffee. Products that carry the Rainforest Alliance logo must have systems in place to protect the farm’s natural biodiversity and resources, such as restrictions on the use of pesticides. They also must ensure workers are treated fairly and that child labour is not used.

UTZ 

Douwe Egberts pure gold is made with UTZ certified coffee. UTZ is a sustainable farming program covering social, economic and environmental issues. It merged with the Rainforest Alliance in 2018, so products carrying the UTZ logo are likely to soon be transitioning over to the Rainforest Alliance logo.

For more information, see our guide to decoding food labels 

How to make instant coffee

Pouring boiling water from an electric kettle

Instant coffee is designed to be simple and quick to make, so it's not rocket science - but there are some tweaks you can make that will improve the taste of your brew:

  1. Measure the coffee - The recommended serving size is normally one teaspoon, but if you need a bigger coffee kick you can add more.
  2. Don't use boiling water - Boiling water will scald the coffee granules and give it a more bitter taste. So give it a few seconds before you pour to take the edge off, and make sure you stir so that the coffee is properly mixed with the water.
  3. Add milk and sugar to taste - this will impact the final taste, so you might find some coffees work better with your preferences than others.
  4. No need to wait - leaving a cup of instant before drinking won’t make it any stronger, because it's made of dehydrated, freeze-dried espresso which has already been brewed (or, in coffee terms, extracted). So, when you pour on hot water, you are simply rehydrating coffee that was previously a liquid. Worth waiting a bit first, especially if you drink it black, to avoid scalding your mouth, as instant coffee runs hotter than other coffees such as espressos or lattes.
  5. Experiment! - As instant coffee is just dehydrated espresso, you can theoretically make any coffee-based drink - or use it for baking - by simply rehydrating a teaspoon or two of instant coffee with a small amount of hot water. You could then make a smooth latte by adding frothed milk (see our Best Buy milk frother reviews) or even an iced coffee by pouring the drink over ice. Alternatively, you could create a coffee-based smoothie using a Best Buy blender. Some swear by adding a bit to savoury dishes such as chilli con carne too, for added depth of flavour.

Want to recreate coffee shop classics at home? You might need a coffee machine. See our coffee machine buying guide for tips on choosing the best for you.

How we tested gold instant coffee blends

The coffee was assessed by a large panel of consumers who regularly buy and drink gold coffee blends.  

Each coffee was assessed by 67 people, and the panel broadly represented the demographic profile of adults in the UK.

We made the coffees using 1.8g of coffee (around a teaspoon) and 200ml water (Nescafe serving suggestion). Most coffees we tested suggest using one to two teaspoons of coffee, but you can adjust the amount depending on how strong you like it to be.

The panellists rated the taste, aroma, mouthfeel and appearance of each product and told us what they liked and disliked about each.   

The taste test was blind, so the panellists didn’t know which brand they were trying. The order they sampled the coffee in was fully rotated to avoid any bias.   

Each panellist had a private booth so they couldn’t discuss what they were tasting or be influenced by others.  

The overall score is based on:  

  • Taste 50% 
  • Aroma 30% 
  • Appearance 10% 
  • Mouthfeel 10% 

These weightings are based on consumer rankings of the importance of different coffee attributes.