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8 June 2020

Best instant coffee

Our taste test of instant coffee proves you need to pay to get the best, but you can also get a great cuppa from a supermarket own-brand coffee, as long as you choose wisely.
By Michael Passingham

We've tested nine supermarket own-brand instant coffees, including Aldi, Lidl, M&S and Tesco, alongside branded staples Kenco and Nescafé, to see whether it’s worth paying more for your morning brew. We conducted our testing in January 2020.

With Kenco costing more than four times as much as the cheapest instant coffee we tested, there's money to be saved here.

In this guide find out which of the branded coffees – Nescafé or Kenco – came out on top, and which was lacking when it came to flavour.

And discover which of the cheapest coffees in our test gave our Best Buy instant coffee a run for its money.

The best instant coffee on test

Only logged-in Which? members can view the instant coffee test results below. If you're not yet a member, you'll see an alphabetically ordered list of the instant coffees we tested. 

Join Which? now to get instant access to our test scores and Best Buy recommendation below.

All instant coffee prices correct as of February 2020.

Aldi Alcafé Classic Rich Roast

£1.50 per 100g

Aldi's own-brand is the cheapest on test. Does that mean it's a veritable bargain or a budget disappointment? Join Which? to unlock the result of our test.

Asda Rich Roast

84p per 100g 

Asda's enticing-looking Rich Roast instant coffee is one of the cheaper options on test. Does it deserve a place next to your kettle? Join Which? to unlock the result of our test.

Co-op Fairtrade Rich Roast

£1.50 per 100g

Co-op has one of only two Fairtrade-certified instant coffees on test. It's one of the priciest, too, so you'd hope it comes near the top of the table. Join Which? to unlock the result of our test.

Kenco Rich

£3.25 per 100g

The most expensive on test by far. Kenco is an established brand, but does paying nearly five times as much for this over one of the cheaper options really make sense? Join Which? to unlock the result of our test.

Lidl Bellarom Rich Roast

75p per 100g

Bellarom is a contraction for 'beautiful aroma' in Italian. Can Lidl really deliver on this own-brand's promise? Join Which? to unlock the result of our test.

M&S Rich Roast

£1.50 per 100g

The other Fair Trade option on test, and one of the more expensive options. See how premium supermarket M&S's brand fared. Join Which? to unlock the result of our test.

Morrisons Classic Full Roast

£1 per 100g

Morrisons is known for its fresh food and Market Street counters, but perhaps less so for its instant coffee. Is it worth getting excited over? Join Which? to unlock the result of our test.

Nescafé Original

£3.25 per 100g

The original, but is it the best? With one of the highest prices on test, Nescafe has a lot to prove against inexpensive rivals. Join Which? to unlock the result of our test.

Sainsbury's Rich Roast

£1 per 100g

It sits mid-table when it comes to price, but Sainsbury's could pull out a surprise if its Rich Roast hit the spot with our taste testers. Join Which? to unlock the result of our test.

Tesco Classic

£1 per 100g

Attractively priced, and this instant from Tesco also has Rainforest Alliance certification. Join Which? to unlock the result of our test.

Waitrose Essential Rich Roast

£1.50 per 100g

When you first wake up in the morning, you might also, like Waitrose, see a cup of joe as an 'essential'. See how it fared in our test to find out if it's a genuine must-have. Join Which? to unlock the result of our test.

How to make instant coffee taste better

There aren’t many different ways to make instant coffee and as such, the instructions on the back of the jar won’t typically vary between brands. The recommended serving size is always one teaspoon but if you need a bigger kick, you can add more. Here are more ideas for how to make instant coffee taste better:

Use off the boil water

You are generally encouraged to use water that’s off the boil, rather than boiling water. The reason for this is that overly hot water will scald the coffee granules and give it a more bitter taste. Make sure you stir so that the coffee is properly mixed with the water.

Add milk and sugar to taste

You can then add milk and sugar (or milk and sugar alternatives)  to taste. The more you use, the less the taste of the coffee itself matters, so if your brand of choice scores poorly but you add lots of the white stuff, you needn’t worry too much about switching brand based on our taste test.

Drink in an instant

It’s worth noting that, unlike tea, when you make instant coffee, you aren’t actually brewing it so leaving a cup of instant before drinking won’t make it any stronger. This is because instant coffee is made up of dehydrated, freeze dried espresso which has already been brewed (or, in coffee terms, extracted) at the factory. Thus, when you pour on hot water, you are simply rehydrating coffee that was previously a liquid. 

Make it frothy, iced or add to a smoothie

As instant coffee really is just dehydrated espresso, you can theoretically make any coffee-based drink you desire by simply rehydrating a teaspoon or two of instant coffee with a small amount of hot water. You could then make a smooth latte or even an iced coffee by adding frothed milk (see our Best Buy milk frother reviews) or pouring the drink over ice. You could even make a coffee-based smoothie using a Best Buy blender.

Or if you're ready to upgrade your coffee game, there's a wealth of coffee machines to choose from. Be it a coffee capsule machine or even a full-fledged bean-to-cup coffee machine, Follow the links for our reviews of all of them.

How we test instant coffee

Our instant coffees were assessed by a large panel of consumers who regularly buy and consume the products we’re taste testing.

The make-up of the panel broadly represents the demographic profile of adults in the UK.

Each instant coffee was assessed by 60 people.

The panellists rated the taste, texture, aroma and appearance of each product and tell us what they like and dislike about each one. 

The taste test was blind, so the panellists didn’t know which brand they were trying. The order they sampled the coffees 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.

They were allowed to make each coffee to their own personal preference in terms of quantity, milk and sweeteners.

The overall score is based on:

  • 50% taste
  • 35% aroma
  • 10% appearance
  • 5% texture

Keen coffee drinker? See our round-up of the best reusable coffee cups and travel mugs for eco-friendly coffee cups that can save you money on your morning brew.