Confined to hiking expeditions, road trips without stops and particularly lazy mornings, instant coffee has, historically, had a tough go of it. Well, not anymore. The third wave coffee movement has now infiltrated even the most derided of coffee types, and with it, brought about a shift in what is and isn’t instant.
For the longest time, "instant coffee" strictly referred to freeze-dried granules à la Folgers or Maxwell House. These days, "instant coffee" refers to anything that makes coffee in an instant, just shy of ready-to-drink coffee — that means you still have to do a little work to get from coffee product to drinkable beverage.
From traditional freeze-dried granules to disposable pour-over contraptions, these 12 coffees are mobile, quick to make and relatively cheap. Most importantly, however: They taste pretty darn good, too.
Hauling a pour-over coffee setup around isn't light work. Allwake simplifies the process by making single-use pour-over coffee drippers so you don't have to miss out on your favorite style of brewing while you're on the road. Its Indonesian coffee is sweet and smooth, with a full body and low acidity. Place the contraption over a mug, pour over hot water and get your cup of coffee in no time.
These coffee pods aren't fitted with crappy ground coffee. Cometeer partners with renowned coffee roasters, like Counter Culture and George Howell, and brews and freezes their coffee with liquid nitrogen. The result is a frozen coffee disk housed in a 100-percent aluminum pod — which makes it recyclable — that you can melt with hot water to make a cup of delicious coffee or turn into an iced latte or espresso martini.
Dripkit employs a disposable one-time use pour-over similar to Kuju (which appears later on this list), but instead of sitting in the cup, sits on top of it. It's like having a pour-over dripper available at all times, and when you're done with it, you can toss it out. Dripkit works with well-known coffee roasters across the country to turn their favorite beans into single-use pour-over kits for those on the go or those who want a cup of pour-over at home without all the work.
Equator Instant Coffee
This is easily one of the best-tasting instant coffees around. Forget Folger's or whatever supermarket brand of freeze-dried granules there are because Equator is just as easy to "brew" and, as the brand so boldly claims, "tastes like a pour over." Pour over quality without the pour over work? Sign yourself up.
Joe Coffee is a New York City institution, providing New Yorkers with their everyday caffeine buzz. Its instant coffee is cafe-quality, just condensed into freeze-dried granules. Joe roasts, brews and dehydrates its own coffee, so you can be sure it's up to the standards of everything else it offers. The coffee is comforting, with subtle sweetness and works just as well black as it does with milk and sugar.
Jot Ultra Coffee
Jot Ultra coffee is a sleek little bottle filled with coffee concentrate. Add water or milk, and get a cafe-quality cup of joe wherever you are. It even comes with a tablespoon so you know exactly how much of each liquid to use.
The product of a successful Kickstarter campaign, Kuju Coffee was founded by two brothers aiming to bring better coffee to your outdoor activities. Kuju employs single cup, one-time use packets of coffee grinds that fit in your pocket. Each one — available in traditional light, medium and dark roasts — has two “legs” that hook over the edges of your mug or cup, so you need only pour water and wait 120 seconds for some elevated trail coffee when you need it most.
Swift Cup Coffee
Swift Cup is like your classic instant coffee — dump in cup, pour water, stir, drink. However, the Pennsylvania-based company uses a proprietary method to roast, brew and slowly freeze-dry their product. Swift Cup comes in varieties from the likes of Kenya, Ethiopia, Brazil and Colombia.
Based out of Montana, Treeline Coffee is a women-owned coffee roaster that does freshly roasted whole-bean coffee and ready-to-brew single-serve coffees. Its GEO line of disposable pour-over kits are some of the best available, and you might even be able to fit one in your wallet for when the craving for coffee comes calling.
When Voilà opened up shop online in November of 2017, they sold through their entire stock so quickly they had to disable the “shop” tab on their website. After a couple months of re-stocking, they reopened for business in January, with each individually portioned pack of instant coffee aiming to highlight the particular region each roast is sourced from.
For an affordable upgrade from your standard fare freeze-dried granules, look to Waka Coffee. Just add water, and you'll get a cup of coffee that mimics something freshly brewed. Additionally, Waka donates 4 percent of profits to help bring clean water to people around the world.
It's not a tea bag — it's coffee. Wildland Coffee's tea bag-style coffee is filled with real ground coffee that's nitro-flushed to keep it fresh for 12 months. It's essentially immersion coffee — like French press coffee — but takes away the need for messy cleanup. Just steep the coffee for around five minutes (more or less depending on much strong you want your cup) and enjoy.