What is the best instant coffee?

The question; What is the best instant coffee, came around because a friend and I have been having a little debate. He figures that instant coffees are really catching up with properly brewed coffee. So much so that he is betting his Nespresso Pixie against, from me, just $20. That he can impress me enough to concede that they aren’t just dirty water…

So as you get yourself ready for a night out, I am sat here at my friend’s house, presented with 3 different pots of instant coffee a kettle and 6 mugs… he’s even got a jug of water and glasses to “Cleanse the pallet”, his words not mine. I’m actually a little scared with how seriously he is taking this, but here goes nothing.

SPOILER ALERT!! It’s not that far below this spoiler…

He tells me he has got a mixture of coffees, ranging from standard to sublime… So let’s begin.

What is the best instant coffee? Nescafe Azera? (Intenso)

Ok so I figure this one must be a joke, Nescafe make Gold Blend, a product that hasn’t really moved on since its inception. It’s that clear jar, brown and gold colour scheme, and almost gravy granule looking nuggets of dried coffee. I am never satisfied when I have a cup of that stuff (If I know it’s what is being offered I never accept…), its just not very nice.

This is different though, this is teeny tiny granules, more like a powder. As we open the tin there is a strong emanation of that oh so satisfying coffee smell. I’m intrigued by this powder, it’s extremely fine, like a coffee dust or powder. Time to boil the kettle…

So as you pour the water onto the powder it sought of coagulates a bit to start, but then as you add more water turns into a rich looking coffee. IT EVEN HAS CREMA ON TOP!!! This is quite literally fascinating to me. And the smell! It’s gorgeous! Rich, I can almost smell the crema, which I suppose I shouldn’t be so surprised about, normally coffee crema has a slightly richer taste.

I’m already impressed but it’s when I have a sip of the coffee that things get better. For information, we are trying these coffees without milk or sugar, purely on taste. And this is a pretty decent cup of joe. You could say I’m impressed, but I won’t be telling my friend that just yet. The bet was about instant coffees… Plural!

What is the best instant coffee? Kenco Millicano Whole Bean (Dark Roast)?

Not bad, not brilliant though, no crema to speak of like the Nescafe Azera. Also it doesn’t seem to be as smooth as the Nescafe Azera, nor does it leave me as satisfied. It is a lot more like proper instant coffee in looks, larger granules than the powder I saw with the Azera.

Taste wise. It’s solid, but not spectacular. As I said, for a dark roast I don’t get the oomph that I got from the Azera, and it didn’t have the same crema on top. Bitter, yes, but not that bitter, perhaps this would be a good coffee for someone who doesn’t like STRONG coffee. But if that’s the case then what is the point?

All in all can take this or leave it. It is a step up from Nescafe Gold Blend, but is it worth it? Well I would prefer it to Gold Blend if someone was to offer it to me. But would I go out of my way to buy it? No, I will stick with my espresso machine…

What is the best instant coffee? Christopher Bean Coffee (Dark Roast Espresso)?

Now this is a bit of a con, not allowing my friend to submit this one, it’s an extremely strong pre-brewed coffee in a bottle effectively, formed into a concentrate that you dilute… That’s not on! But hey, all in the name of research let’s try it anyway…

In a way spot on, we brewed it slightly stronger, more like two teaspoons to one. But lacked crema on top. More like a strong filter coffee than an espresso machine shot. My friend said we hadn’t specified the type of machine… Nice try James, close but no cigar.

I confess it isn’t a bad instant coffee, as far as it is “instant” and still think that this is a bit of a con by my friend. All in all though it’s better than the Kenco Millicano, I’m not a filter hater, but compared to the Azera… I was blown away with that, this just doesn’t match up.

Douwe Egberts (Dark Roast)

Interesting coffee, made by a firm from Holland, definitely a step up from Nescafe Gold blend. Rich and smooth with just the right level of bitterness. It comes in an elegant glass jar, with a little label across the opening to tell if it is fresh, it gives a satisfying little rip/tear sound.

I still can’t help thinking that this is just that though; a step up rather than a step change. It is more like a Filter then an espresso machine coffee again, but I guess I am right that no instant coffee is ever going to match up to espresso machine coffee.

It’s an improvement on US instant coffee though. Definitely a step in the right direction to a more European coffee flavour.

So, what is the best instant coffee?

Well. I’m going to let James off, everyone deserves good coffee! That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! 😉

Out of those we tried, my overwhelming favourite was Nescafe Azera. Just the smell, the taste and THE CREMA!!! were sensational! It truly shows just how far instant coffees have come! It definitely gets the Jeff Brackin seal of approval!