When it comes to creature comforts, it’s hard to skimp on coffee, especially with so many instant coffee offerings popping up. While we love to savor freshly ground beans and an Aeropress on a bike tour, in the interest of space and weight savings, it’s hard to beat a solid instant brew.
We asked some of our editors–Hailey, Spencer, Josh, and John–to bring some of their favs on a recent Radavist Retreat in Tempe, Arizona and after a morning ride, we sampled them. After our tasting party, we have some thoughts to share with y’all. Check out a quick instant coffee roundup below!
Before we get into it, let’s address the elephant in the room: Starbucks Via. We opted out of testing that one because if you’re reading this post, chances are you already have formed an opinion on Via.
About Our Selections
Instant coffee comes in a few camps, of which we sampled two: steeping and crystallized coffee. Steeping is similar to a tea bag and requires specific timing and dunking, whereas crystallized coffee is an easy just-add-water situation. Crystallized coffee is made by brewing large batches of coffee and dehydrating that into little crystals.
You can use hot or cold water in both methods; we opted for hot because we’re not heathens. Here’s what we selected:
Pretty Great Guatemala ($15 for five packs) is also crystallized and is made by Pretty Great.
Velo Coffee Roasters ($11 for five bags) are steeped in tea bags.
The procedure was simple: Josh used his MSR Windburer stove to boil charcoal-filtered water for consistent flavor palettes. Now, on a bike tour, the likelihood of drinking water that tastes like cow poo or dank earth is usually pretty high, so this is the purest form of testing we could muster while in the ‘burbs of Tempe.
Steeping or Sitting
While the crystallized coffee doesn’t require a specific length of time to be ready, we followed the steeping instructions from Velo Coffee first: pour in hot water, dunk for 30 seconds, and let steep for five minutes. While we waited for the Velo to steep, we added hot water to the crystallized coffees and let those cool for approximately three minutes.
We each smelled and sipped the coffees, cleaning out our mugs in between. Here is our ranking, with our favorite first. We included the flavor notes we found and a disclaimer on the coffee’s container waste. Collectively, we chatted and noted the following…
Pretty Great: Light body – more rounded, dark chocolate nutty, caramel. By far the best balance.
Waste: Foil bag
Dune: Medium Body – Earl Grey front of mouth, light roast, milk chocolate, medium body. Easy on the lips.
Waste: Wax paper lined with plastic
Verve: Robust Body – Citrus, astringent, full-body, sharper flavors, darker roast, more flavorful. This one is jet fuel for your morning “movement.”
Waste: Wax paper lined with foil
Velo: Light body – Tea-like taste, very light-bodied, nutty, chocolatey. Very light and gentle flavor.
Waste: Tea bag and plastic bag
We should also note that both Verve and Dune offer different roasts, and Swift Cup Coffee crystallizes coffee for many of your favorite roasters. Got a favorite instant coffee? Drop it in the comments!