I love my coffee – I am almost at the point where if I don’t get my morning fix, well, my morning goes a lot worse for me and the people around me.
My typical morning fix is a french press or a cappuccino. However, I travel quite frequently and I am not always able to take my trusty french press with me – nor am I able to take my espresso machine!
Doing some research, I found out that there are two companies that make good instant coffee: Waka Coffee and Sudden Coffee. There is huge potential here, I thought: good instant coffee can be a game changer!
Disclosure: I am not being paid to write this review, but some of these companies did send me a sample of their product for free.
Can instant coffee taste good?
Going back to my morning woes, often, when I’m on the road, I am forced(by myself of course) to have instant coffee just for that semblance of caffeine.
I used to be able to tolerate it but after a few years now of oh so good french press coffee, I just can’t get myself to down any instant coffee anymore and if it means having instant coffee or no coffee, I’ll opt for tea instead!
Instant coffee is generally prepared using low quality beans to keep the cost down, and the coffee crystals are dried with heat so they can be packaged and dissolve easily when ready to use.
The founder of Waka Coffee, David, had an issue with brewing a regular cup of coffee taking too much time, and realizing that cheap instant coffee uses robusta beans that are spray dried in huge batches(taking no care whatsoever to preserve any flavor).
At Waka Coffee, they source 100% single origin Arabica beans. Instead of spray drying like big manufacturers, they freeze dry the coffee to preserve as much flavor as possible. Freeze drying prevents any unnecessary heat from interacting with the beans and messing up the flavor.
- Uses high quality beans from local roasters in the Bay area, where commercial instant coffee is made from cheaper and lower quality robusta beans
- They brew the coffee very slowly and with a controlled temperature. Large scale instant coffee is usually brewed with very hot water, which scalds the coffee
- Instead of heat, they use a vacuum method to freeze dry the coffee. Re-exposing the coffee to extreme heat produces an ashy flavor which Sudden Coffee gets around by using the freeze dry method.
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Waka Coffee comes in a cardboard box or bag. The bag is filled with instant coffee granules, and the box contains single serve packets inside.
It’s also more eco-friendly compared to traditional instant coffee. It doesn’t use any plastic and packaged in foil-lined kraft paper.
I like the single serve idea because it’s an optimal amount of coffee to add for a good tasting drink.
If you were using the bag, you’d have to use a consistent measurement method to get the same drink every time. This isn’t hard to do, especially if you’re using a measuring spoon, but if you’re just in a SUPER hurry, then the sachet is a hassle free way to measure.
Just make sure you don’t throw it in the trash – put it in the recycling bin!
The coffee arrives in a neat little cardboard box. Each individual packet is in a small plastic vial, which contains enough coffee powder for making 250 ml of coffee – enough for one hit!
I was sent an 8 vial sample.
The vials are a really cool idea. They’re made from sustainable, recyclable plastic so you don’t have to worry about generating too much waste.
I’m guessing they had to use plastic to package the vials because you need to keep the coffee from getting contaminated by outside influences and the cheapest and most efficient way to do that is by using plastic.
The idea of vials is neat because you can control the flavor and taste – too much or too little coffee becomes problematic, so instead, you can just empty a vial out into your mug and get the exact amount needed without much guesswork. You will of course have to measure out the right amount of water, though.
Waka Coffee uses single origin Arabica beans, so they try to preserve as many of the original flavors as possible. The issue with instant coffee is that you won’t be able to get the same cup as a freshly ground brew, but there is definitely a marked improvement above the cheap supermarket instant coffee.
In fact, I’ve completely lost the taste for supermarket instant coffee and can no longer stomach it after drinking freshly ground coffee for so long.
Waka Coffee does a great job of maintaining as many flavors as possible, and I may even manage to drink it black without any additives!
It’s also neat that they have two blends: Colombian and Kenyan.
Sudden Coffee tastes great for instant coffee. Normal instant coffee has a burnt, bitter taste. Any floral/acidic/flavor notes are most definitely gone in the preparation process.
Sudden Coffee’s preparation method helps keep as much of the taste notes in the coffee as possible even though the coffee is crystallized for later consumption.
This is actually the general difficulty in coffee – the more time that elapses between roasting, grinding, and brewing, the more flavors are lost.
By using fresher beans, and local roasters, a lot of the flavors are indeed preserved, but at a cost.
Value for money
Waka Coffee can be bought individually or you can subscribe for a small discount.
A 35-serving bag costs $25.99(updated from Amazon API), which means each serving is about $0.75.
That’s not cheap by any means, but it’s the cost of convenience. It works out to be almost the same as one pod of Nespresso and a little bit more than one K-Cup.
However, you can’t expect something to be good quality and dirt cheap – these guys take great care in making their coffee, so the price is kind of justified.
Sudden Coffee works on a subscription model. You can get their trial for free(just pay shipping), and if you like the coffee, you can go ahead and continue to get their product.
They have a few options available:
- 8 cup plan for $22
- 16 cup plan for $40
- 24 cup plan for $42
If you don’t want to subscribe and wish to get a one-off purchase,
- 8 cup pack for $28
- 40 cup pack for $120
As you can see, the savings are significant if you subscribe and get more. This is standard pricing practice for any business. To understand the value for money per cup, let’s assume that you are going to subscribe and look at the low and high end pricing.
If you get the 8 cup plan for $22, you’re going to pay $2.75 per cup.
If you get the 24 cup plan for $42, you’re going to pay $1.75 per cup.
On Amazon, you can get an 8-pack of Starbucks VIA instant coffee for $5.19 (currently updated from the Amazon site via API).
That works out to a little less than $0.75 per cup.
If you decide to hop over to your corner Starbucks every day for your fix, a “tall” size regular brewed coffee(12 ounces) costs $1.85.
Compared to other instant coffee, Sudden Coffee is expensive – but you’re paying for higher quality beans and a better flavor profile.
Compared to hopping over to Starbucks, Sudden Coffee costs about the same if you get the 24 cup plan.
Gourmet instant coffee is an awesome idea with great execution, but some people may be turned off by the price point.
Rather than a replacement for everyday brewed coffee(if you’re in the habit of using a french press or coffee machine), I think the real beauty and value of gourmet instant coffee is for those days when you’re just too strapped for time to brew your coffee using a machine or you just don’t have access to a machine.
For me, that means I can enjoy decent coffee when I am traveling – the vials and sachets are really easy to pack as they don’t take up much space and I can have good coffee even if I am traveling and am not able to find decent coffee anywhere.
In fact, that really removes the whole worry of finding coffee – I can just take some with me!
In all honesty, I don’t see myself drinking this coffee as a replacement to my regular brewed coffee.
Gourmet instant coffee is a fantastic replacement for coffee on the go. The very design of the product – packaged in small vials – makes it great for taking with you when you are traveling and don’t want regular hotel coffee.
I travel very frequently and rather than subjecting myself to instant stall coffee at the train station I would much rather throw a couple of vials of gourmet instant coffee in my bag and enjoy some decent coffee instead.
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Last update on 2020-11-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API