Kitchn Love Letters

I’d Completely Given Up on Instant Coffee — Then I Tried This Barista-Level Brand

published Jan 15, 2022
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Various instant coffees being made.
Credit: Sarah Crowley

Instant coffee sounds like magic. You boil some water, mix in some brown dust, stir, and presto change-o! You have a hot cup of coffee immediately with no filters to waste, no carafe to clean, and no heat loss to jeopardize that first, luxurious, scalding-hot sip.

In reality, a lot of instant coffees taste weak and watered-down, no matter how many extra spoonfuls of the granules you shovel in. That’s because instant coffee is typically made from dehydrated concentrated liquid coffee. The results range wildly, depending on the original coffee bean and roast quality, the heat applied, and other manufacturing variables. So when that cup of instant coffee tastes off, that’s not a user error — that’s on them. 

After exhausting the supermarket aisle, I’d all but given up on instant coffee and its convenience, portability, and promise of extra-hot mugs. But then I tried Waka Coffee and went gaga.

Credit: Su-Jit Lin

Smooth, silky, and round in the mouth, Waka Coffee is freeze-dried from 100% Arabica beans (rather than spray-dried with the less precious Robusta beans). It’s rich and complex, hearty and aromatic. It’s available in single-cup packets or tidily packaged, resealable kraft paper bulk bags in Medium Roast Colombian with or without caffeine, as well as Light Roast Indian. And honestly, it’s a dead ringer for true-brew coffee.

But there’s more! On the other side of the spectrum, Waka Coffee granules dissolve seamlessly and smoothly even into cold water for perfect, bold iced coffee year-round. No need to brew and chill, or make a batch of cold brew in preparation for the next day. I can be spontaneous about it, and make a single (venti) cup whenever the fancy strikes! This coffee is also excellent for cooking and baking preparations, giving you pure coffee flavor that’s clean and full. (Tip: Put it in ice cream!)

Credit: Su-Jit Lin

As if flavor weren’t enough to have made me a fan, being a customer helps me back up two important causes: supporting immigrant-owned small businesses (owner David, who still personally manages the brand’s social media, arrived to the U.S. from Israel by way of Russia less than a decade ago) and supporting brands who give back. 

“While researching the coffee industry, we learned about the large amount of water waste produced by coffee processing,” Waka shares on their site. Moved by this, they created the “Add Water, Give Water” program, where a percentage of the company’s proceeds go toward charity: water, a global organization devoted to bringing clean drinking water to 26 countries around the world. They’ve since expanded to freeze-dried teas, too — most recently debuting Kenyan and Chinese Green after the successful launch of Kenyan Black and Japanese Matcha. Purchases of these items still count toward their contributions.

All told, that makes that morning cup of feel-good feel extra good and taste even better than I ever thought it could … all in an instant. 

Do you have a favorite brand of instant coffee? Tell us in the comments below!