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Such a thing as "good" instant coffee?

I'm going to be visiting England in Sept for 3 weeks, staying with husband's family. I learned that the family member we're staying with doesn't own a coffee maker, when he wants coffee he drinks instant. I said I'd buy him a small coffee maker when we get there. My MIL suggested I take my favorite instant with me. I haven't drank instant coffee in probably 18 years, so I certainly don't have a favorite. But it did get me wondering, is there such as thing as "good" instant coffee?

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    1. Buy a small expresso maker and treat yourself at the same time.

      I would say NO to the instant question

      1. A coffee maker will make a wonderful gift -- be sure to pack a pound or two of your favorite coffee, and he might be a convert!

        1. yes Nescafe's Gold Blend is a great instant coffee. I get it sent over from England. Even the decaff is good. Do not buy any other make!!!!

          alternatively buy a French Press in England, sold everywhere and known as Cafetieres over there. Buy coffee and away you go.

          1. Take a pound or so of ground coffee in your suitcase and a Melitta single serve cone as well as some paper filters. When they heat the kettle for their tea you can use the kettle for your cup of coffee

            1. Get an Aerobie AeroPress - it's relatively inexpensive and makes some of the most incredible coffee at home... or at work... or on a trip... like having a portable Clover...


              1 Reply
              1. re: bulavinaka

                Highly agree. I always travel with coffee and coffee maker when traveling even to far away places. An Aeropress and small blade grinder won't take up much room or weigh too much. You could take fresh ground coffee if you don't usually grind on demand or buy coffee in England.

              2. Some of the Nescafe stuff (by Nestle) is passable.

                9 Replies
                1. re: ipsedixit

                  Sometimes I think its better than 90% of the Coffee Houses we have in California! At least it doesn't have that.... I was brewed an hour ago in a machine that hasn't been cleaned properly in months flavor that the chain places often have (yes I am going to throw Peet's & others in to the mix as well).

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    I have to confess to using Nescafe instant on weekday mornings - it isn't bad ....

                    1. re: MMRuth

                      For some odd reason the Nescafe that is imported seems better than the local brand (even though its probably made abroad as well). The imported version has a richer flavour and is less bitter, it almost has the mouthfeel of a good French Pressed coffee,... but is missing a slight bit of smokiness or complex nuances to compete with more intentional coffees.

                      1. re: Eat_Nopal

                        Eat Nopal,

                        I thought I was the only who thought that imported Nescafe was better than its domestic equivalent.

                        I have an aunt in Brazil and every so often I can convince her to send me a care package and for some strange reason one time she sent to me, totally unsolicited, several packages of Nescafe. And, lo and behold, these were markedly better than what you can find here in the States.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          I don't think we are the only ones.... even Target & Safeway carry them. My local Safeway where the immigrant footprint is almost non-existent has pretty good turnover despite a higher cost per ounce.

                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                            The one I drink is Nescafe Taster's Choice that i get at Costco.

                            1. re: MMRuth

                              Yeah the imports (often flagged as Clasico or something to that effect) are better than Taster's Choice.

                              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                I'll keep an eye out - thanks - the least I can do is upgrade my instant coffee!

                                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                  The ones I've gotten from Brazil are either "Nescafe Nova" or "Nescafe Matinal".

                    2. In Japan they have these cool (and very wasteful) individual wrapped disposable, single cup drip filters (with ground coffee) that fits over a coffee cup. I bought some back as a gag gift for a coffee loving co-worker, and he loved it. You can buy them in the US at some Japanese supermarkets like Nijiya and Mitsua, but it's a bit expensive. I recently found just the filters ($1.50 a pack...for quite a few filters) at Daiso.
                      Similar to this stuff here:

                      A little less wasteful, this very cheap plastic version of the Melitta coffee cone at Ichiban Kan

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: gnomatic

                        you can get these in England too, the supermarkets sell them in the coffee section (duh). They are also made by Melitta.

                        1. re: gnomatic

                          Good suggestion -- I've taken a cheap plastic Melitta cone with me on trips with no problem.

                          1. re: gnomatic

                            Yes, these are available in the UK, as smartie mentions.
                            I've bought them at Sainsburys. They're slightly different than the Japanese version. They're sold as a pack of individual disposable, single cup coffee pods with plastic drip filter. You put the plastic coffee cup that comes in the pack under the filter, add water, and you're well away. It tastes pretty good (well better than most instant coffee anyway, IMHO).

                            Here's the link to the product:


                            If you get stuck, and have to resort to instant, Carte Noire from France (widely available in UK supermarkets) is not bad.

                            Have a good trip!

                          2. Lots to look into. Thanks for your suggestions everyone. I knew my fellow Chowhounds would help me out!

                            1. Buy one of these aluminum espresso makers: http://store.bialetticafe.com/moka-ex.... I own the 6-cup version, and when I want regular coffee instead of espresso, I simply fill the entire cup with water and scoop about 2 TBSP. of coffee in the filter. I travel with mine from time to time.

                              1. In contrast to some suggestions, I do not think of coffee as being "instant" if you have to do more than add water to a cup of (?) and nuke it. Otherwise you might as well be making coffee. It only takes about 2-3 minutes to add water, grind beans and turn on my Braun. The slow part is waiting for the "first press" to slowly appear.

                                Years ago, when automated, coffee dispensers made a big leap forward with bags of concentrate (surprised?) I was told it was better than anything previously (like powders or crystals). It didn't let air into the bag (think of box wine pouch) so it didn't get stale or lose flavor. Are there any concentrate coffee liquids out there, available to the general public, in stores? I haven't noticed them, if there are.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Scargod

                                  Yes I've seen it, but don't recall the brand. I'll try to remember next trip to the store. It seems I was making brownies with an expresso flavor, I was going to get it, instead bought Nescafe Classic probably because of cost factor.

                                2. My mother brought over a box of Maxwell House singles a few years ago -- essentially, a teabag that contains coffee. I used two for sixteen ounces and kept the bags brewing longer than the one minute the box suggests, and it was acceptable. Each of these is wrapped individually and they are very light and packable. I think it's better than any instant, but if you are a coffee snob (and I think that my current selection of six kinds of different beans to grind in my pantry at present might give you an indication of my priorties), you will be somewhat disappointed unless you brew.

                                  I also have one of those one cup, mug-top Melitta drips, which work fine unless you overfill the cone. It requires just a little vigilance as a result. Don't forget the filters if you go this route.

                                  I am not so sure that giving a coffee maker to someone who doesn't drink coffee is the best choice of host or hostess gift. It might be fine if it is not the only gift you intend to give, and just seems a little less than the perfect choice. You might just buy a cheap coffee maker while there and leave it behind, but not call it a gift. They are certainly inexpensive enough.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: RGC1982

                                    I had not intended the coffee maker to be a gift, just something I'd buy to use for the 3 weeks I'm there and then leave behind. I'm intrigued by the AeroPress and the onefreshcup single drip filters. Again, thanks for all the suggestions.

                                  2. Instead of resorting to instant coffee, take your coffee grinds w/you & use a bodum travel press/mug; then all you need is hot water. You can get them from Amazon:


                                    I got one for Mr OCAnn and he LOVES it. Now he has his french press wherever he goes.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: OCAnn

                                      That is pretty cool! Do you know of any Ground Coffees that come in the right grind for that?

                                      1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                        Most places that sell coffee beans (grocery store or coffee shop) will either have a grinder available for you to use or will grind it for you. And when they grind it for you, you can ask for coarse/french press grind.

                                        1. re: OCAnn

                                          Duh... I am so used to buy whole beans that I forgot about the instore grinders!

                                    2. Coffee makers of any sort are comparitvely rare amongst us Brits - even those of us who are regular drinkers. I manage about 8 mugs a day - no wonder I don't sleep well ;-) . Always instant - fave brand - Nescafe Blend 37. Occasionaly their instant espresso.

                                      And, for those interested in the "imported" discussion, I always find standard Nescafe Classic in Spain to be a far stronger (better) product than in the UK.

                                      1. i remember being told that i could make ice coffee from instant w/out boiling the water first.... lol... sometimes thinking out of the box is so simple.. and yet....

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: thew

                                          I have a friend who spent a summer in Puebla back in the mid 90's... and came back raving about the amazing coffee smoothies (this was back when Frappucino's were just catching on)... so I prepared it the way my dad taught me - how they used to sell them out of their Fruiteria / Aguas Frescas stand in the 1970's - and she flipped out that I could whip up such a great concoction. After I showed her that you just mix Milk, Ice, a little Sugar & Nescafe Coffee Granules in a blender... strain & serve (maybe add some Kahlua for a fancier version)... well lets just say it was funny.

                                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                            Cafe Bustelo, which I can't find anywhere anymore.

                                            1. re: dolores

                                              Actually Target carries it in my area (as well as Topo Chico sparkling water & other surprisingly items).

                                              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                Good to know, Eat Nopal, I'll look for it next time I'm at Target.

                                        2. hi there, i travel to India every year and stay for 1 mth. with my husband's family. Them being primarily tea drinkers, there is no coffee maker there. I take my 2 cup espresso maker; and Lavazza/Illy ground beans, and have a cappuccino everyday. I boil milk, and froth it with a hand held blender.) I have ended up making friends of my in laws. (usually dauther-in-laws are not so warmly accepted in traditional families. ) I have also used the BODUM type French press, although since I like my coffee to be very hot, I find it gets colder with the French press types, and reheating coffee changes its taste. Lastly, just having returned from Madrid, I found the coffee cheap, but the coffee makers much more expensive(better quality). Hence it may be worth carrying the appliance, and buying the coffee there.There are some good european instant brands from Segafredo (Espresso Liofilizato),Café Bustelo Freeze-Dried Instant Coffee, Jacobs Kroenung Instant Coffee; Enjoy ur trip!!!!!!

                                          1. I haven't used instant for a regular cup of coffee but we do keep some for making sweet coffee drinks using sugar and hot milk, no water. The brand we have buy is Pilon, tastes fine prepared the way we drink it.

                                            1. Back when I used to drink coffee there was a concentrated liquid product, "cold brewed" called Victoria House coffee. It was good stuff.

                                              I checked online. It still exists. Where you can get it? Not a clue.

                                              1. I kind of like the SE Asian style instant with sugar and creamer, for example the Vietnamese Vinacafe 3-in-1 coffee mix. It's a tolerable substitute Vietnamese style coffee with condensed milk - for use in the office or camping. Once I found a Malaysian version that included chocolate that was even better.


                                                1. I try and think of instant coffee as a different drink. I'm happy enough with it if I don't compare it with the proper stuff. If you're going to buy instant coffee, buy a Fair Trade product from any decent supermarket or from Oxfam, or Holland and Barrett which most of the reasonably sized towns have. If you buy a cafetiere/coffee press/plunger, also buy Fair Trade coffee. I hope I'm not being too controversial in saying that Nestle ethical practices have a long way to go before I would buy a single thing from them, even if it tasted like a heaven in a cup, which it certainly doesn't.