Nescafé's Best Instant Coffee Is Based On A Traditional Mexican Brew

Instant coffee can be a polarizing topic among coffee aficionados. Love it or hate it, the jars of dried coffee are the brew of choice for 4% of American coffee drinkers and 25% of caffeine seekers around the world. So, whether you rely on the convenience of a fast, rehydrated morning cup or just stock a pack for the odd recipe or emergency, it pays to know which jar will provide the most satisfying flavor.

Of the 13 varieties of Nescafé and Taster's Choice instant coffee that our tester ranked, the top of the list was Nescafé's version of Mexican café de olla, a lightly sweet, cinnamon-inflected coffee traditionally made in a clay jar. The sweet, flavored coffee powder edged out the brand's flagship Clásico, a dark roast variety made from robusta beans, and two other flavored, sweetened varieties. Nescafé's caramel-flavored Dolca finished in the middle of the pack at sixth place, and Taster's Choice Hazelnut holds the anchor in 13th place.

Instant coffee can have bitter flavors that sweetness counteracts

Most instant coffee is made with robusta beans, which have a flavor profile that is often described as strong and slightly bitter. The plants are less fussy to grow at lower elevations, making them an economical choice for coffees like Nescafé Clásico, which will cost you only about six cents per cup. Our winning coffee is made from a blend of robusta and the more desirable arabica beans, which have a softer flavor profile. That alone might not have been enough to propel Café de Olla to victory – some of the other blends on the list are fully composed of arabica, for example.

The recipe for Nescafé's Café de Olla successfully earning the spot at the top might just lie in the flavor profile of Mexico's traditional spiced coffee. It's deliciously balanced – strong yet sweet, with notes of cinnamon and orange. The Nescafé instant version has just enough sugar to take the edge off any bitter taste in the coffee, and cinnamon adds to the sweet profile. Notably, Nescafé's other flavored sweet instant coffees in the tasting had a chemical aftertaste that this one managed to avoid. If you're on the fence about the flavor of instant coffee, Nescafé's Café de Olla could be the jar that wins you over, too.