We pitted Nescafé and Kenco against cheaper supermarket brands to see which instant coffee tastes the best

In December 2021, we asked a panel of coffee-loving consumers to blind-taste nine supermarket own-brand instant coffees, including ones from Aldi, Asda, M&S and Tesco, alongside big hitters from Kenco and Nescafé, to find out whether it’s worth paying more for your morning brew.  With Nescafé and Kenco costing more than three times as much as the cheapest instant coffee we tested, a cheap and tasty instant could shave money off your regular shopping bill. Find out which of the branded coffees – Nescafé or Kenco – impressed our tasters, and the great value own brand coffee to look out for.

Best instant coffee

Nescafé Original proved it’s worth, coming out on top in our taste test, closely followed by runner up Kenco, showing that in this case opting for the big brands does seem to pay off. However, Aldi’s cheap instant coffee is not far behind – and it costs less than half as much per 100g.  Most of the other cheaper supermarket coffees we tested also scored well, so if you aren’t too fussy about your brew you can safely switch to a cheaper alternative, without compromising too much on taste.

Best Buy: Nescafé Original – 71%

£2.25 per 100g

 

Nescafé triumphed over supermarket rivals in our taste test with its Original blend. It’s the joint most expensive everyday instant coffee on test, but it does deliver a tasty brew. It was the only coffee to get four stars for aroma, and our tasters were satisfied with the appearance, flavour and mouthfeel. If you’re keen on it, you can still make savings. We looked into pricing and found it’s almost always on special offer at one or more supermarkets, so it’s worth shopping around. We found it costing as much as £5.50 a jar (£2.75 per 100g) but also on offer for just £3 (£1.50 per 100g). So, if you see it for £3 or less, we’d recommend snapping it up.  Available from Amazon, Asda, Iceland, Morrisons, Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose.

Kenco Smooth – 68%

£2.25 per 100g

 

With a smooth, balanced flavour and plenty of strength to wake you up in the morning, Kenco is a decent option. It’s also widely available, which is great news if you don’t want to go out of your way to get a pack of the good stuff. Like Nescafé, Kenco’s price varies depending on the retailer, and it’s worth keeping an eye out for offers. Available from Amazon, Asda, Iceland, Morrisons, Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose.

Morrisons Full Roast – 67%

£1 per 100g 

Morrisons full roast instant coffee

 

Morrisons’ Full Roast instant tastes good, is reasonably priced and is our highest scoring own-brand instant. It scored well across the board and, while not the cheapest, is still much cheaper than branded rivals, so it’s a good option if you’re keen to cut your shopping costs. Available from Morrisons.

Aldi Alcafé Classic Rich Roast and Waitrose Rich Roast – 66% each 70p per 100g and

£1.50 per 100g

Aldi Alcafé Classic Rich Roast and Waitrose Rich Roast

 

Aldi and Waitrose own-label instant coffee tied in joint fourth place. Aldi is our top value option at just 70p per 100g – less than half the price of our Best Buy. Our panel didn’t think its aroma quite matched up to the winning brand, so you might not get such an enticing morning coffee smell, but it’s still a tasty and savvy choice. Waitrose doesn’t offer as much of a saving, but it’s a good choice if you like a full-bodied coffee, with just over half of our panel finding it had just the right amount of richness. Available from Aldi and Waitrose.

How the other instant coffees fared

No matter where you shop, you’ll still be able to bag an acceptable instant coffee. We’ve highlighted the best above, but most other supermarket brands are pretty decent, according to our tasters. Here’s how the rest scored: Spar rich roast – 65%. £1.59 per 100g. Available from Spar (in-store only).

Tesco Classic – 64%. £1 per 100g. Available from Tesco.  Asda Rich Roast – 63%. 90p per 100g. Available from Asda.  Co-op Fairtrade Rich Roast – 63%. £1.65 per 100g. Available from Co-op (in-store only). M&S Fairtrade Rich Roast – 63%. £1.50 per 100g. Available from Ocado and M&S (in-store only).

Sainsbury’s Rich Roast – 61%. £1 per 100g. Available from Sainsbury’s.  If your local supermarket option is near the bottom of the rankings though, it might be worth branching out, or swapping to the branded option. It’s also worth checking our reviews of gold instant coffee blends. All instant coffee prices are correct as of January 2022.

Keen coffee drinker? See our round-up of the best reusable coffee cups and travel mugs for eco-friendly coffee cups that can save you money on your morning brew.

How to serve instant coffee

cup of instant coffee

 

Instant coffee is designed to be quick and simple to brew, but paying attention to the basics can improve the taste of your brew. The recommended serving size is always one teaspoon but if you need a bigger kick, you can add more.  It’s best to use water that’s off the boil, rather than boiling, to avoid scalding the granules and giving it a more bitter taste. So just leave it 15-30 seconds after your kettle boils before adding the water. Whether you add milk or not, or a plant-based alternative, is up to you!  Plant milks: what’s best for your health and the environment? – we run through the facts to help you choose

How we tested instant coffee

 

For this test, we focused on products in the everyday instant coffee category – classic or rich roast style, so they were comparable. The coffees were assessed by a large panel of consumers who regularly buy and consume instant coffee.

Each instant coffee was assessed by 66 people, and the make-up of the panel broadly represents the demographic profile of adults in the UK.  Panellists rated the taste, mouthfeel, aroma and appearance of each product and told us what they liked and disliked about each one.

The taste test was blind, so the tasters didn’t know which brand they were trying. The order they sampled the instant coffee was fully rotated to avoid any bias.

Each panellist had a private booth so they couldn’t discuss what they were tasting or be influenced by others. The overall score is based on:

50% taste

30% aroma

10% appearance

10% mouthfeel