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Waka Instant Coffee Review: You want to try this

Delicious instant coffee. It sounds like an oxymoron especially if you’re a coffee lover who relishes specialty coffee. But these days it’s closer to reality, thanks to a growing number of companies offering premium instant brews.

One of these is California-based Waka Coffee, a company on a mission to “Bring Instant Coffee Back.”

Have they succeeded? I sampled their full product line to find out. Keep reading to see if this high-end instant coffee is worth your money. Here’s our Waka Coffee review.

What is Waka Coffee?

Like most great innovations, the idea for Waka coffee started with a problem. CEO David Kovalevski was a busy man in a tiny apartment. Coffee was crucial to fuel his lifestyle. But making it at home was time-consuming and cramped, and visiting a cafe was prohibitively expensive.

Instant coffee seemed like the perfect solution. But there was a problem. All the instant coffee he tried was terrible.

So like any good entrepreneur, he set about to fill this hole in the market. Waka Coffee was born.

Their mission: to make instant coffee as delicious as it is convenient.

Waka Coffee Review: What makes it special?

The first step to better tasting instant coffee? Better coffee beans.

Waka uses only 100% Arabica beans, which are sweeter, smoother, and less bitter than the Robusta beans found in low-end instant coffee.

They source their Arabica beans from single origins, rather than blending crops from around the world. This allows you to experience the unique flavors inherent to certain regions and lets them tailor the roasts to best highlight the character of each coffee.

Finally, their coffee granules are 100% freeze-dried. The company does not want to compromise the coffee quality, hence, they use an advanced freeze-drying technology to make coffee granules instead of cheaper spray drying. Because freeze-dried coffee isn’t exposed to any heat, it doesn’t impact the inherent flavors of the coffee.

So how does it taste?

All that aside, you’re here because you want to know how the coffee tastes. Right now, Waka has three coffees on offer: a Colombian medium roast, an Indian light roast, and a decaf Colombian medium roast. I put all three to the test.

As an aside, tea drinkers will be pleased to find they also offer Instant Kenyan Black Tea and Instant Japanese Matcha.

Both teas and coffees are available in attractive box sets, packaged with reusable mugs and bottles. Just in time for the holiday season.

Waka Coffee's Line up of instant coffees and three single-serve packets
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Bags of Waka coffee and three single-serve packets

In each case, I sampled the instant coffee both black and with a splash of cream to get a more well-rounded experience. Up first, the Colombian medium roast.

Colombian Medium Roast

Making the coffee was as easy as advertised. I put the instant coffee granules in a cup and added 9 ounces of water just below the boiling point. This coffee dissolved perfectly, with not a single grain left behind. 

I was immediately impressed by how rich the coffee looked. It didn’t have that thin, watery look common to Keurig coffee, where you can see the mug right through the coffee. This brew looked thick in the best possible way.

Colombian Medium Roast
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The aroma was sweet and distinctly nutty, reminiscent of marzipan. The flavor was rich and bold, definitely on the dark side of medium, but with no discernable bitterness. The initial taste was caramel sweetness balanced by a surprising punch of citrus acidity. The aftertaste was almost more complex, with notes of chocolate, smoke, and toffee.

Adding a splash of cream removed much of the complexity from this brew, but what remained was sheer deliciousness. 

I literally wrote the tasting note “Yum!” after the first sip. 

The dairy cut both the acidity and sweetness and brought the darker nut and chocolate flavors to the fore.

Overall, I came away impressed. The flavors were true to what I’d expect from a single-origin Colombian coffee, and the bright acidity was a welcome surprise.

Indian Light Roast

It’s a bold choice (no pun intended) to offer a light roast instant coffee. While a dark roast can be used to mask a low-end coffee, a light roast by its very nature showcases the character of the coffee beans. 

The fact that this light roast is available shows how confident Waka is in their product, and I was excited to find out if that confidence is warranted.

The package says to expect a low-acidity brew with flavors of chocolate and hazelnut. I find this surprising because none of these are typical light roast characteristics.

Waka Coffee Indian Light Roast bag and brewed coffee
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After brewing, I was hit first with a spicy cinnamon aroma. The flavor was very fruit forward, with a lot of character coming from a bright citrus acidity, with a dry finish. It tasted how I expect a light roast to taste, not how it was described on the label.

But then I added a bit of cream, and what a change! 

Immediately, the advertised hazelnut and chocolate flavors came through. The citrus acidity was toned way down, replaced with juicy red fruit notes instead.

This light roast has WAY more character than you’d expect from a instant coffee. I’m quite confident you could serve this to guests without them ever guessing the secret.

Colombian Decaf Medium Roast

A good instant decaf is hard to find. If there’s anything specialty coffee roasters ignore more than decaf, it’s instant coffee. Which is a shame, because those lazy late night hours are when I’m most likely to want a coffee with the bare minimum of effort.

Fortunately, Waka came through with this decaf. It will definitely find a regular place on my shelf.

I don’t have a lot to say about its flavor that I haven’t already said about the caffeinated Colombian. They taste identical, which is exactly what I want. 

Iced Coffee

In my opinion, iced coffee is one of the best uses for instant coffee, because you can make and chill it so quickly when the craving strikes. So I was keen to test drive my Waka instant in iced form. I opted for the single-origin Indian because I love the bright flavors of a chilled light roast.

Instant Coffee- Waka Iced Coffee
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The most important thing is to use about 2 tablespoons of hot water to dissolve the granules. Then top it off with cold water, ice cubes, and (in my case) a healthy splash of almond milk. Delicious!

An Environmentally Friendly Choice

Waka Coffee doesn’t just talk the talk when it comes to protecting the environment; they walk the walk too. 

If you want an ultra-convenient brew, but can’t stomach the environmental costs of K-Cups, Waka instant coffee is your answer. You’ll get tastier coffee that’s actually easier to brew, and you’ll be giving back to the environment instead of filling landfills.

Most impressive is Waka’s Add Water Give Water program, which they founded after learning how much water is used in coffee production coupled with how many people in the same regions lack clean drinking water. 

Waka Coffee's sustainable packaging
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For every Waka product you buy, 4% of profits are donated to “charity:water,” which supports clean water projects around the world (1).

Other sustainability measures include their easy-to-recycle paper boxes and the option to buy in bulk, reducing the need for single-serve packaging.

Cost

It isn’t the cheapest instant coffee on the market, but Waka Coffee offers the best value once you account for coffee quality. 

It’s pricer than a jar of Nescafe, but much less expensive than other premium instant brands like Alpine Start or Sudden Coffee. It’s closer in price to Starbucks VIA or Keurig K-Cups, but I would argue it’s tastier than either of those.

SizePricePrice per Serving
8 single-serve packets$11.99$1.25
3.5-ounce bulk$25.99$0.75
8-ounce bulk$39.99$0.49

Who is it for?

Camping has always been one of the best uses for instant coffee, and that is still a perfect place to enjoy your Waka Coffee. It’s light to carry, fast to brew, requires no special equipment beyond a way to boil water, and there’s no clean-up! Definitely the most practical way to enjoy a backcountry brew.

Waka Instant Coffee for Camping and a cup of coffee
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Similarly, travelers who are sick of watery hotel room pod coffees or stale conference urns will appreciate the convenience of being able to carry a top-notch coffee right in their pocket.

Now that good-tasting instant coffee exists, there are even more reasons to have it on hand. You can take it to the office and avoid that stale pot of Mr. Coffee. You can drink it at home on a busy morning to skip a stop at the Starbucks drive-thru. 

Or keep some decaf available in case of a special request from visitors. I promise you they won’t guess it’s instant (just spend some extra time banging around in the kitchen to keep up the charade).

The Verdict

I went in as a skeptic and came out as a convert. The Waka instant coffee is good. Not just good for instant coffee, but legitimately good. 

No, Waka Coffee can’t compete with freshly ground beans lovingly prepared by a professional barista. But this high-quality instant coffee is as good or better than any coffee I’ve had from a drip coffee machine.

If you’re looking for a quick, convenient, and quality cup of coffee, whether at home, in the office, or on a camping trip, I have no hesitation recommending Waka. It’s simply one of the best instant coffee there is!

  1. (n.d.) Charity Water. Retrieved from https://www.charitywater.org
I love trail running, rock climbing, coffee, food, and my tiny dog — and writing about all of them. I start every morning with a fresh Americano from my home espresso machine, or I don’t start it at all.

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