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Sudden Coffee Review: Specialty Instant Coffee Or Just Another Fad?

For years, instant coffee has been considered the lowest of lows by the specialty coffee community. Bearded baristas around the world have told us you can only make great coffee at home with a french press or pour over cone — but the folks at Sudden Coffee weren’t so convinced.

sudden coffee review

Sudden Coffee is the world’s first maker of “specialty instant coffee”. They claim their instant brew tastes just as good as a pour over from your favorite hip cafe—and we knew it was a claim we had to test in an in-depth Sudden Coffee review.

Is Sudden Coffee a worthy alternative to pour over coffee? Is it really possible for instant coffee to taste delicious? Have the bearded baristas been wrong all along?

It’s time we find out.

How Sudden Coffee Works

Sudden Coffee uses the freeze-drying method to create their instant coffee powder.

Coffee pros agree that this process produces a higher quality flavor than the more common spray-dried method, because it doesn’t superheat the grounds and damage the sugars, acids, and other flavorful compounds.

The company then places the dry instant coffee powder in vacuum-sealed, recyclable tubes and send them to you in the form of a subscription. Depending on how much you order each month, costs range from $1.75 to $2.75/cup.

It is possible to order just an 8-pack to try without a subscription, but the cost ends up being $3.50/cup. There is also a 2-pack free trial (more on this later).

We Tried Two Of Sudden’s Coffees… Here’s How It Went

We couldn’t help but put Sudden to the test. Could their instant coffee powder really rival the flavor and clarity of a good pour over brew?

We ordered a few tubes of both the Mzuzu, Malawi (medium roast) and Rayos Del Sol, Peru (light roast) to try.

What we discovered surprised us.

The Mzuzu, Malawi

sudden coffee instant coffee

When we poured hot water over the crystals, we were met with a mild sweet aroma. We let the brew cool for a couple minutes, then took our first sip.

There was a gentle citrusy flavor from the start that was accompanied by a pleasant sweetness. This sweetness followed through to the red fruit aroma that became clear as we swallowed.

The flavor was great, if a bit mild, but there was something missing: acidity. When we tasted that citrus fruit flavor, we expected a lemony zing to make it shine—but there was none of that. The lack of acidity made the cup feel a bit flat. Not one-dimensional or boring… just not as bright or lively as we wanted.

Overall, the Mzuzu made for a sweet, satisfying, and well-rounded cup. If only it had that tang and a bit more strength, it would have been on par with a pour over coffee.

The Rayos Del Sol, Peru

specialty instant coffee

Unlike the Mzuzu, this particular coffee didn’t unleash much of any aroma when we poured hot water onto it. When we sipped it, however, we weren’t disappointed.

There wasn’t much of a flavor rush at first, but as we let the coffee sit on our tongues, we were met with a pleasant lime-like acidity that, while it didn’t have as much zing as normal pour over coffee would, was just bright enough to add some pizzazz.

As we swallowed the coffee, we were met with a gentle sweetness and subtle fruity aroma that reminded us of the flavor of apple juice.

While this offering didn’t seem quite as full-flavored as the Mzuzu, it did have a small acidic tang that gave some vibrancy to the flavor. That acidity brought this a bit closer to the flavor of pour over coffee, but we still thought it wasn’t quite there in terms of full-flavoredness.

The Positives of Sudden Coffee

The appeal of Sudden Coffee was immediately clear to us when we tried.

sudden coffee review

Like all instant coffee, there are some big ways it can make your life a lot easier—but the higher quality flavor means even picky coffee lovers can experience them.

  • It’s probably the easiest way to make coffee. You can’t really beat pouring coffee crystals into hot (or even cold) water and stirring. No special gear or skills required.

  • The flavor was surprisingly good. Distinct flavors were fairly clear, the medium body was pleasant, and there was even a light acidity that gave our tastes buds a little jolt in the Peruvian coffee. Certainly better than any other instant coffee you’ll find at the supermarket.

  • You can make it anywhere (literally). Going camping, traveling abroad, or just want to make up good, easy cup at work? Sudden coffee makes it so easy to do so without having to endure gross, bitter instant coffee.

  • The tubes are recyclable. We were worried about trashing individual tubes of plastic, but it turns out they’re all compostable, which means they won’t add to the worldwide plastic problem.

  • You can make lots of creative drinks. Don’t have an espresso machine but want to make an espresso drink? Just mix the powder with 1-2oz of hot water instead of 8. Want iced coffee? Mix with cold water and top with ice. The crystals are very flexible.

Sure, ‘regular’ instant coffee may also be easy, but when you add in the high flavor quality of Sudden, there’s no comparison when it comes to the overall experience. Sudden Coffee beats low-grade instant powder at everything… almost.

sudden coffee prepared

Image Credit: Sudden Coffee

The Negatives of Sudden Coffee

It’s not perfect. There are some drawbacks that need to be considered before hopping on the Sudden Coffee bandwagon.

  • It’s not exactly cheap. At $1.75/cup, it’s not as affordable as Starbucks Via or some other less-than-amazing instant coffee. You do have to pay a premium for the premium quality.

  • We wouldn’t say it’s quite at pour over level. Don’t hear us wrong—the flavor’s incredible for being instant coffee—but it doesn’t quite beat a good pour over from a passionate barista.
  • A smaller selection of coffees. Sudden releases a new coffee four times per year, so you don’t have a lot of options to choose from compared to roasters who may have 10+ offerings each year.

These negatives don’t kill the experience for us, but it does limit it some. We’d especially love to see more offerings.

The Verdict: Is Sudden Coffee The Delicious Instant Coffee We’ve Been Waiting For?

Now, we’re careful not to be too optimistic about products we review. We realize if we’re always satisfied or overly-positive with a product, we lose some credibility. But let’s be honest…

Sudden Coffee is a tasty, convenient, and snob-approved way to enjoy instant coffee.

sudden coffee review

We were impressed with the flavor quality of the two coffees we tried. While it wasn’t quite as rich, tangy, or sweet as a handmade pour over coffee, it really wasn’t too far off (and certainly much better than other instant coffees out there).

We also loved the convenience. You can make it as strong as you want by the amount of water you add. You can even mix it with cold water for iced coffee. And the tubes are compostable, which means you don’t have to feel guilty about getting more single-use plastic in the mail every month.

And so we’re really not surprised that Sudden Coffee has been well-received by the global specialty coffee community. Even professional coffee snobs seem to like it.

Sudden Coffee is particularly great for travel, coffee in the great outdoors, and easy afternoon brews at work.

Looks like they’re offering a 2-pack free trial (but you’re on the hook for $3 shipping). If you’re curious if Sudden would enhance your coffee lifestyle, give it a shot.

TRY SUDDEN COFFEE →

A Couple Specialty Instant Coffee Alternatives To Consider

Sudden Coffee was the first “specialty” instant coffee company, but they’re not the only one. Here are a couple other brands that are also making waves in this space.

Voilà

Voilà takes a slightly different approach from Sudden by offering instant coffees from a variety of coffee roasters (rather than just two), so they have quite a few more offerings available.

Unfortunately, they seem to be less consistently in stock than Sudden. Each cup costs $3.50, so it’s also a bit more expensive.

Swift Cup

Swift Cup also partners will multiple roasters and has a bigger selection of coffees. They even have a decaf option. Each cup comes to $3.17, so it’s more affordable than Voilà, but less so than Sudden.

So what are you going to do? Give Sudden Coffee a spin, or try out one of these other companies instead? Let us know how it goes!


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Avatar for Garrett Oden

Garrett Oden is a coffee expert and former manager of Yellow House Coffee, TX. He loves exploring the intersection of food, cooking, and technology. When he's not writing about a cool new gadget or coffee, he can usually be found experimenting in the kitchen.

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