The Starbucks Via and the Cusa Instant Tea's are my personal favorites. I'm by no means a coffee snob, but after that stiff morning camp feel nothing makes you feel better....except maybe adding some whiskey.
I typically either bring a French press out while car camping (jet boil to boil water quickly) and I find it the easiest way to make larger amounts of good tasting coffee. I love a solid two cups in the morning to sip on!
I’ve also used Starbucks but I just recently tried the Alpine Start Dirty Chai instant packets and they were honestly so much better than other istant coffees I have tried. I was mixing half a packet of the Dirty Chai and a full Starbucks instant packet to stretch the more expensive packets a little further and it was great. I’ll definitely be repeating.
Also, FYI Costco usually sells two packs of the instant Starbucks packets for a MUCH more affordable price point.
I am partial to Starbucks "Via," especially the Vnillla Latte. From some other responses here, it sounds like REI stores ought to offer a members ony instant coffee taste test session. That would give us all the opportunity to try various options.
If I am car camping, I pack my Zorijishi thermo full of coffee from home on the night I am driving to the campsite. It easily keeps the coffee piping hot for at least 12 hours, even when stored outside my tent at near-freezing temperatures. That way I can literally wake up and enjoy my coffee without having to even leave the tent!
Otherwise I will keep a jar of instant in my camping gear.
However, I have been eyeing the GSI Outdoor Mini Espresso set that REI sells. Anyone have experience using it?
I use Laird Instafuel the Aribica blend. It is a coffee and coconut creamer in one and it’s tastes increadible.
Before our first backpacking trip we tested several instant coffee brands, combined with all kinds of sweeteners (most of them weigh a lot less than our favorite, sugar in the raw). We found out that the most important taste factor for us was the sweetener... Stevia, sucralose, aspartame, etc. did not work; sugar in the raw was the best choice.
For coffee, we ended up going with Organics 365 instant, and it worked well.
In everyday life we only drink dark roast Starbucks (homemade, so it is stronger than the brew at Starbucks...) and, yes, sugar in the raw...
For a while I tried a few homemade variations of the “tea-bagged” coffee approach. The best of those trials was an equal mix of instant (Nescafe Classic) and espresso ground French Roast, steeped in a teabag for varied minutes (to taste, depending on quantities and qualities of the exact coffees mixed). I abandoned that approach because it was entirely too much trouble in relation to the results. I now use two solutions: For HOT coffee I choose medium to dark roast whole beans and grind them to “Turkish” fineness (well beyond “espresso” grind). I then simply brew the coffee powder in a small pot (the same as making Greek coffee on my gas stovetop at home). This method results in a very, very small amount of grounds per cup brewed, that can be easily dealt with in a manner appropriate to your camping situation. There’s no filter or device to carry, clean, or dispose of. Simply a small pot and a cup (or “rough it” and drink directly from the pot if you choose). For COLD coffee: Carry Nescafe Classic (and sugar if desitred). Mix a couple spoonfuls with cold water (add some snow if there’s any nearby), stir vigorously (or shake if you want to carry and mix in a sealing container) and drink. I believe Nescafe Classic is spray-dried, not freeze dried, so mixes and tastes differently from the freeze dried brands.
Your hot brew sounds like a variation of the "cowboy coffee" brewing method, which is what I've started doing at home... much less fiddling with gadgets and cleanup is easy.
@ronf. Yes it’s a variation of the “cowboy coffee” method alright. Actually the origin of other methods, since coffee growing and brewing was originally exported from north Africa (Ethiopia, I believe). The main differences would be the shape of the small pot (narrowing at the top) and that the coffee is not quite brought to a full boil but just to the stage of starting to foam up. As with the cowboy method, adding a dash of cold water to the pot of hot coffee just after removing it from the flame helps settle the fine grounds. This brewing method is still common to the middle east and Mediterranean region, often using a small pot on an alcohol burner. I still have an old Arabian alcohol stove in my kit, it’s just a flattish brass alcohol container with a cotton wick, so foolproof and nearly indestructible. It will actually burn other flammable oils or liquids in a pinch. It’s too heavy to backback with, but using Sterno is a similar approach. I’m not generally in a rush, so what do I care if the water takes an extra minute to heat? The extra flavor is worth the wait.
I used Mt.Hagen last trip and it’s doable but in the past and future I will go back to beans and a grinder. I use a plastic hand grinder. And a mellitta plastic cone and screen. That adds 1.5 pounds to my pack weight. I will admit it’s plush and not necessary for most an$ that extra poundage is a deal breaker but a good Kenyan in the canyon or the right cordillera at lake Ellen Wilson makes it even better. After the kids eat and the tents rolled I make a cup as I finish then it’s time to get moving. Kind of a time keeper if you will. No one needs that perfect cup, but it is a nice way to leave camp with six hours of trail calling