Hacker Fuel Review: Starbucks VIA Instant Coffee

I'm kind of a coffee snob. Not an ultimate connoisseur, but a bit of a snob. I usually drink one or two mugs (~16oz each) of pressed coffee per day. I have a press pot at my desk, and another at home. I grind fresh, locally-roasted beans with a conical burr coffee mill, and bring them to work to brew. I drink my coffee black, as $DEITY intended. (Sorry to bite your style, liquidmatrix guys, it's CATCHY!)

I occasionally partake in a fatty, chocolaty, girly mocha. Since most of the coffee shops in a reasonable distance to my office provide espresso drinks that are either unpredictable or predictably acrid, I opt for Starbucks. It's close. It tastes the same every time, and it's tolerable. That, and the people who work there are friendly, giving me the occasional hook-up.

This time, the "hook up" was a few samples of their new Starbucks VIA product. I put "hook up" in quotes because I'm pretty sure that they're supposed to hand these out to everyone that bothers to enter the store. "It's not instant coffee," Eric said, trying to eschew the stigma associated with the crystallized offal sold as classic instant coughee, "It's micro-ground soluble whole-bean coffee. You'll probably like it." I could instantly tell that the manager had been to training about this product. After all, Instant Coffee Is Serious Business. You can tell from the advertisement floating around on YouTube.

Reluctantly, I took the packets -- disturbingly packaged not entirely unlike individual serving Taster's Choice instant coffee. Heebie jeebies!

When it was time for my mid-morning coffee, I glanced over at my little container of recently-roasted, even-more-recently-ground beans, Then at my stainless steel press pot. Then over to this little pouch of coffee dust. I took the plunge, opting to try Italian Roast, the boldest (their words, not mine) of the samples gifted to me.

Supposedly, one Starbucks VIA packet is scientifically engineered to dissolve in eight fluid ounces of clean, piping-hot water for an imbibery experience that's indistinguishable from a freshly-brewed cup-o-joe from the Starbucks down the street. That's not really saying much, now, is it?

I have to admit, it's not as bad as I'd thought. It certainly is no replacement for my press pot and fresh-ground coffee snobbery, but it works. And it's caffeinated. Or maybe it's the placebo effect that's keeping my brain-aches at bay and giving me a slight boost. The finely-ground coffee leaves a familiar and comforting layer of sediment at the bottom of the mug that one does not encounter with traditional instant coffee.

I skipped the precise measurement of water and suggest you do the same. Put the coffee powder (which really is whole-bean coffee, finely ground!) into you favorite caffeine-quaffing vessel, and add hot water a bit at a time. Sample it frequently until it strikes a balance you like.

Would I buy it?
I forgot to check the asking price on the way out. It certainly does compete with the taste of a $1.50 cup-of-joe, but I doubt I'd pay more than 50 cents each for the privilege of mixing this stuff up myself. It's hands-down the best instant coffee I've had. It'd work in a pinch, and would probably be great for backpacking or office coffee emergencies.