April 14, 2010

Instant gratification

My generation is famous for it. If the yuppies of the eighties needed cocaine to fuel their buzz, we're too busy to stop and snort it. Maybe if there were some easier, more convenient way to get our fix... maybe if coffee only took a couple minutes to prepare...

Enter VIA, Starbucks' foray in to the instant coffee market. Ahem. Check that. According to Starbucks, VIA is not instant coffee, but rather "microground". The idea is that 100% arabica coffee is ground so infinitesimally small that it can be dissolved in water straight away. I don't pretend to grasp the science, nor do I care to. My only concern is whether VIA holds up under taste scrutiny. 

I was inspired to try this by a comment on my previous post, which mentioned Folgers' coffee/tea bag pouch things. I picked up a box of Kroger brand bags and a three pack of Starbucks Columbia VIA.  

Both were served using 8 oz of near boiling water, as per the directions.

The comparison:
Price:  Kroger - About $3.50 for 19 bags. Starbucks - $3 for three packs.
Method:  Kroger - The bag is steeped for just over one minute, a la tea. Starbucks - The contents of one pack is stirred in to near boiling water.
Aroma:  Kroger - Slightly pungent and syrupy. Starbucks - Rich and full, eerily similar to Starbucks regular Columbia roast.
Taste:  Kroger - While the smell is a bit too strong, if not overly pleasant, the taste is weak. The coffee tastes thin and whispy, and lacks any body or strong flavor. Starbucks - The taste picks up where the smell left off. The coffee is hearty, dense and smooth. While there isn't anything interesting going on in the flavor department, the result is still satisfying. 
Verdict: Kroger - Cheap as can be, but still not quite worth the investment. The quality of the product just isn't there. Which shouldn't be surprising, given that it includes "coffee oils" as an ingredient. Starbucks - At about one dollar a cup, VIA is hardly the sort of thing you want to start every morning with. It also lacks the nuance of properly brewed coffee. Even still, in a pinch, VIA offers salvation for those who need real coffee flavor, but don't have access to real brewing methods. 


  1. But what about the more name brand instant coffee's, like Folgers? Kroger is store brand stuff, that's always going to be a bit low dow non the totem pole.

  2. I don't think so. They use the same grade coffee as Folgers does -- In other words, the lowest tier stuff. Nescafe is the only other instant brand with a reputation for producing anything decent, so I plan on trying it.