We realize instant coffee doesn't exactly qualify as a coffee maker, but it's a useful tool for getting caffeinated out in the backcountry or while hanging on the side of a rock face. Alpine Start hails from Boulder, Colorado and is the brainchild of a pro climber and a foodie who wanted to make Instant Coffee That Actually Tastes Good. We appreciate the effort and mostly agree. Instant coffee is just hard to make taste amazing, but this one is decent and will get you going quickly on those important adventure mornings, all while supporting a small company — that's a win-win in our book.While we appreciate the mission and message behind Alpine Start, it just wasn't as good as our Top Pick for Instant, First Ascent. First Ascent is from a craft roaster in Crested Butte, also in Colorado. We were floored when we tasted their single origin Ethiopian — it was by far the best instant we've had thus far. If you just can't get behind the idea of drinking instant though and need to stay super light, we recommend taking a look at the super compact GSI Outdoors Ultralight Java Drip or the Primula Brew Buddy, our Top Pick for Backpacking. Both weigh just 1.1 ounces but will require you also bringing along real coffee. It's a tradeoff, but fresh coffee always means a tastier cup.
Alpine Start Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Light, fast, easy to make, also available in some fun flavors
Cons: Not the best flavor compared to fresh brewed, price adds up for long trips
Manufacturer: Alpine Start
Our Analysis and Test Results
We reckon that instant coffee isn't anyone's first choice, but sometimes it's required to get caffeinated on the move. Alpine Start didn't blow us away, but it's decent.
Open packet, pour into vessel, add water. Done! Can't get simpler than that. You don't even have to heat the water up first.
Instant coffee is weird, let's face it. Alpine Start's mission is to make a version that tastes good, but when compared to freshly brewed coffee, there's just no way it can measure up. However, when tiny packets are literally the only option you have then, by golly, they sure can taste good. We found this one about on par with the Starbucks VIA and decidedly not as good as First Ascent. We did like it more when brewed with cold water than hot though.
Ease of Use
The simplest way of delivering caffeine that we know of, just add the packet to warm or cold water and voila! Liquid energy!
Instant coffee packets are individualistic by nature, so this isn't an obvious group option. But because the packets are so light, you can easily bring enough to caffeinate a small army without even noticing the weight in your bag.
Instant coffee packets are undoubtedly the most portable way to get your fix. And they're sealed and self-contained, so you don't have to worry about spills or leaks when all your gear is stuffed haphazardly into your pack.
A box of 8 of these packets will only weigh you down 1.56 ounces — and that includes the box! This is a stellar option for the weight-obsessed through-hiker, backpacker, bike-packer, or whatever other weight-conscious activity you enjoy.
For anyone wanting to save on weight, space, and brewing time, Alpine Start is here to save the day. While it's not the tastiest way to get your caffeine fix, it's pretty decent and will do the trick. And you can feel good for supporting a smaller company instead of a giant chain. That being said, we preferred the OTHER small Colorado option, First Ascent.Bonus: Alpine Start also has some fun sweeter options available, and they're all dairy-free! There is a Coconut Creamer Latte made with, you guessed it, coconut, and a Dirty Chai Latte made with traditional chai spices and soy milk. Yum!
— Penney Garrett
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