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Alpine Start Instant Review

A great tasting instant coffee that's incredibly lightweight, fast, and easy with fun non-dairy options
Alpine Start Instant
Photo: Alpine Start
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $25 List | Check Price at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Ultralight, surprisingly delicious, fast, easy, vegan/dairy-free options with coconut cream
Cons:  Not ideal for large groups, pricey
Manufacturer:   Alpine Start Foods
By Mary Witlacil ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 21, 2021
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64
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#13 of 16
  • Taste - 40% 4
  • Ease of Use - 25% 10
  • Group Cooking - 15% 2
  • Portability - 10% 10
  • Weight - 10% 10

Our Verdict

Your hunt for a delicious instant coffee is over. Alpine Start blew us away with their impressive instant that comes in an array of flavors, from their Original Blend, to a vegan/dairy-free Dirty Chai and Coffee + Creamer. While it does have a mild instant flavor, it was the best in our review, which is why we awarded it our Top Pick for Instant Coffee. We love it for being lightweight, easy to brew, incredibly portable, and fast to make. If you require an ultralight and ultrafast method for early morning backcountry missions, then Alpine Start has you covered.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Alpine Start Instant
Awards Top Pick Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award   
Price Check Price at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
$9.05 at Amazon$9.99 at Amazon$6.00 List$9.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
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Pros Ultralight, surprisingly delicious, fast, easy, vegan/dairy-free options with coconut creamGourmet flavor, well-conceived design, ceramic version available for home useNo filter needed, tiny and light, consistently good tasteLight, simple, affordable, design allows you to see the level of coffee while brewingNo filter needed, tiny and light
Cons Not ideal for large groups, priceySpecial shaped filters are harder to find, expensive for a plastic dripper, heavier than other brandsMust lift filter out of most cups to avoid over-steeping, poor for large groupsNot as refined a flavor as the V60, bulkyMust pour carefully for bold flavor, delicate clips
Bottom Line A great tasting instant coffee that's incredibly lightweight, fast, and easy with fun non-dairy optionsThe iconic pour over model in a light plastic package, delivering a consistently great flavorThe best option for light travel and backpacking, this savvy brewer will keep you caffeinated without taking up space in your bagThis is a very light and inexpensive pour over option that provides solid taste and stellar valueA great ultralight backpacking option, as long as you pour carefully and aren't too rough with the contents of your pack
Rating Categories Alpine Start Instant Hario V60 Plastic D... Primula Coffee Brew... Melitta 1-Cup Pour-... GSI Outdoors Ultral...
Taste (40%)
4.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
Ease Of Use (25%)
10.0
7.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
Group Cooking (15%)
2.0
6.0
4.0
5.0
5.0
Portability (10%)
10.0
5.0
9.0
5.0
9.0
Weight (10%)
10.0
8.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
Specs Alpine Start Instant Hario V60 Plastic D... Primula Coffee Brew... Melitta 1-Cup Pour-... GSI Outdoors Ultral...
Measured Weight 1 packet: 0.13 oz
Box of 8: 1.62 oz
Dripper alone: 2.95 oz
Dripper + scoop: 3.37 oz
1.1 oz 2.01 oz 1.1 oz
Brew Type Instant Pour Over Pour Over Pour Over Pour Over
Main Material N/A Hard plastic Nylon filter Hard plastic Nylon filter
Filter Needed? No Yes No Yes No
Notable Features Tons of options - from original to vegan dirty chais and lattes, to matcha. Available in buk as well. Cone shape, large hole, ribs along side Rests on any mug Can see cup without lifting dripper Collapsible to fit under fuel canister
Notes Makes strong, smooth coffee Filter hangs in coffee for most cups Doesn't brew as well as the Hario dripper Not sturdy or durable

Our Analysis and Test Results

For early alpine missions and bleary-eyed camp mornings when you need a quick caffeine fix before you bolt into your day, nothing beats the speed and efficiency of instant coffee — though for most coffee drinkers, the taste of instant is undrinkable at best. Not so with Alpine Start. Not only is their Original Blend delicious for an instant coffee, but they also offer dairy-free and vegan Dirty Chai and Coffee + Creamer. Sure, it still has a barely discernible instant flavor, and if you add too much water, it loses flavor real quick, but for those mornings when drinking coffee isn't the only reason you got out of bed, Alpine Start is an unbeatable instant for that early morning buzz.

Performance Comparison


With so many options to choose from, Alpine Start makes it easy to...
With so many options to choose from, Alpine Start makes it easy to find an instant coffee you'll love.
Photo: Jared Ross

Brew Features


Brewing instant coffee requires so little mental fortitude that even on your earliest mornings, you're sure to nail it. Alpine Start is no different - and it even comes in a variety of flavors. Simply dump the contents of the packet into a mug, add hot water (though cold water works too), mix, and drink. We recommend using 5-7oz of water for the best flavor, a little less than what the instructions on the package say. It's so easy we're surprised ravens haven't caught on and stolen our packets of Alpine Start for themselves.

Brewing instant coffee is as simple as adding water to the coffee...
Brewing instant coffee is as simple as adding water to the coffee. We love that we found one that is both easy to brew AND delicious.
Photo: Jared Ross

Taste


Most instant coffee tastes terrible. Full stop. But Alpine Start is different — it's surprisingly delightful and will have even the pickiest coffee connoisseur reaching for a second cup.


While it didn't out-compete the top-performers in this metric — which were all fresh coffee brewers — we were honestly surprised by the yummy flavor of Alpine Start. In our blind taste tests, our testers ranked the Original Blend much higher than other instants in our review. One reviewer even commented that it was bright, bold, and had a great mouthfeel — giving one of the French presses a run for their money. Color us shocked. Instant coffee doesn't normally hold a flame to the fresh brewers in our review, but as we said, Alpine Start is different. For our review, we had the pleasure of trying one of their variety packs that included the Original Blend, Dirty Chai, and Coffee + Creamer — all vegan and dairy-free (the creaminess comes from coconut). Our lead testers prefer their coffee black as a moonless night, so they preferred the Original. However, the Dirty Chai is subtly spicy, and a little sweet, and the Coffee + Creamer is nice and smooth. Pretty dang awesome, if you ask us, and you kinda did, otherwise you wouldn't be here.

What's better than enjoying tasty coffee in a beautiful place? Trick...
What's better than enjoying tasty coffee in a beautiful place? Trick question - the answer is nothing is better.
Photo: Jared Ross

Ease of Use


Instants are undeniably easy and Alpine Start is no different. Pour, mix, drink — it's as simple as that.


From acquiescing to the nagging reminder of your alarm to wide-awake and fully caffeinated requires minimal effort. Indeed, making Alpine Start requires almost as little effort as repeatedly hitting the snooze button. Simply tear into the packet, dump the contents in your cup, add hot water, mix, and go. The only difficult part of the whole equation is heating your water, and if that's too complicated for your pre-caffeinated mind — no problem — just mix your instant with cold water instead.

The bar of entry for a cup of coffee is so low, that even the most...
The bar of entry for a cup of coffee is so low, that even the most sleep deprived or mentally fried among us can handle ripping into the packet and adding water to the grounds.
Photo: Jared Ross

Group Cooking


Alpine Start — or any instant — isn't our go-to method for caffeinating a large crew, which is why it did not score favorably in this department.


However, given the ease and speed at which you can blast through a round of this stuff, you could make multiple cups of coffee with a huge pot of water and a handful of instant coffee packets in less time than you could recharge your pour-over. While it isn't ideal, it's not the worst option either.

While Alpine Start isn't the most ideal option for brewing obscene...
While Alpine Start isn't the most ideal option for brewing obscene amounts of coffee for all your friends or family, it is ridiculously easy and with a large pot of water, could caffeinate the entire gaggle of humans at your group camp site.
Photo: Jared Ross

Portability


Given the minimal space it commands, portability is one of the metrics where Alpine Start truly shines.


While instant coffee produces a little more waste than other coffee brewing options, each packet takes up very little room in your food bag. For missions when space is at an absolute premium, you'll hardly notice a few packets of Alpine Start in your kit.

Alpine Start is so portable you'll hardly notice it in your snack...
Alpine Start is so portable you'll hardly notice it in your snack bag - it's smaller and weighs less than your average food bar.
Photo: Mary Witlacil

Weight


At 0.13 oz per packet for the Alpine Start Original Blend, this is the lightest instant coffee in our review. This paltry weight is a testament to the care put into choosing packaging materials — Alpine Start is considerably lighter than the competition.


Value


Alpine Start instant coffee is not the cheapest way to satisfy your morning coffee craving. That said, they do offer bulk instant coffee and cut a great deal when you buy three boxes at once. While we prefer a more economical and less wasteful way to procure our daily caffeine fix, there is a time and a place for good instant coffee. On early mornings deep in the backcountry where weight, space, and speed are essential elements of a successful adventure, Alpine Start provides a delicious instant coffee at a reasonable price.

It's worth mentioning that an aspect of value can — and should — be assigned to good company values. Even if you pay a bit more for something, if that money is going to support a good cause we feel it increases value. Alpine Start, for their part, donates a portion of all sales to 1% for the Planet and they are a Foundation Partner with Protect Our Winters (POW).

Conclusion


When you need a quick, easy, and painless way to make coffee but don't want to scrimp on flavor, Alpine Start instant is the way to go. It's lightweight, highly portable, and impressively tasty. They even offer a selection of vegan/dairy-free flavors to cover all your cravings. We love it, and we think you will too.

Three cheers for Alpine State - a delicious instant coffee that will...
Three cheers for Alpine State - a delicious instant coffee that will even impress your barista friends.
Photo: Jared Ross

Mary Witlacil