Reviews You Can Rely On

First Ascent Instant Review

Created by a craft coffee roaster, one of the best instants we've tried
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First Ascent Instant Review (First Ascent Instant Coffee)
First Ascent Instant Coffee
Credit: First Ascent
Price:  $20 List
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Manufacturer:   First Ascent
By Mary Witlacil and Penney Garrett  ⋅  May 21, 2021
  • Taste - 40% 3.0
  • Ease of Use - 25% 10.0
  • Group Cooking - 15% 2.0
  • Portability - 10% 10.0
  • Weight - 10% 10.0

Our Verdict

First Ascent is a shockingly decent instant coffee from a specialty coffee roaster based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. This option is ultralight, easy to use, and brewable with hot or cold water. Whether you're deep into the backcountry for an alpine mission, or you need a quick jolt of caffeine while ultra-running, thru-hiking, or doing a quick big-wall climb, you're probably psyched that instant coffee exists, no matter how terrible it tastes. Thankfully the era of crummy, flavorless instant is coming to an end, and First Ascent is one of our favorites. We tested both their Hero Blend and their single origins and were highly impressed, especially with their single-origin.
Ultra lightweight
Great flavor for instant
Available in single origins and blends
Created by a specialty coffee roaster
Still has that weird instant smell

Our Analysis and Test Results

If you're deep in the backcountry with a heavy pack, but cannot live without your morning brew, then First Ascent is among the better tasting instant coffees we have tasted. Gone are the days when you will have to sacrifice flavor for an ultralight and ultra-rapid caffeine fix. First Ascent flips the narrative on instant coffee with high-quality single-origin options and their absolutely drinkable Hero Day blend. Next time you are getting ready for an all-day alpine assault deep in the backcountry, pick up a couple of these packets — you surely will not be disappointed.

Performance Comparison

first ascent instant - first ascent was able to make us not totally despise instant coffee!
First Ascent was able to make us not totally despise instant coffee!
Credit: Penney Garrett

Brew Features

Nothing is easier than instant coffee. Nothing. Simply, rip open the packet, add the grounds to whatever mug you can find, add hot or cold water, and stir. That's it: you're done! To finesse the flavor, we suggest adding less than 8 ounces of water, as this will assure you get a full-bodied cup rather than a weak batch of bean tea.

first ascent instant - no grind size or brewing times to mess up here, just add water and...
No grind size or brewing times to mess up here, just add water and you're on your way to caffeination.
Credit: Penney Garrett


In the hearts and minds of most coffee lovers, instant coffee will always taste and smell different than fresh-brewed coffee. However, First Ascent fared decently well in our blind taste tests. While it scored lower than brewing with fresh beans, our taste-testers preferred it to more mainstream instant coffee options. Besides, when it's all you have, you'll be happy you opted for a higher quality instant coffee.

We tested both the Hero Day Blend and a single-origin Ethiopian. The Hero Day Blend has more of an “instant” flavor than the Ethiopian, perhaps because it's a darker roast. However, the Ethiopian is downright impressive. In one taste test, a taster ranked it just below all the fresh-brewed options, without recognizing that it was an instant coffee. With every other taste test we've done where an instant was on the table, our testers spotted the instant coffee within one sip. First Ascent makes an utterly drinkable instant coffee reminiscent of a freshly brewed single-origin coffee. Impressive.

first ascent instant - the two varieties we tried while testing. the ethiopian was our...
The two varieties we tried while testing. The Ethiopian was our favorite.
Credit: Penney Garrett

Ease of Use

There is literally nothing to it. All you gotta do is rip open the packet, empty the contents into your cup, and add water. It doesn't even have to be hot. If you prefer strong coffee, be sure to add less than the recommended quantity of water. Either way, there is minimal clean-up and finessing involved with producing a cup of coffee.

One of the benefits of instant is that you can brew it in any vessel you have available, regardless of shape and size. We've also found that making your brew with cold water instead of hot often improves the overall flavor.

first ascent instant - even if you forget your camp mug you can still get your caffeine...
Even if you forget your camp mug you can still get your caffeine fix. There are benefits to instant for sure.
Credit: Penney Garrett

Group Cooking

We rated our instant options based on a single packet, but you could caffeinate a gaggle of your friends if you have enough on hand. Be fair-warned; this could get mighty expensive compared to the other caffeination methods in our review. Either way, instant coffee is simple enough that you could easily share tons of coffee with your friends if you're down to foot the bill.

first ascent instant - got a big group? bring a whole box. it will be expensive, but also...
Got a big group? Bring a whole box. It will be expensive, but also get the job done.
Credit: Penney Garrett


There is nothing more portable than a featherweight packet of instant coffee. Each packet is roughly the same size as your driver's license, so you will barely notice the space they take up in your food bag. Slip one of these little dudes into any pocket of your pack. They are moisture-proof and pre-portioned. You can't get more portable than that.

first ascent instant - we're ready to hit the road with our first ascent!
We're ready to hit the road with our First Ascent!
Credit: Penney Garrett


There is no beating instant coffee with respect to weight. Each packet weighs 0.2 ounces or just 2 ounces for a box of 8. One of the perks of instant is that the weight you see on the packet or box is the weight you get. Alternatively, with all the fresh coffee brewers in our review, you will have the additional weight of coffee and possibly paper filters to consider. So for those backcountry missions where every micro-gram counts, First Ascent may be the way to go.

first ascent instant - first ascent, keeping it classy.
First Ascent, keeping it classy.
Credit: Penney Garrett


The old saying “you get what you pay for” absolutely applies here. This is not your typical cheap instant available at a regular grocery store, sure to make you pucker in disgust. This is expertly crafted instant coffee from a small specialty roastery that buys quality beans and takes pride in the final outcome. Sure, it costs more than a budget instant, but if you have to drink the stuff in the first place, shouldn't you do yourself a favor and drink something that's actually good?


This is a turning point for coffee lovers and ultralight aficionados. For far too long, instant coffee has been something you grimaced your way through in exchange for a caffeine fix. Now you don't have to sacrifice flavor on a backcountry mission where every gram counts. First Ascent has upped the ante by peddling a delicious instant coffee with single-origin roasts that surprised and impressed us.

first ascent instant - first ascent: outdoorgearlab tested, coffee snob approved.
First Ascent: OutdoorGearLab tested, coffee snob approved.
Credit: Penney Garrett

Mary Witlacil and Penney Garrett