Here is your guide to the best Korean Instant Coffee!

Four Korean instant coffees in a papercups.
Cheers to Instant Coffee

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Coffee, particularly instant coffee, is woven into the social fabric of Korean life. Since the early 2000’s the coffee culture in Korea has exploded and shaped the social life of the average Korean. The nation’s obsession with coffee is best illustrated by the number of coffee shops.

A Korean coffee shop on Jeju island
A coffee shop on Jeju Island in South Korea

In Stark contrast to the UK, which has a population of 66 million and 24,000 coffee shops; Korea’s population of 51 million has around 70,000 with 14,000 more shops opening every year! It’s no wonder the nation transformed from one of the poorest to one of the richest in only one generation.

In fact, Koreans continue to embrace the coffee culture by opening bold and unique cafes such as poop and raccoon cafés, which you can find all over Seoul.

Before the emergence of the giant franchises like Starbucks, which sell an endless selection of coffee, you might wonder what coffee Koreans liked to drink.

As you might have guessed already; It wasn’t the succulent Mocha Frappuccinos with extra cream, but:

Instant coffee.

coffee beans

Instant coffee has a long history in Korea. You only need to look around to see how it dripped its way into the work culture.

Just like a heroin addict craving his next fix, Koreans, not all of course, but a large majority need that shot of coffee. The taxi driver you see on the side of the road isn’t drinking cups of lemonade, diet coke, or soju. Hopefully, it’s not soju, the Korean spirit which is ingrained into the daily lives of Koreans, but coffee-namely instant coffee.

Taxi drivers love it. Not to mention the bus drivers, company workers, shopkeepers, and schoolteachers.

Everyone’s on it! 

The convenience of being relatively cheap and easy to make makes instant coffee irresistible.

The sachets are freely available in school staff rooms and company board rooms; restaurants and homes up and down the country.

Korea’s Coffee Culture Explained

So you might ask, how and why did coffee come to the Korean peninsular?

old Korean hallway

Coffee has become deep-rooted in Korean culture. But this hasn’t always been the case.

Coffee has only been part of South Korea’s culture since the late-19th century when King Gojong became the first Korean to try coffee.

In 1896 Antoinette Sontag, the sister-in-law of the Russian ambassador presented the king with the iconic beverage. It seemed the King gained a liking to coffee because he would seal coffee beans with his royal approval that same year.

After the king’s rubber stamp, only the upper classes could afford it. Coffee would later become a symbol of modernization in Korea; it would become a powerful symbol for the wealthy elite.

Paving the way for Korean Instant Coffee

A yellow maxim korean instant coffee logo
The Maxim Logo

Coffee shops called Dabangs emerged in 1927, particularly in and around Myeongdong Seoul.

Inside Debangs locals could enjoy eating savory cakes with western cutlery, such as knives and forks, and drink coffee from cups, instead of the traditional soup bowls. A culinary revolution had begun.

Not long after the Debangs opened, cafes gained traction around 1970. Exclusive coffee shops began opening around Seoul, which catered for businessmen, professionals, and students. With the surge in cafes and coffee; instant coffee then hit the scene in 1976!

maxim white gold korean instant coffee mix sticks on a table.
Maxim mocha white Gold mix packs

Dongsun Foods was the first company to introduce instant coffee to the country by selling instant coffee mix packs in 1976. (Maxim coffee sticks)

Alongside Instant coffee, a transformation happened!

Coffee no longer had to be enjoyed in exclusive cafes, it could now be drunk in the homes and offices of ordinary citizens.

A new wave of enjoying coffee had begun.

By the end of 1990, South Korea had become the largest consumer of instant coffee in the world. Not only was it trendy, but it was cheap, had a long shelf life, and was very convenient.

Is Korean Instant Coffee Bad For You?

After tearing the sachet and pouring the coffee it into the cup, you might peer in and look at the mass of coffee waiting to be stirred.

No doubt you’ve probably questioned yourself after drinking the grainy powder. I’ve sometimes asked myself:

“Is this maxium instant coffee going to give me cancer?”

Well, thankfully it’s not going to kill you, and unlikely to give you cancer.

There’s even evidence to suggest it has a host of benefits for you health:

  • It has generally the same, and even in some brands, more antioxidants than filtered coffee.
  • Instant coffee also has less caffeine. With a standard cup having a range of between 30-90mg of caffeine compared to a brewed coffee with 70-140mg.
  • Clinical observations have also observed that it can enhance brain function and reduce the risk of diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.
  • It will also give your metabolism a boost to help you burn that unwanted fat.

However, instant coffee contains twice as much acrylamide.

Acrylamide is a potentially harmful chemical that is formed when the coffee beans are roasted.

Although, the amount of Acrylamide you’re exposed to in coffee and your diet is way below the amount that has been shown to be harmful. Therefore, drinking instant coffee shouldn’t cause concern regarding Acrylamide.

Now, let’s move onto what you’ve been waiting for.

How to Make Instant Coffee

A man pouring hot water into a coffee cup


  1. First, get your coffee packet and tear it along the top where it says “easy cut.”
  2. Pour the contents of the sachet into a cup and wait for the kettle to boil.
  3. Once the kettle bottles, pour the water into the cup and stir.
  4. Last but not least, stir and then sip until you need your next fix!

*Also with the Maxim sticks, you can control the amount of sugar you want in your cup.

Where it says Easy to cut, tear it along the dotted lines but hold the other side firmly with your fingers. With this in mind, you can control the amount of sugar that goes into your cup.

How To Drink Instant Coffee

Koreans usually drink instant coffee with 4oz of water to one instant coffee stick. However, for me, i usually use two sticks with 8oz of water.

Give it a try!

The Best Korean Instant Coffee Brands To Buy

Okay, I will start with the best Korean instant coffee brands and instant coffee; maybe this is the nation’s choice too.

Maxim coffee

1. Maxim White Gold

For you, that love a coffee with milk and sugar, then this has to be the Crème de la crème of instant coffee. As the title suggests, it’s creamy and sweet, but not overly sweet or too bitter. It balances the coffee, cream, and sugar to give you a smooth tasting cup. Enjoyed by the masses, this is one of Korean favorite instant coffee and it will probably be yours too.

$29.80 View at Amazon

2. Maxim Mocha Gold

Enter any shop in Korea, and you will face a yellow wall of coffee.
That yellow wall is Maxim Mocha Gold, lightening the shop up with its iconic yellow packaging. Not only is it a great cup of coffee, but it’s also Korea’s most famous. With only 5 grams of fat and 2 grams of sugar and 50 mg of caffeine, it’s one of the best you can buy.

It is less creamy than the white gold and you can taste the coffee more too. It can be enjoyed either hot or cold, with no gunk left over at the bottom like some instant coffees.

The taste isn’t overly strong, but light and smooth. Because of the pencil slim packs, it can be taken with you anywhere.

$15.28 View at Amazon

Maxim also sells a wide variety of instant coffees that you might prefer.

These include Maxim Mocha light, original and Maxim Decaffeinated.

Namyang French coffee

3. Namyang French Cafe Mix

I like this instant coffee. It has a very similar taste to Maxim Mocha gold; smooth and light, with a delicate blend of coffee, sugar, and cream.
With the emphasis on nonfat milk and zero casein, it’s catered to a healthy alternative. I don’t know if the zero casein makes a huge difference, but they seem to talk up its advantages. Also, if you don’t like it, Namyang offers a 100% cashback. Go ahead, give this one a try, you won’t be disappointed. If you are, get your money back!

$38.08 View at Amazon

Namyang also sells a lot of different instant coffees. Another great one to try is the French Cafe Arabica.

Ediya Coffee

4. Ediya Cafe Beanist: Original Americano

Ediya cafe has thousands of coffee shops around Korea.
It’s one of the most well know cafe franchise in Korea. The franchise also claims to have a better coffee bean than Starbucks., but Starbucks would say the same about Ediya. I suppose it comes down to the Consumer, and I would have to side with Starbucks, but what do you think.
However, Ediya sell some great instant coffee. What I like about the taste is that it has a nutty chocolate balance which differs from the other coffees listed here. It’s also less bitter than Kano’s dark roast and overall has a better flavour.

It’s more expensive than Maxim and French Cafe, so I’m not sure if it’s cost-effective for buying this.

$38.00 View at amazon

Ediya also sells a range of instant coffees including Mild Americano and Dark Americano.

Kanu Instant Coffee

5. Kanu Dark Roast Americano.

At only 3 Kcal a cup, this little pack certainly won’t hurt your waistline.
This coffee is a dark roast with zero sugar or milk. For me personally, this is too bitter and rich and has a somewhat acidic taste.
However, the packets are tiny, maybe around 5 cm in length, which means you can easily fit them in your pockets.
I only drink this when it’s the only option available.
On the packet, it says that it’s best enjoyed with 100-120 ml of water. Maybe you might like it, but for me, this not my favorite.

The Kanu range, which is owned by Maxim is supposed to be their premier range. What’s more, if you go into Home-plus or E-Mart you will find some great deals on the coffee; most of the time, they give away free mugs or tumblers.

$40.97 View at Amazon

It also has a wide range of instant coffees including Sweet, Decaffeinated, and Americano

Final Verdict

Maxim coffee is the most famous instant coffee in Korea, so if you want an authentic drink, buy maxim! Nevertheless, there are many other brands to choose from which all have a variety of flavours to choose from.

As stated above, my personal favorite is Maxim White Gold, and I think this is one of the best coffee mixes you can buy.
If you have a favorite, tell me what you think by commenting below.
Enjoy Korean coffee!