Our 3-in-1 Coffee Meter Gauges the Strength of Instant Coffee Brands

Gela Velasco

Mika Bacani (@junemonsters)

Coffee addicts like me will take what we can get—even the delusional wakefulness from a sachet (or several more) of 3-in-1 coffee. Instant coffee was my best friend, my constant companion during the years I worked for three magazines. I have Nescafe to thank for making me lucid on those mornings-after-overtime and Kopiko for keeping me sane through late afternoon-until-evening shoots. I was introduced to San Miguel back in college, when I first started staying up late to write, edit, and finish issues of the school paper. Fast forward to the present: I now test the flavor, efficacy, and other qualities that factor into a reliable cup of instant coffee.

For this piece, Nescafe’s Original 3-in-1, Kopiko’s Astig, San Miguel’s Original (Creamier), and Good Day Original are compared according to four factors. On a scale from 1 to 5 (one being the lowest and five being the highest), each brand will be scored for the following criteria:

First Taste

This factor will consider how well the coffee, creamer, and sugar balance each other on those first few sips.

That “Tama” Factor

Insomniacs drink coffee for one purpose: for that strong taste that takes over the taste buds and awakens the senses.

“Tama” Mortality

How long can the coffee’s strong taste last in your mouth? A lower score means it requires more sips or larger gulps for the taste to kick in.


For this criterion, the numbers go in reverse: one means it has a decent or no aftertaste; five means it has an awful aftertaste.

Nescafe Original

Nescafe Original 3-in-1 Coffee

This brand may be the undisputed classic when it comes to instant coffee, but it really tastes more like cream and sugar. There’s a need to deceive the brain that it will work before you mix that sachet. Thirty minutes later, expect to be reaching out for another sachet to keep things going.

Good Day Original

Good Day Original 3-in-1 Coffee

Despite having a look similar to Nescafe, Good Day Original offered a slightly stronger flavor. The mix had just enough bitterness to complement the sugar and cream components. The mortality of its “tama factor” however, is equal to Nescafe’s and it has an odd but subtle aftertaste.

San Miguel Original (Creamier version)

San Miguel Original

Here’s my problem with San Miguel Original: the impact is there upon first taste and the way it hits lasts. Yet you can taste the chemicals that keep the flavor strong. Thankfully, the addition of more cream somehow distracts you a little from how you’re being kept up.

Kopiko Astig

Kopiko Astig

Kopiko Astig isn’t lying with its variation: first taste and tama factor work hand in hand. The mortality of the impact is just right, and the aftertaste—although just as artificially obvious as San Miguel—has a little more bitterness to make it taste more like coffee.

The 3-in-1 Coffee Verdict

Kopiko is as astig as it claims to be. But that’s my bias for bitter balanced with sweet-talking.

What is your favorite instant coffee brand? How would you rate it with these criteria? What factors do you consider when assessing your instant coffee? Sound off in the comments section below!

23 Responses

  1. I don’t know if any of you has experienced this, but every time I drink any San Mig coffee variant the smell seems to exude out of my pores for the rest of the day. It’s so potent that I think if you’ve got flatulence problems, this may help make your…emissions smell sweeter.

  2. Have you tried the new kind of “instant” brewed coffees? (Freshly ground beans in a tea-bag type sachet, brewed drip-coffee style) Would be cool if you could do a rundown on the best brands available locally. I personally like the instant mixes from Kape Maria and 18 Days 🙂

  3. Current favourite is OWL’s ‘strong’ variant. You have to buy like a big bag (30 pcs) but it only costs around 6.50 a pop. I buy this white coffee variant at 7-11 when I want to splurge (20 a pop!) which is Malaysian, methinks? Aaaaand when it’s the weekend, nothing feels quite as indulgent as a cup of cafe mocha from Pan de Manila. For 16 a piece, it’s still expensive but it has the strongest ‘tama’. It’s like they mix in a bit of shabu in there….On a happier, legal note tho: SM grocery stores carry this ‘instant’ kapeng barako. A box costs around 190 for 10 pieces but the awesome thing is that each packet contains a tea bag! It’s not as trashy as instant coffee but it’s not as expensive as buying expensive beans. 😉

    1. Argh that Malaysian coffee from 7-11 is soooo good. The Malaysian coffee from Belgian Waffles is a winner as well. Wish they’re readily available in groceries.

  4. I hoard Indocafe’s Kopi Putih when I am in Indonesia. I go once every few months so I make sure to stock up on enough 3-in-1 coffee packets to last me until my next trip. Funny I don’t bring loads of clothes since I don’t like lugging heavy baggage, but I bring a big traveling bag anyway to fill up with kecap manis, Indomie (the hellishly spicy ones) and 3-in-1 coffee. Try experimenting with Indonesian 3-in-1 brands. I find them stronger and more balanced than our local brands.

    1. High five, as someone who used to live in Indonesia and hoards kecap manis and mie goreng. 😀 I have fallen in love with Quintino’s, their sachet slow-drip coffee. Balinese coffee has also kept me up during World Cup season. :))

      1. Cantik! The whole bean coffee in Indonesia is in a whole league of its own, too (aged Toraja and Enrekang from Sulawesi, and extra bold Sumatra beans being my absolute favorites) but the instant coffee is not at all bad. Indonesians produce some of the best beans after all and they do know how to appreciate their coffee.

        I agree with Gela, if I stuck to coffeehouse joe for my habit, my heart would have drummed out of my ribcage by now and I would be living in the streets because P100+ a pop is too much. Brewing at home is too tedious an affair so when I need a “just right” jolt of caffeine, Indocafe it is! Strike anywhere, anytime without boring a hole in my packet.

  5. The Kopiko Astig seems a little out of place among the Regular Joes. Perhaps a strong coffee taste test is in order?

  6. Have tried every 3-in-1 there is, I swear by Super’s White Coffee. It costs a lot more though, at around Php280 for just 15 sachets, but it’s the best I’ve tried. Sometimes this even better than real coffee :)) (Hi Reese!)

    1. Wow Tata, thanks for the recommendation 😀 Is this available in most groceries?

      1. HI TATA and Ms.Gela, im a distributor of Super coffee brand, we have 3 in 1 sachet cost around 6 pesos only per piece. We have other flavors as well. heres my number 0943-4888086. Julius sy.

  7. Not sure if Cafe Puro came out with their own 3in1. But, it surely has that good brewed coffee taste and aroma. Moved up to grinding beans and eventually ditching instant coffee. Too much coffee “half life” in the past few years has led me to drinking tea. Now every weekend cup of joe is more enjoyable. I’ve been calmer and less jittery.

    1. Yup, instant coffee is the budget/no-choice-drink for me, because brew/beans can get expensive when you’re always out. But when it’s a serious work grind, the French Press is my best friend, hehe. Eep, I’m also scared that could happen to me!

      1. I drink to that. Bought a good coffee press and got beans from Batangas. I try to limit drinking coffee on weekends (a.k.a. the latte effect). This saved a huge chunk of my salary :). Don’t wait until you turn 40. Explore the world of tea and get those cheap infusers at Daiso.

  8. Not sure if this counts but I like a modified Kopiko Brown. Modified as in I put the powder in 2 shots of espresso, add 2 shots of water, and pour the mixture over ice. Instant coffee doesn’t really give me a jolt, it usually makes me sleepy, but I do crave for the taste sometimes.

    1. I would like to think that my coffee habit has become more of the habit than the substance. Doesn’t matter how crappy the coffee is as long as I have had that coffee taste in my mouth, I’m awake. (3-in-1 does make me crash really bad, though, but at least I could have a second or third one to keep up the buzz without costing a lot of money). Yes. I talk like a drug addict when discussing coffee. Don’t we all?

      1. I’ve also been experimenting with a Vietnamese coffee filter (just the filter, because the Vietnamese beans are way too strong even for the rest of my coffee-loving family). The beans get to sit in the hot water for a long time so it gives a good “tama” 😀 Thinking of putting instant coffee in the bottom of the cup in place of condensed milk. For me it’s either freshly ground coffee or a can of Red Bull! Red Bull deserves a whole ‘nother post though.

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