Coffee Sticks – The Magic of Microgrounds

by Lu, Spillin’ the Beans

This blog post is a must for any coffee drinker, as it’ll open up a whole new world of on-to-go-access and no coffee maker-needed java in the form of coffee sticks!

Let’s start with what coffee sticks aren’t, as they are not wooden stirrers, coffee popsicles, or a new Jenga game rival. Coffee sticks are the best way to enjoy coffee without a machine or any special equipment. All they require are water and a cup.

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Jump to:

No Machine Required

What is a Coffee Stick?

3 Types of Instant Coffee

The Microground Difference

Benefits of Coffee Sticks

Starbucks VIA

It’s a Wrap

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Delicious Coffee Without a Machine

Have you ever stayed in a hotel or motel, craving a good cup of morning coffee without paying $22 a cup for room service? Or your office breakroom has an ancient drip coffeemaker producing a flavorless brew? What if your expensive espresso machine goes on the fritz, and you’re not ready to shell out big bucks for a new one?

It doesn’t matter what the reason is; there’s a time and a place for instant coffee – but not the instant coffee of years past. Today’s instant is in the form of a coffee stick, and it’s delicious!

Korea paved the way for the coffee stick movement with Maxim coffee sticks, featuring coffee, sugar, and creamer in one

Hotel Drip Coffee Alternative

Coffee sticks are a convenient and easy-to-use form of instant coffee that can make life much easier. I want to highlight them, especially for the road warriors and travelers who love a good cup of coffee and not a stale brew from a tiny Mr. Coffee maker in the corner of a hotel room.

Whenever I’m heading to a hotel, I grab a pack of Starbucks VIA and a box of single-serve liquid Coffee-mate creamer singles, and I’m good to go. Instead of brewing coffee in the drip machine, I just use it for hot water.

If you’re unfamiliar with coffee sticks, they’re pretty different from the freeze-dried granules in a jar. I’m not a fan of instant coffee, so I hesitated to try Starbucks “instant.” But let me assure you that coffee sticks are a pleasant surprise.

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What is a Coffee Stick?

A coffee stick typically consists of pre-ground and pressurized coffee sealed in an individual wrapper.

It can come in various flavors, depending on the brand. You’ll find everything from classic cappuccinos to specialty blends such as French Vanilla or Mocha. Some of the best brands include Nestle Nescafe, Beanies, Illy, and Starbucks VIA Instant. Each brand offers unique flavor profiles with varying intensity levels to suit all tastes.

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freeze dried coffee, instant coffee, microgrounds, micro-ground coffee
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3 Types of Instant Coffee

When it comes to instant coffee, there are three types of processing methods used to create the popular beverage:

  1. Freeze-dried
  2. Spray-dried
  3. Microground


The most common type of instant coffee is freeze-dried, which involves freezing the brewed coffee and then using a vacuum to remove water from it while preserving all of the flavors. This results in a much smaller form of the original product with an intense taste and aroma.


Next is spray-drying. This process involves breaking down brewed coffee into tiny particles dried with hot air. It produces a finer powder than freeze-dried but also loses some flavor and aroma due to oxidation. Spray-dried coffee has a longer shelf life than freeze-dried, though, so it’s a better choice over time.

Microground – the Key to a Delicious Instant Coffee

The third method used for creating instant coffee is microground. It’s generally considered the best for producing a richer flavor and more complex aroma than other types of instant coffee. Microground coffee is a type of coffee made by grinding coffee beans very finely – much finer than your typical espresso, which is why it has a much stronger flavor.

Neither freeze- nor spray-dried, it’s proved a revelation in homebrewing. So, what’s going on? Well, there’s a sleight of hand occurring. Unlike other types of instant coffee, microground instant coffee isn’t treated. Instead, it’s essentially identical to regular ground coffee. 

Compared to other types of instant coffees, microground offers a superior cup. It preserves many more aromatic compounds in brewed coffee, such as terpenes, fats, and proteins absent from freeze-dried or spray-dried methods. Its production also requires significantly less energy than the other two methods making it an environmentally friendly choice.

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The Microground Difference

The reason why coffee sticks are so appealing is they take advantage of the microground process. Take Starbucks VIA, for example. Its VIA line of coffee sticks combines instant and microground coffee.

You’ll immediately notice the difference when you open a coffee stick. Instead of dry granules, the product is moist and dissolves easily in cold or hot water. If you need your daily Starbucks fix, you’ll love the on-the-go alternative.

Coffee granules inside the best coffee sticks are moist, unlike dry granules of freeze-dried instant products

Benefits of Coffee Sticks

Depending on the brand, coffee sticks can be a little pricey but only compared to a little $5 jar of freeze-dried blandness. There are benefits to paying a bit more – and you can find some great deals when you buy coffee sticks in bulk.

Coffee Stick Advantages

  • Portable – coffee-on-the-go, as long as you have access to boiling water (or cold for iced coffee)
  • Much richer taste than the instant coffee of years past
  • Different roasts and flavors are available
  • Convenient – through a stick in your pocket or purse
  • No coffeemaker needed
  • Pre-measured
  • No risk of over or under-brewing
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Starbucks VIA

I mentioned that I’m a fan of Starbucks VIA. It closely mimics what you’ll get if you order an Americano at the counter.

In contrast to regular instant coffee, Starbucks Via Instant coffee sticks provide a full-bodied flavor without bitterness. The beans are micro-ground and flash-frozen, which helps to preserve the flavor and aroma while eliminating the need for grinding and brewing.

VIA Options Change, but the holiday line-up includes:

  • Starbucks Sweetened Iced Coffee
  • VIA Italian Roast
  • VIA Decaf Italian Roast
  • VIA Instant Pike Place Roast
  • VIA Veranda Blend (Blond roast)
  • VIA Instant Christmas Blend

Depending on your retailer, you can also find cold brew packets.

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Final Thoughts on Coffee Sticks

I believe coffee sticks are a revelation in homebrewing. There’s a sleight of hand occurring. Unlike other types of instant coffee, microground instant coffee hasn’t been treated, so it’s pretty darn close to regular ground coffee. And, in some cases, it’s even better.

If you’ve got a favorite home brewing system (like I do with my awesome Nespresso machine), coffee sticks certainly won’t replace it. But even if you buy them for the occasional stop at the Hilton Garden Inn, your mornings will be much more satisfying!

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