I taste tested Happy Belly Classic Roast Instant Coffee: My Review and Photos

Amazon happy belly instant coffee classic roast version
I taste tested Amazon’s Happy Belly classic roast instant coffee and compared it with all the other major instant coffees on the market. Here are my thoughts.

by Nigel Ong

Not all of us want the fanciest coffee out there. Many just want something fast and cheap to sip on. Instant coffee is created for people like these. 

However, within the world of instant coffee, you have the premium and also the bottom-of-the-barrel type. Amazon’s Happy Belly Instant Coffee is usually seen as the latter, cheap and fast, but it does not taste good. How true is this? I want to discover this myself. 

In this post, I picked up a jar of Amazon’s Happy Belly Instant Coffee and tried it. I made the coffee many ways and also compared its taste against other regular instant and brewed coffee.

About Amazon Happy Belly Instant Coffee 

It is common for many major retailers to produce their own-brand products. Walmart does it, and so do Target and Amazon too. This is usually done by purchasing many goods from a manufacturer, who then puts the retailer’s logo on the product. 

The idea of own-brand products is to buy in bulk and sell it cheaply. This should help to pass down savings to their customers and also to attract customers to come to shop with them. 

Amazon does this a lot and seems to have its own range of coffee products as well. Amazon offers coffee roasts of many styles, and yes, instant coffee too. 

They label instant coffee under Happy Belly, which covers various foodstuffs such as milk, cookies, bread, and more.

The Amazon Happy Belly I have in hand is the Classic Roast. It is made of plastic, from the lid to the jar. It claims to be 100% coffee and is made in India. 

This use of plastic jars definitely made the coffee look cheap, as premium ones usually use glass or aluminum jars. But let’s not get the outer appearance to cloud our judgment; the inside counts, not the outside. 

How Does Amazon Happy Belly Instant Coffee Taste?

happy belly instant coffee granules in the container
I looked inside the container to see and smell the coffee granules.

First Impression

Once I popped open the top lid, It was protected by a paper and foil seal. It has extended handles I can grip onto and pull with my fingers. This is much easier than, say, Nescafe Classic or Gold.

The coffee does not smell much, and the aroma is weak. I must bring my nose close to the jar opening to smell something. I expected to smell coffee, but I smelled something similar to dried squid or anchovies. 

I checked the jar to ensure the coffee did not expire to confirm this. The smell reminds me of Lavazza Prontissimo Intenso instant coffee, especially the dried seafood smell.

The granules themselves look like miniature stone pebbles or popcorn. It is not in flat crystals like in premium instant coffees. I poured some out and noticed it did not contain too much powder, unlike Nescafe Classic.

Ok, enough with how the coffee looks and smells; let’s make some coffee.

Black

On the jar, it says to add 1 teaspoon to about 6-8 ounces of hot water. I decided to follow the instructions but keep my water at 6 oz (about 180ml), and keep the water off boiling, at about 185°F (85°C.)

The result is a good-smelling coffee with an aroma that could turn some heads. I took a sip and tasted nothing but bitterness and some watery taste. I waited for about 2 minutes for the coffee to cool. Perhaps it may reveal itself to be cooler.

I started drinking the coffee again. I still do not taste much in the coffee this time, except for the bitterness and the water taste. The bitterness has increased and seems to make the coffee turn earthy instead. 

Learning from my experience with Folgers Classic Roast instant coffee, I made another cup but upped the dosage to two teaspoons. I can finally taste something. There is a bit of a toast-bread-like taste to the coffee.

Unfortunately, the bitterness is not the deep, dark, cocoa-like bitterness. Instead, it is the earthy type, and with double the dosage, the earthiness becomes a bit too strong. At this point, some may say the coffee tastes like dirt, and I do not think it is wrong. 

With Sugar

I made two cups of coffee here, one with a single teaspoon and the other with a double teaspoon. I then added a stick of brown granulated sugar to each cup.

The cup with a single teaspoon tastes odd. The watery taste is still there, with the sweet flavor coming second. The coffee taste came out a little sheepishly at third. I also taste the cane-juice-like flavor of the sugar. This isn’t good. 

The second cup is much better; with more coffee, the sweetness comes second after the coffee. The watery taste is also gone, which makes the coffee even better.

I noticed that I need to double the dose of this coffee when I drink it to get more flavors. From this point onwards, I will brew two cups for every flavoring.

With Sweetener

Next, I added a drop of Equal sweetener (Aspartame) to my coffee. I stirred them in and took sips.

Again, I seem to prefer the cup with two teaspoons of coffee. This version is stronger and has more coffee taste to it. As a result, it seems to blend better with the sweetener and not be overpowered.

I also noticed that the sweetener helps remove some of the earthy bitterness in the coffee, making it less ‘dirt-like’ to the palate. 

The version with a teaspoon of coffee is not ideal. The sweetener overpowered the coffee, causing the drink to taste like a sugar syrup with coffee flavor instead. Not nice.

With Milk

With weaker coffee, sometimes fat can help make the coffee smoother and nicer. Will milk do the same with Amazon Happy Belly instant coffee?

As usual, I added a shot of warm milk into each cup. The milk is UHT, whole, fresh cow’s milk.

For the cup with a single teaspoon of coffee, the milk helps to take away the watery taste. It also complements the coffee a little better. It is certainly a more drinkable version. It is a very milky version of coffee.

With two teaspoons of coffee, it tasted even better. The bitter coffee taste is stronger, and the milk helps remove some dirt-like earthiness in the coffee. The natural lactose sweetness also makes the coffee much more enjoyable. 

This is the best way to enjoy the Amazon Happy Belly instant coffee. 

With Creamer

Not everyone likes milk with their coffee and may have lactose intolerance. Keeping this in mind, I made two fresh cups of coffee and slapped a stick of Coffee Mate creamer into each cup.

Again, my palate voted for the stronger cup with two teaspoons of coffee. The bitterness is stronger, and again, the fat from the creamer helps to take away bits of the earthiness. This prevents the coffee from tasting too dirt-like.

However, at least to me, it has a less natural taste compared to milk. I think this is the second best way to enjoy coffee, behind using fresh milk.

Iced

Finally, I wonder if ice could help mask coffee’s deficiencies and make it better to drink. I poured a 3-ounce hot coffee (about 90ml) into a glass of ice. 

It was wrong. The ice somehow amplifies the bitterness of the coffee, making it much more overpowering to the palate. Since the bitterness is earthy, it also made the coffee really dirt-like in taste. 

This is a bad combination and far from the satisfaction you get when sipping into iced Americano at your local coffee shop.

Nescafe classic, folgers classic roast and happy belly instant coffees

Amazon Happy Belly vs. Other Regular Instant Coffee

Since the Amazon Happy Belly instant coffee is marketed as a no-frills, regular instant coffee, I thought I’d compare it against similar products. I made two cups of coffee with Nescafe Classic and Folgers’ Classic Roast.

I kept the dosage as recommended on the bottle, to be fair. I also kept the volume at 6 oz (about 180ml) and the water temperature at 185°F (85°C). I then sipped the coffee side by side, noting how they tasted. 

I would rank the Amazon Happy Belly instant coffee as the worst. All three coffees have their own issues, but I think the Amazon Happy Belly instant coffee has characteristics I dislike.

The weak flavor aside, the earthy bitterness is a bit too strong. I can easily imagine coffee connoisseurs flicking their boogers at this coffee.

For the Folgers Classic instant coffee, at least the earth-like taste is not too strong. Nescafe Classic tastes best, although you should try them yourself to see which you prefer.

I decided to not compare the Amazon Happy Belly instant coffee with more premium instant coffee since I do not think it is fair. Plus, I think we already know how the Amazon Happy Belly instant coffee compares against, say, Illy Classico.

Amazon Happy Belly Instant Coffee vs. Regular Coffee

Let’s say that most regular coffee from your gas stations or convenience store tastes better than the Amazon Happy Belly instant coffee.

This is because regular coffee is, in the end, freshly brewed from coffee grounds. Provided the coffee grounds are fresh, they should provide more flavor and satisfy your palate. 

I cannot guarantee this with the Amazon Happy Belly instant coffee. You may find the earthy taste a little too strong, yet if you lessen the coffee, it will taste watery. 

If you have a dollar or two in hand, just walk into any McCafe, Dunkin, or Starbucks and get a cup of decent Americano. You will enjoy them better for sure.

Who Should Enjoy Amazon Happy Belly Instant Coffee?

To me, the Amazon Happy Belly instant coffee is not good. It lacks depth and contains too much earth-like bitterness that sometimes makes it taste like dirt. I can only make it manageable with milk.

As a result, Amazon Happy Belly is best drunk as a to-go coffee when you just want coffee and are not in the mood to enjoy it. Make one cup, suck them down with a sandwich, and continue with your things. If you care about your instant coffee, consider picking up something more premium instead. Consider Nescafe Gold, Starbucks Premium Instant Coffee, or my personal favorite Illy Clasico Instant Coffee instead.

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