I tried Maxim Original Korean Instant Coffee: My Review and Photos

maxim original korean instant coffee

by Nigel Ong

I was recently in South Korea and thought I’d check out the local coffees. As I searched, I noticed that some Korean coffees are so popular people are buying them on Amazon. These coffees are also searched online by many coffeeheads in the US.

One of them is the Maxim Original Instant Coffee. Curious to see how good they are, I picked up a Maxim Original Instant Coffee bottle and decided to experiment with it myself. 

I will make coffee using Maxim Original Instant Coffee and then taste it. I then added flavorings, too. Finally, I compare the coffee with regular and premium instant coffee and see which group it belongs to.

About Maxim Original Instant Coffee

Maxim is probably South Korea’s most popular instant coffee. Started by Dongsun Foods in 1976, Maxim instant coffee is available not only in Korea but in many places worldwide. 

The instant coffee comes in three styles: original, Mocha Gold, or White Gold. There are also other variations of instant coffee, such as Latte or decaf. You can tell these blends apart by the color scheme. 

The Mocha Gold blend is yellow, while the White Gold uses a beige-like color scheme on its packaging. The decaf version of Maxim instant coffee is green in color.

What I had in my hand today was the original instant coffee in red. I cannot read the Korean writing on the bottle label. Still, I have confirmed that it is the Original instant coffee with the Microsoft Translate app. 

I picked this 100-gram (about 3 oz) jar from a local South Korean supermarket in Seoul for about 8,000 South Korean Won. That is about $6, making it one of the more affordable instant coffee. 

Aside from the regular bottle, you can also get this instant coffee in individual sticks. There are packs as large as 100 sticks per bag, too.

This 100% instant coffee blend does not contain micro grounds of coffee beans. This makes Maxim unlike Starbucks Premium Instant or Illy Clasico Instant Coffee.

How Does Maxim Original Instant Coffee Taste?

First Impression

On the first impression, Maxim’s instant coffee does look rather premium. It uses a glass bottle with a sturdy, bright red lid. The bottle’s shape and design remind me of premium instant coffee, such as from Davidoff.

After I opened the lid, I saw a fresh seal made of aluminum. The seal does not come with an extended handle to allow easy removal. Instead, I have to poke a hole and then tear it away. This is a messy process and can be improved. 

The coffee granules have a rather pleasing, intense aroma. I immediately smell fresh coffee from the granules, with notes such as toasted bread. There are also smells of dried seafood, similar to many other instant coffees.

The granules look larger and more even, reminding me of the ones seen in premium instant coffee. I compared the granules with the ones from Nescafe Gold and confirmed they are the same.


I mixed a teaspoon of Maxim Original instant coffee with 6 fl oz (about 180ml) of hot water. I gave this a sip and was unhappy with the taste. I added another teaspoon and got the taste I was looking for.

Maxim Original instant coffee has a pleasant aroma and is inviting to sip. The color is lighter brown and does not look like an intense cup of coffee. The aroma is mild and smells a bit like toasted bread, too. 

I pick up a mild, earthly, softly bitter taste as I sip the coffee. However, the coffee does not shock my palate. The blend has some sort of creaminess, and I somehow detect a bit of cereal-like flavors with it, perhaps some cornflakes.

This coffee also tastes premium and reminds me of Nescafe Gold or Lavazza Prontissimo Classico flavors. 

This is a smooth, comfortable cup of coffee. I can see myself enjoying Maxim Original Instant Coffee anytime during the day. I can also enjoy it with something savory, such as a sandwich, or something sweet like a donut.

With Sugar

I made a fresh cup of hot black coffee and poured in a stick of brown, granulated sugar. The sugar, of course, sweetens the coffee. However, I think the sweetening is decent and easy on the tongue.

The sweetness blends well with the slight bitterness in the coffee, blending together well. This is quite pleasing to me. This also gives the coffee a bittersweet taste, which may appeal to some drinkers. 

However, as much as this coffee tastes well with sugar, I prefer mine black still. Perhaps this is because I was never a fan of sugar in coffee in the first place. However, give this a test yourself and see.

With Sweetener

I made another cup of coffee, and this time, I tasted it with some sweeteners. I use Equal, an artificial sweetener made from Aspartame. I added a single drop of Equal to my coffee and stirred them in. 

The coffee tastes slightly sweet, of course. However, the sweetness is slightly different from regular sugar. It seems to come later, with every initial sip bitter and earthy. If you have a sweeter tooth, you may enjoy the coffee better with another drop of Equal.

The finish is also longer. After I swallow the coffee, the sweet taste remains on my tongue longer. This is not a characteristic of the coffee but more of Aspartame itself. I think I prefer the version with sugar instead of with the sweetener.

With Milk

Now that I have experimented with sugar and sweeteners, I thought it was time to bring in some fatty goodness: milk. 

I brewed a fresh cup and slapped a single shot (about 1 oz, 30ml) of whole, UHT fresh cow’s milk into the coffee. The coffee turns into brownish goodness and looks very inviting to sip.

The milk actually made the coffee taste creamier and mellower. It turns down the already light smoke and covers up the soft, bitter notes in the coffee. The milk also made the coffee smoother to sip, which now glides easier in my mouth.

The milk’s lactose also helps sweeten the coffee slightly, and the sweetness also feels natural. This is a pretty good cup, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

With Creamer

I then made a new cup of Maxim instant coffee. This time, I poured in two sticks of Coffee Mate creamer. A stick is about 4gm or a heap of teaspoons.

The creamer definitely lightened the color of the coffee a lot. To my eyes, the coffee is now lighter than even when I poured a shot of milk in. As I bring the cup closer to my lips, I believe this will be one creamy cup of coffee. 

I was correct. Creamers generally add more cream to the coffee than fresh milk, which is definitely the case here. The additional cream makes the coffee a lot smoother and thicker. If you like fat in your coffee, I think this creamer version will satisfy you more than milk.

The cream also helps mask and mellow the coffee taste, making it much less coffee-like. This taste should work well with people who like very mellow coffee.


Finally, I made about 6 fl oz (about 90ml) of coffee and then added them into a glass full of ice. I wonder if this coffee will do well with ice since it is mellow. 

I am pleasantly surprised by how the coffee performed iced. It is cold, easy to sip, and surprisingly refreshing. There is also some sourness, which is pleasing to my palate.

I, however, wanted to get that satisfying, deep, dark bitterness from sipping iced Americano. I wonder if I could get something similar from Maxim. 

I brewed another 90ml cup and slapped three teaspoons of Maxim instant coffee. I load in the ice, stir everything up, and start sipping. 

The bitterness is there and rather close to a regular iced americano. However, despite the deep bitterness, the coffee does not slam my tongue with too much earthiness, meaning the coffee does not taste like dirt. 

This concentrated version of iced Maxim instant coffee is nice to sip on and refreshing. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

folgers, bustelo, maxim, nescafe and happy belly instant coffees

Maxim Original vs. Regular Instant Coffee

I was not sure where Maxim sat as an instant coffee. It has the presentation and flavor of a premium instant coffee. Still, the price is much like regular instant coffee.

I decided to taste Maxim instant coffee with my other regular instant coffee. These are:

  • Nescafe Classic
  • Amazon Happy Belly Instant Coffee
  • Cafe Bustelo Instant Coffee
  • Folgers Classic Roast Instant Coffee

I made four different cups of hot, black coffee with them. I used 6 oz (about 180ml) of hot water and added two teaspoons. I then sipped these coffee side by side with Maxim. 

None of these four instant coffees can compare with Maxim in taste. Maxim is better in flavor and aroma. I also feel more satisfied sipping Maxim than these four. 

From this small experiment, I concluded that Maxim cannot be seen as a regular instant coffee. Maybe something more premium.

Nescafe, lavazza, maxim, illy and starbucks instant coffees

Maxim Original vs. Premium Instant Coffee

Now that I know Maxim is not a regular instant coffee, I wonder how it will fare against premium instant coffee. I decided to test it against my other premium instant coffee:

  • Starbucks Premium Instant Dark Roast
  • Illy Clasico Instant Coffee
  • Lavazza Classico Instant Coffee
  • Nescafe Gold

Like the regular instant coffee test, I made coffee with a similar amount of granules and hot water. I then sipped them side by side. 

Taste-wise, I would rank Maxim as better tasting than the Lavazza Classico and marginally better than Nescafe Gold. It is, however, unable to compete against Starbucks Premium Instant and definitely not as good as Illy Clasico Instant Coffee.

After the test, I realized how special this Maxim instant coffee is. You get a premium-tasting instant coffee at the price of your regular Folgers. How lucky for the Koreans.

Maxim Original vs. Regular Coffee

Now that I know Maxim is a great instant coffee, I compared it with a regular cup of brewed coffee. Yes, the kind you get from gas stations and convenience stores. 

I went to a nearby 7-11 and got myself a cup of Americano. I then drank it side-by-side with the Maxim instant coffee. 

The 7-11 Americano is still better than the Maxim. It is, after all, a brewed coffee made from fresh coffee grounds. It should beat instant coffee anytime; even good ones line the Maxim.

Who Should Enjoy Maxim Original Korean Instant Coffee?

Maxim Korean Original Instant Coffee is an excellent value. It has the taste and flavor of premium instant coffee yet is priced about the same as your regular Folgers. It is smooth, versatile, and tastes great black or with flavorings. It even tasted good iced. 

As a result, it is a great option for those who want a better instant coffee experience yet are not willing to spend too much on it. If you are keen to give Maxim Original Korean Instant Coffee, you are in luck. You do not have to order them from Korea since they are available from Amazon.

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