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Starbucks VIA Review

Starbucks VIA Ready Brew
Price:   $10 List | $7.95 at REI
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Pros:  Virtually weightless, instant to make, tastes better than other instant coffees, works in cold water.
Cons:  Limited quantity, have to continually re-purchase, more expensive per cup than using other coffee makers.
Bottom line:  By far the lightest option. Some people tolerate the taste, others say "No way, Jose."
Editors' Rating:   
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Manufacturer:   Starbucks

Our Verdict

OK, so this isn't exactly a coffee maker, but if you have read all of the other camping coffee maker reviews, you will have noticed that there are features to each one that we list as "not ideal for backpacking." So what is ideal for a backpacker? The answer is Starbucks VIA. Almost completely weightless while still packed full of coffee flavor, this instant "microgrind" coffee can easily be tossed in a pack and carried for miles without a second thought. For the weekend backpacker, this is an ideal method. For the long-distance hiker on a budget, VIA is not a great solution, primarily due to expense. It averages to almost a whole dollar per cup, which is far greater than making your own coffee in the Melitta Ready Set Joe every morning. For the coffee aficionado, stick to the Aerobie AeroPress, which still has a far better, pure flavor.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Camping Coffee Makers of 2018


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
McKenzie Long

Last Updated:
Tuesday
September 4, 2012

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Brew Features


This coffee is instant, but it doesn't taste that way. Well, at least not as bad as typical instant Nescafe. Individual packets carry finely ground coffee that can be dissolved in hot water for an almost fresh brew and no grinds whatsoever to clean up afterwards. One huge plus is that is even works in cold water, so if you don't want to bring a stove or your run out of fuel, your morning cup can still be tasty and satisfying.

Taste


Forget nasty instant coffee taste, Starbucks' claims are true that this coffee retains its smooth, quality flavor while not needing to be brewed. The flavor still does not quite compare to fresh brewed coffee with some of the other methods we tested, but the taste-to-weight ratio is excellent.

Ease of Use


It doesn't get any simpler than this: Just add water.

Weight


At 0.14 ounces for one packet, which is still less than half an ounce for three servings, the VIA is almost weightless. This factor alone makes it the perfect solution for caffeine addicted backpackers.

Portability


It doesn't get much more portable than tiny foil packets. Bring along a whole handful on your overnighter, just to be safe, and you will still have room to pack your orange poop shovel and a teddy bear.

Best Application


If you are a backpacker who likes to move fast and light, but are still encouraged by caffeine-filled mornings, then this is your method for a brew. Taking up almost no weight or space, it seems as if it was designed with hikers in mind. Car-campers will be better off with a more sustainable coffee brewing method, such as the Hario V60 Plastic Dripper.

Value


Starbucks VIA costs $2.95 for a package of three (98 cents per cup), $9.95 for a pack of 12 (83 cents per cup), and $35.95 for a 50 count (72 cents per cup). This isn't exactly cheap. It is just shy of how much it would cost to buy a brewed cup of coffee at an actual Starbucks. This is more of a luxury item for when you really want to pack light.

Other Versions


Via Caramel Latte
VIA Vanilla Latte
  • Cost - $13.48
  • Available in 5 or 15 pack
  • Rich and creamy
  • A little fancier than your regular cup of joe

VIA Iced Coffe
Via Iced Coffee
  • Cost - $11 for a pack of 5
  • Specially crafted for cold water
  • Great for warm mornings
  • Available in regular or caramel flavors
McKenzie Long


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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: August 9, 2015
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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  • 5
 (3.4)

100% of 4 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
6 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 67%  (4)
3 star: 17%  (1)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 17%  (1)
Sort 4 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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   Aug 9, 2015 - 09:18pm
caribouman1052 · Seattle
Pros: - Good flavor, low weight, pretty much no bulk, no specialized machinery needed
Cons: - Not the absolute best flavor, one packet is so strong it makes me jittery, lots of packaging for the amount of product.

The big upside to me is cost / hassle ratio. Here in Seattle, where a (low cost) cuppa from Starbucks is $1.92, two packages of Via will give the four of us on my crew one cup each at break time for $1.40 plus fuel. No one has to leave the site, we get truly hot coffee… all in all it's a good deal.

On the down side, you don't get quite the ritual you would from a filter or a press: One of my favorite memories is making a double espresso for my climbing partner just before dawn, on a ledge between Dana glacier and the tarn…
  • 1/5 because it doesn't give quite the flavor of your favorite bean, the packaging is of questionable recyclability, and you can't get quite the full ritual.
  • 4/5 for sheer utility combined with flavor!


Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.

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   Jul 8, 2015 - 11:38am
dosei · Backpacker · Greenville, SC
I am a full blown coffee snob that generally will only choose to endure drinking "Charbucks" swill if I simply have no better option available. That said…Starbucks VIA is my "go-to" coffee when backpacking. It weights almost nothing, it takes up almost no space, and it actually tastes okay. Costco frequently marks it down to $11 for a box of 24, making the cost just under 50 cents per cup…I can swallow that.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.

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   Jul 20, 2014 - 02:33pm
bergbryce · Climber · South Lake Tahoe, CA
These make all the other backcountry coffee methods moot.

The taste to weight ratio is off the chart good. I haven't carried anything but these for probably 4 years and have converted some of my friends, some who are very serious about their coffee. These are good enough for backcountry use and they make that legit cup from fresh grounds that much better when you return to camp/car.

Tip: Safeway has a store brand version that is probably 20% less than the Starbucks brand and works equally as well.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.

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   Jul 20, 2014 - 11:26am
Norman · Backpacker · Henrico
Yes it is more expensive than the alternatives, however, the convenience and light weight is well worth the added cost. Not to mention the taste is awesome. I've been an avid consumer of black coffee for 40 years and this is by far the best "instant" coffee ever. I write instant because the label specifies instant and microground coffee which is interesting. There are a few "grounds" at the bottom of the cup but not much to worry about. No other cleanup required as with other coffee making products. yes there is the byproduct of the tubes, but as we all know to carry this out and dispose of properly.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.


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