Is 3-in-1 Coffee Harmful?

Barista serving coffee

3-in-1 coffee is a type of coffee blend that consists of three main ingredients:

In contrast to pure instant coffee, the 3-in-1 coffee contains additives such as sweetener, cream and artificial flavors and is therefore more similar to a cappuccino mix.

Typical ingredients of 3-in-1 coffee include:

  • Sugar
  • Glucose syrup
  • Hydrogenated palm oil
  • Flavor additives
  • Salt
  • Instant coffee powder

For these reasons, although it is undeniably convenient and easy to prepare, its use and long-term health effects have been questioned.

Why was 3-in-1 coffee invented?

Of particular interest was the US military, which is why most of the coffee production took place during World War II. The aim was to provide the army with an easy-to-prepare coffee in packet form.

The next reason was the long-term storage of coffee in packages and the taste and aromas of coffee in a single package. All three ingredients are mixed in one mold.

In addition, this coffee can be prepared without a pot and is easy to transport. Therefore, it makes sense to take these coffee packets to work and prepare them. Also, coffee is so widespread in some countries that they even have a special coffee break that uses instant coffee for a quick brew.

Is 3-in-1 coffee a good idea?

The great advantage of 3-in-1 coffee is undoubtedly its ease of preparation, just like instant coffee. However, there are also many disadvantages:

  • a very low content of low-quality coffee (i.e., hardly any stimulating properties),
  • a high sugar content,
  • the presence of palm oil and
  • a number of additional substances that are not entirely harmless for our organism.

Coffee content in 3-in-1 coffee

The 3-in-1 coffee bag contains an average of 10% coffee. This means it contains less caffeine than freshly roasted coffee. Even the manufacturers are aware of how little their product has to do with coffee, which is why they put the label “coffee-based beverage” on the packaging.

As for the effects of 3-in-1 coffee on our health, it is important to remember that it is a highly processed product. It also has fewer stimulating properties compared to freshly roasted coffee and significantly reduces iron absorption.

Sugar is the basis of 3-in-1 coffee

Sugar and glucose syrup make up the dominant components of the product. Particular attention should be paid to the presence of glucose syrup. It is a mixture of glucose and low molecular weight polysaccharides. It is made from starches of various origins, mostly from wheat, potatoes or corn. Due to the high digestibility of the sugar it contains, it causes a very rapid rise in blood sugar levels.

Not to be confused with glucose-fructose syrup: they are two different substances with different effects on the human body. Sugar and glucose syrup are not harmful to health when consumed in reasonable amounts. However, both are classified as simple sugars, which the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends not to exceed 10% of daily caloric intake.

Palm oil at its worst

The third place in the composition of 3-in-1 coffee is palm oil. There are different forms of palm oil used in the food industry and they are harmful to health in varying degrees, but here it is the worst form: hydrogenated oil.

Hydrogenation leads to the formation of trans fatty acids in the oil structure. They have been shown to have negative health effects and contribute to the risk of cardiovascular disease by increasing LDL (“bad” cholesterol) levels and lowering HDL (“good” cholesterol) levels.

Other substances in the 3-in-1 coffee

In addition to the substances described above, the 3-in-1 coffee drink also contains acidity regulators – E331, E340, E452 —, milk protein, salt, emulsifiers – E471 and E472 – and flavorings. All of this is to improve the consistency, shelf life and flavor of the product.

What is behind these mysterious abbreviations? E331 is sodium citrate, E471 and E472 are mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids, and E452 are polyphosphates; all four substances are considered harmless to health. E340 is potassium phosphate, which in excess can have a harmful effect on the body.


Consumers like 3-in-1 coffee because it contains all the flavors and ingredients like coffee powder, condensed milk, sugar and other ingredients in one package. You don’t need a pot to prepare instant coffee or 3-in-1 coffee, you can simply pour it into a cup, mix it with water and enjoy. Plus, it’s easy to take with you anywhere.

In general, it is not recommended to drink 3-in-1 coffee, as the additional ingredients in the coffee blend can do more harm than good. For a quick and delicious cup of coffee, it’s much better to brew pure instant coffee yourself and then add sugar and cream. This way, you have full control over what you consume.

You don’t have to be a food science and nutrition expert to know that you definitely shouldn’t be drinking three-in-one coffee on a regular basis. In fact, according to the American Heart Association, hydrogenated palm kernel oil should be included in the diet in limited amounts or not at all.