Instant coffee provides a quick fix when you need caffeine right away. It’s portable and convenient when you’re travelling or camping, and we won’t judge if you use it every now and then. Instant coffee isn’t the best-tasting stuff; let’s be honest. But it gets the job done when you’re in a bind.
We’re not going to lie to you and tell you that we’re regular instant coffee drinkers. But we are going to share some tips on how to get the most out of your instant coffee.
What exactly is instant coffee?
Instant coffee, also called soluble coffee or powdered coffee, is a product derived from roasted coffee beans. It allows users to quickly make hot coffee by adding hot water or milk to the powder or crystals and then stirring.
Instant coffee is made by extracting the soluble and volatile contents of roasted coffee beans, the oils which provide a coffee’s flavour and aroma. Water at 175 degrees celsius is forced through the beans to extract the oils.
The resulting liquid is then evaporated or frozen, to increase its concentration.
Drying is then conducted using one of two methods: freeze-drying or spray drying, before it’s packaged up as instant coffee crystals.
How to make instant coffee
1. Boil water
As with all coffee brewing, take note of the water you are using. If you have a local water supply with particularly high mineral content, it may be affecting the taste of your coffee, in which case you could try filtered water.
2. Preheat your coffee mug
Pre-heating your coffee mug means it will keep your coffee hot for longer.
3. Add the instant coffee granules
Check the directions on your package of instant coffee to see how much to use for one mug of water. The general recommendation is 1 to 2 teaspoons for a regular coffee mug. Add more if you like your coffee strong, and less if you prefer it weaker.
4. Pour in your water and stir
Once you’ve poured in enough water to fill your mug, stir until there are no individual granules left. If your coffee is too strong, try using a little less next time.
Note you can also trial dissolving your coffee crystals with a small amount of cold water before adding hot water. Some people think this improves the taste.
How to choose the best instant coffee
Choosing instant coffee can be a difficult task. When it comes to instant, one person’s favourite is another person’s poison. Who knows why you like the things you like? If you ask ten people which brand of instant coffee is best, you might get nine different answers.
Different manufacturers use different mixes of beans and roasting processes to create their instant coffee. The flavor depends on which bean is used, with arabica (the most common) being more sweet and nuanced (popular with single origin roasts) and robusta being stronger and more bitter coffee.
We recommend going with an Arabica instant coffee to start with, and trialling a few brands before settling on one.
There are also specialty coffee roasters like Coffee Supreme who are entering the instant coffee game and bringing some of their expertise and more niche approach to an area that has traditionally been dominated by big volume food brands. We’ve tried their Instant Colombia Blend, and while it’s not cheap (around $2 per sachet), it does taste better than most supermarket instant.
How to make instant coffee taste better
A lot of people recommend dissolving instant coffee in cold water first, then adding hot water and stirring. This can give the coffee a smoother taste than if you mix it with hot water as soon as you add it to a cup, which can result in a more powdery consistency.
This is because instant coffee granules contain a substance called amylum, which hardens and can cause a powdery taste if you directly add boiling water. This doesn’t occur if you dissolve the coffee powder first with cold water.
There is also a range of other things you can add to your instant coffee to change the taste and potentially make it more palatable:
- Cocoa powder
- Chocolate syrup
- Agave syrup
- Artificial sweetener
- Flavoured syrups
Instant coffee FAQ
Can I make my own instant coffee?
It’s very difficult to re-create instant coffee powder at home because of the complex extraction process combined with the freeze-drying or spray-drying that is required. You can, however, use finely ground roasted coffee beans (similar to Turkish coffee). You’ll want to put your beans through the grinder at least once on the finest setting until you have a fine powder. Then you can simply add hot water and gently stir. They won’t fully dissolve though, and you’ll still be left with some sediment at the bottom and potentially gritty coffee.