[For the Love of ‘Fee] A Word on Instant Coffee (and a Hack)

‘For the Love of ‘Fee’ is one coffee-lover’s attempt to machete through the tangle of coffee beans and brews to find an awesome cup of coffee. Juan Valdez follows ME! 🙂

Let me put this out there – in my opinion, instant coffee isn’t that great. I have not been its biggest fan since… forever! To me it tastes bitter. It can do a small tapdance on my tummy. And, frankly, it is no substitute for real brewed coffee. Yet, I still drink it.

I work on a college campus, and believe me, there is no lack of places to buy coffee; there is a Tim Hortons, a Starbucks, a Williams Coffee Pub, the student-run café that sells Lavazza coffee, Roasters coffee, the Second Cup…dude, the campus ain’t that big, but holy Toledo, there are places to buy coffee. It might seem simple to just buy a fresh cup of brew and be done. Sure, I’ll buy coffee on occasion, but it can add up!

Budgets being what they are, I bought myself a 4-cup coffee maker a few years ago and would brew my own coffee for a time in my office. But going on almost a year ago now, the department I work for relocated into a new building. Where the office is situated, there is no kitchenette with a sink close by where I would be able to clean out the carafe and throw away the grinds properly. So instead, I boil some water in my little kettle to make some instant coffee. Although a sink with running water is out of the question, I am not in a complete food desert – I have a drawer in my office where I keep dry condiments: salt, pepper, sugar, as well as tea bags, Coffee Mate, and of course, instant coffee. I do have access to fresh water, by way of a filling station around the corner from my office. And even though I have Coffee Mate (because there is no milk close by) and sugar that I use in my instant coffee, these condiments don’t seem to help to lose the bitter taste.

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My usual practice: Boil water using a kettle. Place a teaspoon of instant coffee crystals in a cup. Add boiling water to crystals and stir. Then add sugar and Coffee Mate. Seems pretty common, right?

Earlier this week, I decided I had endured instant coffee as I have known it for the last time. I took to the internet to see if I could hack those crystals into a more palatable beverage. Some solutions were idiotic: “why don’t you quit instant and brew a pot of coffee?” Another site suggested I buy a higher quality instant coffee; now that solution would make sense in theory. My problem is that no matter what kind of instant coffee I have tried, they all seem to have a similar taste. Besides the fact there is nothing fancier for sale around here than Nescafe, Folgers and generic brand (Equate, Compliments, No Name…). In any case, I have resigned myself to hacking whatever crystals I have available.

So, thanks to some Googling around, the solution I came up with is as follows:

  • Boil fresh water.
  • Add a teaspoon full of crystals to your cup.
  • Add sugar and coffee mate* to the crystals.
  • THEN, add fresh water* (a little less than a quarter cup) to the dry mix in your cup and stir.
  • Add boiling water to the cup and stir.

Voila. Coffee!

Two things I noticed with this method: no strong smell and no bitter taste.

Why mix the dry ingredients first, then add liquid? Common sense: powder mixes better when you add liquid to it, not the other way around. Science!

Why add fresh water to the dry mix first? No reason, other than it works! I have read that boiling water is excellent for tea (for the steeping), but that the water in the coffee maker doesn’t quite reach the boiling point when you brew a pot of coffee. Apparently, if you have the water too hot it can marr the taste of the crystals. Adding some cold water obviously tempers the hot water, and added bonus: you can actually drink the coffee right away once it’s prepared. Makes sense to me! I have been using this method the last three mornings, and have been enjoying instant coffee for the first time in recent memory.

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Do you like instant coffee or hate it? Do you have any coffee hacks? Share in the comments!

*Cold milk would probably be a decent substitute for the Coffee Mate and fresh water. I just don’t have access to it on a regular basis.

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26 comments

  1. Awesome. I used to work in a place with no kitchen and no fridge. We would use cream. The thicker the better. It takes much longer to spoil than milk. The thinner the milk, ie skim 1% etc. spoil the quickest.
    I have not had instant coffee in years. We have a jar or it in the cupboard, gathering dust in case that one weirdo shows up that prefers it.
    I will try this method if I’m ever in a pinch. Or maybe just because. I mention this to my daughter if she wants to do a science experiment.
    Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I hope I never need a hack! Haven’t drank instant in quite some time and not sure I could ever improve the metallic bitterness – I like my coffee black as midnight on a moonless night, so no sugar or milk for me. Luckily my work has everything I need to make myself a proper coffee and on the odd occasion I forget to take any in I have a Pret nearby (coffee stop of choice).

    Liked by 2 people

  3. If it’s just me in the house, I’ll do instant instead of brewing a pot. Lazy? Nah. I actually like the taste of Nescafe. No milk or sugar, of course. “Drinkin’ black coffee (stare at the walls!*)!!” Ahem. Anyway, it’s fine by me. In fact, the water out of our tap, with our new on-demand hot water heater (which totally kicks ass), is hot enough like the kettle, so I can brew in a pinch right from the tap.

    I’ve always put all the powder in first, then water last. Same with hot chocolate. In fact, here’s another pro tip: put all your powders in the mug and fill ¼ to ½ full. Stir it all up till it’s all dissolved. Then pour the rest of the water to finish filling the mug. It’s easier to stir when the cup is only half full!

    One other thing, my grandfther used to put a pinch of salt in with the grounds before the water. He said it improved the flavour (he always had Nescafe). I’ve never tried it. Maybe I should!

    Cool post, Sarca. One vote for instant, from me! Of course, brewing a pot also gets a vote from me. Basically, I vote for coffee. Full stop. 🙂

    * All hail the mighty Black Flag!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I will often drink my coffee from home black. Instant black? Man, I can drink it, but I don’t like it. I have heard about the salt trick too. And the half full stir trick? I think that would work too, for sure. I stir as I pour to get it all mixed in. Thanks, Aaron, I knew you would have something to say about this subject!

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      1. Yup, I’m gonna try it, I’ll get back to you as to how it goes.

        Have you ever put a bit of salt on your cut-up cantaloupe? The flavour just jumps right out, it’s awesome. Betcha the same principle applies here.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Please do … if I had some instant I’d be tempted to try it.

          Don’t think I’ve added a dash of salt to melon actually. That would be splendid, though! Salt and fruit is great … strawberries, dude. Salt and strawberries …

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          1. Yes! Same principle! Gotta try it on melon, though, dude. So good.

            I just tried some Nescafe with salt. It totally DOES improve the flavour!

            And I just said to my lovely wife, I wonder who thought of that in the first place.* We laughed about it and said well, if it was our grandparents’ generation, they put salt on everything else anyway, so why not in the coffee! haha.

            Important note: I used actual salt, not table salt. Table salt is barely good enough to use for scrubbing your cooking pans. Never ever eat table salt. Ugh.

            Anyway, success!

            * Same as the first person to think of milking a cow. Like, what was going through THAT person’s mind, eh?

            Liked by 1 person

            1. When you guys say no to table salt, what kind of salt are you using exactly? Kosher? Coarse? I am not up on my salt. Hardly use it actually.

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  4. The first “coffee” I ever drank was instant, thanks to my father. However, it’s been an eternity since I’ve strayed from “real” coffee. I swear on my espresso and French press these days. It may sound like I’m a coffee snob but not really. I still drink Tim Hortons on occasion…

    Liked by 1 person

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