Instant

[For the Love of ‘Fee] 100% Freeze-Dried and Van Houtte Colombian Light Instant Coffee

“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! 🙂

I can’t believe my luck. A colleague of mine on contract who is replacing someone on parental leave is from Colombia, and…wait for it…her dad worked in the coffee industry there. AND he knows Juan Valdez. That’s right, THE Juan Valdez. (Okay, the actor who portrayed Juan Valdez…still counts!) Her family knows coffee!

I’ve learned two things from her regarding coffee:

  1. The best coffee in Colombia is actually exported out of the country to places like North America.
  2. A lot of Colombians drink INSTANT COFFEE. Yep, they do.

That second one almost melted my brains. Really?? Why when they are surrounded by coffee, would they rather drink awful instant coffee?

Well, folks, the secret is in the type of instant coffee. My colleague says I need to look out for 100% freeze-dried instant coffee, not the average crystalized instant coffee like Folgers or Maxwell House that is predominant in the grocery store ’round here. She brought to me a jar of instant coffee straight from Colombia to “show and smell”. Turns out there are differences: the freeze-dried coffee appears lighter in colour, and more granular or chunkier than what I am used to seeing. Also, the aroma of freeze-dried is different – less acrid, more like coffee. She explained freeze dried is of much better quality than your average instant because of how it’s been processed.

Back in 2016, I wrote about my hatred for instant coffee in general. I even developed a hack to make it taste better! There wasn’t much of a choice around where I live with what was available. I had to deal with the instant coffee crystals of Folgers or Maxwell House.

Which brings me to this week’s food run…It was my usual night of grocery shopping that lead me down the coffee aisle for anything new. This is where I was delighted to find Van Houtte Colombian Light 100% freeze-dried instant coffee. The coffee is sold in a glass jar, and I immediately recognized the chunky look of the granules. Van Houtte is a Montreal, Quebec company and from experience, I know Van Houtte to make a pretty good cup of brewed coffee. To find freeze-dried instant coffee in the aisles without begging my colleague to bring me back a jar of Colombian the next time she’s home was great, but seeing the Van Houtte name was even better! I immediately put the jar into my cart.

Yesterday afternoon, I cracked open that jar and did the sniff test, comparing it to the Folgers we had stuck in the back of the pantry – of course, the freeze-dried smelled better! The Folgers smelled like someone needed to take a bath (to put it mildly). In the spectrum of instant coffee smells, the 100% freeze-dried is more like ground coffee, and definitely less acrid than coffee crystals. I made myself and the hubs a cup of Van Houtte following the directions on the jar (add boiling water or milk to granules). The results were pretty palatable. The hubs commented how smooth-tasting it was. I couldn’t help but notice the coffee smelled like COFFEE in the cup for once instead of some weird drink. After I finished my coffee, the thought crossed my mind that keeping some of this on-hand in my office would be a lot better than the Folgers I have sitting there collecting dust.

No doubt, I am not a big fan of instant coffee, but, to be constructively critical, if there was a type of instant to keep in the cupboard, 100% freeze-dried instant is the way to go…I’ve certainly tasted a lot worse in the instant coffee department! And Van Houtte Colombian Light 100% freeze-dried instant coffee is a good one.

 

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[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.