How to Make Instant Coffee Taste Better Than You Ever Throught It Could

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There are many benefits instant coffee but it doesn’t tend to taste as good as the real deal. Here are 6 tips to help make instant coffee taste better.

make instant coffee taste better - instant coffee jar

If you’re a die-hard coffee purist, then this article is not for you.

But if you don’t mind drinking instant coffee, or you’re in situations where instant coffee is the only option and you would like to make it taste better, then read on.

Because there are some things you can do to maximise the flavour of your instant brew while reaping all the benefits of an instant caffeine fix.

Why Bother With Instant Coffee?

While I love a good cup of ‘real’ coffee, it’s ok not to be a coffee snob.

In fact, there are several benefits to drinking instant coffee:

  • instant coffee is a lot cheaper
  • it’s super easy to make
  • instant coffee is quicker and more convenient
  • you don’t need any special equipment to make an instant cuppa
  • instant has less caffeine than regular (this can also be a downside, I guess)
  • instant coffee contains as many antioxidants as regular coffee (possibly more)
  • plain instant coffee (without added sugar etc.) may have similar health benefits as regular coffee (here’s a study, for example, done on the effect of instant coffee on glucose metabolism, although there needs to be more research to be conclusive).

The potential downside to instant coffee (apart from the taste, if you don’t like it, that is) is that it contains more acrylamide than regular coffee, which is not a good thing. However, the amount consumed through instant coffee is lower than what is considered harmful.

Looking for easy ways to make coffee at home that aren’t instant coffee? Here are four ways to make great coffee without a coffee machine.

Sidenote: What is Instant Coffee Anyway?

Despite it’s reputation as being ‘fake’, instant coffee is made from real coffee beans that have been processed for convenience using either the spray-drying or freeze-drying method.

In the spray-drying method, liquid coffee is sprayed as a mist into hot air. As it drops, the water evaporates leaving small coffee crystals.

In the freeze-dried method – which people argue gives a superior flavour – coffee is reduced to an extract and then frozen in a couple of steps. The frozen coffee is broken down into granules and dried, the ice ‘vaporised‘ into instant coffee granules.

So it’s basically brewed coffee that’s been concentrated and then dehydrated which you ‘reconstitute’ with hot water.

6 Tips That Will Make Instant Coffee Taste Better

Instant coffee is never going to taste the same as a coffee from freshly ground beans.

But different doesn’t equal bad and good enough can be made better with the suggestions below.

1. Buy the Best Brand of Coffee

Which brand is the best brand of coffee?

The (annoying) answer is that it depends on your own personal taste. So it pays to try a variety of brands until you find the one you enjoy the most.

Some people argue that freeze-dried coffee tastes better than spray-dried coffee although it’s not always easy to tell which method was used to produce the coffee. Often (although not always) freeze-dried coffee has a granular look whereas spray-dried is more powdered.

Buying a ‘good’ brand of coffee doesn’t have to be expensive. Watch out for sales and try to stock up when your favourite brand goes half-price.

And look beyond supermarkets for sales. Other places to buy coffee include department stores, discount stores, office supplies stores, delis and coffee shops and online.

2. Store Your Instant Coffee Properly

For lasting freshness and superior flavour, instant coffee needs to be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place (like the pantry).

Avoid leaving the lid off for extended periods of time because this makes it go stale more quickly and it can be affected by humidity.

If you’re anything like me, you get the giant jars of coffee at half-price to save money.

The problem is, every time you open the jar, you’re letting air into the coffee causing it to go stale and taste bad. If you have a giant jar, it will go stale long before you’ve finished the jar.

The solution to this problem, which my friend taught me, is to decant some coffee from your giant jar into a small jar. Your coffee is exposed less frequently to air and therefore lasts longer, tasting better right to the very end.

3. Dissolve in cold water or cold milk

The not so secret secret to making instant coffee taste better is to not apply boiling water directly to the powder.

Instead, dissolve it in a little cold water or cold milk before pouring in water that has been boiled but has had a minute to come down a couple of degrees from 100°C.

This reduces potential bitterness and you avoid any possible chalky texture that some brands of coffee can impart.

4. Use Fresh Filtered Water

If you don’t like the taste of your tap water, chances are you aren’t going to like the coffee it makes.

So running your tap water through a water filter (like a Brita filter) can improve the taste of your coffee.

The way you boil your water can affect the taste of of you coffee too.

Some people argue that reboiling the same water over and over gives it a discernibly ‘flat’ taste. I haven’t done a side by side comparison, so I can neither confirm nor deny this theory.

While the science of why water tastes different after several boils is questionable, it’s worth giving it go and seeing if it does make a difference.

Even if it doesn’t there’s a second benefit to only filling the kettle with as much water as you need for your cuppa.

Not filling the kettle saves your money! It’s more energy and cost efficient to boil less water.

So instead of filling the kettle to the brim and boiling and reboiling water over and over, just boil enough water for the amount you need.

5. Get the Ratios Right

The ratio of coffee powder, water and milk (if you use it) is obviously going to affect the taste of your coffee.

If your instant brew is tasting too weak or watery, then it could be as simple as adjusting your coffee to liquid ratio.

One to two teaspoons per 200 ml cup is the general recommendation for instant coffee so that’s a good starting point. Then add more or less (next time you make a cup) until it’s tasting Goldilocks.

Just right.

Milk to water ratio will also affect the taste. Adding a little less water and a little more milk (or vice versa) will also make your instant cup taste better.

6. Add Some Spice

The last tip is a bit of a cover – add some additives to your cup to disguise the instant coffee taste a bit.

Some ideas include:

  • sugar
  • cream
  • butter (it’s not as weird as it sounds, butter is, after all, just shaken cream)
  • cocoa or chocolate
  • cinnamon
  • cardamon
  • nutmeg
  • ginger
  • vanilla extract
  • tiny pinch of salt
  • condensed milk (old-fashioned war-time favourite as well as a traditional drink in Vietnam)
  • coffee syrups (caramel, vanilla and hazelnut flavours can all be purchased from the supermarket)
  • honey
  • coconut milk
  • almond milk or other non-dairy milks
  • alcohol (but not in the morning before work)

Instant coffee is easy, convenient and cheaper than coffee beans. And while you don’t have to forever forsake a flat white, adding some instant coffee to your routine – and making it taste better with the tips above – can save you time and money.

For more tips on saving money on coffee, check out the article: 9 Ways to Save Money on Coffee While Still Enjoying Your Favourite Brew.

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  1. Jay Dann walker says:

    A good article. No, even better – a great article!!

    Here are some of my own tips for getting even better value with ‘instantaneous’ (as my SO calls it) coffee.

    I buy coffee from a discount store in Wendouree (Vic). They often have freeze-dried on special, in smell/medium/large jars, and when those hit the shelf I stock up. Usually I pay less than half the price for the similar stuff from the C-F-I-W supermarket chains. Four jars for the price of one and a half from the ‘biggies’ is no mean saving. And it lasts me a LONG time.

    Once I’ve opened a jar I keep it in the freezer. This is a tip I read years ago on the internet. Not sure how valid it is, but it seems to work for me.

    The one and only point I (mildly) disagree with in your excellent article is (6), the additives. I adore ginger in my coffee, but this hit $50 a kilo this year and even a small piece from Aldi will set you back $3-$4. So not a good idea. All the other ‘add-ins’ could easily run you into higher cost than the actual coffee. Honey is expensive, and all those syrups are heavily-sugared and (to me anyway) take away from the taste of good coffee, which instant can be if it’s made properly.

    All this said, many thanks for having written this most useful piece, and I look forward to many more of such in future. Carry on!!

    From Dann in Melbourne (a long-time lurker on this site!)

    1. Thanks, Dan, nice to meet you. Great tips, thanks for sharing. Hope you’re not being affected by any flooding.

  2. JDW in Melbourne says:

    Another useful tip from me. One I forgot to include in my last post.

    My (now ex-) wife always put (and still puts) a sliver of lemon or lime in instant coffee, and insisted this really brought out the flavors of the bean.

    She also did as you recommend in your excellent article, and let the just-boiled water “settle” for a couple of minutes, to lower the temperature, before pouring it on top of the grind.

    She bought (and still buys) her Nescafe espresso instant blend in the big glass jars at a good discount when it’s being sold on special at her favorite discount store – NQR in Wendouree (Ballarat), Victoria.

    BTW, the empty jars can be (washed first and) donated to Vinnie’s in Wendouree, where they find new homes as kitchen storage jars…