We’ve all had to settle for an weak cup of instant coffee… because anything is better than nothing, right? Sometimes the convenience and low cost of instant coffee make it a necessary evil.
Hands down a good cup of freshly ground coffee will always beat instant coffee. But is there a way of improving the quality and taste of instant coffee by making it yourself?
The Technical Bits
There is a fine technical and mechanical process involved in making instant coffee — manufacturers brew large batches of fresh coffee then use a freeze or spray-drying process to evaporate the water — makes it impossible to recreate at home in the true sense.
But let’s say you’re a highbrow coffee drinker going camping, but you don’t have space (or the electricity) for all your coffee paraphernalia; there has to be a way for us to have something better than the instant stuff. One of the sources of inspiration we can turn to is Turkish coffee.
Making instant coffee powder with coffee beans
A true Turkish coffee requires special equipment, including a cezve and hand mill. But as it’s likely you won’t have them lying around your kitchen (or on the metaphorical camping trip we mentioned earlier), but here’s a simpler method:
- A fine-mesh sieve or strainer
- Coffee mill/coffee grinder/food processor
- Coffee beans
- Airtight bag or container
Measure out one scoop of regular coffee beans and pour them into your grinder (multiply the quantity depending on strength and number of servings you’ll need). Aim for super fine, powder-like coffee granules.
Shake your ground coffee beans into the fine-mesh strainer over your mug until all you have left is the larger particles in the sieve and fine powder in your cup.
Discard the large dry coffee particles, and save any leftover coffee grounds you’re not planning on using immediately into an airtight container.
Boil fresh, clean water , and let the hot water sit for a minute; let its temperature to drop below the boiling point so you don’t burn your delicious coffee beans. Pour the hot water over the grounds in your coffee cup and stir. If you plan to add sugar, milk or cream, wait 10 or so seconds before doing so. Then, enjoy!
Before you ask… yes, you will have small coffee grounds at the bottom of your cup because there’s no filtration involved. Because no one wants to chew a cup of coffee, wait a minute before drinking to give the grounds time to settle to the bottom. For this reason, be careful you don’t slurp down the last mouthful of your cup of coffee.
How to improve the taste of instant coffee
Mix a splash of cold water or cold milk into the powder first. Doing this before adding the hot water gently introduces the heat and lessens any harsh bitter flavors. You’ll get a much smoother cup this way.
You can also spice up the instant coffee particles by adding ground cinnamon, cocoa powder, nutmeg or vanilla.
Choosing the best instant coffee
Most instant coffee is made with Robusta. These beans have a strong coffee flavor that’s earthier, smokier, and more bitter. Milk and cream both work well in cutting its rubbery taste.
Instant coffee powder has developed quite a poor reputation and is doomed to be the last kid picked every time among coffee snobs. We’ve reviewed South Africa’s favourite and most popular instant coffee brands here.