Coffee 101: How to Find the Best Instant Coffee
If you don't have the time or patience to wait for a whole pot to brew, or if you want to brew coffee while camping or backpacking instant coffee is exactly for you.
How do you find the best instant coffee? The most solid indicator of a great instant coffee blend is if it has been freeze-dried as opposed to spray-dried. Along with that, looking at the type of roast, where the blend originated, and the amount of water used in relation to the coffee makes all the difference in the world.
Instant Coffee vs. Brewed Coffee
Before learning how to find the best instant coffee, it’s important to understand the key differences between instant coffee and regular ground coffee for brewing. The primary difference between the two types is that instant coffee typically has slightly lower levels of caffeine per cup than traditional brewing grounds.
Beyond that, instant coffee is the quicker option for people on the go. Traditional coffee grounds are made from simply grinding the coffee beans while instant coffee is made from grinding the beans and then putting them through a drying process, like freeze-drying or spray-drying, before being packaged for sale.
What Makes a Good Cup of Coffee?
There are four main components that dictate how good a cup of coffee turns out. However, it’s important to remember that everyone’s tastebuds are different and what one person prefers may be entirely different than the next. The four main components of a good cup of coffee that you need to take into consideration are the roast type, the process by which it was dried, where the coffee originated, and the ratio of coffee to water.
1. Roast Type
In terms of roast types, there are four different levels on the spectrum: light, medium, medium-dark, and dark. The general rule of thumb here is the darker the roast, the fuller and richer the flavor will be. Coffee drinkers who prefer a rich flavor without an oily surface will suffice best with roasts, like city, American, or breakfast-style medium roasts. On the other hand, coffee drinkers who want a strong coffee taste will want to go with a dark roast like continental or espresso.
2. Freeze-Drying vs. Spray-Drying
In most cases, freeze-dried coffee is the preferred method for instant coffee because it gives a smoother, more even taste. During the freeze-drying process, the coffee flavor is extracted from the beans, then frozen at -40 degrees Celsius. Once frozen, they are then cut into granules. After cutting into granules, they’re dried at a low temperature while under a vacuum. These gentle conditions also work to preserve the flavor.
Spray-drying, on the other hand, is the method that involves spraying the coffee extract into a stream of hot air. As the extract falls to the bottom of the container, it forms into the powdery substance we know instant coffee as. While freeze-drying is more preferred amongst many coffee drinkers, spray-drying is the more common practice of the two.
3. Country of Origin
While the country of origin doesn’t necessarily affect the taste too much, it can help you feel more connected to the coffee you’re drinking. Beyond that, growing conditions vary depending on where the beans were grown and picked. Because of that, you’ll likely notice taste differences between coffee from different countries.
4. Coffee to Water Ratio
This final indicator is completely controlled by you. Depending on how strong you want your coffee that day, you’ll need to adjust how much water you use per scoop of instant coffee. For stronger coffee, you can add additional scoops to a cup of water and vice versa for less-strong coffee.
How to Elevate Your Cup of Instant Coffee
If you aren’t a fan of straight black coffee, there are a number of ways you can step up your instant coffee game that only takes a few extra seconds to do. From adding in hot cocoa to garnishing with cinnamon, let’s take a quick peek at some creative ways to add more flavor to your morning pick-me-up.
1. Using Cocoa Powder
Chocolate and coffee are two distinct flavors that pair well better than any other combination we know. If you enjoy indulging in chocolatey treats, consider adding a scoop of cocoa powder into your instant coffee. With that said, take care to only do a teaspoon or two at a time so you can control the amount of chocolate flavor is in ratio to your coffee.
While this may seem like an odd combination, adding butter into your instant coffee beverage can help tone down the bitter taste of coffee and leave the drink with a silkier texture. Most coffee drinkers will recommend slicing a small square of butter and adding in cream to top it off.
3. Cinnamon and Sugar
If you aren’t a fan of black coffee, chances are pretty good that you’ve already added sugar to the beverage. However, you can also add in some cinnamon to add a little bit more of a kick to the drink. Top it off with a little bit of milk or cream and you might find it tastes oddly similar to a cinnamon roll.
4. Add Ice and Milk
Coffee drinkers that won’t turn down a latte at their nearest coffee chain can find relief in the fact that you can make an iced latte at home for much cheaper. After making your instant coffee drink, pour it into a cup of ice and add a splash of milk. If you want to go the extra mile, consider adding in some chocolate or caramel syrup too.