Top 5 Tips & Tricks for Brewing Better Instant Coffee
Just because you want the convenience of instant coffee doesn't mean you have to give up good taste.
How to Brew Better Instant Coffee
If you drink coffee regularly, you know that instant coffee does not have the best reputation for having amazing or deep flavors. It is not surprising because instant coffee was initially created for its convenience and not necessarily for its taste. Here are 5 ways you can maximize the flavor of instant coffee and make a better cup of coffee at home.
1. Use High-Quality Instant Coffee
Most of the time, a recipe is only as good as its ingredient counterparts. So that's why first and foremost, you should always use high-quality instant coffee. But how can you tell the difference in the quality? It's actually easier than you think. You want to look for what beans were used and how they were dried. Specifically, you want to look for freeze-dried instant coffee made from Arabica beans.
Robusta Beans vs. Arabica Beans
There are two types of beans commonly used to make coffee: Robusta beans and Arabica beans. The former tend to have a more robust and harsher taste. Robusta beans are also lower in acidity, contain more bitterness, and are high in caffeine. Therefore, Robusta beans are often added to other blends to create more body and richness in the overall flavor. Other times, Robusta beans are added for the extra caffeine kick.
On the other hand, Arabica beans tend to have a sweeter and softer taste. It is higher in acidity with little bitterness compared to the Robusta bean. Depending on the variety and where it was grown, the bean can even take on a few different flavors. Arabica beans can have subtle chocolate, caramel, or nutty flavors and sweet, fruity, and berry tones. Overall, look for instant coffee made from Arabica beans if you want a high-quality tasting coffee.
Spray-dried vs. Freeze-dried
There are two drying methods commonly used to dehydrate coffee into the dissolvable instant coffee we know. The first method is spray-drying which involves using hot air to evaporate and extract water from coffee. Because this process uses high heat, the natural flavor and aroma of the coffee are usually lost and overshadowed by a burnt taste. Spray-drying results in small particles of instant coffee powder. This process is still used today because it is cheaper and faster than freeze-drying.
Freeze-drying is the process of dehydration through freezing, lowering the pressure, and then removing the water by sublimation. This method of making instant coffee is more expensive and takes longer. Despite the costs, many new instant coffee companies are freeze-drying their coffee in recent years. This is because the freeze-drying process better preserves the flavors and aroma of the coffee. The end result is coffee crystal granules or larger irregular chunks of dissolvable coffee.
2. Experiment with Adding Different Ingredients
Next, if you want a better tasting cup of coffee, you should be experimenting with adding different ingredients. You'll never know what you may end up liking if you never try new recipes. Even if you regularly drink your coffee plain black, do not skip this step. Coffee is one of the most versatile drinks globally, and everyone has their unique taste preference. It'll be a waste not to try all the different combinations of ingredients until you find the one for you.
If you're not sure where to start experimenting, we got you! You can easily elevate your next cup of coffee by adding any one of the following ingredients: lemon juice, protein powder, spices (like pepper, cinnamon, ginger, etc.), cocoa powder, condensed milk, olive oil, or even butter. So until you find that perfect recipe for your taste preferences, keep experimenting!
- Coffee with Honey
- Coffee with Lemon
- Coffee with Black Pepper
- Coffee with Protein Powder
- Coffee with Coconut Oil/Coconut Butter
3. Experiment with Water Ratios
As you may know, different types of coffee will require different ratios of coffee to water to make. For example, coffee made in a French press will require either a 1:10 ratio or 1:16 ratio of coffee to water, depending on the desired strength of the drink. On the other hand, a concentrated shot of espresso typically has a coffee to water ratio of 1:2. So what about instant coffee?
From our experience, the best coffee to water ratio for instant coffee is either 1 teaspoon to 1 cup (8 fl oz) of water or 1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons) to 1 cup of water. So if you like a more diluted cup of coffee, use 1 teaspoon of instant coffee. If you like a stronger cup of coffee, use 1 tablespoon of instant coffee.
If you don't drink your coffee black then the ratios may get a little more complicated. For example, to make a latte, we recommend starting with 1 tablespoon of instant coffee to 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of milk. From there, it is best to continue to experiment and reiterate your ratios as you go.
4. Scoop the Bubbles Off the Top
When you pour hot water over instant coffee or regular ground coffee, you will notice that bubbles will often start to foam on top. Most of the gas released during this process is the carbon dioxide created when the coffee beans were roasted. When hot water makes contact, the ground coffee will immediately release carbon dioxide to create bubbles. This process is why a foamy layer of bubbles on brewed coffee is a good indication of its quality and how fresh it is.
However, in instant coffee, the bubbles have nothing to do with carbon dioxide being released. This is because instant coffee is coffee that has already been brewed and dehydrated. So why do bubbles still form? The reason is simple. There is a thin layer of air in between where the liquids come in contact with each other. So when the liquids make contact at high speed, air can get trapped and form bubbles.
Now that we know why bubbles form when we make our coffee, should we go through the effort of scooping it out? The answer is it's up to you! We believe removing the bubbly residue has something to do with eliminating taste impurities. While we are not certain whether or not you will experience a big difference in flavor, it doesn't hurt to try it.
5. Use Cold Water First
Some coffee experts claim that mixing instant coffee in cold water first will help create a more flavorful and smooth cup of coffee. It is believed that when you use hot or boiling water, some of the flavors will be evaporated and lost through the steam. On the other hand, when using cold water to make instant coffee, it's believed that the granules will dissolve more gently when mixed.
The only drawback we noticed when using cold water is that it will take slightly longer to completely dissolve the coffee compared to just using hot water. While we believe there is a difference in flavor profile, the difference is very subtle. Regardless, it doesn't hurt to try using cold water first to see if your coffee will taste better.
To use cold water first, mix equal parts instant coffee with equal parts cold water. For example, if you use 1 tablespoon of instant coffee, then use 1 tablespoon of cold water. Then mix thoroughly to create a concentrated shot of cold instant coffee. From here, you can either add hot or cold water, depending on your preferences.
Bonus Tip: Make Coffee Ice Cubes
Does your coffee get diluted or stale often? If so, you should try adding coffee ice cubes to your drink! You can use coffee ice cubes to keep iced coffee cold and flavorful without watering it down. This is especially useful if you're the type of person that slowly sips their cup of coffee throughout the day. Even if you drink hot coffee, coffee ice cubes can be helpful. For example, you can use the ice cubes to cool down your hot drink without diluting its flavor.
To make coffee ice cubes, first mix 2 tablespoons of instant coffee with 1 cup of water. Then pour the brewed coffee into an ice tray and freeze it for a few hours. And there you have it. You now have ready to use coffee ice cubes for any occasion. For storage, we recommend keeping the ice cubes in a tightly sealed ziplock bag in the freezer until use. Then when you're ready, all you need to do is just put a few ice cubes in a cup, add water or milk, and you're good to go!