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Instant Coffee: A Quick Reference

Coffee Now
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Instant coffee. Two words that are enough to strike fear into the heart of many a coffee lover. Last year I was interviewed by a women’s magazine regarding instant coffee. Don’t ask me why. They wanted me to talk about instant coffee in about…oh, ten words. It was actually pretty ridiculous. Because I’m not keen on being reduced to ten words to describe an entire “genre” of one of my favorite topics, that’s probably why they didn’t even include me in the article. All for the better, really.

But I did my homework. I actually went out and tried instant coffee, something I haven’t done for years. Before we get to actual instant-instant coffees, let’s talk seriously about the need for instant coffee. Instant coffee, for the most part, is for people who can’t be arsed to make coffee. Trust me, there are days in which if Cosette didn’t take pity on me and make me coffee I would just gnaw on the raw beans for sustenance. But if you’re really, truly busy or can’t be arsed, here’s the #1 instant coffee choice:

[ad#rightpost]#1 CHOICE. Pay someone to make you coffee. If you don’t have a spouse or significant other who can take pity on you, the first best option is to stop by a Starbucks or Caribou or coffee vendor of your choice and get somebody to do it for you. They’re pros, it won’t take them long and you can screw around on your smartphone until you get handed the cup. How did I know you had a smartphone? Because you are in a hurry to get coffee. They go hand in hand.

#2 CHOICE. Don’t want to spend the coin? I don’t blame you. Get one of those single cup coffee makers. You take the little coffee pod thingy, you slap it in, you throw in water, you hit the button. Sixty seconds later (at least on the models I’ve experienced), you have coffee. You can’t get much faster than that.

#3 CHOICE. Relax and get off your ass and prep the coffee maker once you’ve finished the current pot of coffee. So that way you can always just hit the button and go, even with a boring actually-makes-a-pot coffee maker. Seriously, is it that difficult?

Still here? Okay, fine. If for whatever reason these things are too difficult–or perhaps you’re simply caught somewhere where you need coffee and are separated from your usual gear, here are my notes for instant coffees.

FOLGERS. Opening the container does not give you the same result as seen in commercials like this.

Direct link for the feedreaders.

Although the weird chemically coffee smell might wake people up for miles around. And the coffee itself once created tastes a bit like, well, brown colored water. Or water that tried to sneak into the coffee convention by using food coloring. It’s just not happening. This does not taste like coffee.

NESCAFE TASTER’s CHOICE. No idea who the taster was for this or why they chose this, because the end result is the same taste as the Folger’s above but you’re at least spared the chemical smell and taste. Still unpleasant.

NESCAFE CLASICO. What I love about this is that this is the first instant coffee I’ve encountered that has no measurements provided. Usually it’s whatever the serving is (teaspoon or a pre-measured single serving thing) plus six ounces of water. Here it’s “Place your preferred amount of Nescafe Clasico in a cup.” Then “Add hot water or milk.” So it’s Instant Coffee Anarchy, people. Use As Much Instant Coffee As Thou Wilt Shall Be the Whole of the Law. Which would be, you know, awesome if it tasted like anything but bad coffee. Which could be a benefit, because if you’re stuck with bad coffee at least here you can get instantly and drink it faster to make it over with sooner.

CAFE PILON INSTANT ESPRESSO. Well, I can say this for it: it sure smells like espresso once you’ve made it.

It sure does smell like espresso.

CAFE BUSTELO ESPRESSO. This restores the chemical smell of Folger’s and also the taste of water. In other words, it barely has a taste.

HILLS BROS CAPPUCCINO. Well, it’s the most drinkable of the bunch, really. Very pleasant when hot. Of course that probably has something to do with the fact that it has 18% of your daily allowance of saturated fat in it and 15g of sugar per serving. But the English toffee version that I tried recently was pretty good. But it’s not straight-up coffee. So.

GENERAL FOODS INTERNATIONAL CAFE FRANCAIS COFFEEHOUSE BEVERAGE MIX. Not terribly familiar with “Cafe Francais” but this does taste like a drink you’d get in the coffeehouse, as long as you’re enjoy skim milk with a smattering of chalk dust.

STARBUCKS VIA. Of all the instant coffees I tried, this was the one that was most successful. It manages to taste as close to Starbucks as you can get without actually going to the trouble of brewing some Starbucks coffee. That being said, some people do not like Starbucks. If you don’t dig Starbucks to begin with, then this will do nothing to change your mind. But if you are stuck in a situation where instant is the only way, this is your best bet. (Rox’s review of it is here.)

Hope you found that helpful. Do you have experiences with instant coffee? Crazed ways to make it quicker? Share. We love to hear them.

Fantastic “Coffee. Now.” Mousepad available from Zazzle.


  • is there some deep, dark place in Heck for me because I make a small pot of coffee (4 cup carafe), have one fresh cup/mug, turn off the burner, and finish off the pot by gently microwaving it? the point being, I haven’t had instant coffee in a very long time now :-)

  • Hell, I actually prefer my coffee cold or even iced. I used to like it hot as hell but have mellowed in my old age. Of course, I drink it straight up black now. I have only recently started adding a bit of cinnamon to the mix. It was one of the ways I decided to cut back on my sugar intake: I was the embodiment of the Beastie Boys line, “I like my sugar with coffee and cream.”

    All of that to say: consider yourself Heck-free. :-)

  • kind of off-topic, but has anyone ever frozen left over coffee to use as ‘ice-cubes’ in iced coffee? tried it, thought it was mediocre at best