How to Make Better Tasting Instant Coffee

Two Parts:Improving Your TechniqueCustomizing Instant Coffee

Instant coffee dates back to at least 1890, and has been a major industry for over a century.[1] Most consumers, however, like it for the convenience and not the taste. Learn how to leave "coffee flavored water" behind, but be prepared for trial and error.


  • Water (bottled or filtered might be best, depending on your local water supply)
  • Instant coffee
  • Milk or cream (optional)
  • Sugar (optional)
  • Flavorings, such as cocoa powder, vanilla, or cinnamon (optional)
  • Flavored creamer (optional)
  • Flavored syrup (optional)
  • Vanilla extract (optional)

Part 1
Improving Your Technique

  1. Image titled Make Better Tasting Instant Coffee Step 1
    Buy quality instant coffee. Almost no instant coffee brands can compete with ground, but some are pretty decent. Try to find packaging labeled "freeze-dried," which tends to produce a truer coffee flavor than "spray drying."[2] If the label doesn't specify, check the consistency: granules are more likely to be freeze-dried than powder is, though this is not a guarantee.[3] Finally, more expensive brands tend to taste better.
    • If you're not sure where to start, try Medaglia d'Oro or Starbucks VIA Colombia. These tend to convert more coffee snobs than most brands.
    • Instant espresso powder is a different product, meant for baking instead of drinking.[4]
  2. Image titled Make Better Tasting Instant Coffee Step 2
    Heat a kettle of water. Don't use water that's been sitting in your kettle, which can pick up off-flavors or become "flat" from repeated boiling. If you live in a hard water area or your tap water just tastes bad, put it through a water filter first.
    • If you don't have a kettle, microwave a mug of water before adding the coffee.[5] Microwaved water can "explode" if overheated. Prevent this by putting a wooden popsicle stick or teaspoon of sugar in the cup.[6]
  3. Image titled Make Better Tasting Instant Coffee Step 3
    Measure the instant coffee into a mug. Follow the package instructions the first time you try a brand. If it's too strong or too watery for your tastes, you can adjust the ratio of coffee and water later. Most importantly, use the same spoon and the same mug each time. If you switch to a different size each time, you can't pinpoint a ratio you enjoy.
    • If there's no recommendation on the package, try 1 slightly rounded teaspoon (5mL) per 8 oz (240mL).
  4. Image titled Make Better Tasting Instant Coffee Step 4
    Stir in a little cold water (optional). Add just enough cold water to wet all the coffee, stirring it into a paste.[7] This preparation give your coffee a smoother flavor, although it won't always have a major effect.
  5. Image titled Make Better Tasting Instant Coffee Step 5
    Pour in the hot water. Instant coffee has already been extracted in water before drying, so the flavor is already set. This means the temperature of the water is much less important than for normal coffee. Instant coffee drinkers disagree over whether boiling water can affect the taste. If you're concerned, just let the kettle cool down for a couple minutes first.
  6. Image titled Make Better Tasting Instant Coffee Step 6
    Stir in the sugar and milk (optional). Even if you prefer black coffee, most instant blends could use the flavor help. Stir in as much or as little as you like, making sure all the sugar dissolves. If your instant coffee has a particularly bad taste, cream will hide it better than milk.
  7. Image titled Make Better Tasting Instant Coffee Step 7
    Taste and adjust. The most effective way to improve your cup is to keep experimenting, and to keep track of what you tried. Try an extra teaspoon (5mL) of coffee next time if the brew was too watery, or add another pinch of sugar if it tastes too bitter. Instant coffee will never be gourmet, but your choices can make it enjoyable.
    • Use the same spoon and same mug each time so you have a benchmark for the coffee to water ratio.
  8. Image titled Make Better Tasting Instant Coffee Step 8
    Store the leftovers in an airtight container. Humidity will spoil the flavor of your instant coffee. Keep it out by sealing the container tightly.
    • If you live in a humid climate, transfer the leftovers to smaller containers as you use them up. This will minimize the amount of air that contacts the coffee. In extra-humid tropics, the refrigerator might be drier than your cupboards.[8]

Part 2
Customizing Instant Coffee

  1. Image titled Make Better Tasting Instant Coffee Step 9
    Replace the water with milk. Some say that the coffee itself is a lost cause. If the techniques above don't help, try replacing all the water with hot milk. Heat the milk over the stovetop until it begins to bubble around the edges. Pour it onto the coffee powder instead of water.
    • Keep an eye on the milk and stir occasionally. Unattended milk can overflow rapidly.
  2. Image titled Make Better Tasting Instant Coffee Step 10
    Froth milk into a cappuccino. Your "instant cappuccino" won't impress an Italian, but a little froth can go a long way. If you don't have a handheld frother, froth the milk and instant coffee by whisking or shaking it in a jar.
    • To froth up the mixture with a spoon, add the instant coffee and sugar to a cup, then stir in enough water to make a paste. Beat this with a spoon until foamy, then stir in the hot milk.[9]
  3. Image titled Make Better Tasting Instant Coffee Step 11
    Add flavors. Strong, usually sweet flavors are another way to hide poor tastes. Here are a few suggestions:
    • Replace the milk and sugar with flavored creamers, or homemade flavored milk.
    • Add flavorings such as vanilla extract, cocoa powder, or ground cinnamon, stirred in thoroughly. Careful — it's easy to overdo these if making a single cup.
    • Replace the sugar with the flavored syrup of your choice. You can even buy liquid coffee essence or extract to add a bigger punch of coffee flavor. Keep in mind that commercial syrups often include high fructose corn syrup.
  4. Image titled Make Better Tasting Instant Coffee Step 12
    Add coconut oil or butter to your coffee. Not everyone loves this trend, but you might change your mind when you're slogging through a jar of bad instant. After making your instant coffee, toss it in the blender with 1 tsp (5mL) coconut oil or butter and blend until frothy.


  • If you can't stand the instant coffee you've purchased to try, don't toss it away. It's great to use in cooking!
  • Tea drinkers have a long-running argument over whether to pour in the milk or the hot water first. This decision can affect the flavor of your instant coffee too, if you use a lot of milk. Try both to see which you prefer.
  • Different sugars taste quite different. Add raw or brown sugar to your coffee for a richer molasses flavor.
  • Pat yourself on the back for drinking instant coffee. It produces less carbon emissions than drip-filtered coffee![10]


  • Ground coffee is a very different product. It will not dissolve in hot water, and stirring it in a cup will not extract the right flavors.

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