How to Make Instant Coffee Seem Gourmet

Starbucks Via flavors

Instant coffee has had a bad reputation of late, largely because the one-dimensional flavor is nothing compared to what you can get from a coffee shop. Fortunately, products like Starbucks Via are raising the bar for instant coffee and letting us take advantage of the convenience of a product like that without throwing flavor out the window. Still, there is nothing like a big cup of freshly brewed coffee, so it never hurts to have a few tricks up your sleeve that will make that instant coffee seem gourmet when you’re using it and Sugar Savvy put together a list to get you started:

  • Add cocoa – cocoa will introduce some complexity to a one-note coffee, and it will turn inexpensive instant coffee into an easy and inexpensive mocha with a little sugar and milk.
  • Add spice – cinnamon, nutmeg and other spices will also add some complexity to instant coffee, and peppermint will really perk it up on a cold morning.
  • Add ice – you can very easily control the strength of your coffee with instant, so making it extra strong and pouring it over ice will give you a very refreshing drink.
  • Add milk – milk rounds out the sometimes papery flavors of instant coffee, especially if you don’t mind splurging on a little half and half instead of skim milk
  • Add sweeteners – sugar might be the sweetener you reach for most, but brown sugar and maple syrup can make a cup of instant seem a lot more interesting.

And two more tips that I’ll add to the list:

  • Add vanilla – if you drink your coffee with milk, add a small amount of vanilla extract to the milk. Vanilla extract doesn’t blend that well with coffee on its own, but the mellow notes of vanilla work really well when you’re already adding a splash of cream. Vanilla sugar and vanilla syrup are other great additions.
  • Steam that milk – heat up your milk in a microwave (you can read reviews of convection microwaves and get a new one if your microwave is more than 10 years old). Whisk the milk well with a small whisk (or stir very vigorously) to froth it up and give your drink a latte feel.

I use instant (Via) over ice all the time in the summer, making a very concentrated brew and pouring over a big cup of ice, then adding syrup and milk. What are your favorite ways to fix up instant coffee, or other coffees that are less-than-great to start out with?