Listen Up, Java Snobs: Here's How & Why You Need to Use Instant Coffee

Here's How & Why You Need to Use Instant Coffee

Okay, it's true: even the highest quality instant coffee is never going to replace really good fresh beans (and properly cleaning your coffee maker) when it comes to creating a great cup of joe. However, instant coffee does have all kinds of uses in the kitchen, as the smart folks over at Reddit observed.

Keep reading and you'll be tempted to break into your survival MREs, snatch up spare packets of the stuff from your office break room, or even lay in a supply during your next grocery store visit.

Medaglia d'Oro is my preferred brand of instant coffee, although I like regular ol' Nescafe, too. Image via Gear Patrol

#1. Instant Coffee Makes Great Homemade Kahlua

DIY Kahlua isn't hard to make. The main ingredients are vodka, vanilla, and sugar. Most recipes tell you to make it with instant coffee. Why?

Well, as Lexy Levin writes, most brewed coffee doesn't have enough flavor to stand up to the other ingredients. Plus, it would take a lot of espresso to get the flavor right, which would mess with the recipe proportions. For the purposes of most home cooks, instant coffee is the way to get the most flavorful coffee liqueur. Plus, it's easy, cheap, and fast (that's what she said).

Liv Life made DIY Kahlua using fresh-brewed and instant coffee and preferred the latter. Image via Liv Life

You can get a great recipe here. And don't shell out a lot of dough on vodka, either. Use our hacks to make crappy vodka taste better.

#2. For Mocha Frosting, Instant Coffee Can't Be Beat

Almost every mocha frosting or mocha-flavored cake I've made has called for instant coffee, pretty much for the same reason that DIY Kahlua recipes call for it: flavor and proportion. Instant coffee crystals give the immediate aroma and taste of coffee for a lot less effort.

This mocha frosting uses--you guessed it--instant coffee as a key ingredient. Image via Bakeaholic Mama

Heck, even the Barefoot Contessa uses instant coffee for her mocha frosting, and she's practically aristocracy, right?

#3. Instant Coffee Enhances Chocolate Flavor

A little bit of coffee in a baked good famously makes chocolate taste, well, chocolatier (sorry, I know that's not really a word). No one really knows why. The Kitchn speculates it's because the two ingredients have very similar flavor profiles while the coffee brings out the darker, richer notes in the chocolate. Baking Bites concurs.

Instant coffee plus chocolate: together they fight crime. No, just kidding, but they really do make a great pair. Image via Sprinkles of Parsley

I've used this trick many a time, but instead of making a little bit of espresso, I just use instant coffee or, if I'm feeling really money, baby, instant espresso powder. That way I don't have to worry about dumping in two ounces of coffee and subtracting other liquids so my cake batter doesn't come out runny.

#4. Use It to Make Redeye Gravy & Mayonnaise

Redeye gravy is a Southern classic that shouldn't taste good, but it does. In fact, it tastes terrific, and the two main ingredients are horrifying at first glance: meat drippings and black coffee. The culinary history of the dish is fun: according to legend, the seventh president of the United States, Andrew Jackson, is responsible for its invention, although that story is most likely apocryphal.

Ham, egg, and redeye gravy. Looks pretty tasty, don't it? Image by jackal10/egullet

Momofuku chef David Chang makes a variation on this classic called redeye mayonnaise and he uses instant coffee. If it's good enough for a guy whose restaurant has gotten two Michelin stars, it's good enough for me.

#5. Greek Iced Frappes Use…

You guessed it... instant coffee, pretty much exclusively. When my friends and I went backpacking across Europe, we fell in love with these sweet and delicious coffee drinks you could get all over the Greek isles. They were rich, creamy, and sweet, but with just enough of that coffee bite to wake you up.

Some versions use evaporated or condensed milk, others milk and sugar. Image by Net Supatravanij/Spoon University

I was convinced there was some sort of special process to making the drink, but when I peeked in the kitchen at one hostel, all I saw were giant canisters of instant coffee and evaporated milk. Well, shut my mouth.

It's ridiculously easy to make and also massively addictive. You've been warned. Get the recipe here and here.

#6. Spice Rub a Steak with Instant Coffee

I'm a big fan of using spice rubs and brines on any kind of protein, but many cooks swear by instant coffee as the secret ingredient in any kind of dry rub.

This tasty-looking steak has an instant coffee crust. The cooks say it tasted amazing. Image via Kevin and Amanda

Serious Eats describes coffee as adding a complex, unique flavor to steak that can't be reproduced by any other ingredient. The Savory describes the robust richness and acidity of coffee as key components in calling out the best in beef. Get a great recipe for a spice rub with instant coffee from the Food Network.

Got any other ideas? Share your own instant coffee hacks below, or let us know what they are on Facebook or Twitter.

Cover image via Pilgrimography

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