Growing up in England and now living in Thailand, I drink mostly instant coffee. The British and the Thais love the taste of instant coffee and will often choose it over the gourmet brewed kind. This means, with so many years drinking instant coffee behind me, I’ve become an expert on how to make it taste like a more expensive brand; more like a gourmet brewed coffee, but at a fraction of the price. The great thing about instant coffee is it’s cheap and easy to make, yet if you add one or two of my secret ingredients, you’ll soon end up thinking instant tastes just like gourmet brewed coffee and loving it just as much. Maybe even more.
Buy a Cheap Brand of Instant Coffee – Because you’re going to be adding some extra ingredients, you don’t have to buy an expensive instant coffee. In fact, I buy the cheapest instant coffee I can find, which for the last two years has been Moccona Classic Medium Roast, a Dutch brand available at every supermarket in Thailand. It’s only $1.40 for a 100 gram bag and that makes around 30 cups of instant coffee – just over 4 cents a cup.
Boil Instant Coffee With Milk – One of the ways Thais make instant coffee taste great is to boil it with milk, to make a kind of latte. I make my own version of this by putting 2 level teaspoons of instant coffee into a mug and adding boiling water till the mug is half full. I then pour this into a saucepan and add 3/4 a cup of non-fat milk. Add a teaspoon of sugar, set on the burner and heat until the milk just begins to boil. Take the coffee off the burner, pour into a mug and add a sprinkling of cinnamon on top. Delicious, and still only about 15 cents a cup.
Evaporated Milk Adds Richness – Another trick I’ve learned in Thailand to make instant coffee taste like gourmet brewed coffee is to add evaporated milk. Thais use evaporated milk in almost every drink and every dessert, so a can of it is less than 45 cents and will make about 50 cups of coffee. It also makes a cheap coffee taste thicker and richer.
Put a heaping teaspoon of instant coffee in a mug and add hot water. Mix in one level teaspoon of evaporated milk (be careful not to add too much as it’s very sweet) then add half and half and mix. Sprinkle half a teaspoon of sugar on top and drink. Yum.
Add Chocolate Mint Patties – Another great way to make instant coffee taste like a gourmet brand is with chocolate mint patties. Make a cup of instant coffee as normal but, to keep it steaming hot, don’t add milk. Now add two small chocolate mint patties (like York patties, but buy a box of the smaller, cheaper brand). Mix the coffee until the mint patties (chocolate and mint) have completely dissolved. Then add non-fat, whole milk, half and half or whipped cream – up to you. Tastes like chocolate mint pudding.
Add Homemade Coffee Syrup – I love coffee syrup but at $10 a bottle for something that’s basically sugar water with flavoring, it’s too expensive. That’s why I make my own and add it to cheap instant coffee to give it that gourmet brewed taste.
Put 2 cups of hot water into a saucepan and add 2 cups of sugar. (Or you can add a quarter tin of evaporated milk if you like thick and extra sweet syrup). Bring the mixture to a boil while stirring it. Lower the heat and stir for another 3-4 minutes while the mixture thickens. Let it cool, then add 3 teaspoons of vanilla extract and two teaspoons of mint extract (the vanilla-mint mix is gorgeous). Bottle it in a cold glass bottle and refrigerate. This should make enough syrup for at least 30 cups of instant coffee.
Making cheap instant coffee taste like an expensive gourmet brewed coffee is as simple as adding a few inexpensive ingredients to add body and richness. Plus, you’ll love the taste.