Can You Use Instant Coffee in a Coffee Maker?

instant coffee

Whether you have had instant coffee all your life or simply prefer the mess-free caffeination that comes with using freeze-dried powder, you may hesitate when it comes to getting coffee grounds. And if you’ve got a coffee maker as a gift or have one sitting in the kitchen, you might wonder if it is compatible with instant coffee.

You can use instant coffee in a coffee maker, but the end result will be more concentrated than a regular cup of instant coffee. For better results, you can use the coffee maker as a water heater and add instant coffee with a spoon later on.

Using instant coffee powder with a coffee machine is tricky but definitely possible, and there are two ways to go about it. In this article, both of these are covered alongside a few frequently asked questions regarding instant coffee, brewed coffee, and coffee makers.

The Drawbacks

Making instant coffee in a coffee maker isn’t a good idea because it involves taking a roundabout route to something that can be done much more simply. If adding instant coffee instead of coffee grounds to your coffee maker led to a regular instant coffee drink, it would still be understandable. However, the actual result of adding instant powder is an extremely concentrated beverage.

That’s because the water flow in a coffee maker is optimized for resistance. When water passes through grounds, it meets resistance as grounds don’t dissolve in water. Instant coffee, on the other hand, dissolves as it is made from freeze-dried liquid. As a result, a lot more coffee powder goes through the outlet compared to the amount of coffee essence that would go through if you used ground coffee.

The Workaround

If you want to use the coffee maker because it is quicker, then you should keep adding instant coffee for later stages. Using this method, you will use instant coffee with (and not in) your coffee machine. This workaround allows you to control the amount of coffee powder that gets added to your cup and use the coffee machine to heat water.

The drawback of this workaround is that you’re getting instant coffee. But if you choose to use instant coffee, you probably do not care about getting the same taste as a fresh brew.

  1. Check if your coffee maker has a hot water dispensing option. 
  2. If your coffee maker dispenses hot water, fill your cup.
     
  3. If the machine dispenses only brewed product, empty the ground pocket and run the machine to get hot water.
  4. Add the amount of instant coffee as you usually take in a cup.

The above workaround is redundant if you have a kettle or even a microwave oven. The end result is the same as microwaving a cup of water for one minute and thirty seconds then adding your usual amount of instant coffee. This method is also not satisfactory if you want to load the instant coffee in the grounds pocket of the coffee maker.

How to Use Instant Coffee in a Coffee Machine

While the conventional wisdom of the web suggests never using instant coffee in a coffee maker, you can actually use it, and there is an advantage to such use. As mentioned above, the end product is extremely concentrated, but if you’re looking to brew coffee for five or more guests, this is a great way to serve them without having to pull out your instant coffee jar. 

In this method, you get the high-concentration coffee and then dilute it in a larger container in which you also serve the coffee. Here are some pros and cons of this method.

Pros of Using Instant Coffee in a Coffee Maker

  • Good optics – Pulling out a jar of instant coffee is looked down upon by many people. This, however, has become less common since the introduction of luxury-tier in the instant coffee space with products like Four Sigmatic Instant Coffee. Using a coffee maker, you don’t have to show the coffee jar at all, and with the right instant coffee, you will be able to pass the beverage off as a fresh brew.
     
  • Fewer steps when serving a group – Making instant coffee is pretty quick and easy when you do it for yourself. However, preparing it for a group of people can be a nightmare. With a coffee maker, you can get enough “essence” in a single serving to dilute for a large group in fewer steps.

The Drawbacks of Using Instant Coffee in a Coffee Maker

  • Requires practice. Before you know exactly how much coffee will get added to your cup, you will have to swallow a few bitter sips. Since different machines have different rates of flow, it is pretty difficult to find out exactly how much your coffee machine will serve. With practice, you can tell how much coffee there is going to be in your final drink.
     
  • Too many steps for a single serving. If you’re preparing instant coffee for yourself, then loading it into the grounds tray is not helpful as it only adds more steps to getting coffee. Instead, using the workaround above or even a microwave is a better option.

Using Instant Coffee in a Coffee Maker

  1. Start by loading instant coffee powder to the coffee grounds section of the apparatus. Make sure there are no preexisting grounds that will mix with the instant coffee and create inconsistency. 
  2. Operate the machine as if you’re brewing a regular cup of coffee.
  3. Test for concentration by taking a sip and mentally comparing it with your average instant coffee serving. Depending on the machine, the concentration can be anywhere between two times to five times as much as a normal cup of instant coffee.
  4. Add water to offset the concentration. Assume that the concentration is double that of a regular cup and add one more cup of water to the mix. You can do this in a serving thermos or a big pot. Starting with less water is better as you have room to add more water if your estimate is off.
  5. Taste test and repeat if required. At this stage, you might need to confirm that you’ve added enough water. You should expect to repeat the step before and this one a few times before getting the dilution right.
  6. Add sweetener and serve. Whether you use sugar, agave syrup, or stevia, adding the right sweetener is key in making coffee that everyone can enjoy. Add sweetener to taste and serve.

Best Instant Coffee That Tastes Like a Cafe Brew

From the social optics of using instant coffee to actual coffee taste, preference for freshly brewed coffee is quite evident. But if you don’t want to deal with the storage issues, after-use clean-up, and trips to the roaster, you want coffee that tastes good and can be made instantly.

Starbucks Via Instant is an instant coffee that comes in all roast and coffee bean varieties. It is freeze-dried from similar brews that you get at your local Starbucks and results in an aromatic, well-caffeinated beverage.

FAQs About Using Instant Coffee in Coffee Maker

Does Using Instant Coffee in a Coffee Maker Damage the Machine?

Using instant coffee doesn’t damage the coffee machine; it only affects the beverage taste. Instant coffee is very soluble and leaves less residue than coffee grounds. Running hot water through the machine can rinse out the rest.

Is It a Good Idea to Use Instant Coffee in My Coffee Maker?

Taste is subjective, but if you can taste-test your instant coffee drink after making it with a coffee machine and conclude that you are fine with the flavor and concentration, you can continue using the powder in your machine.

Is Instant Coffee Real Coffee?

Instant coffee is the same as brewed coffee, except stored longer. You cannot brew a “fresh batch” of instant coffee because the powder is a concentrate of pre-brewed coffee. It is equivalent to beef jerky if freshly brewed coffee is a steak.

How Are Coffee Grounds Different From Instant Coffee?

Coffee grounds are made from roasted coffee beans that are run through a grinder to achieve coarse, medium, or fine ground size. Running hot water through these leads to brewed coffee. Instant coffee is a derivative of this and is made by dehydrating brewed liquid coffee and freeze-drying it into solid granules.

Is Instant Coffee Bad?

Coffee enthusiasts scoff at instant coffee the same way wine connoisseurs look down upon those who consume boxed wine. However, the quality difference between instant coffee and brewed coffee isn’t the same as boxed wine and bottled wine. 

Instant coffee is not bad; it is just not fresh-tasting and is extra-processed. It tastes different from what the cafes serve because most cafes actually find brewing to be cheaper! Yes, instant coffee isn’t “cheaper” coffee; it’s just more convenient and is made by trading off its freshness.

Final Thoughts

A coffee maker’s value is in its ability to brew coffee from grounds, but if anyone chooses to use the machine as a water heater, there’s no practical reason not to do so. Therefore, even though adding extra steps and making instant coffee in your coffee maker isn’t advisable, it is perfectly fine to do so.

Sources

Tim S.

Tim loves roasting, brewing, and experimenting with coffee. After years of perfecting this craft, working as a barista, and owning a small coffee service in college, he has decided to share his knowledge with the world.

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