Espresso is well-loved for its intense and rich flavor, but even if you have an espresso machine, it can involve a steep learning curve to make at home. On the other hand, many people don’t have a machine, which can make brewing it at home seem even more out of reach.
But what if you could make espresso or an espresso-based beverage using instant coffee? Let’s see if that’s possible.
Can You Make Authentic Espresso With Instant Coffee?
The short answer is that it’s not possible to make authentic espresso instant coffee, but that’s not to say you can’t make espresso-like coffee drinks using it.
Nevertheless, even though instant coffee is convenient, it is not sufficient to replicate the distinctive flavor and experience of brewing espresso with freshly ground beans extracted through dedicated espresso machines.
Traditional espresso is brewed using pressurized hot water forced through fine coffee grounds to extract the flavor, aroma, and oils. Making espresso at home requires barista skills and equipment. This can’t be done with instant espresso powder.
In contrast, instant coffees are made by brewing coffee and dehydrating it. Because of that process, it doesn’t have the rich coffee flavor or aroma of freshly extracted coffee. It also means you won’t have the distinctive rich crema that sets espresso apart from other brewing methods.
Also read: What is espresso crema?
That’s not to say you can’t make a small cup of very strong coffee that resembles espresso using instant coffee. However, while that is the case, it will not have espresso’s intensity, aroma and texture. It will also not taste as pleasant because it lacks the complexity and flavor of espresso.
Nevertheless, if you only require strong instant coffee as a base to make espresso-like drinks, including latte and cappuccino, it can still work as a convenient alternative to authentic espresso.
How Much Water To Use To Make Espresso With Instant Coffee Powder
Before attempting an espresso-style drink using instant coffee, we need to determine the ideal brew ratio.
A single shot of espresso is usually served as a 1oz shot. To produce that, approximately 7g to 9g of finely ground coffee beans are required in the espresso machine. The shot is then extracted in 25 to 30 seconds for a robust brewed espresso with a rich aroma and intense flavor.
When using instant espresso powder to make an espresso-like drink, the amount of water you need depends on the desired strength of the brewed coffee. A useful rule of thumb is between two and three ounces of water for every tablespoon of instant coffee – similar to a double espresso shot. From there, adjust the ratio to suit your preference.
Remember that when you make instant coffee espresso, you will not get the combination of tiny air bubbles and coffee oils known as crema. However, if you serve the drink in a shot glass or Italian espresso cup, it will not be dissimilar in appearance to an authentic espresso served in your local coffee shop.
It’s also worth noting that while the flavor and aroma will be different from authentic espresso, you can still make delicious drinks with it using milk and syrup.
How Do You Make Espresso With Instant Coffee?
Let’s outline step-by-step instructions for making an espresso-like drink with instant coffee.
- Gather your equipment and ingredients. You will need instant coffee, hot water, a mug, a spoon or stirrer, milk or cream, and sugar (if desired).
- Measure your desired amount of instant coffee. As we suggested earlier, start with 1tbsp of instant coffee for every two to three ounces of water and adjust from there.
- Add around 1 tbsp of hot water to the instant coffee. Stir until the instant coffee is completely dissolved.
- Slowly pour the remaining hot water, filling the shot glass to your preferred level.
- You can also add milk or cream and sugar to taste if desired.
- Enjoy your instant coffee espresso.
Note: You can adjust the strength and flavor of the coffee by adding more instant coffee or water as needed. Some instant coffees are designed for making 8oz cup that tastes like filter coffee. That means the powder may not dissolve in such a small amount of water. If that’s the case, try freeze-dried coffee crystals instead.
Tips And Tricks – How To Enhance The Instant Espresso Flavor
One of the best pieces of advice for making instant coffee espresso is to use premium instant coffee. No two instant coffees are the same, and using a higher quality brand will ensure a more enjoyable drink. Aim for coffees that are made with 100% arabica coffee bean and have a rich and full-bodied flavor. Because espresso is usually made with dark roasted coffee beans, it is also wise to choose dark roast instant coffee for the more familiar stronger flavor.
Another tip worth trying is experimenting with the coffee-to-water ratio. Start with the recommended ratio we outlined earlier, then add more or less instant coffee or water as required. The temperature of the water should also be considered. Aim for freshly boiled coffee around 200F (93C) for the best results.
Another way to customize your instant coffee espresso is to experiment with different types of milk or cream. So, don’t be afraid to use whole, skimmed, oat, soy, almond milk and more. Similarly, you can also add syrups and spices to enhance the flavor further.
What Other Espresso-Based Drinks Can You Make With Instant Coffee?
There are several coffee recipes you can try with just instant coffee. Of course, they will not be the same as those in coffee shops, but they are enjoyable.
You will require an electric milk froth or immersion blender to froth the milk. Alternatively, if you don’t have either, try a French press to make the milk froth. First, warm the milk, then push the French press plunger up and down to create the foam.
- Make instant coffee espresso as described earlier, then add it to a 5oz cup.
- Froth 4oz of hot milk using an electric milk frother. For cappuccino, aim for a denser milk froth.
- Pour the frothed milk over the instant coffee espresso, and finish with the milk foam on top.
- Sprinkle cocoa powder or cinnamon on top as desired.
- Add the brewed instant coffee espresso to a tall glass.
- If making a hot latte, heat the milk to 140F (60C) in a microwave. Skip this step for an iced coffee.
- Froth steamed milk using an electric milk frother, agitate the milk on the surface, then plunge the whisk deeper to mix the milk froth.
- Pour the frothed milk over the instant coffee espresso.
- Froth about 6oz of warm milk with a milk frother, immersion blender or French press.
- Pour the frothed milk into a tall glass.
- Add a single or double-shot espresso made with instant coffee. A layer will appear in the middle of the drink.
- Add vanilla or caramel syrups according to your preference.
- Make instant coffee espresso.
- Froth some milk using your preferred equipment.
- Add some chocolate syrup or cocoa powder to your mug.
- Pour the instant coffee espresso over the chocolate or cocoa powder.
- Pour the frothed milk over the instant coffee espresso and chocolate or cocoa powder.
While making authentic espresso using instant coffee is impossible, it can still be used to create espresso-like drinks. While they will have different flavor profiles and appearance to espresso-based drinks you would buy in a coffee shop, they are still delicious in their own way.
Not only that, but you don’t need expensive equipment to make the coffee, and most of the recipes are quick and easy. If you don’t have an espresso machine or just fancy something a little different, it’s worth giving instant coffee espresso a try.