10 things you didn't know you can do with instant coffee

Are you a Nescafe naysayer? Turns out, instant coffee is good for more than just drinking.

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It's often dismissed as the poor cousin to sophisticated cafe brews, so we’re here to champion instant coffee as the kitchen ingredient you never knew you needed. Not just for caffeine-related emergencies when there’s no barista at hand or camping trips far from the nearest Campos, it’s also perfect for adding to recipes when you want that coffee flavour without the extra liquid you would get with a shot of espresso.

So, is it time to cast your coffee snobbery aside and make friends with Moccona? Here's 10 delicious ideas to rediscover instant coffee in your cooking and baking, plus CHOICE has tested 14 supermarket instant coffees to let you know which one tastes the best. And we’ve found that many brands are upping their game when it comes to their blend

1. Even better bolognese

Everyone has a secret ingredient that makes their bolognese The Best. Italian cuisine purists, look away – we’re here to tell you, a teaspoon of instant coffee in your tomato sauce, added while it’s bubbling away, could well be the secret flavour boost you’re looking for. It can add an intense richness that counteracts the sweetness of the tomatoes.

2. Amp up your chilli

In the same way it can boost your spag bol, a spoonful of instant coffee will take the unctuous meaty mix that is a good pot of chilli to the next level. It works beautifully with the winning combo of spices, beef and beans, helping to tenderise the meat and add a delicious deep, roasted flavour. Use a finely ground instant powder and add sugar and salt to balance it out (don't go too heavy on the coffee as it could create too much bitterness). Find out which instant coffee CHOICE says tastes the best.

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CHOICE tested 14 supermarket instant coffees so you know which one tastes best

3. Next-level cookie batter

Get your morning caffeine hit in cookie form, by adding a dash of instant coffee to a batch of plain batter (you can’t use espresso here as it would be too much liquid). Get baking and enjoy the comforting aroma of roasted coffee wafting through your kitchen.

4. Coffee cakes, buttercream and icing 

Using instant coffee to flavour your cakes means you don’t need to add extra liquid to your ingredients, and it gives a more intense result. As you’re using a powder/granules and not liquid is easier to add more if you’d like to up the coffee taste even further. You can also use it to make coffee buttercream and icings.

5. Savoury rubs for steaks

Turns out coffee and meat really are fabulous together, with instant coffee a surprise ingredient in savoury rubs for steaks or roasts. Try making your own with a mix of instant coffee, smoked paprika, brown sugar and dried spices. When deciding how much coffee to add, start small with a ratio of one part coffee to two parts sugar and spices, then adjust to taste (keep in mind the coffee flavour will become more intense while the meat cooks). 

6. Sprinkle it over ice-cream

Were you one of those kids who sprinkled Milo over their vanilla ice-cream for an instant DIY dessert? Try the grown-up version with a dusting of iced coffee (maybe with a bit of chocolate sauce for a mocha effect).

7. Milkshakes and smoothies

Whipping up a banana smoothie before you head out the door and looking for a little extra buzz to get you through the day? If you don’t have time to extract a shot of espresso, a spoonful of instant coffee will do just as well. Pop it in along with your banana, yoghurt, milk and honey. Want to know how much caffeine is in instant coffee? Find out here.

8. Magic mocha brownies

Surely you can’t improve on the glorious gift that is a chocolate brownie? Instant coffee says you can. Add a spoonful, dissolved into your wet brownie mixture, to create some mocha magic and take your addiction to dramatic new heights.

9. Coffee crumble

A sweet coffee crumble is an irresistible topping for cakes, muffins, banana breads, pastries and desserts, and is easy to make in a food processor. Just blitz 125g unsalted butter with 1 cup flour and ½ cup sugar, then add 2 tablespoons of instant coffee and blend until coarse and crumbly. Spread on an oven tray and bake at 180℃ for 20-30 minutes, then break up to sprinkle over your treats.

10. On your body

Step outside the kitchen and experiment by using instant coffee as an ingredient in DIY beauty products, like a body scrub. Coffee is celebrated for its antioxidant properties, after all, and the instant coffees with coarse granules create a great exfoliant that can help promote circulation. Mix a few spoonfuls with sugar and coconut oil, or olive oil, to find a consistency that suits you and your skin.

Convinced? Find out which instant coffee CHOICE says is the best here.

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