Can You Use Ground Coffee as Instant Coffee?

Even though it’s not the best choice when it comes to having a pleasurable coffee drinking experience, instant coffee can be a lifesaver at times with the convenience it brings. At times when you are in a rush or when you are outside with no proper brewing equipment, instant coffee may be your only option for a warm cup of coffee.

If you are a regular brewed coffee drinker, there is a good chance that you have your coffee beans to cover you for the next week, but instant coffee isn’t something that you buy regularly. If the need for instant coffee ever came up without you having any left, you may be left to wonder whether you can use ground coffee as a replacement for instant coffee.

While you can use your ground coffee as instant coffee as a last resort, your coffee will most likely end up being weak and muddy with coffee particles inside. That being said, we have a few tips and tricks for you to use ground coffee as instant coffee in the most optimal way possible.

Using Ground Coffee as Instant Coffee

As you know, ground coffee doesn’t dissolve in water as instant coffee does. If you try to mix ground coffee with water as you would with instant coffee, you will be left with a cup that has coffee sediment at the bottom.

On top of this, leaving the coffee grounds in your coffee will cause the brewing process to continue, which could lead to over-extraction as time goes on, making your coffee taste bitter and unpleasant.

Fortunately, there is a way to avoid both of these problems.

  1. Start by measuring your coffee and water, then add both into a cup. Stir the coffee, and wait for a few minutes. Waiting will give your coffee grounds enough time to be extracted and cause sediment to settle at the bottom of the cup.
  2. Take another cup, and pour your coffee into this cup through a filter or sieve. By doing this, you will be able to separate the coffee from the grounds, effectively stopping the extraction process and getting rid of unpleasant coffee sediment. If you don’t have access to a coffee filter or a sieve, you can also carefully pour the liquid while holding the grounds back with the help of a spoon.
  3. Your coffee is ready to drink.

Coffee Is Too Weak

A common problem that occurs with this method is coffee turning out too weak, which isn’t a big surprise. As this is a very makeshift method of brewing coffee, you shouldn’t expect perfect extraction. That being said, there are some things you can try to optimize the brewing process for the next time.

Assuming that you have the coffee to water ratio and the water temperature right, the things you should be working on are grind size and brewing time.

By using a finer grind, you can quicken the extraction process as a fine grind increases the surface area of coffee that comes into contact with water. Since you will be filtering the coffee grounds out anyway, using a fine grind won’t be an issue.

The next thing to consider is the brewing time. Since the whole point of using this method is to brew a cup of coffee quickly, there isn’t a lot of time to sit and wait for the coffee grounds to be fully extracted. 

Unfortunately, there isn’t much to be done about this problem, as extraction requires a certain amount of time. Since even an extra minute or two can make a big difference in terms of extraction, allowing your coffee to steep for a bit longer while you attend to something else can help.

Why Does Instant Coffee Dissolve In Water?

You may be wondering why instant coffee dissolves in water, whereas coffee grounds don’t. After all, they are both coffee, right?

To understand the reasoning behind this, let’s take a quick look at the process that is used to make instant coffee as coffee at its natural state isn’t supposed to be dissolved in water.

You may be surprised to hear that instant coffee is also made out of regular coffee beans, just like the ones you use at home. In fact, these beans are ground and also brewed just as you would do to prepare a cup of coffee for yourself. 

The brewed coffee is then dried to separate the coffee crystals from the coffee liquid, which can be done with two different methods.

The first method is called spray-drying, where liquid coffee is sprayed into very hot air. The coffee liquid that is exposed to hot air immediately dries out and leaves dry coffee crystals behind.

The second method is freeze-drying, which is a more complicated and expensive process compared to spray-drying. In this process, coffee is filtered and frozen at very low temperatures. When coffee becomes completely solid due to being frozen, it is broken down into granules and dried in a vacuum. The vacuum causes the ice to vaporize, leaving coffee crystals behind once again.

Between these two methods, freeze-drying is considered to produce instant coffee that is of higher quality.

Conclusion

It could be extremely frustrating to find out that you have no instant coffee left when you need it the most, but it’s not all lost if you have access to some coffee grounds.

While replacing ground coffee with instant coffee will never yield the best results, it’s a good trick to keep in mind for the times when push comes to shove. After all, having some sort of coffee beats having no coffee at all.

Have a great day, and enjoy your coffee!