October 18, 2021


For remarkable cuisine

How to Make Instant Iced Coffee

Image for article titled The Dirtbag's Guide to Iced Coffee

Photo: Charley Gallay (Getty Images)

TikTok abounds with java enthusiasts making beautiful and fussy lattés, replete with accoutrements that function primarily for aesthetics. If we are to believe that TikTok is gospel, it seems that everyone with a need or desire for caffeine is now a self-trained barista. Consider this rose milk latté, which features heart-shaped, rose-scented oat milk ice cubes; a milk frother; and a Nespresso machine. The result is beautiful, but it’s an awful lot of fuss for a morning beverage that might taste disgusting. Though there is a part of me that wishes I had the energy to treat my morning repast with this same sort of reverence, I know myself. Convenience trumps aesthetics, every time. If it is available, I will always take the dirtbag option, and my decision to do so is usually the right one.

If all is right in the world and I have been proactive about grocery shopping and the tiny tasks that make up my Sunday, come Monday morning at 9 a.m., the cold brew pitcher in my refrigerator is full and ready for consumption. Generally, this is an easy task to accomplish and ensures that I have coffee in the morning—a win for everyone. However, sometimes life gets in the way. Recently, I found myself in a predicament where I had no coffee in the pitcher, and no time or desire to run to the overpriced café and purchase what is usually my weekend treat, an iced coffee and a Danish. Luckily, an earlier version of myself had prepared for this precise situation.

Early quarantine’s dalgona coffee micro-trend left me with a jar of instant coffee, which has been sitting in my pantry gathering dust for over a year. The internet assured me that I could fashion iced coffee from the dusty crystals, which I’d previously shunned—not out of any coffee snobbery, but because I simply didn’t know I could do what I was about to do. Two to three heaping teaspoons of the coffee powder went into the bottom of a glass, topped off with hot water from the tap. The resulting sludge smelled good and resembled espresso; I filled the cup with ice cubes and cold water, and “frothed” some creamer by, uh, shaking the bottle. A brisk stir with a metal straw, and the result was honestly better than the cold brew I normally make, in that it tasted strong and not like coffee water. Ten to fifteen minutes after consumption, my eyes were vibrating out of my head in a way that was not entirely unpleasant—a marked departure from my normal routine. How lovely to feel something new.

When I shared this method with a friend, he shook his head and told me that, yes, of course, instant coffee works as iced coffee. “I just mix it with cold water,” he said. “Straight from the tap. Does the trick, every time.”