What your barista won't admit: It's oh-so-easy to make an entirely respectable cup.

What your barista won’t admit: It’s oh-so-easy to make an entirely respectable cup.

A $5 cup of filter coffee.  Shocking? Yes. But so many people told me the new filter coffee experience could be transcendent, so I tried it.  Twice.

Both times, the brew was carefully timed, the water temperature perfect (checked with a thermometer), the surroundings tastefully shabby. My handsome barista assured me I’d be impressed.

“Don’t use sugar,” he warned.  “You’ll want the pure experience.”

Um… tasted like filter coffee usually does, no better than the stuff at the local diner.  I tried it again at a different café in a different city (different country even).  More disappointment.

In fact, my high end filter coffee experiment pushed me over the edge, away from gourmet coffee altogether. I’ve gone instant.

For the past few years, mine was a French press kitchen, and before that we rocked a vintage Chemex. Now I learn all that equipment and effort was unnecessary.  I’m surprisingly satisfied with instant coffee.

OK, admittedly, I’m currently living in the U.K. where instant coffee is better than that on offer in the U.S.  But, still, I’m buying pedestrian stuff: Tesco brand coffee granules.  About as un-snobbish and un-foodie as you can get. I’m both a snob and a foodie, so I’ve truly shocked myself with this new allegiance.

Here’s what I love about instant coffee:

  1. It truly is instant.  Boil water.  Spoon in granules.  Coffee’s ready.  None of this grinding and measuring and waiting for miniscule drips to accumulate. Easier than tea, even.
  2. No clean up, no waste. No longer do I have to buy and trash filters, dispose of grounds, wash a coffee pot, take care not to shatter the French press while I wash it…
  3. It doesn’t taste bad.  In fact, with sugar and milk, it’s pretty delicious.
  4. Still caffeinated.
  5. Instant has retro charm. Forget filter. Instant coffee is 1950s stylish like deviled eggs and molded gelatin. (What? You’re not into deviled eggs and molded gelatin?)

My grandparents drank their liquor neat and liked their coffee instant. They worried more about the cake that accompanied their caffeine, the dinner that preceded it, and the card game that followed, than the act of coffee preparation.  I’m thinking they might have been on to something.

Thanks, Vincent Van Gogh, for the public domain artwork!  "The Night Cafe" 1888

Thanks, Vincent Van Gogh, for the public domain artwork! “The Night Cafe” 1888