Last updated on December 9th, 2018
For someone who goes to the grocery store as often as I do, this is an embarrassing admission. But on a shockingly regular basis, I run out of not just coffee but milk for my coffee. Sometimes it’s coffee, sometimes it’s milk. Sometimes it’s both. It’s like a mental block that only becomes painfully clear at the bleary-eyed crack of dawn.
After hearing me whine one too many times about my sad state of affairs, my partner in crime Andrea Lynn turned me on to her emergency caffeination secret: Trader Joe’s instant coffee packets. (She did write the book on this kind of thing, so I trust her judgment.)
And they would have been my salvation, but each tiny package called for only 4-6 fluid ounces of water—that’s 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup, for those of you who aren’t fluent in fluid ounce to cup conversions like I am. And that is simply not enough coffee for this girl. I’m a self-employed small business-owning boss lady hustler, for pete’s sake! Don’t you know we’re all fueled by coffee and angst?
Clearly some DIY deconstruction had to be done. Otherwise I’d burn through the instant packets too quickly and be in a worse situation than ever: no coffee, no milk and no faux milk either.
The simplest solution would be to grab a jar of instant coffee and a canister of powdered non-dairy creamer, which would be fine for the majority of the population. But not for me. Homemade instant coffee mix was the only way to go here.
This is where it comes in handy to read labels: the last ingredient on the Trader Joe’s packet is “mocha flavor,” and it’s a brilliant addition on Trader Joe’s part: it cuts the instant coffee’s bitterness and adds a fuller, rounder, roastier flavor to an otherwise subpar cup. Adding a little cocoa to the blend does the trick at home.
No matter how you like to store and serve your emergency coffee—just creamer for those mornings when you’ve still got beans to grind in the house, a pre-made mix for super-desperate days, or single servings to take on road trips to motels, campgrounds, beach houses, or other places where neither fresh coffee nor milk can be found—I’ve got a solution for you.
Here’s to happier mornings with homemade instant coffee mix.
- 2/3 cup whole milk powder—you can also use nonfat milk powder, but the coffee will be more watery and not as full in flavor
- 3 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
- 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon virgin coconut oil, melted
Instant Coffee Mix
- 1 batch creamer blend, as noted above
- 10 tablespoons instant coffee
- 5 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
To make the creamer blend:
- Press the milk powder, 3 tablespoons confectioner's sugar, and cocoa powder through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium bowl to remove any hard lumps.
- Add the coconut oil to the powder and whisk until any clumps disappear.
- You can stop here and store the creamer blend in an airtight container in a cool, dry location. (Coconut oil will liquefy at 76 degrees F, so if your house gets overly warm in the summer like mine does, caveat emptor.)
- If you don't want to store your creamer separately but want to make an integrated coffee mix, continue on with the instructions.
To make the coffee mix:
- Stir the creamer blend with the instant coffee and 5 tablespoons confectioner's sugar.
- Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry location.
- For each 12-ounce cup of coffee, scoop a scant 3 tablespoons instant coffee mix into your mug.
- Stir in 1 1/4 cups (12 ounces) boiling water to fully dissolve the dry ingredients.
- Drink immediately; I’m not a fan of the sludge that appears at the bottom of a cold cup of “coffee.”
(Want to make a single cup at a time without making a big batch of mix? To make one 12-oz. cup of coffee, mix 1 tablespoon instant coffee, 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon powdered creamer mix, and 1 1/2 teaspoons powdered sugar into a mug and stir in 1 1/4 cups (12 oz.) boiling water.)