I tried that new Starbucks instant coffee they call "Via." They were doing a taste test thing where if you guess correctly you get a coupon and a free cup of coffee. They've been advertising this stuff as instant coffee that actually tastes just like real coffee. I was incredibly skeptical.
So, does it really taste like brewed coffee? Short answer: NO.
However... I was in a group of 4 people who tried it and all 3 of the others got it wrong. I picked the instant one, but to be honest, I used probability and logic as much as my tastebuds. I tried sample 1 and it tasted like a real cup of coffee. I tried sample 2 and it was too weak to be sure, so I said sample 2 was instant and I was right.
I got a free sample so I got to try it again later. It is not exactly the same as brewed coffee, but it is about a hundred times closer than anything else called instant. In fact, if they had just switched the regular stuff for this Via, I probably wouldn't have seriously doubted it. I might have thought "they using some kind of different roast?" or maybe "did I get decaf?" I started thinking maybe it would be a good idea to have some of this on hand for emergency situations. You know, driving through the night, getting sleepy, and the only stop is a gas station with some vile brown stuff simmering on the burner... You could just grab some hot water (usually free) and have a decent coffee to keep you going.
So how does Starbucks do it??? I guess they just grind up real coffee super-fine, which makes one wonder why no one else has done that before. But the Via stuff costs $1 per shot, which makes 8 oz. of coffee, the same price as real coffee in a Starbucks! So I got to thinking, which brings me to the point of this post:
YOU CAN MAKE YOUR OWN INSTANT COFFEE THAT TASTES JUST LIKE FRESH-BREWED COFFEE.
Because... it IS fresh-brewed coffee. It's this simple: 1.Grind some coffee beans. You can do this in advance, maybe keep them in a ziplock bag. 2.Put one teaspoonful of grounds into a cup or mug. Then add a teaspoonful per 8 oz. of water. 3.Pour hot water in with the grounds. Hotter will work better. 4.Wait. Maybe give it a little stir. When the grounds sink, your coffee is ready.
Seriously, it works. It's basically the same as a french press, you just don't press it. You may worry that you will get a mouthful of grounds, but you won't. Just don't drink that last swallow with all the coffee grounds at the bottom. They sink once they're brewed. Try it. You'll get a cup of coffee that's just as good as the Starbucks instant (provided your grounds are reasonably fresh) and about 100 times better than any other instant coffee.
By the way, you can use the same method with tea leaves to make tea. It's actually the recommended method.
UPDATE: I just tried this on my job last week and the results were - eh - not amazing. It involved more stirring and waiting than I remember. I think boiling water works much better than water-cooler-hot water. Some of the bigger pieces of coffee bean never sank. I was sad that it actually turned out inferior to the Starbucks Instant, but I think with better grinding and real boiling I could pull off a great cup this way.