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How to Fake Out Your Instant Coffee and Fool Your Friends

Timothy Boyer Ph.D.'s picture
How to make coffee foam made without an espresso machine.

Here’s an easy way to fake out your instant coffee and fool your friends into believing they are being served a labor-intensive brew.


In spite of the title of this article, I am a firm believer in that friends don’t let friends drink bad (or even mediocre) coffee. In fact, serving others your best shot of caffeine can be as pleasurable as drinking it yourself. Unless you are a sociopath…or serving it to a sociopath—which I’ve done.

Here’s the story:

When I first began to learn how to make some fairly decent coffee, I discovered that my coffee made acceptable currency whenever I would hitch a ride with a friend. Remember the old “Gas, Grass or Ass” bumper sticker back in the 70’s? Fortunately, we’ve evolved some since then. Anyway, I discovered that serving coffee to your ride was a win-win. It reinforced a relationship, made “bummin’ a ride” feel less like being a moocher, and insured the driver stayed awake.

On one occasion, a friend offered to take me for a ride to an event, and told me that he would also be picking up a work colleague to join us. On the morning my friend arrived with his colleague, I had in hand 3 freshly brewed hot mocha cappuccinos I had prepared for the three of us. We were not more than 2 minutes on the road, when my friend’s colleague took a sip and grunted something to the effect “If I had wanted hot chocolate milk, I’d brought my own,” and then resumed drinking leaving the three of us in one of those empty silences you see in a movie where someone pulls a knife out and then starts talking to it while polishing the blade.

I was flabbergasted. Not because he did not like my coffee, but because it was my first real experience with what I was sure was a certifiable sociopath. I wanted to learn more about him.

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Afterward, my friend apologized for his colleague and explained that at work, his colleague was quite good as a chemist, but had to be kept in a basement lab away from others because of his “odd quirks.” Apparently, he was very agitated that morning because his dog bolted out of the house and it took some doing to catch the mutt. He then confided that the dog ran away…a LOT. Small wonder. But it made a good coffee memory.

Back to faking out your instant coffee:

There are three reasons I can think of that justifies faking out your instant coffee. (1) Too many people in the house wanting coffee and you are armed with only a simple basic single serve model espresso maker. (2) You want to do a blinded taste test comparison with someone else’s palate on just how good or bad an instant coffee brand tastes. (3) You just like messing with people.

Let’s go with reason #2.

When it comes to coffee the appearance, presentation and location is at least half the game when it comes to how a coffee tastes. Perhaps there’s some underlying psychology in combination with the food memory skills of a rodent, but I swear I can tell how a coffee is going to taste at a diner just by looking at it. Definitely by smell if I can’t find my glasses.

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The point being that if you want to serve an instant coffee without the biases someone has toward instant coffee, then you need to fake it out. How? The simplest way is to make it “look” like the real thing by topping it with added milk foam. There’s nothing like a nice frothy cap of white to hide the mystery below and imbue the imaginations that something pleasurable awaits.

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Throw in a china cup, a saucer, a sprinkle of cinnamon and a smile, and you’ve eliminated confounding biases and are closer to getting an accurate taste report. It’s not a strict adherence to the scientific method, but close enough for government work and your kitchen.

Easy Milk Foaming Techniques Without an Espresso Machine

While even the more basic espresso machines have a milk steamer/foamer, the good news is that you don’t need one to fake out your instant coffee. A quick search on the internet reveals that the top 4 ways to create a frothy milk foam for your coffee without an espresso machine include:

1. Using a whisk and stovetop to produce very light, airy pillows of milk foam.

2. Using a shaking jar method, followed by microwave treatment to create a smooth, more fluid froth.

3. Agitating the milk with a French Press to produce a rich, velvety, creamy pillow that is dense.

4. Waving a frothing wand about to yield a feather-light foam with less structure and stability than other methods.

Here’s an informative YouTube Video demonstrating all 4 methods:

Four Ways on How to Froth & Foam Milk Without an Espresso Machine or Steam

After the Froth

After frothing the milk, use a spoon to hold back the foam and add whatever amount of milk lying beneath the foam to the instant coffee to suit your taste. Then, gently spoon the foam over the top, serve, and see just how faked out your friend becomes with little effort and a potentially helpful report on how the hidden instant coffee tastes.

If you have any tricks or techniques for serving instant coffee to make it more palatable—or, have a coffee story to share—please let us know about it in the comments section below.

Timothy Boyer has a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Arizona. For 20+ years he has been employed as a freelance health and science writer. Timothy continues writing about science with a focus on the connection between coffee and healthy living. For continual updates about the benefits of coffee on your health, you can also follow Timothy on Twitter at TimBoyerWrites.

Images courtesy of Pixabay