We’ve had some good times, but I’m over it. Here’s what I’m using instead.

By Caroline Schnapp
Updated January 03, 2020

Coffee has been a part of my daily routine for as long as I can remember. Growing up, my dad always seemed to have a coffee cup in hand or a pot on in the kitchen, and the rich, nutty smell of Italian roast permeated my childhood. In college I had the freedom to caffeinate whenever and however I wanted, so I started making pour-over in my dorm room, with a mini fridge freezer stocked with an apocalypse-level stash of emergency beans.

Credit: Courtesy of Counter Culture

I had my first (and probably, worst) experience with instant coffee while studying abroad in Italy my junior year. Despite living in essentially the world capital of coffee, my quirky host mom made it clear that her espresso machine (which made daily appearances on the kitchen counter, but was promptly returned to its locked cabinet after each use) was strictly off-limits to me and my three American student housemates. Instead, she left out four glasses with a couple of spoonfuls of decaf instant coffee crystals in them for us each morning, which I mostly drank for the ritual, and certainly not for the taste or caffeine.

In large part due to that semester, I’ve mostly stayed away from instant coffee for over a decade. It wasn’t until I became a mom at the end of last year that I started to look at instant coffee with a different gaze; the ability to quickly make a cup of liquid caffeine that could be done one-handed, while holding a baby, and didn’t involve any loud grinding of beans or long period of steeping. It turns out, instant coffee has gotten pretty good. In some cases, even great. This year, a friend introduced me to Counter Culture Steeped coffee—my favorite beans from my hometown of Durham, NC, available as a single serving in a tiny compostable sachet that you brew like you would a cup of tea.

Credit: Courtesy of Counter Culture

It’s shockingly simple and doesn’t require any equipment (like a spoon!), which for me is important—do you have any idea how difficult it is to carefully and silently stir a boiling mug filled with disintegrating coffee granules with your non-dominant hand while holding a sleeping baby? (Very hard.) Above all, the taste is nearly indistinguishable from traditionally brewed coffee, and you certainly won’t find the slightly burnt, process flavor present in so many instant coffees.

Credit: Courtesy of Counter Culture

Despite, and I think because of, my appreciation for a great cup of coffee, I’m completely sold. 2019 was the year of the instant coffee glow up, and I’m an unlikely fan.