This Is What We Call A Coffee Emergency

coffee gif

Wanna hear a story? It’s about coffee. If you like coffee you might like this story.

Most days at work I have access to a coffee maker where I get to make coffee as strong and as dark as I like. But there are some days that I don’t. On the days that I don’t have access to the ideal coffee maker I use the coffee maker down the hall. The “coffee maker down the hall” and I have a rocky past. You see, sometimes people make coffee in that coffee maker that is so totally watered down that it tastes like tea. It shouldn’t count as coffee but it does. Since someone went to the trouble of making it and since I’m addicted to caffeine and since I’m “frugal, cheap, a penny-pincher, and a saver” I’ll drink whatever coffee is available when I can’t make my own rather than dishing out those bucks for the coffee shop coffee. Tea coffee or not – a dollar saved is a dollar saved.

Now, I know that this is what is classified as a “luxury” problem. I’m know I’m lucky to have work and a coffeemaker down the hall to complain about at all- I am grateful for that. This problem isn’t really a problem. This falls more into the category of “Oh, I got the wrong ice cream flavor” but you are still sitting there eating ice cream. Like, it’s not a problem problem. Still, it’s an inconvenience and inconveniences are bummers sometimes.

The other day, my ideal coffee maker was unavailable and the coffee maker down the hall couldn’t even make it’s signature watery brew because the heating element had bust so I was fixin’ to get a mean headache.

Yes, fixin’ to get a mean headache. You heard right. My Southern accent came out.

Come 10:30 am and I was hurting. Bad. Hurting.

As soon as noon hit I rushed to a coffee shop and ordered the most caffeinated drink I could think of- a large twice brewed iced coffee. Sadly and gladly within the first 2 sips my headache disappeared. I say “sadly” because that just confirmed my major addiction to caffeine. I say “gladly” because – no more headache of course!

At this point I should probably say that I decided to give up on coffee and caffeine and all that bad stuff but this is the point in the story where I tell you that the thought of giving up coffee didn’t even cross my mind. Instead, I thought of how I could avoid this horrible withdrawal again. I saw those Starbucks Via’s sitting there. You know those ones where you heat up the water and pour in the little packet? I got a free sample somewhere when they first came out and thought that those would be the perfect solution to keep in my desk for when this very situation happens again. They actually taste pretty good and not bitter or instant-coffee-y at all.


You know what? Those little packets are e x p e n s i  v e. They’re like $8-$10 for 6 packets! Now that’s classified as insane (read: not spending that kind of money on that kind of thing) in my book.

So, I made my way over to the coffee aisle. I found some instant coffee. I grabbed the generic brand of course (cheapest) and for 7oz it was maybe $3. Good deal and it even said “Café Auténtico” on the label so I was thinking I found a loophole around Starbucks and their tasty instant coffee racket. I can get my fix on the cheap! I’ll show them!

I was feeling pretty proud of myself the next morning and I thought I had all my caffeine problems solved when I made up a cup of my Café Auténtico the next day. It was a good day until the bitter, bitter, bitter, nasty, nasty, nasty coffee touched my lips. Man, that stuff was disgusting and I assure you, I did not find any loopholes to any instant coffee racket.

But… that instant coffee was crazy cheap and it was technically caffeine. So, now that canister is sitting in my desk just waiting to get used because you better believe I will use it up rather than buy any more coffee and let that stuff go to waste. Really, there’s nothing wrong with it except for being nasty and today that’s not a good enough reason to let something “good” go to waste.

Back in Month 2 of the Spending Fast I had some gross canned goods I had to work my way through and I did it so you better believe that instant coffee will get used up too.


Is there anything that you’ve “suffered” through consuming to avoid buying something else new? Have you found a way to make cheap instant coffee bearable? 


25 thoughts on “This Is What We Call A Coffee Emergency

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  1. Katie

    I have totally tried the instant coffee! But it turns me into a terrible and angry person. So I have decided the extra few dollars I spend on buying a bag of real coffee is worth it so I don't turn into a zombie every morning. I have made the switch from the Starbucks bag to Folgers in the plastic jug, which is much cheaper and lasts much longer, even if it's not as pleasant. But that's as far as I can move on this one. ;)

  2. Nicole

    Um, why not make good coffee at home (to your exact liking) everyday and bring it with you to work in a thermos? Life is too short to drink nasty coffee over and over again just to finish the canister and save a buck. I would chuck it and chalk it up to a learning experience, or alternately, return the item to the store you bought it at explaining that the coffee is unacceptable. They will understand. It seems like you are costing your self quality of life, not money on this one. I really enjoy your posts, you are a really funny writer.

  3. Patty

    Can you not get Nescafe? That is a bearable instant coffee option. Otherwise, I have no idea how you make really bad instant coffee better.

    I invested in a drip coffee maker that has a timer feature, so I make it the night before, set the timer, and when I wake up it is already brewed. Saves time, makes me happy, and is cheaper.

    And I know you are on a spending fast, but seriously girl, coffee is medicine. This is not a "luxury" problem. Don't skimp on those desperate days.

  4. clm

    ha! i love your coffee story! i am usually the first one at work and i make the coffee!!! to my liking…cowboy, very strong. i am proud of it! the upside, my workplace provides the coffee! it's tough when someone gets there before me and we all have one pot of coffee~tea! could you mix your instant with your coffee grounds at home and brew? might cover the icky taste and would at least use it up. somewhere, in the dregs of my recipes on scraps, i have a yummy brownie recipe that calls for instant coffee…:o)

  5. Shepherd's Daughter

    OMG, dude you have no idea how much I feel for you. haha!

    I have the perfect solution to your problem! I grew up in the Philippines and, I kid you not, their version of Nescafe instant coffee is JUST AS GOOD as via from starbucks. AND it is waaaay cheaper. If you know of a filipino store nearby, go look for it. I am a caffeine fiend just like you and I will definitely stand for Filipino Nescafe. ;)

  6. Paige

    I love your story and I have too suffered with instant coffee. I keep a jar of Trader Joe's instant coffee in my desk for my own coffee emergencies. The taste is actually pretty good – heavy cream makes it even better!

  7. ad

    Anna – your story made me laugh but I cannot relate to the coffee craze. Now that you have your spending under control you should start to reduce your caffeine intake. You'll be more healthy and save money all at the same time. It's a win/win situation!

  8. Maggie

    I just bought a 6 pack of starbucks iced via on sale at target for about $3. clearly i am still working out how to deal with impulse purchases, but it's nice to know it's there for those midday caffeine emergencies. and the iced via is really, really good.

  9. Val

    I am also lucky that my company provides free coffee, and occassionally I get to the pot first and can make it strong and as good as free coffee can get, but not always.
    My solution has been to make my own "break room 'mocha'": my company happens to also provide free instant hot cocoa and tea packets, so I mix the sugar free hot cocoa powder with about half as much hot water as recommended, then fill the rest of the mug (I use a pretty generous one – featuring a grinning Cheshire Cat I might add) with the disappointing coffee, and add my usual amounts of half & half and sugar/sweetener. I little more work, and not the same as the basic cup of good coffee I'm usually jonesing for, but it ends up tasting pretty indulgent as far as free-to-me break room beverages go.

  10. Corinne

    trader joe's has an AMAZING instant coffee for about $3! so you can still save money but not be forced to drink dirt every morning ;D check it out next time=DD

  11. Tea Tiller

    Cafe Bustelo Instant Espresso (or also Cafe Pilon, same company I think.) Really good dark strong instant coffee.
    I have also tried Cafe Bustelo Mexican Blend Instant Coffee which is half as cheap, and OK.

    Lastly I have tried Folger's Decaf Instant Coffee, which is horrible.

    1. Jaz Jasmine

      I agree; I tried it, Cafe Bustelo Instant Espresso, and thought this is decent and convenient at the motel in the midst of a terrible winter storm. :)

  12. Shaylin

    My friend just sent me your blog. 1. Good stuff. 2. To my knowledge, Via is essentially just super-ultra-wicked-very ground coffee, as opposed to nasty freeze-dried coffee. I use my bean grinder (because beans are often cheaper than grounds, we have one of these), and I grind my bean of choice until it's powder. You might have to food process it after you've ground it. (But if you put it in an airtight container you can do a bunch at once.) I hope you have luck as good as mine.

  13. DF

    I discovered your site a few days ago which was linked from the LexisNexis facebook page.
    I grew up on instant coffee, and Nescafe Classic/Clasico is the best option in my book. You can also do a "poor-man's mocha" and mix a 1/2-1 packet of hot cocoa powder with your instant coffee, which will mask the instant taste that bugs you.

  14. Anna Newell Jones

    Hey Ne, I really wish we had one here in Denver! Everyone raves about Trader Joe's… will have to remember that if I've ever around one & if I ever make it through that canister of instant:/ icccckkkk…

  15. Abigail

    Katie omg instant coffee does the same to me i dont know why its horrible and it doesnt do that to anyone els i know but my husband likes instant coffee so i have no choice i try to not drink it and if im in need of caffeine i think maybe this time it wont make me agitated but it always does i tried to see if anyone els has this problem but so far your the only one i have come accross

  16. Benjamin

    I guess they must have improved it tremendously, because it literally taste the same as Dunkin Donuts or McDonald’s Coffee, I bought some and was surprised how good it tastes, I am pretty picky about coffee and have never bought instant coffee before. I put some Italian Style Sweet Cream Creamer in mine.

  17. Benjamin

    I believe the Holy Grail of instant coffee is Tasters Choice, I heard a lot of people say it’s there defacto choice when fresh brewed isn’t convenient, plus it was the only one my Grandma could tolerate.

    1. Anna Newell Jones Post author

      Great suggestion. We would love to have your insight at our Facebook Community. Where you can make questions and start a dialog. Here’s the link:


  18. Benjamin

    I bought Great Value Chicken Nuggets because they are a lot cheaper than the Premium Tyson Nuggets, but they are super bland even when dipped in BBQ Sauce, but I found if you stick them in a big Ziploc Bag and pour some Wing Sauce into it and shake and coat the whole thing, then bake it, it tastes really good and it’s a lot cheaper than the already made up boneless chicken wings.


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