What is Instant Coffee?

Instant coffee is probably one of the most preferred drinks nowadays. The reasons are quite simple- it can be found almost everywhere and it’s more convenient compared to the other coffees. If you need a real quick caffeine boost, for instance, instant coffee is the best choice as it can be prepared more quickly and much easier.

Yet, some people consider instant coffee as “fake coffee” and “impossible to give the real coffee taste”. But do we know what instant coffee actually is and its differences with the regular coffee?

In this article, we will explain every aspect of instant coffee and differences with other coffee types. After you’ve read the whole article, you will have no questions in your mind.

Enough talking. If you’re ready for the ride, buckle up and start to learn.

What is Instant Coffee?

instant coffee
“Shopping for Instant Coffee in Kaisers Supermarket, Berlin, Germany” by qubodup is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

First, let’s make this clear: instant coffee is made from real coffee. It is brewed just like your regular coffee, even its beans are roasted and ground with the same way the regular brewed coffee is. The difference is actually the water. After the brewing process is complete, all the water in instant coffee is removed and therefore, we have dehydrated coffee crystals that are waiting for the water to be added.

One more difference we can say is the type of beans used. Regular brewed coffees tend to have arabica beans while instant coffee mostly uses robusta beans. The reason for this is the fact that arabica beans are more expensive than robusta beans. If we consider that the whole point of producing instant coffee is to get a cheaper and more convenient product, we can understand why they use robusta instead of the famous arabica.

It is also worth mentioning that just like the regular coffee, you can find various types of instant coffee too. To give an example, you should try instant espresso. Imagine that in under 5 minutes, you can drink your espresso and it has almost the same taste as the regular one. Impressive, isn’t it?

Is It Dangerous?

Actually, we don’t know for sure. The research is not enough for us to say it is definitely risky to drink instant coffee. Yet, what we can say is just like the regular brewed coffee, instant coffee has some health benefits too.

I’m sure that you’ve probably heard about regular brewed coffee’s rich antioxidant content. This antioxidant content may be what makes coffee healthy to us. (1)

The same case applies to instant coffee too. Instant coffees are believed to have, if not more, almost the same antioxidant amount with regular coffee. (2) This can be attributed to the way instant coffee is produced.

If you aren’t a fan of caffeine, instant coffee might be the one for you. It contains somewhat less caffeine than regular brewed coffee. (3)

To sum up, although we don’t know for sure the hazard it contains, we know that just like the traditional coffee, instant coffee has its health benefits too. No matter what, you should be careful when consuming caffeine and know your body’s limits. If necessary, consult your specialist and learn what can be dangerous for you.

History

instant coffee
“Amazing Instant Coffee” by Mark Mrwizard is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Instant coffee’s history goes back all the way to the 18th century. That means it is older than most countries in the world! In fact, we didn’t have bicycles when the idea of instant coffee was created.

The first drink that we can call instant coffee was created during the American Civil War. It was named Essence of Coffee and was basically a mixture of sugar, milk, and concentrated coffee. Mix that mixture with some hot water and voila, you have the first concept of instant coffee. Yet, the soldiers didn’t like that drink because of its consistency and the producing was stopped not so long after.

Let’s skip forward a few hundreds of years. In 1890, New Zealander inventor David Strang patented his instant coffee invention. It was named as “Strang’s Coffee” and I think you can guess why it wasn’t a big hit.

The one who helped instant coffee to gain attention was a scientist called Satori Kato, a Japanese man working in the States.

After him, George Louis Washington developed a new instant coffee making process when he noticed some crystal-like stuff on his coffee pot’s spout. That powdery crystals gained his attention and after some research, he produced the first version of the coffee crystals we now see in instant coffees. After his invention, he introduced and advertised it to Guatemala and the famous Brazilian coffee industry.

When the instant coffee rocked the Brazilian industry, Nestle entered the game and made the famous instant coffee called “Nestle”. This coffee started its journey in WW2 and is still going strong to this day. It is so successful that almost every single one of us have tried the instant coffee when we needed a quick caffeine hit.

How Is Instant Coffee Made

As we’ve mentioned before, instant coffee can be defined as “the dehydrated version of regular brewed coffee”. But how do we remove all the water from the coffee?

Well, there are two removing methods that are mostly used nowadays. Let’s find out what they are.

Freeze Drying

The first method, freeze drying, is a rather complicated procedure. Due to its complexity instant coffee brands that produce their coffee using freeze drying method tend to be more expensive. Their flavors, however, are much more intense and stronger than our other method, spray drying.

So how exactly does this method work?

  1. In the first step, coffee is cooled off to about -40 C.
  2. After the freezing process is done, coffee is put into a chamber, which includes a vacuum. Then the chamber is heated.
  3. After a while, our coffee will start to warm up and the water, which was frozen inside it, starts to experience a chemical process called sublimation that turns the water to gas.
  4. When the sublimination process is over, you’ll get dry coffee crystals. Thus, your instant coffee is ready to go.

Spray Drying

This particular process is slightly quicker than the freeze dying. In just 30 seconds, regular coffee turns into the instant coffee grains. Yet, due to the nature of this process, the coffee can lose some of its flavor.

  1. Coffee producers build high towers for just this process. From on top of the high tower (almost 75ft tall!), coffee is sprayed with a tool in a massive hot-air chamber.
  2. When the coffee mist starts to fall, all the liquids in it will evaporate.
  3. What’s left in the bottom of the hot-air chamber is the dry coffee crystals waiting for you to consume it.

Instant Coffee vs Espresso Powder

instant coffee
“Instant coffee” by matsuyuki is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Well, in order to understand the difference between these two, we should answer the “what is espresso powder” question first.

Espresso powder is another type of instantly prepared coffee that is slightly different from our regular instant coffee. One difference lies in its flavor. Espresso powder tends to have a stronger taste and is more bitter and smoother. You might also taste darker and earthy flavors in it.

The reason why they differ in flavor is the quality and type of beans used. As we mentioned earlier, instant coffees are usually made from robusta beans as it has a cheaper price compared to the arabica. Espresso powder, on the other hand, mostly contains arabica beans, which has more quality and gives a balanced flavor. Therefore, espresso powder is more expensive than regular instant coffees.

Additionally, you might have heard powdered espresso or instant espresso rather than the usual espresso powder. Don’t worry, they are all the same drink, but the name can vary region from region.

Where Else Can You Use It?

Instant coffee can be used when you want some quick coffee or too lazy to brew one. On top of that, it comes with a variety of types such as instant iced coffee or decaf instant coffee. One even can say if there is a coffee type out there, an instant version of it definitely exists!

Did you know that you don’t necessarily need to mix it with hot water? In Iberian Peninsula, instant coffee is usually mixed with hot milk instead of water. Believe me, they really know what they’re doing. In where I live, Turkey, I have a friend who mixes the best instant coffees with milkshake and according to her, it is fantastic. I didn’t try it though, so be careful with that.

If you don’t want to drink it, it also can be added into deserts and cakes to get a coffee flavor. It really brings out the best cocoa flavor and your desert will be simply delicious!

Wrapping Up

Well, that was a long journey. You now know all the things about instant coffee and can show-off with your impressive knowledge. Before you drink an instant coffee before your big exam or tomorrow’s presentation, remember what you’ve learnt and appreciate the taste. Enjoy your coffee, padawan!

F.A.Q

Which has more caffeine: regular coffee or instant coffee?

Instant coffee has slightly less caffeine compared to the regular coffee. Your regular cup of instant coffee has 50-90 mg of caffeine while the regular brewed coffee contains between 85-135.

So if you want to go for a less caffeinated drink, instant coffee is the perfect drink for you.

Can I use instant coffee while photographing?

It might sound weird, but yes you can! Instant coffee is an important component of the liquid, Caffenol-C, that is used for black-and-white photos. Let me give you an even weirder fact, cheaper instant coffee brands tend to work better compared to the expensive ones. Interesting, isn’t it?

What is Instant Coffee?

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