We generally recognized instant coffee as a soluble compound, powder, or crystal that tastes similar to those we brew every day. However many people still don’t like instant coffee for some reasons.
A lot of coffee connoisseurs hate instant coffee simply because of its inferior taste and flavor. They think that it isn’t real, and they are disappointed with it. And since instant coffee can’t give you the best flavor, it doesn’t give them the satisfaction and desire they need in a cup of coffee.
However, are these things enough to make you hate and ignore instant coffee? In this post, we’ll delve into it. Knowing what makes it special can make you appreciate instant coffee no matter what. So, let’s start first by discussing how instant coffee is made.
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How is Instant Coffee Made?
Instant (or soluble) coffee is typically made from coffee beans roasted, ground, and brewed. Then from the brewed coffee, a concentrated extract is made through evaporation. All of the remaining water is removed from it through drying or some special treatment, leaving dehydrated crystals (the ones we recognize as granules) as the finished product.
The coffee extract is dried in either of these two ways to transform it into water-soluble crystals;Spray drying and Freeze-drying.
This is a drying process where the concentrated coffee is turned into tiny droplets using an atomizer and then becomes a fine powder as a dried product.
This thing is achieved by breaking the extract into small droplets from the top of the spray- drying tower.
Once the concentrated extract is sprayed, the droplets are blown with intense hot air (at around 180 – 538°C depending on the sample to dry).
Then the droplets lose moisture due to the hot gases. And the droplets are already dried by the time they reach the bottom of the dryer.
The powdered coffee can be too fine to dissolve easily or make it into granules to produce a more consistent product.
Spray-drying is the most commonly used drying process due to the high-velocity air and quick-drying process that preserves the coffee beans’ quality of flavor and aroma.
Freeze-drying is one of the critical methods in instant coffee production.
The process starts with “primary freezing.” It means that the extracted coffee is pre-chilled to a buttery texture at about 20°F (-6°C).
The granules are then entered into a low-pressure tube or drums for several hours to further process or freeze in a series of steps. At this point, the pre-chilled extract is slowly transformed into more extensive and darker products.
The coffee extract is frozen at about -40°C to form a thin layer that is then broken into granules. The particles are filtered to ensure proper sizing and consistency.
Since these frozen granules still contain water, they are dried at low temperatures (about 60°C) under a strong vacuum to remove moisture.
In the end, the quality of the aroma and flavor of coffee is locked in inside the granules. Once these coffee particles exit the vacuum, they will now stay in a solid-state. The granules have already been successfully dried due to the shallow temperature and slow drying conditions.
Some people don’t like instant coffee simply because of the taste and flavor. Usually, it’s not only because it isn’t real, but also because they are disappointed with it. It doesn’t give them the satisfaction and desire they want in a coffee.
You can’t easily convince people if freshly brewed coffee is already an integral part of their daily routine.
Instant coffee is often made with inferior beans (usually a low-quality Robusta variety) to trip down the high cost. However, nowadays, it might not be all the case since some companies use high-quality beans in instant coffee production.
But still, if we compare how fresh coffee tastes to instant, there indeed a big difference. Instant coffee has a limited mouth-feel and aroma. Some of the original elements of a coffee bean are lost in all the steps to instant-coffee production.
Furthermore, most coffee aficionados/lovers and enthusiasts don’t like it because they treat coffee preparation as an art and science. So, would instant coffee give an accurate result? Of course not!
So, even though the choice is divided. It doesn’t mean drinking instant coffee is bad. It’s normal that the reactions about it differ from person to person since, again, the taste is all down to your personal preference.
You may find that some people were totally against it, as many coffee enthusiasts in the specialty coffee industry look at it as a weak-tasting drink and even fake. On the other hand, others may see the potential as a specialty coffee product.
It’s the reality that the freshly brewed coffees are more superior to the instant ones. But after all, some people still prefer instant coffee for several reasons, despite what others might think of it. Some people like instant because it’s simply portable. It enables them to quickly prepare hot coffee in the morning by just adding hot water to the coffee powder or granules. Also, this instant beverage is certainly derived from brewed coffee beans.
And, if you think instant coffee isn’t real, maybe you’re not just the target market.
So, Why Instant Coffee?
There are many reasons to try and appreciate instant coffee. Sure, I’m not also too fond of its taste at first because I’m used to regular brewed coffees. But due to some circumstances, instant coffee isn’t a bad thing after all.
1. It’s Still a Coffee
A lot of people look down on instant coffee as if it isn’t real coffee. But the truth is it’s a real one. Of course, sure, instant coffee can’t compete with the cup quality of ground coffee when it comes to the taste profile.
However, instant is simply made to give us an option to make a great cup of joe at home still when a freshly brewed coffee is not available. Besides, the instant coffee flavor varies and depends on your preferred brand. At some point, Instant coffee provides you with the taste profile that you want in a more favorable way.
2. It’s Easy and Quick to Make
Sure, instant coffee is the best when you want to make coffee fast. Just add hot water to the powder and stir it. You don’t need to bother preparing your messy equipment, grinding the beans, or choosing a brewing method in pursuit of having a great coffee.
With that being said, instant coffee saves more time during busy mornings. Usually, you just need about 2-3 minutes to boil water in a kettle at home. Then simply pour out a packet of instant coffee into a mug and enjoy your cup of paradise.
3. Approachable and Accessible
Instant coffee is very accessible anywhere. When you’re running late for work, you can have it in your workplace. Because it’s a convenience, there’s no reason to miss your regular cup of joe every morning.
When you’re a fan of traveling, all you need to bring is an empty traveler mug or thermos since you can access instant coffee powder just anywhere.
And for the hot water? Of course, you can somewhat access it no matter where you are.
I once ran out of ground coffee at home, and there are no coffee shops nearby. Since I’m super addicted to coffee, I’m convinced to try it. At first, I don’t really like the taste. But once you’ve attempted to push it frequently, I’m sure you’ll also appreciate and prefer it.
4. It’s Cheap
One of the reasons why most students prefer instant coffee is it’s cheap, aside from being accessible and easy to make. I once became a student, and instant coffee is where I get a caffeine kick to jump-start my day.
You can save a lot of money since you don’t need to spend more than $30 on a coffee machine or equipment just to drink coffee. Instant coffee allows you to taste coffee at home without spending too much. At the same time, it gives you the boost you need to start your daily routine.
A cup of instant coffee contains less amount of caffeine than a regular brewed coffee. A cup (about 8 oz.) of instant coffee typically contains about 27-173mg of caffeine. But an approximate 62mg of caffeine is close to the mean or average value.
It’s almost the same in a packet (2 g) of granules or coffee powder, which contains about 62.8mg of caffeine.
So, if you think you’re sensitive enough to caffeine, instant coffee may be a better choice for you.
But why is caffeine in the coffee bean maintained even if the bean was transformed into coffee powder?
As mentioned above, instant coffee is derived from brewed coffee. The coffee flavor and aroma of a regular brewed coffee tends to disappear once the water evaporates. However, the caffeine will somewhat decrease but will still remain, including those bitter compounds.
In other words, the caffeine content is maintained probably because the liquid coffee is in a concentrated form.
But of course, still, there is less caffeine in instant coffee than in a regular brew.
To make a coffee instantly, you just need to dissolve or simply mix the powder with hot water. During the dissolving process, the original components of the brewed coffee come out. Well, not all of its original components, as there is an absolute change in the flavor and aroma, but let’s say very close to it.
In the end, instant coffee is certainly made from real coffee beans. As highlighted above, the beans are still typically processed before they become instant.
Sure, the instant choice tastes inferior to ground beans freshly. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t and can’t delve into it. After all, you should definitely choose instant coffee and try it.