What's The Difference Between Instant Coffee And Coffee?
by Mark Morphew on May 11, 2022
Coffee in an instant, alrighty then! Everybody wants to shave a bit of time from their already hectic morning schedule.
So if you can have coffee instantly, you're already winning - right?
Whoa, hold on there. Not so fast.
As great as it sounds, instant coffee might not be as tasty as regular coffee. But, if you don't mind sacrificing taste over convenience, go right ahead.
If you enjoy a good cup of coffee, step away from the instant sachets and grab your grinder.
Spending a few extra minutes grinding fresh coffee beans will be totally worth it.
Don't get me wrong. Instant coffee does have its place, and I'll hold my hand up and say that I find myself reaching for a sachet of instant coffee every now and then.
For example, instant coffee can be a lifesaver when you're away from home with only an insulated tumbler and a bag of clothes.
Confused about both types of coffee? Want to know more about the key differences between instant coffee and coffee? You'd better stick around.
By the time you reach the end, you'll have an easier time weighing up the pros and cons.
How Is Instant Coffee Made?
Instant coffee actually starts its life and regular coffee.
Coffee beans are roasted, ground, and then brewed in large batches. This brewed coffee is then heated and slowly reduced to create a potent coffee concentrate.
In theory, the product could be shipped at this stage and diluted with hot water by the consumer when they are ready to drink it. And in fact, some commercial establishments do just that.
But unless you're brewing coffee at home for a small army, best stick with the single-serve instant coffee sachets.
There's a good reason why instant coffee is in a dry form: one word - shelf life.
To give the coffee a longer shelf life, all of the moisture has to be removed; otherwise, mold and bacteria will grow.
If you've ever left a mug of coffee on the kitchen counter for a few days, you'll know the kind of mold I'm talking about. Yuk!
The drying process is typically done in two ways: freeze-drying and spray drying.
Freeze drying tends to lock in more of the coffee's flavors, but the process is often more time-consuming and expensive.
With the spray drying technique, the coffee is sprayed into hot air at the top of a cylindrical tower.
As the coffee droplets fall through the tower, they quickly dry, and once the coffee has reached the bottom it's formed into a fine powder.
So now you know how instant coffee is made, let's look at the important stuff. How does it taste!
Is There A Difference In Taste?
You don't have to be a devout coffee guru not to pass the taste test between instant coffee and regular coffee.
Regular coffee is undeniably better, especially if you have taken the time to grind whole coffee beans instead of settling for store-bought pre-ground.
Most instant coffees are made with predominantly Robusta bean; they're cheaper than Arabica and have considerably more caffeine too.
The main problem with Robusta coffee is it tastes bitter. Like really bitter.
If you've ever tried instant coffee, you know what I mean - good luck drinking a mug of instant coffee black, without any milk or creamer.
- Consider the bitterness as a trade-off for convenience.
Regular brewed coffee, on the other hand, can be enjoyed black. Take the Americano, for instance, it tastes great hot or cold with a handful of ice.
That's because most coffee you buy from the store, albeit whole bean or pre-ground, are blends of more than one type of coffee bean.
Yes, many coffee blends still contain Robusta, but that's typically blended with Arabica, which helps reduce some of the bitterness from the Robusta. It's a careful balance that the best coffee roasters take years to master.
Is instant coffee better than ground coffee? No, not really. Instant coffee has its place; you can get a quick caffeine fix and enjoy a coffee-like drink as long as you have hot water.
But if I had the choice between instant coffee and fresh coffee, I would choose fresh coffee every time. There's just no comparison in the taste department.
In a sense, it's like comparing fresh orange juice and orange Kool-Aid. They're both called orange, but that's pretty much where the similarities end.
When To Use Instant Coffee vs. Coffee Grounds
Whenever possible, drinking "real" regular coffee should be your goal; nothing beats it in terms of flavor.
But don't rule out instant coffee completely.
Suppose you're trekking halfway up a mountain or traveling in the wilderness. In that case, nothing can outperform the convenience of the instant stuff!
But there is one point I haven't touched on regarding instant coffee. It's actually a great product to use when you're cooking.
Because it is essentially a freeze-dried coffee concentrate, you can have a burst of flavor in anything from smoothies, cakes, or even marinades - just add water!
So there you have it! If you've gotten this far, you should have a better idea of the differences between instant coffee and coffee.
If time is on your side and you're not in a rush, taking the time to weigh, grind and then brew using a coffee machine is the way to go. As strange as it sounds, when you take your time and put a bit of effort into making your coffee, you'll find it tastes better - you've worked for that coffee!
One thing is certain, no matter which side you fall in the instant coffee vs. regular coffee debate. You'll need a good mug to keep your coffee hot for as long as possible.
Forget about those ordinary insulated travel mugs that usually leave a nasty metallic taste in your mouth. What you need is a ceramic-coated insulated travel mug.
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