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Instant Coffee: Is It That Bad?

“Caffeine makes me go brr”. Ah, Got one! So you are one of those people, ”don’t talk to me till I’ve had my coffee” and won’t function unless you have had your cup? Well, I’m not. I prefer tea cause i imagine it makes me look fancy, cool, outstanding and sophisticated. Plus tea doesn’t taste angry like coffee, it is just fruity, earthy and delicate in flavor. As much as i prefer hot leaf water, it doesn’t mean i don’t occasionally enjoy coffee.

 If you love coffee then it is obvious that you don’t approve of  Instant Coffee and i support you. It is just lacking in terms of everything that defines ”coffee”. Instant coffee is normally bottom barrel.But seriously, it is still drinkable.

But hear me out, it should have a spot in your pantry  even tho it’s not your go to. It could come in handy especially when you are in a hurry and cant make your favorite drip coffee, or if you are feeling lazy but need that caffeine bump. So you need it for convenience. 

Nescafe Classic Instant Coffee
 Nescafe Classic  Instant Coffee

How Instant Coffee is made

Short Answer: 

Freshly brewed coffee is heated up to evaporate water,the remaining coffee residue is frozen and dried to a powder.

Long Answer: 

Coffee is brewed the normal way using roasted ground coffee beans and dissolving them in hot water. The coffee is concentrated to remove most of the water from the brew. Concentration is done by either reverse osmosis or vacuum evaporation. In reverse osmosis, a semi permeable chamber separates water and coffee molecules. Meanwhile in vacuum evaporation, coffee brew is heated in a vacuum to reduce boiling point due to the low pressure. The vapor from boiling coffee is extracted by a pump till desired concentration is attained. 

Next step is drying, this is also achieved by either of the two methods; freeze drying or spray drying. Both methods remove the residual water to achieve a dry soluble coffee powder. 

Freeze drying involves the principle of sublimation.Sublimation is change of state of matter from solid to gas or vice versa without going through the liquid state. Coffee is first frozen till solid then under low pressure in vacuum setting water is vaporized and expelled leaving solid coffee residue behind. Freeze drying does not involve using high heat which would expel aroma and degrade the resulting coffee.

Spray drying converts the liquid brewed coffee to solid particles  by spraying the liquid to a hot surface where the water is instantly vaporized leaving behind solid dried powder. Spray drying is fast and cheaper in production compared to freeze drying, but less quality resultant coffee.

Resulting coffee from both drying process is collected and further adjusted for moisture then packed. It is later re-hydrated by the consumer to make a cup of coffee

What makes one instant coffee brand better than another?

Roasting:Just like other coffees instant coffee comes in different roasts; roasts define the degree to which the coffee beans have been roasted. The common roasts include; Light,Medium,Medium-Dark, Dark and Extra Dark.

Light roasts have high acidity while dark roasts have almost no acidity. Dark roasts are preferred by those who love their coffee strong and are used in Espresso. Light roasts have a mild coffee flavor. Medium roasts is the most common roast as it appeals to majority of the population and is normally versatile with a balanced flavor between light and dark roasts

Coffee Beans Selection:  Bean variety and origin matter big time here.There are two varieties of coffee; Arabica and Robusta. Arabica is generally a better quality than Robusta coffee beans in terms of flavor notes, and generally lower caffeine levels. Arabica is a premium product, Robusta is cheaper and thus it is used mostly in commercially in instant coffee. Arabica beans are sometimes used to make specialty blends.

Processing Method of Beans: Beans processing post- harvesting method will greatly impact the quality of final coffee in terms of aroma and taste. Coffee is processed by the following methods; Wash(Wet) Process, Natural(Dry) Process and Pulp Process.

The wash process is generally the most approved by processors and consumers for producing distinct coffee that is fruity. This method is labor intensive and expensive due to attention to details and resources used.

Additives:  Additives used such as anti-caking agents and flavorings added will impart the taste of the coffee. To experience the natural flavor less additives should be used.

Note:Grind does not affect quality of instant coffee but it does in fresh brewed coffee.The grind affects the extraction by either over or under extraction

Why is instant coffee lacking?

  •  Caffeine content: Brewed coffee has 2 to 3x more caffeine content when compared to instant coffee. A regular cup of instant coffee averages  60mg of caffeine while a brewed cup averages between 100 to 180mg. Instant coffee is made by dehydrating regular coffee to make granules which are later hydrated in the cup. Caffeine is lost in the processing phase.
  •  Acidity: Dehydration and drying concentrates the coffee, some compounds are lost in the process thus concentrating the acidic and bitter profiles which become more pronounced now.
  •  Aroma: Instant coffee has little to no aroma as it is all lost in the dehydration process. Meanwhile in brewed coffee, the aroma is extracted by the hot water infusing the coffee.
  •  Flavor: Just like caffeine content, flavor is impacted during the processing of instant coffee. Thus a weaker flavor, also the processing can lead to a bitter and burnt taste as the heat changes the chemical composition.

Coffee Roaster
Coffee Roaster

How to make instant coffee taste better

This method works best for me:

  •  Add dry ingredients to your cup first, coffee sugar and optional cream powder
  •  Add water a little at a time to form a paste …spend more time here till it gets fluffy add more water or milk, or liquid cream  a little at a time stirring till your cup is full
  •  Enjoy

Instant Coffee Use-Cases

  •  Accessibility: Can’t bring on your fancy, bulky equipment to like a camp, or a dorm room but to beat that caffeine headache, instant coffee comes to your rescue since all you need is hot water and sugar in addition to your granules.
  •  Packed schedule: It has instant to it’s name so it is literally instant, your cup is ready in less 2 minutes, no setting up anything-just boiling water and dissolving the coffee.This is ideal for anyone who has alot to do at that specific time and doesn’t wanna waste time or in case you are late for somewhere but need your coffee.
  •  Recipes:For coffee-flavored cakes, smoothies, shakes,and coffee ice cream instant coffee will be your go to 
  •  Cheaper: In terms of setting up, no machines and instant coffee is generally cheap

Instant coffee is normally soluble and leaves no residue.

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