Have you ever had a busy morning and needed to make a cup of coffee but just didn't have the time? Or maybe you're constantly on the go and don't want to bother with making a whole pot? In either case, instant coffee is a great solution. But how is it made, and what makes it different from regular coffee? Keep reading to find out.
Short History of Instant Coffee
Instant coffee's first documented use was back in 1771 (even before the Declaration of Independence). First created in Britain as ’’coffee compound’’, instant coffee was a big deal. It was so big that a patent was issued for it, but it wasn't made famous in America (which was still a British colony) until the Civil War.
By the 20th century, several countries had started developing it, as well. To begin with, the Japanese inventor Satori Kato put together the first stable powdered version. Then, the British chemist George Constant Washington helped commercialize it by working in the coffee industry in Latin America.
Instant coffee blew up when Nestle got involved in the instant coffee industry by the end of the 1930s. During WW2, it was drunk by soldiers on the field and by nearly everyone back home.
A few decades after Nestle stepped in, the soluble or instant coffee peaked in popularity in the 70s when 30% of the coffee imported into the US was processed into instant. Then, more than 200 million pounds of it were sold each year.
How Is Instant Coffee Made?
Instant coffee is significantly more complicated to produce than regular coffee. It takes six steps to give you that quick shot of caffeine:
The production process of instant coffee starts by brewing coffee with special extraction equipment. Next, softened water passes through a series of columns of ground coffee beans. Initially, water passes through a few cells with a very high temperature (284-356°F, or 140-180°C), some of which have high pressure. Later on, it goes through a few more slightly colder cells (212°F or 100°C). Finally, the mix passes through a heat exchanger where it cools off to around 40°F (5°C), and by the end of the process, it contains approximately 25% solids.
2. Filtering and Concentration
The next step is all about increasing concentration. The goal here is to get to around 40% solids, nearly doubling it. In some cases, this is done by processing the liquid in a centrifuge, separating the water from the coffee extract. Another way to filter it is by evaporating the water before cooling it down. The third and most complicated way to achieve a similar result is to freeze the extract and mechanically separate the ice crystals from the rest.
3. Aroma Recovery
A major part of enjoying coffee is the aroma.
Unfortunately, a significant part of the aromatic elements gets lost during the previous steps. That's why they should be recovered to produce a good pack of instant coffee. This is achieved in the following few stages of the manufacturing process.
For example, the gasses released in the roasting and grinding parts are collected, and the coffee is heated to increase the aroma. You can even distill them from the coffee extract after the brewing finishes.
Additionally, to preserve even more of the aroma, oxygen is removed from the coffee extract. This is done by pushing some of the other gasses through the liquid before the dehydration phase.
The second to last step before packaging is dehydrating the coffee. Again, this is done as quickly as possible so it doesn’t lose its flavor.
There are two ways to dehydrate instant coffee:
The simpler way to dry instant coffee is by spraying it out in a fine mist while a jet of hot air (415°F/212°C) blows it downwards. As the coffee mist falls, the moisture evaporates, leaving tiny particles of concentrated coffee at the bottom. All of this is done in a massive 75-foot-tall evaporation tower. In some cases, a small amount of water is added, allowing the particles to clump together to dissolve faster in your cup.
Spray-dried coffee is usually considered a lower-grade instant coffee as it's cheaper and doesn't taste as good as freeze-dried. Nevertheless, it's actually better for making foamy brews like Dalgona coffee.
This method is more sophisticated than the previous and is done in four steps.
- The concentrate is cooled to around 20°F/-6°C when it turns into a Slurpee-like substance.
- The mix is then separated into small piles on a belt for additional cooling.
- These piles of coffee are then ground to a size that's perfect for drying.
- The remaining ice water is heated and evaporated in the last step, leaving only the little chunks of coffee behind.
5. Adding the Aromas
Just before packaging, the aromas collected earlier are added to the mix. Usually, that's done by spraying them on the dry coffee particles, sometimes as a part of the packaging process.
The instant coffee particles constantly absorb moisture from the air, so they should be packaged in low humidity. This is usually done in a moisture-proof container and is the only way to keep the coffee dry until you buy it and open it.
How Is Instant Coffee Different from Ground Coffee?
Instant coffee is created when you quickly dry the already brewed coffee beans. This coffee can then be stored and dissolved in hot water when needed. It is often considered lower quality than ground coffee, as the coffee beans have been roasted for a shorter time. However, it does have some benefits over ground coffee, including being more convenient and faster to make. Additionally, instant coffee can be made stronger or weaker, depending on your preference. Even though it is not as high quality as ground coffee, it is a quick and easy way to get your caffeine fix.
Regular coffee is better than instant coffee because it is made from coffee beans that have been roasted for a longer time and aren’t stale. Additionally, the grounds don't lose as much aroma as in instant coffee, making the coffee taste better. It also takes longer to make, but it's worth the wait.
How Do You Make Instant Coffee Stronger?
If you want to make your instant coffee stronger, you can add more coffee powder to the hot water. This will make the coffee more concentrated and flavorful. Alternatively, you can try using a coffee concentrate instead of regular instant coffee. A coffee concentrate is a pre-made coffee that is more potent than regular instant coffee. By using a coffee concentrate, you can make your coffee stronger without adding extra coffee powder.
If you want to make the taste less intense, you can use less coffee powder, add milk or cream to your coffee - making it thicker and sweeter.
Are There Any Benefits to Instant Coffee?
Instant coffee has several benefits over ground coffee. It's convenient, faster to make and easily adjusted to your preference. Additionally, instant coffee can be stored in a moisture-proof container and doesn't lose its aroma as quickly as ground coffee. Although it is not as high quality as ground coffee, instant coffee is a quick and easy way to get your caffeine fix.
Not only that, but it has all the benefits regular coffee has. It is a source of antioxidants, which protect the body from damage caused by free radicals. Coffee is also a source of magnesium, potassium, and niacin. Magnesium helps regulate blood sugar levels, while potassium helps maintain blood pressure. Additionally, niacin helps to reduce cholesterol levels.
Coffee is also a great source of energy. The caffeine in coffee stimulates the nervous system, increasing heart rate and blood pressure and dilating blood vessels. This results in increased alertness and energy levels.
Here are some more benefits of drinking coffee regularly:
- increased energy levels
- reduced risk of diabetes
- reduced risk of heart disease
- reduced risk of cancer
All of this is why coffee is the most popular beverage globally, after water. So it’s no wonder that people have been trying to find ways to make coffee even more convenient.
Frequently Asked Questions About Instant Coffee
Why Is Instant Coffee So Cheap?
Instant coffee is cheaper than regular coffee for a few reasons. One is that coffee beans are brewed and then quickly dried before being ground up. The coffee can then be stored in a container and dissolved in hot water when needed.
Another reason is that instant coffee tends not to be as high quality because it has been roasted for less time than regular coffee. So it might not taste as good, but you can make it stronger or weaker to suit your tastes.
Instant coffee also tends to be cheaper because it's less expensive to make.
Is Instant Real Coffee?
Yes, instant coffee is coffee that has been brewed and then dried. The coffee can be ground up or in powder form. When you dissolve the coffee in hot water, it will taste almost like regular coffee.
Is Instant Coffee Bad for You?
No, instant coffee is not bad for you. Coffee is a healthy beverage that has many benefits. However, instant coffee does contain caffeine, so it's crucial to consume it in moderation.