Complete Guide to Instant Coffee
There is arguably a no better way of kick-starting your morning than having a cup of hot java. Regarded as humankind’s nectar of life, instant coffee has come a long way from generation to generation to ensure that humans stay caffeinated and perfectly boosted to tackle the hassles of each day.
Just like wine, the world of instant coffee is quite massive and complicated and is hugely masked with multiple appreciations from the past scholars and academicians to the new era of great professionals.
Now, for those new in the world of instant coffee, it’s paramount to understand that each cup comes with a unique taste depending on the beans, the method of roasting and finally the brewing method. With that said, whether you’re a coffee connoisseur or maybe you take it just for convenience, this guide will take you through the world of instant coffee to give you a comprehensive understanding of what it entails.
|Table Of Contents|
|❏ What is instant coffee?|
What is instant coffee
Now, what is instant coffee? Instant coffee is just the normal coffee we take only that it has been extracted under carefully controlled conditions with the right temperature, water and pressure to maximize its flavor. This type of coffee has been completely dehydrated to remove moisture and boost longevity.
Typically made from the Robusta coffee beans, instant coffee is easy to brew, is lightweight and has a longer shelf-life provided its kept dry and away from moisture. When shopping for instant coffee, among the common names you may come across include; coffee powder (since it resembles fine powder), soluble coffee (as it dissolves much faster) and crystal coffee (the dried powder is usually crystallized).
How is instant coffee made?
What is instant coffee made of? This is one common question most newcomers in the coffee world have been asking. Although most people dislike instant coffee due to its inferior taste as compared to freshly ground beans, this coffee type does have its followers who are always optimistic when it comes to extracting its full potential.
Although instant coffee has been around for thousands of years, how many of you know exactly how it’s made? Well, to find out more about it, let’s read on.
To begin, let me mention that instant coffee is actually the normal coffee we take only that it has been severely dehydrated to remove water and leave it crystallized. After the whole beans have been roasted, ground and brewed, the coffee is then passed through a centrifuge to separate the heavy coffee extract from water (which evaporates).
Now, there are two methods used during this process which include the spray-drying method and the freeze-drying method.
After separating coffee extracts from water, the resulting liquid coffee concentrate is sprayed from nozzles under very high pressure at temperatures of up to 480°F from a height of nearly 75 feet. When the coffee gets at the bottom of the tall tower, the water has already evaporated leaving you with finely ground coffee crystals.
Although this method delivers finely ground instant coffee, the high temperatures tend to affect the oils of the coffee leading to loss of flavor from your ground coffee.
Here, the coffee extracts are chilled to temperatures of about 20°F before it’s frozen to temperatures of up to -40°F. The resulting ice is then broken down to smaller particles before it’s warmed up. Here, water from the iced coffee crystals expands then evaporates through a process called sublimation leaving you with pure grains of coffee.
To restore the flavor and aroma to the ground coffee, volatile oils are reintroduced into the coffee granules during packaging. This final process is the main reason why this method is believed to restore the natural flavors and aroma of instant coffee as compared to the spray-drying method.
History of instant coffee
When was instant coffee invented? Although it might sound like a relatively modern convenience, instant coffee has been around for ions of years and is in fact much older than most inventions we use and see today. To give you a detailed history of this royal beverage, we’re going to travel through time to give you a quick rundown on the history of instant coffee.
- 1771: the first instant coffee was introduced in Britain by John Dring. This coffee was named the “coffee compound” and Dring was patented by the British Government for such a creative invention.
- 1850: in 1850, the first American made instant coffee was founded in San Francisco and was named the Folgers. Folgers produced and marketed the first canned, ground and roasted coffee which was sold to miners. In 1851 during the Civil War, instant coffee experimental “coffee cakes” were rationed to soldiers.
- 1890: in 1890, a New Zealander David Strang invented and patented the soluble coffee using a creative method which he named the “Dry Hot-Air” process. Strang was also credited for inventing the “mocha” brewing technique.
- 1901: in 1901, a Japanese American chemist named Satori Kato discovered a breakthrough process that became the first successful method of creating a stable soluble coffee powder.
- 1910: in 1910, a Belgian born American inventor George Constant Louis innovated Kato’s idea to develop the first commercial brand of instant coffee.
- WWI: during the First World War, instant coffee gained popularity as American soldiers purchased all the supplies to share it amongst themselves in rations.
- 1930: in 1930, the Brazilian Coffee Institute meets the chairman of Nestle Company to find a way of inventing a soluble coffee product that would aid in storage of their coffee to minimize the high coffee spoilage and at least increase sales and profits. The breakthrough to this problem was discovered in 1937 by scientist Max Mergenthaler who invented the Nescafe brand.
- 1938: in 1938, instant coffee sales increased dramatically as Nescafe discovered a way of drying equal amounts of coffee extracts and soluble carbohydrates to give the coffee a flavored and aromatic taste. This coffee also became very popular to soldiers during the Second World War.
- 1954: Nescafe again were able to discover a way of producing instant coffee using coffee alone without adding any carbohydrates.
- 1960: a better way of producing instant coffee was discovered using a process named agglomeration. Since this process involved heating coffee a little bit longer, it was discovered that further heating affected the flavor of coffee.
Due to this reason, a new method was discovered which was named the freeze-drying method. This process did not alter the flavor of the coffee resulting in a higher quality better-tasting coffee.
Is instant coffee better than freshly brewed coffee?
Some people believe that freshly brewed coffee is a substitution for instant coffee. However, the issue of which of the two is best greatly varies from person to person. Most people dislike instant coffee due to lack of natural flavors and aroma while others have fallen in love with the strong taste of instant coffee.
In either way, let’s look at some key pointers most avid coffee connoisseurs focus on when determining the best coffee for their daily needs.
- Aroma: smell is one way of determining the quality of your coffee. For most coffee lovers, the smell of your coffee will hugely reflect to the quality of the coffee which is characterized by a strong flavor. Among the most common aromas you’ll come across include; carbon, fruit, caramel, smoky and nutty.
- Acidity: acidity goes hand in hand with the taste of your coffee. Depending on where the coffee beans are grown, the acidity might vary from citric (found in Arabica) to malic acid (found in coffee beans with fruit like flavors).
- Flavor: this is simply the taste of your coffee. Depending on the quality and type of coffee you’re brewing, you might notice that your cup of coffee has a honey taste, a vanilla taste or perhaps a mix of nuts and caramel.
How to store instant coffee
Most people have been wondering about the best way to store instant coffee. Unlike coffee beans and regular ground coffee, instant coffee has a bigger production advantage that gives it a longer shelf-life as compared to coffee beans. The manufacturing process that involves dehydrating instant coffee is the main reason why this coffee type stays longer.
However, despite its great advantage, most people have still been asking this burning question—does instant coffee go bad? Now, everything goes back to storage. While coffee beans and ground coffee are hugely affected by time factor (where essential oils evaporate leading to loss of flavor), instant coffee’s greatest enemy is humidity.
If instant coffee is not kept in dry conditions, it will definitely clamp together and develop a bitter taste which will be unappealing when brewed. Therefore, to keep your coffee dry and free from getting bad or spoilt, consider packing it in glass jars, airtight tins or vacuum packed bags.
How to prepare instant coffee
Nothing is as relaxing as enjoying a flavored cup of hot coffee at exactly the same time you need it most. Quite different from coffee brewers (which of course takes a lot of time to brew a single serve cup of coffee), instant coffee is time efficient as you only have to pour the coffee in a mug before adding water, sugar and milk.
Now, although the procedure might sound like it’s just a walk in the pack, preparing instant coffee has its own tricks if you’re really looking to enjoy a flavored cup of hot java. In this section, we will take you through some key pointers that will help you brew a flavored cup of hot coffee at the comfort of your kitchen.
- Step one—heating the water: the first step of preparing a flavored cup of instant coffee is heating up the water. Here, it’s recommended that you boil freshly drawn water from the tap to avoid interfering with the flavor of your final brew.
- You see, every time you re-boil water, oxygen escapes from the kettle leading to a change in the taste of your final brew.
- Step two—pour the instant coffee in a mug: after water has boiled, add your best quality instant coffee in a mug. Always remember to read the instructions to determine the ratio of coffee and water depending on whether the coffee is too strong or too watery.
- Step three—stir in some cold water: although this step doesn’t have much effect, it adds some flavor to your final coffee. Simply stir some cold water into your mug before adding hot water.
- Step four—pour in hot water: pour in the boiled water into the mug and go ahead to add sugar and milk to give your coffee a more flavored appeal. Taste the concoction to ensure that sugar has dissolved and that the coffee has a balanced ratio of coffee, sugar, milk and water.
- Step five—storage: after you’ve prepared your cup of hot coffee, remember to store the remaining instant coffee in an airtight glass container/tin to keep it away from humidity.
Uses of instant coffee
Although most people prefer taking freshly brewed coffee over instant coffee, this type of coffee has won a large market share due to its convenience and simplicity in preparation. This type of coffee is usually packed in packets making it easier for you to prepare without requiring any special brewing.
Now, what if you’re not a worshipper of instant coffee? Is there a perfect way of making good use of this coffee? For those who might be wondering how, let’s look at some common uses of instant coffee apart from just brewing.
As a flavor boost
If you happen to brew or simply buy a bland cup of hot coffee from the nearest barista, adding a small amount of instant coffee will help to intensify the flavor. Therefore, instant coffee is a great addition to weak coffee or blonde type coffee as it helps to recover the taste, flavor and aroma leaving you with a rich cup of hot coffee at the very end.
Ice cube additive
Most people enjoy the flavor of iced coffee but the watery taste it develops thereafter (especially after staying for too long) is quite unappealing to many. To remedy this, some people add instant coffee to water then freeze it to make coffee cubes. Now, adding the coffee cubes to your iced coffee will generally intensify the flavor leaving you with a flavored iced beverage.
As a melted wax scent additive
If you’re a candle lover and you’re quite sensitive with the scents they deliver, then this part will give you a life hack that will help to intensify the scent produced by your candle. Now, if you’re searching for a way of creating a strong unique candle scent, simply add instant coffee to the wax and you won’t believe the fresh cool vanilla latte scent that will be produced thereafter.
If you love baking cakes with a coffee flavor (such as the Coffee Toffee Cheesecakes), then adding instant coffee to the recipe will help to deliver the best results. One tip though, always ensure that you mix the instant coffee with hot (not cold) water to intensify the flavor and to ensure that all instant coffee crystals have dissolved.
For bath time
If you’re looking forward to adding a twist to your bath time ritual, then consider adding instant coffee to the running water before adding your favorite bath liquid. This will not only give you a relaxing effect (while in the tab) but the vanilla scent will definitely give you something to smile about.
For household plants
Finally, instant coffee is a great addition to household dying plants. Simply sprinkle a packet of instant coffee to the soil then water as usual. Since instant coffee contain essential nutrients and minerals, your plant will definitely benefit from this giving it a healthy life in an instant.
Best instant coffee for backpacking
If you’re a hiking enthusiast or maybe you’re planning to pay a visit at the backcountry, one extra gear you definitely can’t forget to pack is a packet of instant coffee. Although these coffees don’t have the best reputation, they’ve managed to cement a place in the coffee world thanks to the advancement in coffee technology.
Since instant coffees are lightweight and easy to pack, we’ve managed to list at least 5 best instant coffee brands that will definitely give you a well-balanced cup of hot coffee whenever you plan on going for a backpacking trip.
- Starbucks Via: if you’re a Starbucks diehard, then you’ll definitely love the strong delicious taste of the Starbucks Via instant coffee. A medium roast coffee that’s made from a mix of freeze dried and micro-ground coffees, this coffee is among the best instant coffees with the most caffeine content.
- Alpine Start: made from Colombian Arabica beans, this medium-roast coffee is one of the best for adventurers thanks to its premium flavor. The grounds are made to dissolve in either hot or cold water eliminating the hassle of boiling water just to brew a cup of flavored coffee.
- Jiva Cubes: typically black, Jiva Cubes are solid cubes of granulated instant coffees mixed with sugar. Simply mix the cube with hot water and stir gently to brew a sweet flavored coffee that will keep you caffeinated.
- Mount Hagan: produced using the freeze-dried method, this instant coffee produces an exotic rich flavor that replicates a classic mellow diner style coffee. It has a smooth aftertaste and the overall experience is just mellow and balanced.
- Voila: regarded as one of the best instant coffees of all times, Voila delivers a robust full-bodied cup of coffee that’s both vibrant and dynamic. In fact, most camping enthusiasts have praised its sweet flavor stating that this instant coffee has managed to beat most freshly brewed coffees we purchase in our local coffee shops.
List of instant coffee brands
Although the world of instant coffee has been overshadowed by the ever-rising demand for freshly brewed coffee, this type of coffee still has its own loyal followers despite its degradation. Instant coffee has a longer shelf-life, is light and is fast to prepare making it a perfect alternative for avid coffee lovers.
With that said, we will highlight seven of the best instant coffee brands available in the market today.
|Starbucks Via: Starbucks is made from 100% Microground Arabica Coffee. It has a signature nutty flavor with a caffeine content of 130-140mg per serving.
|Sudden Coffee made from 100% crystallized Arabica coffee, Sudden Coffee has a chocolate flavor and has a caffeine content of 95mg per 12fl oz serving.
|Maxwell House designed with a rich French Vanilla flavor, Maxwell House has a caffeine content of 40mg per serving.
|Nescafe Clasico regarded as a top seller, Nescafe has a rich bold flavor coupled with a caffeine content of 57-65mg per serving.
|Mount Hagen made from 100% organic coffee, this instant coffee has a smooth rich flavor with a caffeine content estimate of about 50-60mg per serving.|
|Folgers a very popular brand in the world of instant coffee, Folgers has a classic flavor and is produced using the freeze-dried method. Light and very easy to prepare, Folgers instant coffee caffeine content is estimated to be around 71mg per serving|
|Jacobs Kronung: also produced using the freeze-dried method, Jacobs Kronung has a rich flavor and has caffeine content estimated to be around 60mg per serving.|
Korean instant coffee brands
Instant coffee has now hit the Korean market and it’s gaining a widespread popularity among Asians avid coffee connoisseurs. There are rows after rows of Korean instant coffee brands in most supermarkets as well as in major online sites such as Amazon and Alibaba. Now, with that said, let’s highlight some common instant coffee brands available in Korea.
- Maxim Mocha Gold Mild Coffee Mix: made from a mix of coffee and sugar, the Maxim instant coffee is Korea’s finest with a caffeine content estimated at around 71mg per 12g pack.
- DONGSUH Maxim Mocha Gold Mild Coffee Mix: this brand of instant coffee contains 20 sticks and has a caffeine content estimated to be under 40mg per serving.
- MAXIM KANU Mini Roasted Americano Instant Coffee: another brand native in Korea, the Maxim Kanu features a rich chocolate and smoky flavor that gives your coffee a sense of class. This instant coffee is made using the freeze-drying technique and is perfect for camping, hiking and coffee lovers on the go.
- Korean Ginseng Tea: another brand has won a large market share in the Korean market is the Shuang Xi Brand Instant Korean Ginseng Tea. Available in a pack of 100 bags, this instant tea is among the well known medicinal teas known to lessen fatigue and common ailments.
Mexican instant coffee brands
Coffee was first introduced in Mexico in the late 1700s. Mexican coffee beans are generally nutty, light bodied and are believed to have brighter acidity and overtones of chocolate. Now, among the best Mexican instant coffee brands include;
- Café Bustelo: Café Bustelo is one of the most remarkable brands of instant coffee in Mexico. This coffee has a strong yet smooth flavor with a distinct aroma that will definitely meet all your brewing demands.
- Nescafe Instant Coffee Clasico: another instant coffee native to Mexico is the Nescafe Instant Coffee Clasico. Available in a 3.5oz packet, this coffee is rich in antioxidants as it contains 465mg of antioxidants per serving.
- Café Legal Instant Coffee: available in a 7oz pack, Café Legal is another popular brand in Mexico that produces one of the best instant coffees for avid instant coffee drinkers.
- Café La Paz: Café La Paz is another Mexican brand that produces one of the best instant coffees. This coffee is packed with the best all natural flavors, aroma, taste and color giving you the best instant coffee experience.
- Nestle Abuelita: finally, we have the Nestle Abuelita instant coffee brand. A brand native to Mexico, Abuelita has managed to process one of the best authentic instant coffees that will let you enjoy a delicious hot beverage anytime anywhere.
Dunkin donuts instant coffee packets
- Dunkin’ Donuts Cold Brew Coffee Packs Pumpkin Spice: available in a flavored pumpkin spice, this instant coffee comes with 2 packets in every box where each packet is capable of brewing flavored coffee on a 6-8oz mug.
- Dunkin Donuts Turbo Ground Coffee: if you’re a Dunkin Donuts diehard and you’re looking for the perfect way of kick-starting your morning, this instant coffee will let you enjoy a cup of hot java with an extra flavor boost.
- Dunkin Donuts 100% Colombian Ground Coffee: this coffee comes with a full-bodied flavor that’s guaranteed to give you 100% pure satisfaction.
Does instant coffee contain gluten?
This is one question that has been asked by most avid coffee lovers. Now, before jumping into a panic and throwing away your cup of instant coffee, let’s first go through this piece of information to understand the relationship between instant coffee and gluten.
To begin with, it’s good to understand that instant coffee is processed coffee. During the high-processing cycles, this coffee is believed to easily cross-contaminate with gluten. What really happens is that proteins from the instant coffee (during processing) are converted in a form that your body will perceive them as threats.
For those people who are highly sensitive or allergic to gluten, taking instant coffee will leave you with the same inflammatory symptoms and responses as those of gluten. With that said, it’s definitely true that instant coffee contains gluten.
Instant coffee health concerns
How does instant coffee work? You see, instant coffee is considered to be dehydrated and very easy to brew. This type of coffee has a longer shelf-life and is considered to be much cheaper as compared to freshly or regular brewed coffee.
Instant coffee contains less caffeine content as compared to freshly brewed coffee. Since caffeine is the product responsible for most health issues, instant coffee is a healthier alternative that will keep your body strong and free from the many negative effects of caffeine.
However, due to its low caffeine content, most avid coffee drinkers end up taking too much instant coffee which can be dangerous in multiple ways. Now, some of the common health concerns of instant coffee include;
- Effects on the rate of iron absorption: instant coffee taken during or an hour after meals has higher chances of compromising with the rate of iron absorption by the intestines. This effect can get more severe or pronounced the more you add the strength of your instant coffee.
- Prolonged pregnancy: pregnant women have been advised to avoid taking instant coffee as it can lead to prolonged pregnancy or giving birth to underweight babies.
- Risks of certain cancers: during the processing of instant coffee, it’s believed that this coffee picks trace amounts of Acrylamide. When ingested, researchers were amazed to discover that presence of this chemical compound in the blood resulted in an increased risk of ovarian and endometrial cancers to most women.
- Contains oxalates: due to the processing of instant coffee, it has been found that this type of coffee contains oxalates (organic acids found in plants and animals). Patients suffering from a rare condition hyperoxaluria (a condition characterized by excessive oxalates in the urine) are hence advised to avoid taking oxalates rich foods/drinks such as instant coffee.
How much instant coffee is too much?
Brewing a cup of hot coffee every morning comes with numerous health benefits that range from disease-fighting antioxidants to improved memory and cognitive response. Although this is exactly what coffee connoisseurs would like to hear, just how much instant coffee is too much?
You see, instant coffee (also known as soluble coffee) is a quicker alternative to regular coffee thanks to its fast preparation characteristics. Due to its tough processing technique, the caffeine content in this coffee is lower than that of freshly brewed coffee.
Does instant coffee have caffeine in it? This is one question most curious coffee addicts have been asking. Now, since instant coffee is processed from coffee beans, it does contain caffeine but in lower quantities.
According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, instant coffee has been found to contain an estimated caffeine content of 93 milligrams per 8-ounce serving (a range of 27 to 173mg). Comparing it to regular coffee or rather freshly brewed coffee, the same 8-ounce serving was found to contain a caffeine content of 133 milligrams (a range of 102 to 200mg).
Back to our main question on how much instant coffee is too much; let me mention that an average healthy adult should consume up to 300mg of caffeine each day translating to about 2 to 4 cups of instant coffee every day.
In case you take more caffeine than the recommended 300mg, chances are that you might experience either mild or severe side effects such as anxiety, insomnia, sleeplessness, increased heartbeat and muscle tremors among other side effects.
That’s all about instant coffee. Although most people will definitely vote for freshly brewed or rather regular coffee, instant coffee has really won a large market share thanks to its simplicity, lightweight, strong flavor and ease of preparation.
Unlike regular coffee which has a high caffeine content, instant coffee has a lower caffeine content making it a perfect alternative to most avid coffee lovers. With that said, I believe you’ve really enjoyed reading this guide. In case there’s something you think we missed out, don’t hesitate to mention it in the comment section below.