Coffee is one of the world most popular drinks, and while you may think of your favorite coffee beans or coffee shop grounds when you think about coffee, there is one type of coffee in the world that is actually estimated to be even more popular than brewed coffee; namely, instant coffee.
Instant coffee is made two different ways, the Spray Dried Method and the Freeze Dried Method. Instant Coffee becomes a coffee powder made from coffee beans that hav been roasted, ground down and brewed. The water is then completely removed and the result is a dehydrated coffee powder.
It is believed that instant coffee may account for more than half of all coffee consumed around the world, so even though there are many people who would rather drink nothing than have an instant coffee, there are also plenty of people who are more than happy to unwind with an instant version of this hypnotic drink.
You may be someone in the first or latter scenario, or you may even be someone who has never given a second thought to the differences before, or even knows what instant coffee is.
Well, in this article, we’re going to have a look at all the information you need including how instant coffee is made.
Spray Drying vs Freeze Drying Instant Coffee
You may heard instant called soluble coffee because this is the coffee powder that will make a cup of coffee just by adding hot water.
You will find jars of instant coffee in almost every supermarket around the world or individual packets of the coffee powder in hotel rooms or on an airplane, it’s a quick and cheap way of making a coffee.
There are two main methods used for making instant coffee, let’s look at them both.
Spray drying is a process whereby the coffee concentrate in liquid form is sprayed into hot air that is four hundred and eighty degrees Fahrenheit – it has to be this hot in order for the liquid coffee to sufficiently dehydrate.
Because the temperature is so high, it only takes a moment for the liquid to dry out, and by the time the liquid coffee spray has hit the ground, you are left with dried out coffee crystals.
Freeze drying is a little more complicated as there is more involved in the drying out process. With freeze drying, the liquid coffee concrete is cooled down until it turns slightly mushy, the kind of texture you get in a slushy.
This slush is left to freeze in a vat at around minus forty degrees Fahrenheit until great big slabs of frozen coffee are made. Finally, the frozen slabs are put in a drying vacumn where all the ice crystals are removed, and you are left with the instant coffee powder.
Both of these methods well preserve the smell, taste, and even quality of the original coffee beans, so while some people may avoid instant coffees demaing them to be lesser quality or not authentic, instant coffee really is a fantastic alternative to coffee beans both in flavor and convenience.
Is It Better to Freeze Dry or Spray Dry Coffee?
Because of the massive difference between how the coffee is processed, it stands to reason that there must be a better option. Well, there is, but it’s not particularly about the taste.
On the one hand, spray drying is cheap to do, as well as quick, mass producing huge amounts in a short space of time. One disadvantage though is that because the temperature has to be so high, sometimes the coffee crystals can be a lower quality, although this is rare.
On the other hand, the freeze drying process is extremely time consuming and therefore more expensive, although the potential of the original concentrate being negatively affected is lower.
Overall, freeze drying is cheap and fast, and spray drying is slow and expensive – people will say that you can taste the difference in these processes, and will only buy jars of instant coffee that have been labeled as spray dried, but it’s up to you to decide if you can notice any difference in taste.
Differences Between Instant Coffee and Regular Coffee
There are two main differences between the two types of coffee, firstly, the caffeine content is different. Instant coffee contains less caffeine per cup than regular coffee, the amount will vary depending on how much soluble coffee you use in your drink, but based on one teaspoon per cup, you can have an average of about fifty percent less caffeine than regular coffee.
This is a great advantage for anyone who loves to start their day with a warm cup of coffee but can find themselves being a bit sensitive to caffeine. As a side note, for anyone who is really sensitive to caffeine or prefers to not have it as part of their diet, you can buy decaffeinated instant coffee which doesn’t exist with regular coffee.
The second difference between these two is their chemical composition. When coffee beans go through the roasting process, they produce a chemical called acrylamide – this chemical has been linked to an increase risk of cancer and problems in the nervous system.
There is roughly twice as much of this chemical in instant coffee than regular coffee, however, the good news is that the amount produced in instant coffee has been proven to not be high enough to have a negative affect.
Is Instant Coffee Bad For You?
Absolutely not, as pointed out above the levels of acrylamide in instant coffee isn’t high enough to cause harm to anyone, and all the health benefits you read about when it comes to regular coffee apply to instant coffee as well, including as a dietary supplement for many people.
Dried coffee power might not sound appealing on paper but it is just as delicious and beneficial and your coffee shop brew, not to mention far cheaper, so the next time you forego a cup of coffee because the only option available is instant, think again and give it a try, you won’t be disappointed.
If you are interested in the history of instant coffee, you can take a look at this post I wrote about it.