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 by brewing coffee and then removing the water from the liquid. This can be done using two different methods. One method is spray drying, in which the coffee is brewed into a fine mist and sprayed into a chamber where hot air removes the water, leaving behind the dried coffee solids. The second is Freeze-drying, in which the brewed coffee is frozen and then placed in a vacuum chamber where the ice is removed in the form of vapor, leaving behind the dried coffee solids.
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.
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 into further detail on the 2 ways instant coffee is made and which method is better.
The 2 Ways Instant Coffee is Made
1. Spray Drying
Spray drying is a way to make instant coffee by removing the water from the liquid coffee while preserving the coffee solids. The process typically involves several steps. The coffee is first brewed into a fine mist using high-pressure nozzles, this mist is then introduced into a drying chamber, where hot air is blown in at high speeds.
The hot air removes the water from the coffee mist, leaving behind the dried coffee solids. The dried coffee solids are then collected at the bottom of the chamber and are then packaged and sold as instant coffee. During the process, the temperature is carefully controlled to prevent the coffee from burning and to preserve the flavor and aroma of the coffee.
Spray drying allows to produce a high-quality instant coffee in a fast and efficient way, and it’s easily packaged for long-term storage. It’s a cost-effective method for mass production of instant coffee, and the reason why it’s widely used in the coffee industry.
2. Freeze Drying
Freeze-drying is another method used to make instant coffee. It is a process that involves freezing the liquid coffee and then removing the water in the form of vapor, leaving behind the dried coffee solids. The process typically involves several steps:
- The liquid coffee is frozen by placing it in a freezing chamber where the temperature is well below freezing.
- The frozen coffee is then placed in a vacuum chamber where the air pressure is greatly reduced.
- The low pressure causes the frozen water in the coffee to change directly from a solid to a gas. (A process is called sublimation).
- The resulting vapor is then removed from the chamber, leaving behind the dried coffee solids.
- The dried coffee solids are then packaged and sold as instant coffee.
Freeze-drying method is considered as a high-quality method of making instant coffee as it preserves the aroma and flavor of the coffee. But, it is more complex and expensive than spray drying. The process needs to be done in a controlled environment, as well as it requires a specialized equipment, and it’s not as efficient as spray drying in terms of time and cost. But still, it’s a widely used method in the coffee industry, especially for premium instant coffee brands.
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 deeming them to be lesser quality or not authentic, instant coffee really is a fantastic alternative to coffee beans both in flavor and convenience.
What is the better way to make Instant 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.
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.
What is the Difference 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 increased 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 effect.